Monday, August 3, 2009

MASS MoCA's Art Carnival for the Mind

MASS MoCA is the largest center for contemporary arts in the United States.
Located in North Adams, Massachusetts this sprawling 13 acre campus of multistory 19thC. brick factory buildings is a leading-edge exhibition space of art that is currently being made in size, dimensions and techniques that defy the confinement of traditional museum gallery space.
The ten year old institution is “dedicated to the creation and presentation of provocative visual and performing arts pieces, and works that blur conventional distinctions between artistic disciplines.”
MASS MoCA also actively functions as “a laboratory for the contemporary arts, fostering experimentation by artists, encouraging collaborations among institutions, and allowing visitors a behind-the-scenes look at the creative process.”
This progressive, pro-active mission statement can not prepare the visitor for the transformational experience of being confronted by the gargantuan spaces of football length galleries, Matrix-chic industrial design and art that stops you dead in your tracks but curious to learn more.
One must commit to the intellectual participation of viewing works that are more about a concept and the process of creating an expression of that idea than simply admiring form, line and texture. It is rigorous and demanding work but unavoidably expansive.
The current exhibitions lead the visitor through rabbitholes of self-deprecating humor: “This is Killing Me” which is a group show exploring the many facets of psychodrama involved in being an artist to apocalyptic despair “These Days: Elegies for Modern Times” to Sol Lewitt’s full spectrum “Wall Drawings” that fill many galleries and explore his color theories around meticulous inkwashes and lines of grey,red,yellow,and blue.
In the lighter hearted show Sean Landers “Le’Go My Ego”(2007) is a large text based canvas covered with free- hand painted flow- charts of influences/ ideas peppered with self-sabotage. It is a hilarious exercise in grappling with an artistic temperament that is not sure about anything but “has a lot of hope for something”. I kept hearing David Sedaris’s voice reading the thought fragments as I followed the arrows around the canvas. Joe Zane’s hilarious group of works on ambition and failure offers “I wished I was a Giant” (2006), a glass vitrine lined with meticulously reproduced art magazines, Artforum etc.with him on the cover or opened to articles on his contributions to seminal art historical texts. Lampooning this quest for fame and favorable reviews the vitrine is coated with thick brown dust where mindless graffiti has been scrawled by a public that could care less.
So much to enjoy in this show and to confront in the Elegies.
In Elegies, large format videos create walls of screens and a huge cyclorama features Pawel Wojtasik’s “Below Sea Level”. It surrounds the viewers and immerses them in a dizzying 360 panorama of New Orleans after Katrina with an amazingly liquid soundscape that mourns and celebrates the vibrancy of this special city at the same time.
Sam Taylor-Wood’s “Prelude in Air”(2005) features a powerfully built cellist passionately playing a beautifully poignant Bach prelude. We hear the lovely music and see his muscles creating it… but there is no cello….
There is so much to see and experience at this art carnival for the mind…go to to learn more and plan to spend the day!

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