Monday, February 06, 2006
Bingeing on Museum Mile
For some reason, there's a serious glut of great shows open right now on upper Fifth Avenue. Most of them have made their way into the Discussion Fodder section in the right-hand sidebar. Here are a few highlights:
- Rauschenberg at the Met: Each time I go back to see this show, I like it more, although I still feel somewhat like Alfred Barr did about Rauschenberg's work from this period: I respect it, but I just can't make myself get completely passionate about it. Barr passed up the opportunity to purchase several of the pieces in this show for MoMA back when the getting was good--and cheap. It's a treat to see all of these great combines reunited back here in the city of their creation: both halves of Factum, Canyon (at right), Monogram, the bed, etc. (OK, so two of these pieces are owned by MoMA, but just think what could have been if Barr hadn't been so worried about vermin nesting in the goat's hair.) What a shame, though, to have several of the works on display boxed up behind half-inch thick Plexi. Seeing the infamous angora goat caged like this is almost no better than not seeing the beast at all. Best conversation I've overheard in the galleries: a father saying to his young son, "See that chicken up there. It was lucky. Most chickens end up getting eaten, not shown in museums." There's something interesting about that comment. Rauschenberg's best combines all have taxidermied animals--or parts of animals--in them. And I'm not the only person I know who has come to this conclusion after seeing the show.
- David Smith at the Guggenheim: Finally, a serious, scholarly exhibition that has been wonderfully installed at the Guggenheim. It's enough to make the largest spiral ramp in the city look like it's a museum again instead of a trade show hall for rent. While this exhibition made me realize that I actually appreciate Smith's work more in smaller quantities, the show has made the Guggenheim look better than it has looked in ages. All the disadvantages of Wright's awkward bays and uneven floors disappear in the presence of Smith's airy, massless metal sculptures. If you go to see the show, pay special attention to the pedestals on which the sculptures sit. Each has had to be created with an uneven bottom to provide a horizontal surface on which to display the work.
- Egon Schiele at the Neue Galerie: This small exhibition of exquisitely troubling drawings shows Schiele to be the father of just about every artist making drawings today. Perhaps "the unconscious" would be a better metaphor since most young turks probably don't even know who Schiele was. If they did, though, his work would blow their minds.
- And coming later this week to the neighborhood: The Hudson River School gets tossed across the Park as the New-York Historical Society closes its impressive permanent collection show and the National Academy Museum opens two new ones: a selection of works from Frederic Church's own collection and an exhibition of Hudson River School works from the Henry and Sharon Martin Collection.