Sunday May 8, 2005

Figuratively Speaking

Oscar Muñoz, Cortinas de baño [Shower Curtains], 1994, Acrylic on plastic, five curtains,74 x 27-1/2 inches each The Miami Art Museum has a somewhat modest permanent collection (this fact was, inexplicably, used as an argument against Museum Park). Nonetheless, the museum has put together some wonderful exhibitions from its collection in the past, of which Figuratively Speaking is not one. The resurgence of figuration in art since mid-20th century abstraction seems like a trite idea to base a show around, but of that’s not the problem with this show. Put simply, very few of the pieces in the show are really great, and many of them have been seen at MAM before. But let’s focus on the positive.

In the pamphlet essay, Peter Boswell focuses on the three oldest pieces in the show. Of these, Romare Bearden’s collage, Return of the Prodigal Son (1967), is the winner (here’s a crappy scan). Balancing crudeness and grace, it somehow looks right at home in 2005, almost forty years after its completion. Oscar Muñoz’s Cortinas de Baño (Shower Curtains) use a watercolor-like effect on hanging plastic sheets to simulate what bathers look like through steamed-up glass. One of the figures’ foot rests in a pool of blood, referencing the civil war in the artist’s native Columbia (those living off the fat of the land in the USA might think of a woman who’s cut herself while shaving her legs, but oh well).

Carrie Mae Weems, Mayflowers from Maydays Long Forgotten, 2002, C-print The museum’s web site uses Carrie Mae Weems’ Mayflowers from Maydays Long Forgotten to illustrate the show, and for good reason. This understated photograph is the best thing in the show. It shows three young girls laying on the ground outdoors. One girl wears a simple flower pattern dress, and gazes up at the sky; one girl wears a formal, frilly dress, and looks down at the first girl; the girl in the middle wears a laurel of leaves and flowers on hear head, and stares down the viewer. All that, and a successful use of a round frame. A few other pieces in the show were great, including Wamgechi Mutu’s Untitled (another collage), and a Lorna Simpson digital montage.

What was bad? Pretty much all the paintings, for starters. The worst of them, David Salle’s Untitled, previously caused eye-rolls during the Let’s Entertain exhibition. Oh yeah, and a little animated LCD piece called Thin Little Running Man was displayed in a way that can only be described as incompetent. Apparently it is so precious that it needs to be hung behind protective plexiglas and still needs a line on the ground to keep people from getting too close. Infuriatingly, all this makes a little speaker on the piece impossible to hear (one curious little girl who put her ear to it was reprimanded by a guard). There was no explanatory text to shed clues. This would be like displaying a painting behind frosted glass.

The MAM’s next exhibition, Marking Time / Moving Images, opens on the 13th. We trust they’ll get it right this time.

comments powered by Disqus
  1. Carol Brown    Mon May 9, 11:49 AM #  

    Who wrote this article?

  2. alesh    Mon May 9, 07:05 PM #  

    unless noted otherwise, everything here is written by little ‘ol me