“I SAY “CONTEMP”, YOU SAY “ORARY”

June 4, 2008

Mike and I visited the Museum of Contemporary Art. We always hit art museums when we visit cities and we knew that Chicago has a good reputation for it’s museums.

We were quite intrigued by the collection but one exhibit in particular really captured Mike and I. The museum featured a sculptor named Gordon Matta-Clark who studied architecture but referred to his work as ‘Anarchitecture’. He was well known for doing ‘building cuts’, often taking large abandoned buildings and cutting huge slices and shapes out of the walls, ceilings, and floors. He once cut an abandoned two story house in half, top to bottom. In the museum there sat on the floor big chunks of various parts of a house cut perfectly rectangular so both the exterior and interior of the house were intact.

Anyone familiar with me (or anyone who has glanced at this blog earlier in the year) would understand just why this artist struck a chord with mike and myself. This ‘Anarchitect’ went to Cornell, studied architecture and cut big holes in walls, ceilings and floors for purposes of art and expression. Meanwhile, neither Mike nor I went Ivy League and neither of us studied architecture or anything very closely related. But, like Matta-Clark we cut big holes in walls, ceilings, and floors as a result of boredom and strong drink but also very much for purposes of art and expression.

Fig. A

Fig. B

Fig. C

Which of the following is NOT an original Gordon Matta-Clark ‘building cut’ but instead one executed with a skilsaw at Mike’s house?

I enjoy contemporary art because it seems much more in your face and provocative that traditional art. Often when people see contemporary art they are forced to think why or how the piece is art before they examine it as they would traditional art such as representational painting or sculpture. In the latter they look for accuracy and craftsmanship, an agreeable color scheme, textural qualities, etc. because it is already understood that what they are seeing is art. There is no need to walk up to an Impressionist piece and wonder “How is that even art?” or “What is the point of that?”

What draws me to contemporary art is how confronting the art can be. This is because often the subject matter will stray far from most people’s comfort zone in terms of viewing visual art. When people are confused it often leads to frustration which leads swiftly to dismissal. I find myself laughing, sometimes hysterically at some works, not because they are inherently funny or meant to be humorous, but because of the boldness of the artist in conveying a message and how deliberate and blunt the presentation of the piece can be. I loved this one:

Just another typical ten foot long illuminated sign with a homeless man on it.

It seems to point to homelessness because of the homeless man. But why is he presented on a lit up florescent sign? Why are there no words? There’s room for words but there’s nothing; no poem, no shelter phone number, no artist commentary, just empty white space. This can be seen as a homelessness awareness message, or maybe that in order to have a say in our country you need to ‘have‘ in the first place. Maybe you’re thinking what I though momentarily: I went to school for four years and will never have my face glowing on a ten foot sign in a museum but this homeless dude hangs prominently in a distinguished art museum.

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One Response to ““I SAY “CONTEMP”, YOU SAY “ORARY””

  1. […] a jab in the chest at people taking art and life too seriously.  Last April it was Chicago’s contemporary musuem, now it was off to the Contempoarary Art Museum of  Montreal.Post modern art is a great deal about […]

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