Post-Minimal to the Max

To paraphrase Jerry Lee Lewis, there is a whole lot of art making going on right now. All different kinds. But you’d hardly know it from the contemporary art that New York’s major museums have been serving up lately, and particularly this season.
The current exhibition of Gabriel Orozco at the Museum of Modern Art along with the recent ones of Roni Horn at the Whitney Museum and of Urs Fischer at the New Museum have generated a lot of comment pro and con. So has the Tino Sehgal performance exhibition now on view in an otherwise emptied-out Guggenheim rotunda. But regardless of what you think about these artists individually, their shows share a visual austerity and coolness of temperature that are dispiritingly one-note. After encountering so many bare walls and open spaces, after examining so many amalgams of photography, altered objects, seductive materials and Conceptual puzzles awaiting deciphering, I started to feel as if it were all part of a big-box chain featuring only one brand.
The goal in organizing museum exhibitions, as in collecting, running a gallery and — to cite the most obvious example — being an artist, should be individuation and difference, finding a voice of your own. Instead we’re getting example after example of squeaky-clean, well-made, intellectually decorous takes on that unruly early ’70s mix of Conceptual, Process, Performance, installation and language-based art that is most associated with the label Post-Minimalism. Either that or we’re getting exhibitions of the movement’s most revered founding fathers: since 2005, for example, the Whitney has mounted exhibitions of Robert Smithson, Lawrence Weiner, Gordon Matta-Clark and Dan Graham. I liked these shows, but that’s not the point. We cannot live by the de-materialization — or the slick re-materialization — of the art object alone.
I wouldn’t have a problem with these shows of the gods and godlings of Post-Minimalism if they were balanced and mixed with other stuff that is completely different. But that other stuff is largely missing in New York museums, though there is plenty of it around.
Curators owe it to the public to present a balanced menu that involves painting as well as video and photography and sculpture. They need to think outside the hive-mind, both distancing themselves from their personal feelings to consider what’s being wrongly omitted and tapping into their own subjectivity to show us what they really love.
These things should be understood by now: The present is diverse beyond knowing, history is never completely on anyone’s side, and what we ignore today will be excavated later and held against us the way we hold previous oversights against past generations.

Message to curators: Whatever you’re doing right now, do something else next.

-excerpt by Roberta Smith, NY TIMES

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One thought on “Post-Minimal to the Max

  1. blahblahtown says:

    I would have to agree. I was in New York recently (I live in Australia) for a solid dose of art, eating and general culture-soaking-up. I left before Gabriel Orozco but saw Roni Horn and Urs Fischer. While I experienced moments of beauty within the minimalism, particularly in the Roni Horn show, I too was left underwhelmed. Urs Fischer’s show seemed like cool-looking Stuff In Space, a somewhat surface collection of objects that you might find in the fanny pack or tote bag of any hip young new yorker. I guess I like feeling in viewing and making art – maybe I’m old fashioned but I want to be moved.

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