Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Guess what I found?

For those of you who regularly read Viva Variety (and there aren’t many of you), you’re surely tired of my posts about The Gift by Jochen Gerz. For those of you here for the first time, you can catch up here, here, here, and here.

But I have one last post. (Note: I reserve the right to recall this statement should I need to file another post on this subject.)

I was online recently and found Felix’s and my photos. So I had to make this post in order to complete the story. Felix’s photo is better than mine but I’m not unhappy with mine. And hopefully someone somewhere is proudly displaying my photograph.

So here are the digital versions of our portraits that at some time spent time on the walls of the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Kids' stuff.

I wasn’t familiar with the work of Walter Wick. That shouldn’t be a surprise since I’m not a connoisseur of children’s puzzle books. But when you take this work out of the books and hang it on museum walls, it’s worth an extra look. In fact, if you’re interested in the books, buy them before you see this exhibit because they fall flat after you’ve seen the beautiful prints in this show.

Wick is a wizard who avoids digital tricks in favor of the real deal. Many of his puzzles are impossible to comprehend, particularly when you realize they don’t rely on digital trickery. You just can’t figure out how he’s done them. And the photos from his I Spy series of books are spectacular. The pictures feature elaborate sets constructed just for each scene. And since the exhibit also includes a number of the specially-constructed sets, you get to see the magic behind the curtain.

We were there on a Saturday and the museum was filled with young BYU families. Kudos to the parents for taking their young children to a museum. And the kids didn’t seem to mind. They squealed with delight at many of Wick’s wondrous works.

Duck sauce, packing peanuts, and latex balloons walk into a bar.

And the bar tender just happens to be Dan Steinhilber. The BYU Museum of Art is once again making a play to be the premiere museum in Utah. The current exhibit featuring Steinhilber’s work is rewarding on a whole bunch of levels. I made the trip to BYU with Kara and Felix. And we had a great time interacting with art that takes the mundane and makes it magical.

I’m not sure I need to launch into some in depth art criticism, but I will say this; I like the way this work references everything from Duchamp, through Warhol, onto Koons, and right to Tara Donovan.

All of Steinhilber’s works are untitled, so it’s hard to decipher any inferred meaning. But there’s still plenty to ponder. Let’s start with the duck sauce painting. Yeah, it’s duck sauce packets. But it feels more like an homage to abstract expressionism.
And then there are the balloons. This work starts with balloons that are full. But as they lose their air over the course of the exhibit, they naturally deflate, reminding us that breath and life are finite. In fact, a few deflated balloons had fallen from the work and lay on the floor, as if dead. It reminded me of Jeff Koons’ fascination with breath.

Don’t forget the packing peanuts. They’re piled in the corner of a darkened room. Low-level blowers keep them corralled. If you go to see the exhibit, hang out long enough for the main blowers to kick in. It’s spectacular.

One of my favorite works featured dry-cleaning hangers suspended, chandelier like, over the entrance to the museum. It’s a beautiful piece. And if you’re an Ab Fab fan—well it’s just too much. Remember the episode when Eddie shells out big bucks for art that is nothing more than hangers suspended from the ceiling. This would make French and Saunders chortle.

Of course there’s more, like the site-specific installation of PVC pipe, the sink with constantly running water, the inflated black plastic garbage bags, and a row of flickering fluorescent tubes that can’t be described. They all remind us that the everyday deserves more of our appreciation. It also reminds us that we constantly consume, probably more that we should.