A Flaming Goal, Primitive
Thursday night, after doing some shopping in Soho, I went to the New Museum. They have extended hours on Thursdays and are conveniently open until 9pm. Recently opened is Primitive by Thai artist Apichatpong Weerasethakul and Historic Photographs by Gustav Metzger. I went first to the 3rd floor for Primitive, even though I normally start my viewing experience on the higher levels and work my way down.

Upon exiting the elevator for Apichatpong Weerasethakul, I had that familiar tinge of excitement as the gallery was lit mostly by the projected light of the videos. Several rooms contain large projections that have some sound but are mostly silent with accompanied headphones or subtitles. In the central gallery space, lightning claps and pops as white electricity, stripes through the screen furthest to the right. This along with a small room also to the right that features young men playing soccer with a burning ball were the most exciting of the series. I want to give the exhibit a second viewing, but felt underwhelmed considering the amount of video I’ve seen recently, while containing the above mentioned gems, as a whole the series didn’t meet my expectations.

In between walking the stairs from the 3rd floor to the 4th floor, I came across Cloud Canyon, 1963/2011 by London based artist David Medalla. The work is a sculpture emitting foamy bubbles which the artist describes as “….evolving, kinetic forms.”
Historic Photographs on the fourth floor which I had initially perceived by title alone, to be a little dull, was anything but. In fact it’s one of the best shows I’ve seen in a while. The photographs are installed as sculptural elements that both interact and tease the viewer pulling upon our morbid curiosity in wanting to see images of death, violence or destruction. This exhibit comes at perfect timing regarding the contemporary, media-based controversy formed on whether or not to publicly release the death photo of Bin Laden.
Installation View, Historic Photographs
Gustav Metzger at eighty-six, is himself a survivor of the Holocaust and chooses to exhibit and hide particularly gruesome images taken during times of strife. It is in what is not revealed that the exhibition shines. Originally trained as painter, Metzger’s work becomes a figurative painting sans figure and alludes to particular themes and components but entrusts a lot to our imagination. Left to our own collective devices, an individual can imagine the worst or the mediocre. Photographs are sealed behind and between steel. They are hidden underneath fabric, which can be shifted and crawled into, becoming a physical action intended to access the visual but cannot be viewed any other way.
Kudos to the artist and curator Massimiliano Gioni, because it is in this difficulty that the viewing experience takes on an entirely different level. The content of the photographs is not easy. Why should the viewing be?
Historic Photographs and Primitive are both on view at the New Museum until July 3rd, 2011.
More soon!
Next up: Berlin based artist David Adamo at Untitled.

— Posted from my iPhone