IN THE CONTEXT of an issue concerned with the color of money, it might nevertheless be productive to consider a wider plethora of hues. Or so it would seem given the questions raised by “Color Chart,” an exhibition recently opened at New York's Museum of Modern Art and organized by curator Ann Temkin.
Spanning works by the likes of Robert Rauschenberg, Dan Graham, Jennifer Bartlett, André Cadere, and Liz Deschenes, Temkin’s show focuses on the role played by standardized and mass-produced color in the shaping of art production since 1950, and proposes the “readymade” hue as a common, if unstable, thread running through the work of several generations of modern and contemporary practitioners. The aforementioned artists, and nearly forty more, variously press pigment, courting its residual appeals to pure emotion even while emphasizing its modern, coolly detached commercialization.
And yet Temkin suggests that “Color Chart” also provides a jumping-off point for considerations of institutional politics, historical narratives, and the place of critical discourse within a glutted economy. Indeed, the provocative (and timely) subtext of her show is one of larger tensions between critical and curatorial concerns and between institutional and market imperatives. For while the artists constituting Temkin’s narrative ostensibly share a “conceptual” bent, they also offer an embarrassment of tactile riches. And museums, for their part, stand at the crossroads of vetting such histories: one part symbolic value; one part cold, hard cash. (Perhaps this attribution and status is especially pertinent when it comes to the example of MoMA, given its status as a sort of ur-museum in our time.) And so, Temkin argues, although the ways in which artistic objects and genealogies are constructed, received, and eventually consumed is a subject interrogated often enough, the nature of other presumed tensions—between the market and the critical endeavor, between the institution and critical practice—might itself be due for some reevaluation. In the interview that follows, conducted while “Color Chart” was still being installed, Temkin discusses a show that proffers a history of artists who cut their teeth on the stuff of modernist inquiry, and yet proposes a reconsideration of the museum’s role in taming and safely contextualizing what were once anti-aesthetic—or in some cases über-aesthetic—acts. A provocative tallying of contemporary concerns comes via a history lesson.

JOHANNA BURTON: It’s safe to say, I think, that there is often a murmur of discontent in the art world about the stupendous coming together of wealth and cultural production today. But perhaps a more significant problem is that no one is really willing—or able—to suggest any truly viable alternative. Instead, many of us hold up what are likely romanticized—or at the very least simplified—ideas of historical moments that seem less structured by, or for, distribution and codification. Now, I say this because you’ve described “Color Chart” as a rejoinder of sorts, in terms both of contemporary art’s critical reception and of the way in which the Museum of Modern Art’s mission is carried out today. I should say outright that this is surprising to hear about an exhibition that is at first glance beautiful, plush, amazingly aesthetic. So how do you see “Color Chart” participating in this

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