Wednesday, 17 December 2014

The Forever Now - MoMA, NY

Matt Connors, Variable Foot, 2014
This looks interesting: a museum show of contemporary (largely abstract) painting. This is, perhaps surprisingly, a relatively uncommon event. Tate Britain did present Painting Now: Five Contemporary Artists November 2013-February 2014 - but, in my view, apart from Tomma Abts, it was underwhelming. This is a much bigger show (17 artists, some 90 or so paintings) with rhetoric to match. The 'Atemporal World' is a place  where... well, let me quote from MoMA's exhibition blurb:

... writer William Gibson [...] used the term “a-temporality” to describe a cultural product of our moment that paradoxically doesn’t represent, through style, through content, or through medium, the time from which it comes. A-temporality, or timelessness, manifests itself in painting as an ahistorical free-for-all, where contemporaneity as an indicator of new form is nowhere to be found, and all eras coexist. This profligate mixing of past styles and genres can be identified as a kind of hallmark for our moment in painting, with artists achieving it by reanimating historical styles or recreating a contemporary version of them, sampling motifs from across the timeline of 20th-century art in a single painting or across an oeuvre, or radically paring their language down to the most archetypal forms.

Abstract painting didn't die in the anti-Greenbergian backlash of the 1970s and 80s. Or rather, its corpse has been reanimated and has returned as (in the coinage of Walter Robinson) 'zombie formalism'. This idea has been elaborated by Jerry Saltz (Zombies on the Walls: Why Does So Much New Abstraction Look the Same?) and is invoked in his interesting review of The Forever Now - a review which is by no means unsympathetic.

The artists featured are: Richard Aldrich, Joe Bradley, Kerstin Brätsch, Matt Connors, Michaela Eichwald, Nicole Eisenman, Mark Grotjahn, Charline von Heyl, Rashid Johnson, Julie Mehretu, Dianna Molzan, Oscar Murillo, Laura Owens, Amy Sillman, Josh Smith, Mary Weatherford, and Michael Williams.

Apart from Julie Mehretu most of these are unfamiliar to me; however, in the US: The 17 artists represented here are all known, mostly market-approved entities familiar to anyone who follows contemporary art even casually. Nearly all the participants possess résumés dotted with solo shows in smaller museums and at blue-chip galleries, here and abroad; 12 of the artists are already represented in MoMA’s collection. (Roberta Smith in The New York Times.)

Read an article by Jason Farago, and reviews by Jerry Saltz, Roberta Smith.

Below is a sample of the work on show, in alphabetical order. Click on images to enlarge.
Joe Bradley, Man Made Dirigible, 2008
Matt Connors, Divot, 2012
Michaela Eichwald, Kunsthalle St. Gallen, 2012
Nicole Eisenman, Guy Capitalist, 2011
Mark Grotjahn, Untitled (Circus No. 1 Face 44.18), 2013
Rashid Johnson, Cosmic Slop "The Berlin Conference", 2011

Julie Mehretu, Invisible Sun (algorithm 5, second letter form), 2014
Laura Owens, Untitled, 2013
Amy Sillman, Untitled (Head), 2014
Mary Weatherford, La Noche, 2014
Michael Williams, Wall Dog, 2013
Installation view of The Forever Now: Contemporary Painting in an Atemporal World at The Museum of Modern Art, New York (featuring work by Kerstin Brätsch)

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