Thursday, April 15, 2010

A Spring Day at the IMA and Tara Donovan


For the last week I have been home sick, fighting off an everlasting head cold. And for the past couple months now I have had an overwhelming feeling of concern for my own lack of any substantive arts writing for this here blog. Be it other distractions, obligations, or simple procrastination, I thought today I would trudge out of the house and head to the IMA to check out the Tara Donovan show in particular and enjoy the great Spring weather. The following are some fragmented thoughts and observations on todays viewings as I blog live from the IMA. Keep watching later for some in depth writings leading up to the grand opening of the Art and Nature Park.

The Good

The weather if absolutely beautiful today. The sun is shining and there is a nice breeze blowing. A great time to walk around the IMA's grounds with some many of the trees and flowers beginning to bloom. A couple people having a picnic on the front manicured lawn. Brilliant. Heading inside I go straight to the Contemporary collection. Just my usual approach... I am pleased that in the past few years that the IMA has managed to rearrange their collection as often as they do. Seeing these new juxtapositions of works helps to see pieces in a new light. I think I actually liked seeing the Lee Krasner piece today, perhaps for the first time. Is it due to the new proximity to the Joan Mitchell and the Hans Hoffman or just given enough space this time to be seen in a better way? I do not really care really, just glad to see it with new eyes today. I was glad also to see that the Kara Walker piece had been removed and replaced with a new video work. Not that I have anything against the Walker piece, quite the contrary, I love the work but it has been up for a very long time. Maybe now I can one day anticipate seeing it again and be surprised when I do. The Ellsworth Kelly pieces looked particularly fresh today since last I saw them. I chalk this up to the great light coming in the windows of the adjoining Fred Sandback room. I do love that orange/red yarn piece! And for me, I quite enjoyed the fairly recent installation of the Richard Tuttle drawings and sculpture. Seeing these pieces together create, for me at least, a great peek into his work and use of materials. The economy of his choices... And perhaps last of the little surprises that stood out to me today, was a nice recent acquisition of a quilt from one of the Gees Bend pieces. Thinking back to that show, I do believe that that show had grown on me and made me appreciate those quilts in particular.

The Not So Good

Some people may say I am being nit picky here, and yes I am. But one of the things about coming to the IMA or any major art museum for that matter, is that once you raise the bar to a certain level in the quality of the works and the presentation of them, I feel we should hold them to that bar. I am certain they understand these concerns and more than likely these will be taken care of soon but I shall mention them here simply for the purpose that these things in particular did bother me when walking around the collections and some of these have bothered me for quite a long time. I may not be alone on these thoughts. To start, once again some bumbling patron has touched the Donald Judd sculpture, leaving very noticeable, distracting and annoying fingerprints on the brass. Did they not teach people to not touch art works like in elementary school. I do not place blame here on the museum of the security staff, but you out there who have at one time touched the art works. Stop Touching the Judd! In all the years I have seen this piece, I think I have only seen it fingerprint free twice. Quite annoying. Sadly a the only spot light focused on the Richard Pousette-Dart painting was out. I quite enjoy that painting but with out proper lighting its a very difficult painting to appreciate as it is already a dark painting. The bigger concern for me today was that one of their video/sculpture pieces (the Michal Rovner vitrine piece) was out of commission more than a month ago when I came here and today, it remains that way. Seriously? I would rather just see it leave the floor all together if its not going to be fixed within a week. The hallways area outside the glass room, typically showing works on paper, remains empty this month as well. Disappointing. I would have liked to see the previous works remain on view until it was time to hang a new group of works. This may have been a small thing to me if it wasn't for the fact that the Forefront Galleries are still blocked off and empty this month too. I point these out to show that I, as a frequent patron, notice these sort of things. Seeing as I had to renew my membership today, something I really should not be spending money on at this time, I want to see that I get the most out of these visits when I come out. I love to see things change and shift with each visit. And now, for something that I have long wanted to see happen that I am just going to throw out there, I think it is time to retire two works in particular. The Alice Aycock monstrosity and the Nam June Paik. Don't get me wrong. I like a lot of Paik works, this just happens to be one I really can not stand looking at. And that Aycock piece... Aside from looking like some mechanical torutre device, its just time to waken that entire corner of the Contemporary floor up with an overhaul of new works and juxtapositions that we get elsewhere. I expect the size and weight of these piece make moving them and storing them more difficult and therefore may impact why they seem to hang around. But, I vote on ousting them for a couple years. Whether its the economy, lack of available staff, over extended on the project front (the recent Tara Donovan opening and the Art and Nature Park) or some combination of these, I hope to see some shifts on these fronts in the coming months.

Tara Donovan Untitled

I have long been on the fence when it came to Tara Donovan's work. Seeing most of her work only in books, videos, magazines and online certainly has an impact on my expectations. I have seen a handful of her works in person but was not quite sure how I would like an entire exhibition of works. Would it be too much or would all the piece add up to much more? Today, I attempted to check out the show free of expectation. In hopes of just allowing the show to come to me as I saw it.

The first few rooms were devoted to her works on paper. Prints and drawings. The printmaker in me was instantly taken in, but in a way that I think mostly printmakers would get into them. I was more interested in the process than I was in the final outcome. This was not always the case, a series of large black and white prints, from what looks to be printed from shattered glass were quite impactful and quite graphic. Graphic being a word I would seldom associate to her work in general. Perhaps my personal favorites of all the works on paper were a series of drawings that appeared to me to be made from the use of ink and bubbles. There was an interesting and subtle quality to these particular pieces that stood out to me amidst the other works in the area.

Having reflected for the past hour or more after seeing the show, I strongly feel that the works on paper are quite minor in comparison to the larger three dimensional works. There is something about the larger installations that transcend the viewer and their experience with the work that you do not get in the works on paper. While the sculptures seem to embrace the process and obsessive compulsive nature of making these works to create a new experience, the drawings and works on paper feel more like documentation of the process and with some exceptions, ends there.

Walking into the rooms with the larger installations, I was amazed at how much they changed the rooms. In the context of the large installation configured out of plastic cups, I was taken by the play of light and color throughout the piece. Quite unexpected. I instantly began drawing parallels to aerial landscapes and alien topography. Neither of which I am quite certain of whether this is intended, as I have yet to read much in the artists own words. But the large undulating field of plastic cups or the huge bed of craggy black tar paper create to me, elegant and surreal alien landscapes out of the minutest, insignificant materials. Though a massive amount of each. Perhaps this reading into alien moonscapes and the like or aerial topography stands out to me strongly today due to the fact that I woke up today watching a number of old sci fi films from the 30's - 60's. There is an elegance to these works that I find myself falling for. In the last room stands a large, playful piece made from spherical like forms, composed of contorted sheets of mylar. I hate to use the term alien again, but it just seems to fit. Like some bizarre alien sculptural form that seems somewhat plantlike and organic while being made out of such an obvious  man made material as mylar sheeting. It is this use of materials and their transformation where Donovan truly shows her talents. While not all the three dimensional works come together fully for me, the three centerpieces for this show, absolutely embody the best Donovan has to offer.

In all, I think I may now be less on the fence with her work and will stand on the fan side. At least for today. It also pleased me to hear that a number of Herron students (some 20 or more) were brought in to help with the installation of this exhibition. I think this experience will be a great benefit to up and coming art students to get an idea of the amount of work that goes into a piece for a show of this scale. So props to the IMA for working with the local art school students and giving them this opportunity once again. We will certainly be discussing this further in the coming month.

If you get the chance, come on out to the IMA on a nice day, walk the grounds and then the collections. For the most part it is free, though the Tara Donovan show is a special exhibition and therefor costs some dollars but I think you will be fine with doing so. Enjoy.

[Note: Thanks to the IMA staff for the images used on this post.]

8 Responses to “A Spring Day at the IMA and Tara Donovan”

ArtistDan said...
April 16, 2010 at 7:56 AM

Thanks for writing. You've reminded me I need to get to the IMA again soon. Keep up the good work.

Unknown said...
April 16, 2010 at 9:46 AM

Thanks for the constructive crit, Scott. A sprucing of the Paik/ Ayecock/ Rovner corner of the galleries is high on our priority list. Same goes for the hallway outside the glass gallery. There is a plan! As soon as the new fiscal year hits (July), we'll set things in motion. In the meantime, hopefully you'll be distracted enough by the Jeppe Hein Forefront show (opens May 7, 100 Acres, and more visits to Donovan to give us a little more time.

Scott said...
April 16, 2010 at 2:14 PM

Sarah, I am very much looking forward to the Hein exhibit and of course the 100 Acres show. I hope to get things organized enough soon to begin doing some posts on the 100 Acres shows. Thanks.

Dan, certainly worth taking a few hours out of your day!

GK ROWE said...
April 16, 2010 at 2:54 PM

Scott, I enjoyed reading this review. I think the contemporary collection and the Tara Donovan is a a must see experience. It's unfortunate some maintenance issues become distracting - perhaps a part of the process for managing such a large and innovative institution?

Anonymous said...
April 18, 2010 at 8:30 AM

The fact that IMA continues its policy of free admission (excepting some special exhibitions) is reason enough to maintain a membership.

Your criticism of the third floor is spot on and it is good to hear that there is a plan. Now if that plan could include some contemporary photography...

Richard McCoy said...
April 23, 2010 at 5:25 PM

Thanks, Scott, for your look around the contemporary floor. I want to let you know that as of today the Rovner is working again. It took us an unexpectedly long time to find all of the hardware needed for the its most recent repair.

Here's hoping that all visitors remain as in tune as you.

Diong said...
April 26, 2010 at 4:47 PM

In line with what Scott wrote, the good: absolutely love IMA. We appreciate the changes made in recent years.

However the not so good (for me), your photography policy. Quoting from your page in bold: "Because of copyright law, photography is not permitted on the third gallery level." How different is the copyright law for artworks in MOMA, MCA and Art Institue than IMA? I'm just asking why I can shoot freely in those other institutions and not on IMA (third floor).

Scott Grow said...
April 30, 2010 at 2:33 AM

Thanks everyone. Any negative criticism I have for the IMA and its very capable staff stems out of nothing but respect and a desire to uphold them to the high bar they set for themselves and their collections.

Diong, I too agree with you regarding the photography policy. As long as flashes are not used, I see no reason at all why photography should not be allowed. In my recent visit to the Guggenheim people were taking photos galore inside (of a photography exhibition no less) with flashes going off ever so frequently. Not once did any of their security say anything to those using flashes. Tighter photography policies with in special exhibitions are more understandable but even then, come on...

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