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Monday, March 07, 2005

Expecting More, Demanding Less

I keep setting high expectations for myself and executing on less than I want.

I had a short list of exhibitions to see this weekend before New York gets overrun with art fairs and interesting museum shows later this month. Alas, the new little body in the apartment (and a number of big bodies traipsing through to see it) kept me homebound. Guess I've got to learn to be a little less demanding of myself for the next couple months.

Speaking of demand, though, I did get out for an hour yesterday to see the Thomas Demand exhibition at MoMA. (You've got to know that a blogger can't write about this show without using a lame pun somewhere.) Demand's work has always left me cold, but I promised myself to look with a fresh eye last Friday after seeing Michael Kimmelman wet himself over the show and after hearing Greg chime in with a modest "amen." I thought that seeing a larger body of work would give me more insight into Demand's practice than the individual pieces I have seen here and there.

Not so. Piece after piece, the show presents work that is cold, flat, and executed at such a remove from reality that it left me asking "so what?" Kimmelman goes on and on, getting all worked up, about the layers of referentiality in Demand's photographs. Sure, the referentiality is there, but I don't think the work itself manages to use this to its advantage. It takes something extra--some kind of "zing" or "pow"--for work that exists to show how it fits within a tradition to hold my interest. Demand's just doesn't have that.

I'm planning to pull my impressions together and write something more formal for later this week. Stay tuned.

One interesting note (and there always is one, isn't there?) from yesterday's MoMA visit. I saw Ronald Lauder, chairman of MoMA's board of trustees, hanging out in the contemporary galleries. He wasn't really looking at the art. He was just wandering between galleries, watching the visitors look at the art. He wasn't wearing the polyester prophylactic, but it sure did look like he was on guard duty. What's up here? Does MoMA have a new service requirement for its board, and is Lauder leading by example? If board members are being expected to take a turn on the floor, they shouldn't demand less.

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