Thursday, December 27, 2007

Britt Proves That the Chron Writes

Nice to see THIS article about Angie Fraliegh and Michael McKean up at Inman now, but Chron writer Douglas Britt seems to suck balls when it comes to allusion.

"The amateur porn vibe carries over into all the paintings, even though none of them is explicit."

Demonstrating that it doesn't matter what a writer is writing about (he'll bring up whatever he likes) Britt launches into a triple toe loop trying to get McKean's sculptures and Robert Ryman in the same sentence.

"The Builder and Science bears some resemblance to a Robert Rauschenberg assemblage (if you're shallow), but both times I saw this show, the artist I couldn't stop thinking of (because I was thinking of him already) was minimalist pioneer Robert Ryman because of McKean's intriguing use of white paint in all three sculptures."

His last word on the Robert Ryman work at the Menil is cute: "The meditative environment that tiny room created made me wonder what a Ryman Chapel would be like, until I realized I was already standing in one." Aww...

Robert Ryman in more interesting times, Ledger, 1982

Well I think that the Ryman work sucks. Curator Sirmans cut a perfectly fine gallery in half and put three incongruous paintings together. The two white paintings and one grid work are a perfectly plausible excuse for the average museum-goer to say "What the fuck? Who cares?" and I'm inclined to agree with him.

The darkened gap above the temporary wall sucks attention away from what little there is to focus on in the room. The doctor's office lobby-like space promotes visitors to enter, circle and leave without a moment's rest, and Ryman is not an artist where you want to challenge viewers' attention spans on a race to zero. Without a lick of context or magic (come on lets spice up the lighting!) you may as well be looking at it in a book- save for the occasional brushstroke an avid visitor can detect. Feel free to examine the wall for more exciting tidbits!


John Hovig said...

Agree completely that the Ryman show at the Menil is a dud. They were some interesting ideas on Ryman's part but it's not an interesting display. I tried to look really interested in the pieces when I was in the room, so the museum guard didn't get the sense that I walked into the room by mistake, but the fact was that it just didn't work for me, and I would just as soon have walked out as soon as walking in.

Not sure what's wrong with the "amateur porn" sentence in the review above. I mean, that's kind of what it is, after all. And Angie's the queen of skin tones. Instead of that one piece in the show that's covered with painted fur she should make small paintings covered with variegated skin tones. My favorite in the show was the predominantly white one -- you know, the one with the strange and obscure title -- where there's this one moment where the yellows and browns of the woman's hair are highlighted against the white background.

I liked the McKean show a lot, tho it really needed a lot more room to let each sculpture breathe. You really need to come at those works from a lot of different angles and see them from different distances. I had missed a lot of the components of the pieces until McKean himself told me to look at the piece from the next room, at a much lower angle. Maybe next time he'll have one or two pieces in the big room, where they can be approached in different ways.

The comparisons to Ryman and Rauschenberg are interesting but yes, the article makes far too much of them. McKean's work is a lot more about the interactions (communication?) between all the different elements. I don't see the all-over whiteness as a Ryman inspiration, tho. Ryman was about forcing the viewer to accept nothingness as art. (Which in the case of the Menil show doesn't quite happen for me). Ryman was Zen, but McKean is Baroque.

I think McKean is trying to make these objects equal -- put them on an equal aesthetic footing -- so we are forced to respond to their forms, and only their forms, and thus to the relationships between these "pure" but hefty forms arranged in space. There are splashes of color here and there to punch up the work and fuddle the information presented to the viewer, but the white is really there for the sake of focusing attention on shape, volume and position, which they do nicely.

b.s. said...

well the porn thing seems off 'cause there's no nudity, not even soft-core. there seems to be two themes in her paintings: terror and love- neither making your dick hard.

i love the painting 'after' too. reminds me of a chemical brothers song.