Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Rambling, Art Swoon

The first part of the weekend was a dalliance with high culture like no other. It wasn’t until Saturday about 4pm, over a plate of quesadillas and nachos at an overpriced restaurant in Fed Square (we had a voucher) that it started its descent into degeneracy. But my, what an opening! De Campo and I attended the Guggenheim show, but before I talk about how good that was how good were The Apartments on Friday night? Brilliant, brilliant set from these Brisbane classics, who never ever played Melbourne until now. I said hi to Peter Milton Walsh after the show and he shook my hand. He was more decent than I expected (doesn’t he come across a little cross in David Nichols’ Go-Betweens’ book? Thought so). I was lame enough to tell PM I didn’t listen to his records anymore, but still was curious what songs were played off what albums and he was courteous enough to tell me! It was a tedious exchange, but that’s my problem — Peter’s an absolute gentleman and I tell you those boys killed. The upshot is I played their albums on Saturday morning before we left to the gallery and they sounded superb. Flame rekindled.

I'll take you on a tour of the Guggenheim show and try not to give anything away. The Rothko was okay, should have stood alone, paled next to the Pollack (Green Silver) which for its diminutive size slayed even the Goliath De Kooning opposite. There was a big painting around the corner that was hot pink and pale butterscotch I liked that one a lot. Pure ecstasy, I said. Next to that was another big one that I found really threatening to my manhood. It was a jagged weird-angled v in blue and green on a white background. “Porn...Bad” I uttered, while De Campo dismissed it with a footy team jersey reference. A room full of optical art from the 70s provided some neat little tricks on the eye and some dead-cool minimalist stuff there as well with white fabric that would have made bitching prog-rock covers.

Dan Flavin’s flouro tubes (pictured) got my sensors dazzling in ways George Lucas can’t. Like a few things in this exhibition Flavin’s flouros were built to specification in Melbourne. The logistical undertaking for this show and the vast quantity of pieces (one work has 14,000 individual pieces) was outstanding.

Around the structure housing Flavin's stuff was Roy Lichtenstein's giant ode to industry, Preparedness, which reminded me of Fritz Lang’s metropolis or those Communist propaganda posters. De Campo said the blue in it reminded her of the colour she sees when she gets an acupuncture needle stuck in her forehead. The Rauschenberg next to Roy's complemented it in the sense of the worker theme but it's not as cool as I wanted my first experience with Rauschenberg to be. I expected Rauschenberg to provide something as sophisticated as his trademark sleek shirt and sweater combo, but this was far too gritty for that.

Gilbert and George, who are like the B-52s of the art world, had two magnificent works perfectly encapsulating the 80s better than anyone else there and they were up against stiff competition. Next to the Lichtenstein, G&G's ‘Waking’ was the biggest picture. Paul MCarthy's Fucked Up is a silicon black rubber sculpture of michael jackson and Bubbles that made me cry it was so sad, I was getting heavily emotional by this stage, but apparently it needs to be appreciated in an art history context because it was made as a reaction to a quite syrupy Jeff Koons MJ and pet chimp sculpture made of precious metal leaves and other fine substances. That one wasn't there. Perhaps I was mourning its absence who knows. Two Koons painting were in the post-POp or whatever you want to call it room next to McArthy and G&G. Much mirth, Koons’ sandwiches were hilariously scrumptious and delightful.

The idea of Rachel Whitebread to plaster cast the negative space of objects is a genius one and one that I appreciated once De campo explained to me what it was. This show features the gnarly cast of her staircase. Very impressive. I liked it. Moving on. De campo found Sarah Anne Johnson’s photography exhibit, juxtaposing models and miniatures on a tree planting excursion in the Canadian wilderness, most inspiring, for me it was a little too LL Bean catalogue. Matthew Barney's lavishly produced Cremaster Cycle is a waste of money, but a pretty good exercise in excess. So pretentious it's funny, but too tedious to bother and our buzz was depleting rapidly as a result.

There are so many wonderful and confronting surprises in the final stretch I hesitate to take you on this tour for fear of spoiling it. It starts slow with a few lesser Mapplethorpes (no bullwhips), then there's an eerie Cindy Sherman of a glamorous face half buried in the marsh surrounded by accessories from her purse including a hand mirror that’s open and showing a terrible, simply monstrous reflection. Needless to say I bought two postcards of works in this room and one by Gregory Crewdson is for H who takes the cake went it comes to sending me creepy postcards, you’re gonna get it you bastard!

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