Re-Visiting MoMA’s Re-installed Contemporary Galleries

greg.moma reporting: The Modern has reinstalled the contemporary galleries on the second floor, and it’s an invigorating pleasure and a huge improvement. Seeing it again yesterday with my mother, I found myself paying less attention to the show’s conceptual and art historical underpinnings [Kelley’s and Ray’s juxtaposition with the Viennese Actionist photos of a doused bride, for example] and more to its sensory pleasures [or, in the case of Nauman’s cacophanous drum/rat maze piece, its assaults].
You don’t need to write for October to appreciate the nods to respective senses: the visual saturation of Yinka Shonibare’s batik costumes in front of Dana Schutz’s giant painting; the aural power of Janet Cardiff’s 40-Part Motet*; the threatening touch of a dense carpet of pins (which echoes nicely the greyscaled image on Felix Gonzalez-Torres’ billboard); or the leaching of sensory inputs as you move through a gallery of black/white works (including Yayoi Kusama’s photocollage of dot paintings, a Richter-scale masterpiece, if you ask me) into James Turrell’s inky darkness [where you’re immersed in red light, of course.]
While it’s nice to see MoMA has important works like Marina Abramovic’s early video and Charles Ray’s prop pieces, it’s even better to see them exhibited in coherent, engaging way that signals the museum isn’t tone deaf when it comes to contemporary art.
* Cardiff’s choral piece was last shown in NYC at PS1 in October 2001. It was an overwhelming, mournful piece then when the city was still in shock; yesterday, I found myself choking up repeatedly and involuntarily as I walked around it. Cardiff didn’t set out to create a memorial to September 11th, but for some of us, her work seems destined to remain inextricably linked to the immediate aftermath of September 11th. [here’s what I wrote about that first installation.]