Monday, August 27, 2007
Nikki S. Lee
*What is Painting* “is the fourth in a series of installations designed to show off the embarrassment of riches populating MoMA’s well-fed storage racks, a mythical utopia of hidden treasures,” writes the Village Voice. According to the Voice, it is also an exhibition that falls flat at the union of edgy and academic.
The article doesn’t just raise questions about the role of painting, the canon of painting and simple application of paint to canvas, but more specifically to the role of curators and the responsibility of museums with vast holdings under their stewardship. And though it might seem incredibly predictable, chronological organization of exhibits as championed by Alfred Barr is a tool that allows both the casual observer and the historian to have a more complete understanding of the work at hand...a little explanation might be in order here: According to the Voice, the exhibit was organized not according to chronology (perhaps because the works are created on within recent recollection?) but topic and approach.
*What is Painting* includes a Cindy Sherman photograph (pictured) and that alone raises the question of Sherman’s continued relevance: if her work will truly stand the test of time, let alone to include her in an exhibit ostensibly about painting. Of course Sherman is responsible for a generation of artists who don the trappings of cultures outside their own, like Nikki S. Lee (pictured). Though its not clear if these works are interesting as anthropological essays of subcultures, or truly function as art.
Either way, the Voice piece makes it glaringly clear that MoMA curator Anne Umland didn’t just drop the ball, but bounced it away with deliberate force…perhaps in a bid for her own art-historical footnote?