Tuesday, December 18, 2012

New Dimensions

 Common objects are becoming art in the latest exhibition Lifelike, brought by the Walker Art Museum to the NOMA. Size, medium, give them a new dimension, literally, and a new status as symbols of our time.
Fifty five artists are represented and in an attempt to organize the works, the curator arranged them into five themes: "Common Objects", "The Uncanny", "Realism into Abstraction", "Handmade Sleight of Hands" and "Special Effects: The Real as Spectacle".
The visitor is greeted by "I Am Amazed", 1971, from Edward Ruscha, and just in the first room, will meet a now classic work from Andy Warhol, "Yellow Brillo Box and White Brillo Box", 1964,
a giant "Paper Bag", 1968, "Legal Pad Sheet", 1967 from Alex Hay, "Eraser", 1967, from Vija Celmins and next to each other  "Cardbird Box II", 1971 from Robert Rauschenberg and "Bread", 1969, from Jasper Jones. Robert Bechtle, a photo realist painter permanently displayed at the K&B Plaza Building on Saint-Charles, is well represented with several works.

Among the plethora of works, some bring emotions and provoke thoughts like "Nomad", 2001, from Gavin Turk featuring a sleeping bag, shaped by the body of the  wanderer or across it, "Newspaper", 1992, from Robert Gobert, a pile of newspapers ready to be delivered, a morning ritual soon to be history like the bottle of milk left daily at the door.
I felt like a voyeur looking at "Crouching Boy in Mirror", 1999-2000, from Ron Mueck. We surprise the boy, modern Narcissus, contemplating his body in the mirror. I find " Bremen Towne" from Keith Edmier, 2006-2007, disturbing. It represents an American dream turned into a nightmare: a kitchen, equipped with cabinetry, stove, sink, colored in a dirty vulgar yellow. It is an exact replica of the kitchen from the artist's childhood home. Jud Nelson's trash bag in marble, "Hefty 2-Ply" is a masterpiece of high and low art. Plastic becomes marble, trash becomes a symbol of our society.

 Well-known artists should bring big crowds and the list includes: Chuck Close with a giant self-portrait, Gerhard Richter, Ai  Weiwei. The latest is represented by a mason jar three-quarter filled with a sample of the 100 millions of the sunflower seeds which were spread on the floor at the Tate Modern, creating an infinite landscape. Size does matter as discussed in a previous blog, and the idea gets lost in this small version. 

The viewer must look carefully to see "Weeds" (2005-2009) from Yoshihiro Suda, or a fly on the wall "Untitled" 2010 from Tom Friedman. .I never thought that a plastic bag could be a piece of art. But the checkered bag worth a few dollars behind a black line at the museum has now the status of art work. What is the price of  "Refugee", 2007, from Susan Collis? It is the traditional, international plastic bag carried by migrants, displaced populations, a symbol of loss. It usually holds the  belongings and dreams of the new nomads. Other works related to the same subject include the luggage from Kaz Oshiro or "Still Life", 2009, from Ugo Rondinone, pieces of cardboard left along the wall, ready for a move.

The last room is taken over by the giant work from Robert Therrien, "No Title (Folding Table and Chairs)", 2007. Visitors are scrambling to avoid the guard and have their picture taken. It becomes a game. Children are running around the display, fairytales become reality at the museum. 
Upon leaving the exhibition, I thought about Duchamp, his works would fit just fine.

photographs by the author:
grandstaircase at the NOMA
"Sunset Street", Robert Bechtle, 1984 (at K&B building)
"Refugee", Susan Collis, 2007    

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