Carnegie International

Some Thoughts on Entries #11-19

#19: Senga Nengudi

The exhibit cards for Sega Nengudi's sculptures describe her chosen medium as "nylon mesh," apparently because "panty hose" is a bit too risqé for the Carnegie. Unintentional humor aside, the panty hose sculptures are pretty mild stuff. Her giant sand painting at the base of the Grand Staircase is far more interesting — a big sprawling mess that blocks one of the main enrances to the Carnegie and seems entirely out of place. It's another great boundary piece that sets the Intrnational aside as something different.

#18: Eva Rothschild

It's minimalist sculpture with leather fringe. BFD.

#17: Aranda Radjarmrearnsook, "Reading Inaow for Female Corpse"

This is a documentary of the artist performing a death ritual over a corpse of an anonymous woman, in Thai with no subtitles. This sounds like a great idea in concept — simple and spiritual — but the execution is opaque and impenetrable. The Gallery guide notes that there's no real attempt made by Radjarmrearnsook to manipulate the cinematography, which is a shame as better framing could have easily made this a more moving piece.

#16: Francis Alÿs

The large gallery of Francis Alÿs's work didn't do anything for me — it's ust more mediocre painting. But Alÿs manages to produce one of the few truly funny pieces in the International — a small, darkened room with a very tiny picture placed just out of the light streaming through the doorway. As you draw nearer, you realize that the picture is a close-up of a man in a suit with his hands clasped behind his back — the exact same pose that 90% of museum-goers reflexively fall back on when examining artwork. It makes you want to laugh and at the same time it makes you feel awkwardly self-conscious. Which is cool.

#15: Trisha Donnelly

Trisha Donnely contributes four pieces to the Carnegie, two of which I didn't notice and two of which are intensely annoying. Her most visible contribution is the installation "Night is Coming" which consists of the titual phrase being projected in giant pulsing letters in the Grand Staircase. The Gallery Guide says it's "open and allusive," but I say it's just boring. The "Letter to Tacitus" consists of a museum employee reading a long-winded letter (by Pliny the Younger, I believe) in a very loud voice at noon. It doesn't do much except a) it makes you wonder whether the guy doing the reading is crazy, and b) it makes you feel distinctly uncomfortable because he's so damn loud.

I cant say I noticed "Dark Wind" which is apparently some sort of audio performance in the Scaife Galleries, and I didn't notice her photos by the gallery doors, so they can't have made much of a "heraldic entrance."

#14: Kaoru Arima

Kaoru Arima gessoes blank areas on newspapers and then doodles on them in ballpoint pen. Apparently this somehow helps him discover "hidden beauty" and reveal "the unexpected pertinence of myth when juxtaposed with contemporary reality. It is as if linear time, the unrepeatable timeline of history, has been invaded by sacred time, which is infinitely repeated in myth and in ritual." Which is, of course, total bullshit.

Between Arima's newspaper doodles and Crumb's placemat drawings, I feel confident in predicting that within the next few years I'll find someone willing to purchase my 212 lecture notes, which are profusely illustrated with naked drawings of any girl who happened to sit next to me. SoHo, here I come!

#13: Philip-Lorca deCorcia

DeCorcia takes over the upper levels of the Hall of Sculpture with his photos of strippers. They're surprisingly beautiful and mesh surprisingly well with the classical austerity of the Greco-Roman castings on display — but at the end of the day they're still just photos of strippers.

#12: Isa Genzken, "Empire/Vampire Who Kills Death"

That's a pretty grandiose title for a grouping of sculptures that consists mostly of spray-painted garbage and action figures. Apparently this is somehow supposed to depict the "turbulent struggles within the ruins of an industrialized society" but instead it comes off as the sort of crappy found object diorama that art school students come up with in the crunch (believe me, I've tried to pass off a few myself). Surreal moment — recognizing a Team X Wolverine action figure in the detritus and thinking this somehow made the whole thing better.

#11: Ugo Rondinone

The first piece from the International you're likely to see is Ugo Rondinone's "Everyone Gets Lighter," a "jolly, carnivalesque sign" situated in the Forbes Avenue entrance to the Museum of Art. I'm sure this is supposed to be ironic in some way, but it looks exactly like something you'd see at the Children's Place, which undercuts the effect.

Rondinone's other piece, "Roundelay" isn't much better. It does a remarkable job of mood-setting — after walking down a bare corridor filled with the music of Philip Glass, you cross under a burlap curtain into a hexagonal room filled with monumental video screens showing a "somber man" and a "stricken-looking woman" walking alone through the streets of Paris. At first, you're overtaken by a profound sense of grief, which then becomes annoyance once you realize you've been sitting in this room for eight minutes, nothing has happened, and that the man and the woman are never going to meet. I suppose it's a wonderful reminder of how easy it is to play with the viewer's emotions, but since playing with your emotions is "Roundelay"'s only goal the whole thing winds up feeling rather slight.

Tomorrow: Entries #10 (Julie Mehretu) through 4 (Robert Breer) and entries #2 (Mamma Andersson) through 1 (Kutlug Ataman).

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