Wednesday, December 2, 2009

No Beauty at the Geffen

I enjoy a lot of conceptual art. But, in order for it to be worthy of my attention it must have beauty. I'm not talking about pretty flowers here. I'm talking about some sort of perceptual experience of satisfaction beyond the idea (thanks wikipedia). Over the years the curators at MOCA have evidently declined to pay any heed to beauty as evidenced in their current show: MOCA'S First Thirty Years.

I haven't seen the entire show though, only the 1980-NOW section down at the Geffen which has mostly sculpture and installation. So, who knows, maybe there's some beauty hanging out down at Grand Ave. though I'm certainly not inspired to see it after wandering through this maze of horrors. I have been in LA for over ten years (making me officially from here) and I've seen many shows at MOCA that have had stand out, jaw dropping, exceptional work. The curators apparently neglected to purchase any of that for their permanent collection.

Is it just me or is this stuff intensely ugly? Seriously, some of this looks like rubbish left by the assembly crew. I mean some of this crap is not even good enough for LACE. Whoops, did I say that? I think I know why MOCA has had it's recent money woes. It's not mismanagement, it's because their collection has not aged well. It is the equivalent of sub-prime mortgage backed securities or junk bonds traded into worthlessness. It doesn't even look antique, just out of date.

Even the things that are supposed to be ugly are ugly. Just in time for xmas is Paul McCarthy's horrifying Tokyo Santa, installation. Don't get me wrong, I hate xmas as much as the next guy and I appreciate the punch below the belt to the season. But, this gratuitously retched half-naked santa montage is just so predictable.

But, it wasn't all bad. As I exited I saw a man taking some photos of the most compelling scene at the Geffen, the tinted late afternoon sunlight shining through the windows at the front door. Too bad it wasn't part of the show.


  1. yes - it's been disappointing me for some time that the moca people have been totally buying in to 'kids these-a-days' making stuff that resembles 'contemporary art' without actually having any of it's (dare i say) 'conceptual' underpinnings. All surface - no drift.

  2. Wow, TT! You give a bitter -- and justified -- review of MOCA by starting off with beauty. Then you end with a mundane moment in the museum that brought you to the sublime while all the while talking about beauty.

    It's reminds me of the plastic bag scene in "American Beauty". Your trash talk of this exhibit seems kinda fitting as that piece of plastic litter dancing in the wind. Great review. Oh, and lovin' your blog!

    "Sometimes there's so much beauty in the world I feel like I can't take it, like my heart's going to cave in. "

  3. Totally agree, TT. I like Modern Art when it shows talent & creativity beneath the exterior. Like your piece where you made that Indian-looking "headdress" out of the shredded white plastic bags, that was cool.

    Or something like this guy's sculptures made from salvaged old car parts:


  4. I'm not sure you gave the show a fair look. For example, the tinted light coming through the doors IS a work of art. It hasn't been shown in a few years. If you look carefully at the shadows produced by the multi-colored tinting you start to see a sort of rainbow effect. It is very strange and psychadelic.

    Some of the work is challenging, but I think there are many truly beautiful works in the exhibition. . .


  5. Oh, but it was part of the show, in spite of the curators! A beautiful shot of the sun breaking through.

  6. Of course it wasn't all bad but, this is a blog and you have to lay it on a little thick sometimes to make a point. I deliberately did not include my favorites just to have a more concise post. My favorites were: Quiz by Neo Rauch, Hang Over by Fred Tomaselli, and Chiho Aoshima's stunning and mesmerizing City Glow. I would disagree on not giving the show a fair look. I've seen many of these works more than once. You got me on the tinted windows. My bad! Thanks eveybody for your comments!