Friday, January 25, 2008

Last Night

Last night, in addition to the pinched faces and over-arched eyebrows of guests fastidiously turning up their noses–until mightily lubricated that is–at canapés, MOCA Jaksonville played host to two new shows: Continental Shifts: The Art of Edouard Duval-Carrié (paintings) and Contemporary Visions: A focus on Jacksonville Collections.

The museum also presented their newest acquisitions, three resin sculptures by Duval-Carrié (two pictured). The sculptures see their antecedents in the elaborate garden statuary of the Greeks and Romans. However, unlike the measured and stately vessels and ornaments that might dot ancient gardens, Duval-Carrié’s orange, glowing statues have more in common with artists like Jaume Plensa, Warhol, and (to a lesser extent) Beatriz Milhaze and Keith Haring. Haring is cited because the scuttlebutt about the museum says that originally, the works were created for a Miami nightclub (Haring used to paint nightclubs like the Tunnel in NYC back in its heyday), but were actually too big. So its important to consider the works in the light of their original mission…and in this case not take them too terribly seriously. But enjoy them nonetheless.

The collectors’ show was, at first glance an interesting glimpse into the holdings–and by extension–the artistic and aesthetic values of the city’s ruling class. Some pieces were labeled as a part of this collection or that, and others were simply labeled “private collection,” among these a suite of photographs that keen-eyed gallery goers might have seen before; included in this suite? A Diane Arbus and a Henri Cartier-Bresson. Well played private collector.

There were works that were instructive as well, a surprisingly delicate Hans Hoffman (pictured), which–when mounted on a wall en diagonale from a Helen Frankenthaler–makes a succinct art historical summation. Incidentally, though I am a huge Frankenthaler champion, the Hoffman is sublime.

And of course, it was refreshing not only to see works not often exhibited but to be introduced to Leonard Baskin via his “Hydrogen Man.” A woodcut (pictured), the figure is defined by a critical mass of lines and markmaking; disjointed and unhappy, "Man" seems to be a statement on humanity’s fragility, filtered through inevitable death and decay. As a study in restraint and technical proficiency, he merits a return visit.

Contemporary Visions: A focus on Jacksonville Collections, was also smart on the part of the museum in that it provided a showcase for collectors who might get swept aside in favor of the Haskell collection, which enjoys such a prominent friendship with the museum. By essentially endorsing these collector’s selections, the museum provides provenance for the works exhibited, while building relationships with those that can insure the museum’s future. Yes, its been a much-debated practice as of late, but to the defense of the museum, these are hard times...and no artist was really shown whose body of work could be argued to be outside the modern/contemporary canon.

Though many of the works aren’t in and of themselves masterpieces, it is pleasant to wander about peering at things…perhaps a bit like pawing through a scaled-down version of Ali-Baba’s treasure cave; maybe his cousin, Ali-Junebug’s stuff. And the perpetually surprised faces with over-red mouths? All a part of the show, canapé or not.

*Editor’s note: the images that accompany this post were snapped on a camera phone so ArtIsn’tRocketScience apologizes for their poor quality. We’re working on getting a new camera.

Tomorrow AIRS will talk about Duval-Carrié’s paintings, and take a peek at Sang-Wook Lee's work, Ramen Noodles 2008.

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