A Deluxe Act: Gallagher connects the dots at MoMA
by Melissa Stern
Museum exhibitions curated by artistsare always an interesting journey into theartist's brain. Sometimes we find out thingswe really didn't want to know, like a hiddenpassion for paintings of big-eyed children ora love of the color beige. Sometimes, however,we get to peer deeply into the artist'smind and actually connect the dots of howwhat interests them relates to their work.
Printin', a new show in the print galleriesat MoMA, is such an exhibition. It isshowing concurrently with the major butunwieldy exhibition Print/Out, and trustme, you can skip the big show in favorof this superbly well-chosen, flowing andevocative collection of work. In this case,smaller is better.
Printin' is co-curated by Sarah Suzuki,an associate curator at the museum, andthe artist Ellen Gallagher. The exhibitionpivots around Gallagher's seminal suite ofprints entitled DeLuxe, 60 prints that combinejust about every printing technique onearth along with collage, 3-D objects andhand-painting. It is a massive and stunningwork and a benchmark in Gallagher's artisticdevelopment.
Given some amount of free rein towander through MoMA's collections andmake the visual and conceptual connectionsthat most interested her, Gallagherhas created a startlingly beautiful andprofound exhibition.The heart of the curators' magic is anability to exhibit links between disparateworks, either visual, thematic or temperamental.The connections that the curatorsmake are delightful, allowing the viewerthe joy of seeing and understanding thosevisual connections.
For example, one wall of the show ishung with an unusually sensitive, largeKeith Haring woodcut. Next to that is apainted Kachina made by an anonymousHopi Indian, then the wall bounces up intoa very unusual Paul Klee piece of pigmentedpaste on paper and cloth. Below that isa wonderful abstract print by Canadian artistAkesuk Tudlik.
The visual themes dance across this wallin a giddy flash of discovery. You get it. Youare able to see what Gallagher sees and presumablyloves in these pieces.A 1921 photograph of the black vaudevillianBert Williams dressed incongruouslyin both tuxedoand chicken suithangs above a printby Otto Dix entitled"American Riding
Act," which depictshorse-borne men inelaborate featheredheaddresses shootingat something beyondthe picture plane. Theconnections are bothfunny and chilling.As opposed to theconceptually denseand overly hip showcaseexhibition Print/Out, Suzuki andGallagher have mounteda show that is intellectuallyaccessible,artistically illuminating and a sheer joy tovisit.
Through May 14, The Museum of Modern
Art, 11 W. 53rd St., 212-708-9400, www.
This article first appeared in the March
7 issue of CityArts. For more from New
York's Review of Culture, visit www.cityartsnyc.com
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