New York

Films, etc.

Finch College Museum of Art

The Finch College Museum presented a grab-bag of ideas, images, and documented works in the form of slides, films and video tapes. The most interesting part of the show was comprised by the films, which included Smithson’s Spiral Jetty movie, the recording of Dennis Oppenheim’s Stock Exchange event, and Oldenburg’s Sort of a Commercial for an Icebag, the film made by Gemini explaining the ancestry of the giant icebag multiple. The slides were of artists, most of them still living, and their work; 75 really not very instructive in any way, they are sort of the art world equivalent of baseball cards. The video-tape gear was mostly not working when I visited the show, but I did get a glimpse of an interesting piece by Douglas Huebler which involved moving along a road at intervals determined by how far the traveler could see ahead at each stop. The traveler, who happened to have a video camera and recorder with him, would stop at a point, pan around 3600 and focus on the furthest legible point on the road ahead. The tape would then cut to that vantage point and the procedure would be repeated; the result was a chain of panoramic visual (yet real) spaces which defined movement forward without actually presenting it.

This was the kind of show at which one hangs around waiting for some compensation for the lack of art, or of unmediated art anyway. And there would be little tidbits now and then, like the slide showing David Smith on a motorbike riding past his Wagon I at Bolton’s Landing, and like Claes Oldenburg imitating bodily the motion proper to an icebag. The Oldenburg film as a whole was a delight, in fact. It was here too that I first noticed that Alexander Calder looks like the late screen actor Thomas Mitchell, and that Fernand Leger could have been the twin brother of the grammar school custodian of whom I was once quite terrified. Could that explain my dislike for Leger’s art? I remember seeing a picture of Leger himself almost before I saw any of his work. The juxtaposition of the look of an artist with the look of his work is sometimes interesting, but one doesn’t really know what to do with that. The same is true of a show like this one.

Kenneth Baker