previews

  • Hallway of Lawrence Weiner's Bleecker Street studio, New York, 1988. Photo: Tom Warren.

    Lawrence Weiner

    MOCA Geffen Contemporary
    152 North Central Avenue
    April 13 - June 14

    Whitney Museum of American Art
    99 Gansevoort Street
    November 15 - February 10

    Curated by Donna De Salvo and Ann Goldstein

    In the fall of 1968 my wife, Eleanor, and I were living in a small tract house in Solana Beach, a little beach town about twenty miles north of the Mexican border. We were newcomers to Southern California, so we were pleasantly surprised by the unexpected visit of three members of the New York art world—Seth Siegelaub, Joseph Kosuth, and Larry Weiner, who hung around for lunch and some gossip before they took off for Tijuana, where Larry was going to toss a carton of cigarettes across the border, a Fluxus-type performance that was a realization of his scenario text:

    AN OBJECT TOSSED FROM ONE COUNTRY TO ANOTHER.

    It somehow seems appropriate that just as visitors to the Museum of Modern Art are enjoying the vaulting ambition and the visceral disturbance provoked by traversing the massive torqued-steel environments of Richard Serra, the Whitney Museum of American Art and the Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles are preparing a comprehensive retrospective of the work of the Conceptual artist Lawrence Weiner, whose signature works consist mainly of casually displayed brief pieces of text. If the Serra works deploy copious technical and material resources to produce a purely physical effect, the Weiner works deploy spare and elegant linguistic resources to produce an intellectual and poetic effect.

    But what form do the Weiner pieces take, and how do they work? In a gallery they usually appear as a few printed words stenciled on or affixed to the wall; simple, sometimes enigmatic, phrases, offering something to think about but providing few clues as to how to go about that thinking. Take a typical 1995 piece: two juxtaposed phrases—

    BALLS OF WOOD BALLS OF IRON

    —positioned at angles to each other fairly high on the gallery wall. The two materials named emerge from different levels of technology, both slightly archaic. So is the phrasing. Are balls of wood the same as wooden balls or wood balls? Does the of call attention to the production process? The material? Someone might say, “She was carrying three balls of wool.” But what native English speaker would say, “She was carrying three balls of wood,” outside of a fairy tale or a nursery rhyme? “She had three balls of wood / that told her where she stood.” What are wood balls good for? Not billiard balls or bowling balls. Croquet, maybe. Door handles. Newels. Finials. Buttons. balls of iron is easier. Ancient Chinese Baoding health balls. They’re hollow. You hold three in your hand and try to make them spin. If you get them spinning the right way, they produce different musical tones—melody leading to circulatory health.

    Or maybe the words suggest a pawnshop or a chain gang.

    But these readings are as slippery as rain and evaporate fairly quickly. Take an object tossed from one country to another. In 1962 it could have read as an ironic invitation to think of the Cuban Missile Crisis. Now it could suggest a case of extreme rendition—a Canadian citizen kidnapped by the CIA and flown to Syria for torturing. But “tossed” is a casual term, unlike “hurled,” and less energetic or violent even than “thrown.” So perhaps the most meaningful reading would invoke this casualness more directly, even while taking into account the relation between countries, for which the passage of anything from one to another almost immediately suggests borders and contraband and anything-but-casual concerns with immigration. In Weiner’s Conceptualism, the individual readings are meaningful, but it’s the notion and value of the casual, the invitation to find meaning through the casual operation of the mind, that counts.

  • Takashi Murakami, 727, 1996, acrylic on canvas mounted on board, 9' 10 1/8“ x 14' 9 3/16”.

    Takashi Murakami

    Brooklyn Museum
    200 Eastern Parkway
    April 4 - July 13

    MOCA Geffen Contemporary
    152 North Central Avenue
    October 29 - February 11

    Curated by Paul Schimmel

    The exhibition title, “© Murakami,” flatly announces the post-Warholian position Takashi Murakami aims to occupy on the broken borderline between art and popular culture. Rendering his name a generic consumer brand, Murakami claims the benefits of intellectual property while hedging his work against the collective comic-book and video-game imaginary from which it springs. Others would sink under the weight of such a paradox, but Murakami soars—this is corporate-capitalist gnosticism, Hieronymus Bosch for the digital age, figuring a “superflat” reality squashed between angelic overworld and demonic underworld. Bringing together more than ninety paintings, objects, films, and installations made since the early 1990s, this exhaustive midcareer retrospective will provide a welcome opportunity to see how it all adds up, whether it does, and even whether it should. Travels to the Brooklyn Museum, New York, Apr. 4–July 13, 2008; and other venues.

  • Cosima von Bonin, Untitled (Krebber über Krebber), 1990, black-and-white photograph, 37 3/4 x 13 1/4".

    Cosima von Bonin

    MOCA Geffen Contemporary
    152 North Central Avenue
    September 16 - January 7

    Curated by Ann Goldstein

    Artist, curator, DJ, collaborator, raconteur: These are just some of the roles Cologne-based Cosima von Bonin has occupied in her oft-hyphenated conceptual-feminist practice, which shuffles among as many media—including photography, painting (in oil and fabric), sculpture, installation, and performance—as discursive frames. Her protean approach will be played up in this survey of approximately fifty works from 1990 to the present, including Untitled (Krebber über Krebber), 1990, an appropriation of a 1960s gallery advertisement; Kapitulation, 2004, a large-scale multimedia installation; and a handful of new sculptures. A substantial catalogue with texts by curator Ann Goldstein, Isabelle Graw, Manfred Hermes, and Bennett Simpson accompanies the show. Von Bonin’s first solo museum exhibition in the US comes fast on the heels of her star turn at Documenta 12.

  • Francis Alÿs, Still from Rehearsal I, 1999-2004. Video projection.

    Francis Alÿs

    Hammer Museum
    10899 Wilshire Boulevard
    September 30 - February 10

    Curated by Russell Ferguson

    Francis Alÿs has proposed “the politics of rehearsal” as the organizing principle of his first major US museum exhibition, which brings together some half dozen video installations, as well as preparatory drawings and paintings from the past decade. If a rehearsal is an enactment of an event that has yet to occur, then its politics would seem to locate possibility in perpetual deferral. This is one way, in any case, to think about the artist’s wryly Sisyphean projects (most recently, he traced Israel’s contested Green Line with a leaky can of paint and connected Havana to Key West with a partial “bridge” of fishing boats). Seen collectively and in light of the artist’s phrase, such interventions might describe a trajectory that bears a kind of asymptotic relationship to utopianism.

  • Kori Newkirk, Bam Bam, 2003, pony beads, artificial hair and metal brackets, 91 x 60".

    Kori Newkirk

    The Studio Museum in Harlem
    144 West 125th Street
    November 14 - March 9

    Pasadena Museum of California Art (PMCA)
    490 East Union Street
    June 1 - September 14

    Curated by Thelma Golden

    Visitors to the Studio Museum this fall may find more than just their eyesight engaged; an installation in the lobby emits the distinctive aroma of pomade, one of Kori Newkirk’s favorite materials. The pungent new site-specific project kicks off a decade-spanning selection of approximately thirty-five works by the Los Angeles–based artist. Newkirk’s droll, trenchant explorations of identity politics, racial stereotyping, and personal history are also represented by a number of his signature beaded-curtain pieces, sculptures and photographs involving basketball and the body, two videos (Bixel, 2005, and a new work), and a selection of neon sculptures. The substantial catalogue features an essay by curator Thelma Golden alongside contributions from art historian Huey Copeland, MCA Chicago associate curator Dominic Molon, and artist, curator, and scholar Deborah Willis. Travels to the Pasadena Museum of California Art, June 1–Sept. 14, 2008.