Saturday, December 8, 2012

Shock of the News

Where: National Gallery of Art, East Building

When: through January  27, 2013

This is the other show at the National Gallery's East Wing, sharing space with the Lichtenstein retrospective.  It is nowhere near as large - only three rooms, so if you're thinking you only have time for a smaller show, this will fit the bill nicely.

This is an examination of how artists have used newspaper in their work since 1909.  The date was chosen as a starting point due to two events:  Filippo Tommaso Marinetti published his manifesto of the radical art movement, Futurism, on the front page of Le Figaro in that year, and Picasso incorporated a piece of real newsprint in a collage just a few years later, in 1912.  Both a copy of the newspaper and the Picasso collage are on display in the show.

I was struck by how many pieces and artists I'd seen before; it's always a nice sense of accomplishment when I see something I recognize.  There was a piece on display by Man Ray, "Transmutation," which didn't really do anything for me.  Again, I thought to myself, it's okay that you missed that big show of his a few years ago.  One work I did like, more for its bizarre, over the top quality than anything else was Dieter Roth's "Literaturwurst (Daily Mirror)" from 1961.  It's a real sausage, made out of newsprint.

Also on offer was an Andy Warhol that I'd seen in his big show at the National Gallery not long ago, "Study for Flash - November 22, 1963."  I am also certain I'd seen "Oct. 27, 1971" from On Kawara's "Today" series a while back at the Hirshhorn.  Another piece that caught my eye was Laurie Anderson's "New York Times, Horizontal/China Times, Vertical."  She's woven the two papers together, which I can't even imagine how to do without making myself nuts.

John Cage contributed a work called "Eninka 22."  It could just as well have been called "Desk Blotter with Coffee Cup Stain."  I don't care how elaborate his process for creating these works is, they're just not art.

An artist I was quite happy to see again was Felix Gonzalez-Torres.  I saw one of his candy piece works at the "Hide/Seek" exhibit at the Portrait Gallery a couple of years ago and found it very moving.  This time, his work, "Untitled (1991)" was a large stack of pieces of paper, with two articles from the New York Times, one on each side.  Visitors were invited to take one of the pieces, so now I have a permanent souvenir of the show.  It's not often one is allowed to touch the art!

Verdict: Mixed views on this show - some good things, some not so good.  It's worth a look, and only a few rooms.

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