Posted inArt

The Spectator Is Present

I’m ashamed to admit that I am a reflection hog. On the subway or walking past big storefront windows, I constantly check my reflection. Even at a gallery or museum, I find myself looking at my reflection before I look at the art. I never really gave this a second thought; it wasn’t until I visited the Whitney Museum’s current retrospective of Yayoi Kusama that I was disturbed by my inability to focus on the art behind the glass.

Posted inOpinion

The Problem with Big Art

Ossian Ward has a feature in Art in America this month about the dismaying trend of bigness in the contemporary art world. The piece is an exploration of a problem that’s only been growing (no pun intended): art as a series of bigger and better spectacles, upstaged only by the vast and cavernous spaces in which it’s shown. Though the article is quite smart and thorough, it left me a little unsatisfied: I think Ward stops short of really digging into what’s at stake here. What exactly is the problem with art as entertainment, anyway? It may seem like an obvious question, but given its centrality to this discussion, it’s one worth asking.

Posted inArt

Feeling Unengaged at Carsten Höller’s New Museum Playground

There has been a fair amount of buzz surrounding Carsten Höller. His “mid-career” retrospective/whole building takeover of the New Museum opened last week. Determined to see for myself, I wandered into the space last Friday with a relatively open mind. My only previous knowledge of the artist was from his installation of slides in the massive turbine hall at the Tate Modern in London a couple of years ago. His installation there was pretty well received. Though I never saw it in person, it is easy to imagine how the installation fits into the Tate’s turbine hall shtick. Like Olafur Eliasson’s sun, or Ai Weiwei’s field of sunflower seeds, Höller’s slides were engaging and dramatic. They served as an anti-pretentious pallet cleanser, a preparatory shot of courage before heading into the art-soaked wilderness of that museum.

Posted inArt

WTF is… Relational Aesthetics?

The standard cliché summary of modern (and contemporary) art is that now, anything is art. Jackson Pollock threw paint around. Duchamp strung up a shovel, upended a bike wheel into a stool, put a urinal on a pedestal and called the resulting three “sculptures” art of the highest order. After so long, we’ve started to run out of things to suddenly deem “art.” But relational aesthetics, or the posing of an artist-constructed social experiences as art making, is the latest step in this process of turning everything into art.