Blake Gopnik offers a tour of New York museums and galleries that defines the historical epoch he calls Contemporary art in the Washington Post:
The term “contemporary art” no longer refers to the art of the moment. It refers to a certain kind of art, born in the late 1960s, that’s got a particular look and feel and way of doing things attached to it — every bit as much as “Renaissance” or “baroque” art do. Watercolors of boats at anchor, or even heartfelt abstractions, don’t really count as “contemporary art”; close-up photos of old pennies do. Anyone looking for a crash course on the “contemporary” should head to New York City over the coming weeks.
- a survey show called “1969” fills us in on the more static origins of contemporary art. For this show, P.S.1 has plundered the collections at the Museum of Modern Art, with which it is affiliated, pulling out works from that watershed year. The show doesn’t really give an evenhanded view of the art of that moment: It’s short on all the splashy abstractions many MoMA curators would in fact have been admiring. Instead, “1969” gives a wonderful survey of the 40-year-old art that happens to matter most to us now, mostly of a conceptual or political bent. Carl Andre’s floor works, Gerhard Richter’s prints and Nam June Paik’s experiments in video were crucial steps on the way to where we are today.
- In his first all-painting show in New York, this master of abject installation art shows he can do more than shock. Just in terms of the classic painterly values — composition, color, surface — Mike Kelley turns out to be highly skilled. In some unnamable way, these paintings simply work. On the other hand, long-term fans of the artist’s abjection will not be disappointed: A painting called “All Pink Inside” shows a dissected frog with a woman’s vagina for entrails; another, called “Yummy Puffy Mommy Yoni,” shows a brown faun mounting a pink unicorn.
- The Italian artist born Alighiero Boetti — he added the Italian word for “and” between his names as a conceptual gesture — came up with the idea for his famous “Mappa” series in 1971, on a trip to Afghanistan. From then until his death in 1994, he got Afghan women to embroider huge maps of the world, with each country filled in with the colors of its flag. Each of these pieces took years to make, as the needleworkers had to overcome the difficulties of the task Boetti gave them, as well as the vicissitudes of life in their torn-apart land. This first-ever survey of the series lets us watch as the world’s borders shift and its flags change colors. And still the women are there, pushing thread through fabric.
Head North and Follow the Signs of Contemporary Times (Washington Post)