Had Rosler, she asked, drawn any new conclusions on her idea of the garage sale as a self-image? “Well, the artist is always the last to know!” Rosler joked. “But I have to say, it’s remarkable—I’m not that surprised—but it’s remarkable to me to see an active resistance of people to thinking of this as anything other than a space in which they get to buy something they want, and in which we are here to serve them. And who are quite grumpy about the possibility that something else might be infusing it with what it is.”
“I didn’t find any themes,” she told me. The opening was well attended by art press, notably Sarah Thornton and Jerry Saltz. Donnelly led us through three galleries on the fourth and fifth floors, each of which looks like a separate show. One comprises a single, broken row of mid-20th century Eliot Porter photographs of small birds; another, a salon-style roadshow, spanning the late 19th and 20th centuries; and the third, a sort of answer to the New Museum’s recent Ghosts in the Machine, with Art Nouveau-style furniture pieces and 1980s microchip diagrams.
“Take a step back, breathe, and assess yourself,” said Kala Harinarayanan to a crowd of around 150 beleaguered art owners in MoMA’s Celeste Bartos Theater. Harinarayanan, the Director of Environmental Health and Safety at the American Museum of Natural History, was the first speaker at what was deemed a “Consortium on Recovery of Works of Art Damaged by Flooding.” “Once you enter a space,” she continued, “you may think you’re prepared, but your emotions can quickly take over.”
In these senses, at least, New Photography is a misnomer, or maybe an old habit. The feel is more of an intimate salon than an aggressive survey of those testing the outer limits of the artform. Sobriety, seriousness, and craft take precedence over boisterousness and wild creativity. This has its drawbacks, but all the artists represented are consistently engaging, and if the show implies that there is not much new under the sun, it also affirms that the view need not be any worse for that.
“The show is not intended to be a survey of everything that’s happening in photography at this moment,” said Eva Respini, associate curator at MoMA’s department of photography, in an interview. “It was our attempt to highlight artists whose work we found particularly new, fresh and exciting, at a time when the definition photography is rapidly changing.”
The Quay brothers been working steadily as filmmakers, animators, illustrators, and set-designers since the early 1970s, and in On Deciphering the Pharmacist’s Prescription for Lip-Reading Puppets, the new retrospective of their work on view at the Museum of Modern Art (through January 7, 2013), a compelling case is made that their greatest achievement has been as interpreters and disseminators of Eastern European literary figures like Bruno Schulz and Franz Kafka.(3)
Popular design is often similarly opaque on the drawing board, and similarly transformative once out in the world. The struggle to understand the tenuous relationship between proposal and impact plays out again and again in Century of the Child: Growing by Design 1900-2000, an exhibition on now at Museum of Modern Art of roughly 500 objects created for children (clothing, desks and chairs, notebooks, computer games, playgrounds, advertisements, films, television shows) between the years 1900 and 2000, many coming from familiar names in both art and child-rearing in the West—Steiner, Montessori, Bauhaus, Disney.
As the wacky assemblages started to come up on the large screen, the fruits of everyone's collective labor, it became apparent that "head, body, and legs" had been interpreted as rather loose categories. One body was a circle in which someone had written “Sasha will you marry me?” Perhaps as a reaction, another body-circle bore the message, “Lauren, I want a divorce.” To continue the domestic theme, one pair of legs included an emerging newborn from between them.
If you were one of the lucky estimated 750,000 visitors who made it to the event—and its central exhibit in the atrium, in which Abramović sat immobile in a chair for seven and a half hours each day, silently gazing into the eyes of audience members who waited in long lines to take turns sitting across from her—you understand that her project of pure-presence-and-nothing-else performance art is built to resist the disembodiment of adaptation. Matthew Akers’ film, whose two-week Film Forum engagement comes in advance of its airing on HBO, is necessarily a watered-down simulacrum of the real thing.
A MoMA retrospective brings the rare catalog of diva-obsessed filmmaker Werner Schroeter to New York
Over the next month, New Yorkers will have the chance to become acquainted with a riveting but less familiar body of work that pays homage to Callas and other divas: the cinema of Werner Schroeter (1945–2010). Between May 11 and June 11, the Museum of Modern Art will present the first comprehensive North American retrospective of films by the queer movie, theater, and opera director, encompassing some 40 films and rare early shorts.(1)
The slideshow, at least, was an impressive piece of archival handiwork. In 1970, Cornell Capa (who later founded the International Center for Photography) asked Arbus to give a lecture for a group of fellow photographers. The result was a casual, revealing presentation of her work and her ideas. After Arbus’s suicide in 1971, an audio recording of the talk was acquired by her estate—and in 2005, to coincide with the traveling retrospective Diane Arbus Revelations, the estate reconstructed the slideshow, matching her words with the photographs and clippings they describe. The result is a master class from beyond the grave, which has been shown publicly only a handful of times.
On one screen is footage Boulos shot in a poor fishing village on the banks of the Niger River of the guerrilla group Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND), which is fighting to wrest back the Delta soil from the exploitation of large multinational oil corporations. On the other screen are the shouting crowds of traders at the Chicago Mercantile Exchange on September 16, 2008, the first day of the financial crisis that began that year.
are folks getting by? This year's selections in the annual New Directors/New Films series (March 21-April 1) provide a pretty potent picture of what one might call working-stiffery well beyond the comfy theaters at the Museum of Modern Art and the Film Society of Lincoln Center, the event's co-presenters for some 41 years now.
Hundreds of guests paid hundreds of dollars apiece—tickets went for $125 to $750, though that doesn't account for what was certainly a very long guest list—for exclusive access to some of MoMA’s galleries (pleasantly largely empty), free cocktails and bar snacks, a performance by the band Neon Indian, and a chance to meet and mingle with the extremely eclectic congregation of artists, finance-industry types, art exhibitors, and culture vultures who filled MoMA’s atrium.