Monday, June 15, 2009

Art: Younger Than Jesus at The New Museum

I have a hard time paying attention to the art at the New Museum. This is because the building is so beautiful, and the art is so atrocious. When I go there, I usually find myself enjoying the gap between the floor and the wall.

I came away from this show with distinct memories of only two pieces. One was a banana peel on the floor. I remember it because my mom saw it, and said, sarcastically, "Is that an installation?" She thought it was trash, but wouldn't put it past the New Museum to include it as art. I was certain that the gestapo-like museum guards would have noticed and discarded it if were not art, so I said, "I don't know. Let's see if there's a wall label." Indeed, there was. It was art. The artist had instructed that each morning, a museum guard peel and eat a banana, and discard the peel at a random location in the gallery. Luckily, the guard had randomly chosen a location near the wall label that day.

The other piece that I remember was a bed, minimally austere in that it was a white cube of sorts (a platform bed on a low plinth), with that post-minimalism humanist twist—it was topped by a meringue of white sheets and down comforter, and, according to the wall text, had a woman sleeping in it. I found this rather intriguing (as my first impulse had been to climb into the bed myself), but did not see anyone under the covers. Perhaps she was very small and had curled into a ball and covered her entire body, including her head. Or, perhaps she was in the bathroom.

So I remembered one thing because it looked like it wasn't supposed to be there, and another thing because it wasn't there, even though it was supposed to be. A bit like the lovely gap between the wall and the floor. Somehow, the building managed to be a metaphor for its contents before there were any contents. That is great architecture.

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