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|Closed Ends at MoMA
by Charlie Finch
|Much have I traveled in the realms of gold, but seldom have I seen a show as anally retentive as "Open Ends" at the Museum of Modern Art.
Here, James Rosenquist's monumental anti-Vietnam War statement, F-111, turns into sectional wallpaper; Barnett Newman evaporates above the escalators; Cindy Sherman's million-dollar Untitled Film Stills are marked down to $100 a piece on the fourth floor.
Who was Andy Warhol? Just a guy who silk-screened some soup cans and then did some camouflages just before he died.
But this dumbed-down show presents Tom Wesselmann as a major artist, while pathetic series of abstract prints by Gerhard Richter and John Armleder reduce Charlie Ray's Family Romance to a series of trolls.
The curatorial scale here, at MoMA (!), is that of the collector in his or her living room, weighing one recent purchase against another.
I remember the '60s -- they were nothing like this. Now, you could drink café lattes out of Eva Hesse's wax vitrines, so primly are they proffered by Kirk Varnedoe, the Analman curator.
Kirk, honey, you've sucked all the life out of the last 40 years to install your depressing, meretricious little show.
If you wanna see the revolution, take the MoMA escalator to the second floor above the frosted windows, which used to look out on MoMA's elegant sculpture garden long ago; say, last spring.
It's now a viscous mud pit, filled with backhoes, cranes and bulldozers. It looks like one percent of a Michael Heizer, but the dead garden has more vitality than the prissy little prints and photographs that disgrace Varnedoe's swansong to 53rd Street.
It's a crime that MoMA's board of rich trust-fund morons defenestrated Phillip Johnson's pocket paradise first, at the commencement of the "renovation."
But this show is the unchecked MoMA board mentality filtered down to its curatorial mendicants, whose philosophy can be summed up thusly: "Ooh, I went to Matthew Marks Gallery, and look what they let me buy, Toys 'R Us by Andreas Gursky!"
There's only one liberated space in Captain Kirk's enterprise: Pipilotti Rist's Ever All Over, situated in its own gray videodrome -- this is the one, of course, where the Pipster obliterates Swiss car windows with her heavy tulip.
Is it still too late to put the Pip in charge of MoMA's renovation?
When architect/renovator Yoshio Taniguchi first presented his elegant, unrealized plans to the MoMA board a few years back, he proposed a bizarre fundraising suggestion: perhaps MoMA's board would build burial crypts for big-shot artists like Warhol, Lichtenstein, Johns and Rauschenberg in the basement of MoMA to be perpetually funded by the artists' estates like "Poet's Corner" in Westminster Abbey.
The board was shocked by the suggestion. But Varnedoe has surpassed Tanaguchi's sick vision! He's buried the art of the last 40 years at MoMA, and its history with it.
Shame, shame, shame.
Want more? Wolfgang Laib, a mediocre conceptualist much championed by Eurocentric MoMAmorons, is represented by Passageway, a Hesse-ist pastiche. But, there's a velvet rope in front -- you can't go in! Whoopee!
MoMA also acquired some brand new work by Damien Hirst -- his boring Last Supper prints which advertise the artist's brand name in every dull frame. I guess MoMA doesn't have the dough to compete with Charles Saatchi.
Jeff Koons' stainless steel bunny is presented on a felt gray pedestal, as an afterthought -- even the egregious Lisa Phillips showed it better in her terrible '60s installation at the Whitney last year.
If this is what MoMA's constipated curators intend to do with contemporary art in Queens for the next five years, then get thee to Jeffrey Deitch for the next decade.
Hey, Kirk, Agnes, Glenn (loved the cute little gift shop on the third floor), Ronald: MoMA, you've killed it off, just in time with the millennium.
The most mediocre Chelsea gallery now kicks your butt in presenting contemporary. Congratulations!
"Open Ends: 11 Exhibitions of Contemporary Art from 1960 to Now," Oct. 19, 2000-Jan. 30, 2001, at the Museum of Modern Art, 11 West 53rd Street, New York, N.Y. 10019.
CHARLIE FINCH is co-author of Most Art Sucks: Five Years of Coagula (Smart Art Press).