Tag Archives: bullshit art

Lame Adventure 416: “What are we here for?”

On a recent pay-what-you-want Friday evening at the Whitney Museum of American Art, Milton and I were among the first of the small spenders. We each paid five dollars, significantly less than the usual $20 admission fee.

Prized $5 ducts.

Prized $5 ducats.

Milton: What are we here for?

Neither of us had ever visited the Whitney before. I reminded him that it was for the Biennial; an exhibition the Whitney holds every other year showcasing contemporary art produced by lesser known as well as up and coming artists.

This year’s Biennial is the last at the Whitney’s current Madison Avenue at 75th Street location, an iconic building designed by Marcel Breuer.

The Whitney's facade resembling upside down steps.

The Whitney’s facade resembling upside down steps.

Next year, the Whitney will relocate to a much larger space designed by Renzo Piano in the very trendy Meatpacking district in lower Manhattan. After the Whitney moves, the Metropolitan Museum of Art will have exhibits and educational programming in that space. It is comforting to know that one building remains on Manhattan Island that has yet to go luxury co-op.

Three of the Whitney’s five floors are devoted to the Biennial that is on display through May 25th. But the top two floors feature an exhibition called “American Legends: From Calder to O’Keeffe” that runs through October 19th. Possibly due to the proliferation of smart phones attached to every 21st century museumgoer’s mitt, attendees were allowed to snap shots with abandon.

The first paintings we saw when we exited the fifth floor elevator were works by Jasper Johns.

Do I have triple vision?

Jasper Johns. Three Flags. 1958.

We saw exquisite paintings by Edward Hopper.

Edward Hopper. Early Sunday Morning. 1930.

Edward Hopper. Early Sunday Morning. 1930.

When we entered a gallery with flower abstracts, I declared:

Me: This has to be Georgia O’Keeffe, it’s so vaginal!

Georgia O'Keeffe. Music, Pink and Blue No. 2. 1918. (Sure looks like something else to me.)

Georgia O’Keeffe. Music, Pink and Blue No. 2. 1918.

The symbolism in a Jacob Lawrence painting from 1946 called War Series: The Letter made me reflect on how I feel about labeling tile at The Grind.

Jacob Lwrence. War Series: The Letter. 1946. (Or the agony of tile labeling.)

Jacob Lawrence. War Series: The Letter. 1946.

Milton was particularly unimpressed with the paintings by Burgoyne Diller.

Burgoyne Diller. Untitled. 1962

Burgoyne Diller. Untitled. 1962.

Milton: It blows my mind that something like this is considered significant. If your kid brought that home, you’d throw that shit away, or you’d find a way to hide it.

We entered a gallery where we were greeted with this painting by legendary pop artist Roy Lichtenstein.

Roy Lichtenstein. Bathroom. 1961.

Roy Lichtenstein. Bathroom. 1961.

Milton: I can’t look at this room. I hate this!

Roy Lichtenstein. Still Life with Crystal Bowl. 1963.

Roy Lichtenstein. Still Life with Crystal Bowl. 1972.

Milton stormed into the next gallery where he was welcomed by this oil on linen portrait of poet, art curator and critic, John Perreault, painted by Alice Neel.

Alice Neel. John Perreault. 1972.

Alice Neel. John Perreault. 1972.

Me: At least you found something to look at.

Milton: Not that I enjoy it.

Milton has never been shy about how much he despises the paintings of Alexander Calder.

Calder. Contour Plowing. 1974.

Alexander Calder. Contour Plowing. 1974.

But he admitted that he liked this sculpture.

Calder. The Brass Family. 1929.

Calder. The Brass Family. 1929.

Milton: That’s fascinating. What’s it made of, wire hangers?

We moved onto checking out the Biennial. We first noticed that on every floor there was a speaker with plush toys emitting groaning noises.

Plush toys, scarves, stereo speakers and groaning.

Plush toys, scarves, stereo speakers and groaning.

This was from the 2013 collection of the artist, Charlemagne Palestine called:








Apparently, spelling has lost relevance.

When we entered the exhibit, these were amongst the first works we saw.

This is great art.

This is great art?

This is big red art.

This is big red art.

Marble sculptures n

Alma Allen marble sculptures on wood bases.

These sculptures of marble on wood are by Alma Allen, a self taught artist who works independently of any movement.

Milton: I don’t know what that shit is.

Philip Vanderhyden recreated People in Pain, a massive installation in crumpled vinyl backlit with now primarily forgotten movie titles from the 1980s. Gretchen Bender originally conceived it.

People in Pain.

People in Pain.

When we saw the title to the film, Ironweed, film expert Milton observed:

Milton: The only people in pain were the audience.

On the next floor, Milton seemed particularly fascinated with this wall of tee shirts.

Wall of tee shirts.

Wall of tee shirts on hangers.

Me: Do you like the tee shirts?

Milton: I hate them.

We encountered this cast salt wall hanging, Limbs of the Pacific, but I prefer Milton’s name for it:

Limbs of the Pacific.

Limbs of the Pacific.

Milton: Fuckin’ sandpaper!

Someone did a painting of the actor James Dean masturbating in a tree.


Rebel Without a Cause All Right.

Milton liked the concept but pronounced the painting:

Milton: Awful.

There was a series of paintings by Etel Adnan that were variations of this.

And we must work day jobs?

And we must work day jobs?

I stopped to look at this sculpture hanging on a wall, but I didn’t get its name, so I’ll improvise to the best of my ability.

Throw Something on the Wall and Call it Art.

Throw Crap on the Wall and Call it Art.

We saw these eight briefcases that musician, recording engineer and anti-war protester, Malachi Ritscher, used to store hundreds of concert recordings made on digital audiotape and cassette.

Eight brief cases, but feel free to count them.

Eight brief cases, but feel free to count them.

In 2006 Ritscher self-immolated himself near the Kennedy Expressway in Chicago to protest the Iraq war. I like to think that there are easier ways to be included in this exhibit.

We left the exhibit in silence until Milton spoke:

Milton: This breaks my spirit. Someone’s junk being honored!

But there was one bright spot: this fellow attendee’s tie.

Fellow attendee wearing floating tie.

Fellow attendee wearing floating tie.

Lame Adventure 404: Morons Mingling with Magritte

As tempting as it is to hash incessantly on this site about the foibles, peccadilloes and images of winter, give it up for Milton who decided that it was time to go indoors now that it is once again mild outside. Last Friday, we headed to the Museum of Modern Art to view “Mystery of the Ordinary”, an exhibit of the work produced by the Belgian surrealist René Magritte in the years from 1926 to 1938.

We decided to go on Friday after we were cut loose from our respective grinds. From 4 pm until closing admission is my second favorite four-letter f-word.

Free with ticket.

Free with ticket.

In addition, Friday was our last chance to see this show for zero cents because it closed the following Sunday. It travels next to the Menil Collection in Houston, and after that to the Art Institute of Chicago.

MoMA allows visitors to view the exhibit, but whether you pay or not, signs announced that photography was forbidden. This makes sense because MoMA wants visitors to purchase the catalogue. There were guards hovering approximately every two feet bellowing reminders:

Guards: No photography!

Sign outside exhibit entrance with human fur ball in corner.

Sign outside exhibit entrance with human fur ball in corner.

These words of warning, that were repeated often, had little impact on the iPhone wielding masses. We did not see any guards asking violators to delete their images. We were certain that if either of us had tried to snap so much as a corner of a picture frame with our phones, not only would our phones be confiscated, but also our hands severed. For those of you curious to see a glimpse of the many iconic Magritte paintings in this show, the New York Times was granted permission to snap away. Click here to see their photos.

Milton could not believe how crowded it was to see a display of familiar paintings in person that everyone has seen reproduced a million times. There was the train coming out of the fireplace, the big eye and guys in bowler hats. What blew his mind even more was that there were two lines: one for fare beaters like us, and another, for members. MoMA membership allows free admission all year round. That prompted Milton to ask:

Milton: What kind of idiot would attend on a free night?

Members had since late September to see this exhibit six days a week before the final 4-8 pm Friday night free-for-all. Possibly, a member who would be unfazed about attending with the herd is This Woman who announced:

This Woman: A lot of the pipe-ones are famous.

Full confession: we walked through the entirety of the exhibit twice because I was obsessed with seeing The Son of Man, the painting of a guy in a bowler hat with an apple obscuring his face. You know the one. I insisted to Milton that it had to be there. We were baffled how we could have missed it. Milton suggested:

Milton: Maybe it’s very small.

We approached the human equivalent of the Jolly Green Giant, a guard so tall I addressed his belt buckle:

Me: Excuse me, but can you tell us where’s the painting of the guy wearing the bowler hat with the apple in front of his face?

Guard: I think I’ve seen it here. Look in the back, unless it’s not there.

Me: Okay. Thank you very much.

We proceeded to circle the exhibit again for that second time. Milton’s head was spinning:

Milton: That was a complete non-answer! It might be there, or it might not!

But, if it was, we missed it a second time.

Milton: Maybe it’s on loan or on another floor in the permanent collection?

Me: If it’s in this building, it has to be included in this exhibit. It would be idiocy to exclude it!

We left the exhibit and leafed through the entire catalogue. Son of Man was not there. When I returned home, I researched that painting online. Magritte painted it in 1964. Who’s the industrial-strength idiot now?

A post-script: after we completed our two visits to the Magritte exhibit, we wandered next door to the much less attended Isa Genzken retrospective that is running through March 10. MoMA calls Genzken, “arguably one of the most important and influential female artists of the past 30 years.” Milton’s initial impression of her work was a tad different:

Milton: This reminds me of bad houses in the 70s.

We were allowed to photograph her work at will. Here is a sampling of what’s on display.

70s-type thing.

70s-type thing that irked Milton.

Welcome and photograph your heart out!

Welcome and photograph your heart out!

Lady Gaga look-alike.

Channeling Lady Gaga.

Baby in the corner.

Isa leaves baby in the corner.

My brain. 1984 (Note: actual name of piece and sign of sense of humor. We hope.)

Pile of Rubbish. 1984

Pile of Rubbish. 1984 (Note: actual name of piece.)

World Receiver. 1988-1989. Apparently Isa created dozens of concrete receivers in the early 1990s.

World Receiver. 1988-1989. (Note: Isa created dozens of concrete receivers in the early 1990s.)

What are we looking at?

The joke’s on us piece. No clue what we’re looking at. This was one in a series.

Milton's trash is Isa's art.

Milton’s trash is Isa’s art.

"Milton, watch out — don't step on the Barbie on the floor!"

“Milton, watch out — don’t step on the Barbie on the floor!”

Milton, "This could be my room."

Milton, “This could be my room.”

Executive office with Scrooge McDuck.

Executive office with Scrooge McDuck on desk reminding wage slaves who’s in charge.

Milton, "This is something interesting. I don't know what."

Milton, “This is something interesting. I don’t know what.”

"Why didn't we think of this?"

“Why didn’t we think of this?”

On closer inspection: packed with teeny, tiny toy cars.

On closer inspection: packed with teeny, tiny toy cars.

Isa display on MoMA's first floor lobby for those feeling it for luggage lost at the airport.

Isa display on MoMA’s first floor lobby for those feeling it for lost luggage.

As we left Isa’s retrospective Milton concluded:

Milton: This should be a lesson: if we haven’t made it it’s our fault.