Photo diary: Friday morning at MOMA

December 1, 2013

(click pictures to enlarge)

I stopped by the Museum of Modern Art on Friday to take advantage of their Black Friday special — six months extra when you buy a year’s membership. Such a deal! While I was there, since it was members’ early hour (9:30-10:30) and the place was surprisingly unthronged, I took the occasion to stroll through the current blockbuster show, “Magritte: The Mystery of the Ordinary, 1926-38.” I love Magritte’s work for its wit and its ability to peel strangeness out of everyday tableaux. It’s fascinating to notice how many of his images have become embedded in our cultural consciousness. It’s not that they look any less strange or striking — I would say that Magritte has contributed to how we accept surrealism as part of our landscape, literally and figuratively. There are many pictures in the show I’ve never seen before, and some favorites are not here, which reminded me that I must have seen a giant retrospective of his work before, possibly in London, because that show turned me on to what I think is my favorite of his paintings, “Homesickness.”

magritte homesickness
No photography is permitted in the Magritte galleries, but also on the sixth floor is the Isa Genzken retrospective, where pictures are encouraged. Before this week, I’d never heard of her, but I read Peter Schjeldahl’s glowing review in this week’s New Yorker, along with Nick Paumgarten’s profile of high-powered art dealer David Zwirner (who represents her) and Judith Thurman’s blog post about her aborted profile of the artist. So I felt sufficiently prepped to tour her array of sculptures, videos, collages, assemblages, paintings, photographs, and notebooks.
11-29 isa 411-29 isa 211-29 isa genzken 1
I was intrigued to read about and then to see evidence of her curious and strong identification with the gay male culture she encountered both in Berlin and in New York City.

11-29 isa and the gays
This piece, for instance, is called “Gay Babies” — a handful of suspended assemblages of net metal pans, chains, and other debris:

11-29 gay babies
She likes to use cruddy everyday objects for whimsical constructions, like this one, part of a piece called “Fuck the Bauhaus”:

11-29 fuck the bauhaus detail11-29 fuck the bauhaus
And there are a bunch of dioramas depicting vaguely sci-fi scenarios collectively called “Empire/Vampire,” an indirect response to the 9/11 attack on the World Trade Center (which apparently she witnessed firsthand):

11-29 empire vampire 1

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