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Friday, January 25, 2013

Museum Review: The New Museum

The New Museum on the Lower East Side New York NY

Museum Review
The New Museum
L.E.S. New York, New York

Rosemarie Trockel: A Cosmos (closed)

Prime Age, photograph by Rosemarie Trockel

  I'm not sure there is much value in reviewing a now closed museum exhibit, but the same could be said for this entire blog so.  First thing about the New Museum: No permanent collection so it's a very WYSIWYG kind of scenario.  The exhibit on display while I was visiting was Rosemarie Trockel, a German Artist who is notable for her refusal to stay in a single media or discipline.  The exhibit contained everything from punk style Zines, to knitted "paintings", to sculptural assemblages with a sprinkling of non-Rosemarie Trockel outsider Art/non-art "pieces" selected by the Artist.

Rosemarie Trockel

  Trockel's refusal to "settle down" and pick a studio art discipline is a primary reason that her collected output deserves a career retrospective at an NYC museum.  It also places the question of "what is art?" into a sharp focus- both by the width and breadth of "things" that Trockel has transformed into art through her vision, but also by the "non-art" objects that Trockel selected to stand along aside her artwork.  One "non-art" object is an amazing botanical illustration made by a woman in the 17th century- the woman was long overlooked because it was thought that a woman "couldn't" make such an accurate drawing of a living thing.

Rosemarie Trockel portrait

  There was an unexpected overlap between the Trockel retrospective and recent conversations I've had about the business of music, where people have emphasized the transformative aspect of digital reproduction in freeing specific Artists from formerly difficult to cross artistic boundaries.  For example, a Musician publishes a book instead of a record.  Such cross-marketing has always been an integral part of the upper layer of the Art-Industrial Complex, but digital distribution extends this layer downward to the very floor.

  What's lacking in that realm is the existence of Artists who are sufficiently keen enough to grasp this new freedom AND make Art products that people want to buy/put in museums to look at.

Rosemarie Trockel: A Cosmos exhibition lay-out

  I'm sure that Trockel has had people asking her for her entire career, "But what kind of Artist are you?"  Are you a painter? A sculptor?" etc.   Young Artists would be smart to a take a cue from the diversity of Trockel's output- and imitate her- not the specific artworks obviously, but the practice.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Museum Review: The Rubin Museum of Art (of the Himalayas)

Rubin Museum Interior

Museum Review
The Rubin Museum of Art (of the Himalayas)
New York City
150 17th st. New York, NY.

   I am a big, big fan of museums.  Everything about museums.  And although I would say New York City is only the third best city for Museum-going in the world (Paris, London)- New York City has still got an amazing number of museums.

  Staying in Greenwich Village I decided to choose my museum visits by proximity.   The Rubin Museum is located between NYU and Chelsea.  Housed in an ex Bloomingdale's ladies store, The Rubin Museum specializes in the art of the Himalayan region.  A more accurate description would probably be "Tibetan Art Etc." but I'll stick with their preferred nomenclature.

  Unbelievably the permanent collection was closed for my visit- the museum-goers equivalent to flying to NYC for a Broadway show and finding out that the understudy is playing the lead instead of the Hollywood star you came to see.  However, I'm just going to assume, based on the quality of what I did see that the permanent collection is amazing- because everything else was.

Collection of Nyingjei Lam (HAR 68323).

 I don't fancy myself an expert in the area of Tibetan art, but I've been to the Asian Art Museum in San Francisco a good half dozen times and could do ten minutes of party material on the wonders of Tibetan art- namely tons of scary looking demons derived from the Tantric Buddhist tradition and elaborate, detailed wall paintings of Buddhist themes and personages.

  My visit to the Rubin Museum of Art expanded that thin familiarity with two excellent exhibits:  Casting The Divine- a collection of 104 miniature sculptures Nyingjei Lam Collection.  The sculptures were quite a revelation- demonstrating a level of sophistication and quality that equalled any comparable European work from the same time period.  The subject matter is repetitive- Buddha/High Level Monk/Wandering Holy Man- though there were some interesting subjects- like a real-life famous wandering Ascetic who was depicted with dense curly hair that reflected his south Indian upbringing.

  Certainly these exquisite sculptures were something I had never seen before and I was impressed.

  The other interesting exhibit was The Place of Provenance- about regional variation of Tibetan painting.  Again- the subject matter was repetitive- you can tell the difference in regions by the way they paint the clouds- but the workmanship was really high quality.

   And while the Rubin Museum didn't alert me to the existence of high level Tibetan Art Products, it did expand my knowledge of the kinds and varieties of artifacts and their high level of quality.  It's worth a stop if you are in the area- though fyi it costs ten bucks to get in.  The Permanent Collection re-opens the first week of February 2013.

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