One of the greatest (and possibly only) luxuries of adjunct teaching was the imposed yet well-deserved break in between fall and winter semesters. Although I was, and still am, the most completely broke I have been in years, I took this opportunity to use my ever-decreasing funds to get out of Dodge (or Detroit, for that matter) and visit my beloved east coast, north and south. The impetus for this journey was my inclusion in Transformer Gallery’s Flat File exhibition, the Morandi show in New York and a trip to Philadelphia, the city that may become my new home come August. Pittsburgh and Atlanta, were also included in my trip, the former an unexpected delight, the latter a comfortable return.
The opening at Transformer was fabulous as well as familiarly crowded, the Morandi show was not a bit disappointing, and Philadelphia was every bit as wonderful as I remembered. However, it was the random pit-stop in Pittsburgh that stole my oh-so-romantic heart.
Pittsburgh with its blue-collar hills and primary colored bridges, was more than just a delightful visual display before the flat expanse of Ohio. However, I cannot deny that my stop at the Carnegie International’s Life on Mars exhibition affected my, well, adamant affection. The show is only up until January 11th and anyone who can make the trip should. Forty international artists were included in the exhibition, the premise being the exploration of the question “Is there life on Mars” which spurred their investigation of “the nature of humanness in this radically unmoored world and the alien inside us” (Douglas Fogle, curator).
A specific interest for me was Barry McGee’s full-fledged hallway installation, although I’m not sure if the hallway space really suited this piece. Naturally, the idea to use the hallway to display McGee’s work was appropriate, but the space didn’t seem as taken over as it could have been, refusing to transcend a mere hallway covered with McGee’s strange caricatures, bright geometric patterns and graffiti sprays. Regardless, his work still had a pull, especially the bright patterns and the strange wall-protrusions.
The most heroic work of the show was Thomas Hirschhorn’s obsessive cardboard enclosure Cavemanman. Anyone interested in large-scale installation (or contemporary art, at all) should see this piece for its sheer ambition. Also, anyone that is interested in using pornography in their work, should see this piece because of Hirshhorn’s skill in using it contextually without being heavy handed (or just dumb). And if you make any work out of cardboard? Wow. I can hardly say more.
Overall, the show was one of the most satisfying I have seen in a while, especially the works by Mark Bradford, Veja Celmins, Haegue Yang and Richard Hughes in addition to McGee and Hirschhorn. I have to say, though, the curation favored installation artists; the painters were outdone.
On a side note: As the forthcoming winter months will most likely keep me poor and Detroit-ed, I am so excited that I had the chance to visit the cities I miss most and discover more cities to keep missing. Some things are for certain, though, despite Detroit’s sad economic climate, the DIA (Detroit Institute of Arts) is far more exciting than Atlanta’s newly renovated High Museum (even with it’s great Michael Borremans painting). What’s up with that?