I had almost forgotten the afternoon last December when I went to the LACMA and was disappointed by the Ruscha and Mapplethorpe that I'd wanted to see but was stunned by the Richard Serra. I'd show you an image, but that really isn't the point. I'd seen images. I'd even seen video walk-throughs. I can link those. But I can't link the moment when I turned a corner and lost my breath and nearly my footing. It is gorgeous, impossibly massive, and it manages to be both grandiose and personal at the same time. As I walked its path, dragging my fingers along the rusty steel (not supposed to touch the art but you should touch this one anyway), I was awed by it's looming height, and comforted by the intimate spaces it creates. I wanted to live in its folds.
This weekend, at the Chicago Art Institute Museum, I discovered for myself the haunting, luminous At the Moulin Rouge, and, cliché though it is, Van Gough's Self Portrait. Again, I want to add images, because otherwise I feel like I'm dropping names. I don't expect everyone to just know what works I mean. But the copies are too dull. I'm not talking about the copies, I'm talking about the things I can't put here. The depth and physicality and vibrancy. For reals—real life matters. Sometimes I forget. Also, the tiny historic dollhouse rooms in the basement level, each set into the wall with a wooden frame and glass so that from a distance they look like paintings, and even as I start to perceive the lie, my brain continues to try to process a real space as two-dimensional. Imagine with me.
There were three different prints of Ansel Adam's Moonrise Over New Mexico, and seven different prints of Dorothea Lange's Migrant Mother. I liked that. Making transparent our ideas of authenticity. They also had (in the Contemporary Art section, rather than the Photography section), Sherrie Levine's After Egon Schiele
I can't say that I love Sherrie Levine. But I love living in a world where Sherrie Levine exists, and also After Sherrie Levine where one can download hi-res scans of After Walker Evans along with certificates of authenticity. Yes, it's all a joke, and not very intellectually rigorous, but it gives me giggles and joy.During the early 1980s, Sherrie Levine gained recognition for her re-creations of famous works of art, typically by men, through which she questions the ideals of high modernism and confronts issues of authorship, repetition, and authenticity. Rephotographing 18 self-portraits by Egon Schiele from bookplates, Levine altered the original images, interrupting the viewing experience with a series of implied contradictions. The finished piece is simultaneously Levine’s self-portrait and Schiele’s; it is the work of a woman and a man, a reproduction and an original.
I took a piece of candy out of a glittery pile in "Untitled" (Portrait of Ross in L.A.), by Felix Gonzalez-Torres and Ross became a fraction of an ounce closer to death. It tasted like cheap candy. In the photos it always looks like a forgotten corner, but in the museum there was a spotlight and the wrappers shone.