Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Art that's barely there at MOCAD

(originally published 5/31/11 in KnightBlog)

Barely There (Part I)” opened last weekend at the Museum of Contemporary Art Detroit. It’s the first installment in a two-part show that investigates “immateriality, presence, absence and performance.” "Part I" focuses on the mind, specifically on subjects like loss, geographic/linguistic identity and the power of questions. ("Part II," opening in the fall, will concentrate on the body.) Featuring work by 10 artists and including material from the 21st century, as well as the late 1920s and ‘60s, it’s an engaging, challenging show that’s well worth your attention.

Much of the work on display tends toward the conceptual. I’m thinking ofWilfredo Prieto’s "Infidelity" (2009), for instance, which is nothing more than a blue pen and a red pen cap arranged in way that suggests they’re about to meet. (I admit to feeling immediately annoyed by it, then being unable to resist its cheeky simplicity.)

I found other pieces more resonant, like Pascale Marthine Tayou’s powerful "Jpegafrica/Africagift" (2006), a pile of crumpled paper flags of all the countries on the African continent, and Rivane and Sergio Neuenschwander’s 2002 video work, "Love Lettering." The video is shot inside a goldfish tank; many of the fish have small pieces of paper attached to their tails with words like “wish,” “hotel,” “eyes” and “you” printed on them. Turns out it’s a love letter, broken up and ultimately unreadable, except in kinetic, disconnected fragments.

For me, the most exciting and interesting piece was a made-for-TV work by the late, Detroit-born installation and performance artist James Lee Byars (who, I was thrilled to learn, will be the subject of a solo show at Museum of Contemporary Art Detroit in 2013). "World Question Center" is a weird, wonderful program that was broadcast live on primetime Belgian television in 1969. In it, Byars, surrounded by a ring of people wearing fascinating garments of his design, communicates by telephone with several dozen important thinkers of the age.

No comments:

Post a Comment