Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Joseph Beuys = Funny

Buttocklifting, sign, baked enamel on convex metal sheet, 20 x 30 x 1 cm., edition 80 plus XX, signed and numbered, plus 25 unnumbered, 1974

So in addition to stuffing my face last week I got some art viewing in too. It's rather embarrassing to admit but I thought I was gonna get a chance to see Robert Frank's, Americans at the MOCA except(!) I had the location wrong in my twitty over committed little head and thought it was at the LACMA. That's just for starters... on top of that I didn't notice that the MOCA isn't even open on Tue or Wed so even if I had the location right I wouldn't have been seeing anything. That's what happens sometimes.

In a lemons to lemonade moment we decided to purchase tickets at LACMA and see what there was to see.

It was delightful..... 

On the first floor of the contemporary wing is an installation of Richard Serra's torqued ellipses, something I've been wanting to see for years. I almost had the chance to catch them in 2004 at the Bilbao Guggenheim but a train strike prevented me from being able to make the journey from Madrid. Ever since then I've wondered what my reaction would be when finally getting to see them.

They were wonderful. Disorienting, enveloping, and quiet. Of the two Band was perhaps my favorite in a where-am-I-going(?)where-will-I-end-up(?) sort of way.

The upstairs was split between Beuys' multiples on one side and a group show consisting of John Baldessari, Andy Warhol, and Jeff Koons on the other which sounds like a crazy juxtaposition but it worked. 

While I've seen multiple Beuys exhibitions and have researched his performative works to a decent extent it wasn't until seeing the current exhibition at LACMA that I was really struck by Beuys' humor. In the past I've always been so wrapped up in the myth of Beuys while observing rather austere installations that I missed the artist's playfulness. Many of the multiples exist as little gestures, studies, or thoughts as is the case in one chamber of the exhibition displaying floor to ceiling drawings, prints, and photographs depicting animals (mostly rabbits) hung salon style. 

In another room was perhaps my favorite piece in the show titled A Political Party for Animals, consisting of a framed sheet of sugar packet proofs depicting different members of the animal kingdom. In viewing it I was immediately taken by the dichotomy between the absurd and the poignant at the thought of these little storybook representations of animals recontextualized into a sort of wildlife proletariat. I was also struck by the notion of this innocuous page of sugar packet proofs being elevated to the level of high art. 

The segue from Beuys to Warhol, Baldessari, and Koons on the opposite side of the building was a bit jarring. One of the breezeways that connect the two exhibitions featured photographs of Beuys and Warhol together to help ease the transition.

After leaving the quiet Richard Serra pieces, and the hyper intellectual work of Beuys, finding yourself in the over stimulating world of the other three artists felt saccharine but not in a necessarily bad way. The bright immediate works from the permanent collection felt like a sweet dessert, a place where one can relax in a sea of loud colors and recognizable/understandable imagery.

I have to admit I was really heartbroken about being a big dummy and missing Robert Frank, although really with my recent schedule I don't know how I would have made it work... On the bright side I was treated to three beautiful, well installed shows I wasn't expecting to see and felt pretty dang giddy in the end.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Jay and I had a sort of unexpected trip to LACMA last year and it was a real treat.