Oct 30, 2008
Richard Misrach and Liz Magor at the Henry Art Gallery:
Richard Misrach's new exhibit, On the Beach, is beautiful, enormous, and blissfully uncomplicated. Imagine something like this and this being six-by-ten feet, or: bigger than my living room. It's worth seeing in person; if you're in the Seattle area, it's at the Henry until January 19, 2009. To stay in the loop about upcoming shows, check out their official Hankblog.
Liz Magor's exhibit, on the other hand, is what I consider to be incredibly pretentious contemporary tripe that's as visually bankrupting as it is artistically useless. I hate contemporary art that has to be explained in terms that explain nothing but what the artist wants you to believe: they're 'pushing the envelope', 'pioneering a movement', or 'exploring the struggles of *enter struggling, non-white group of people here* through a 'new process of artistic observation'. In the case of Liz Magor, she's 'exploring the relationship of the real to the simulated in provocative ways'. And for those of you still awake, 'her collection of humble, yet talismanic, forms creates an elegiac mood that mourns nature and culture alike.' And yet, this is what it looks like.
The Esq's family and I went to what can only be described as a half-hearted African song-and-danceoff at the Northshore Performing Arts Center Foundation. It started off with a bang (strong opening, amazing singer), but then died down to a dull roar of one repeated chord (much like the Peruvian flute band epidemic) and a host of amateur back-up dancers. My favorite instrument was the 21-string lute-harp, which was mind-blowing; I said to the Esq, "Imagine the guy who feels like an asshole because he can only play the 18-string lute harp." I also wondered why it's easy to differentiate between an African and an African-American; even if the African is out of his tribal gear and wearing a Brooks Brothers suit, I can tell the guy's last name is going to start with a vowel and end with 28 consonants; ironically, it's the same with 'white people' and 'white people of the skinhead variety': there's an obvious difference, and it's not about the hair (or lack thereof). You can just tell.
Some observations on African dancing: it helps if you are two people masquerading as one: the upper half of your body should move slower than the lower half. Imagine yourself as a cartoon character who looks human from the waist up and has five legs from the waist down. Your goal as a five-legged human is to get as many flailing moves into one single drumbeat, which could be upwards of 600, while smiling so wide I could stick my foot inside your mouth. That's what African dancing looks like. It's amazing, and--if you're lazy like me--exhausting to watch.
Two more reviews are in progress from the Fujiya & Miyagi show on Monday, and the Lykke Li show last night... it's been a busy week!
[RADWORDS]: AFRICANS, SKINHEADS, CONTEMPORARY ART, ELEGIAC, OH HENRY.