Moskowitz.Shea exhibition austereIn recent years a new spirit has come to animate the visual arts. The excellent Currents exhibitions at Boston's Institute of Contemporary Art, for instance, or (somewhat further away) this year's Biennial at the Whitney in New York sum up the new tendencies in an impressive way. They attest to a new interest in elaborate communication, supported by a sense of exuberant color, of complex, figurative forms and meaningful connotations which for many years seemed all but lost in the mainstream of modern art.
MIT's Hayden Gallery, however, in its second exhibition after its relocation to Arts & Media, features two artists whose recent work is still firmly rooted in Minimalist aesthetics. While probably neither Robert Moskowitz' paintings nor Judith Shea's metal sculptures could be termed Minimalist in the strict sense of the word, a commitment to a common cause is unmistakable.
Moskowitz paints silhouettes of familiar objects against essentially monotonous backgrounds. His subjects are taken both from art (Rodin's Thinker, Brancusi's Bird, Giacometti) and reality (a lighthouse, an iceberg, the World Trade Center), and sometimes from both (the Bowler, in which the profile of the well-known Discus-Thrower can be recognized).
The scale of these works is remarkable. Each single motive is put on a huge canvas, in what seems an attempt to blow up its existence to monumental proportions. The effect is enhanced by the orientation of the works, as a rule strongly vertical.
Moskowitz' emphasis on the silhouette is reflected in Judith Shea's method of creating sculpture. The metal is molded on fabrics and cast or bent to surround hollow volumes.
All her works on display are at least vaguely figurative; some refer explicitly to aspects of human relationships. For Mom depicts a baby lying against a mother formed as a contorted bronze cylinder. In He and She, a female figure is seen lying in a man's coat.
Invariably, the figures lack heads, arms and feet, thus evoking ancient sculptures surviving in fragments. Standing There, for instance, reminds one of the kore figures from Archaic Greece.
It is fortunate that, both in Shea's work and in that of Moskowitz, such affinities exist; in fact, the opportunity to sort them out largely exhausts the pleasure provided by the exhibition. Apart from that, I am afraid it suffers too much from that problem of all art extolling austerity of expression and purity of form: it requires associative powers of Tetazoic proportions to bring it to life.
Differences: On Representation and Sexuality is both more puzzling and more interesting. Originally presented at the New Museum of Contemporary Art in New York, the exhibition is now on view (in a somewhat condensed form) in the Reference Gallery.
The avowed purpose of the show is to address the relation between sexuality, meaning and language as it appears in the visual arts, against the background of recent work in psychoanalytic theory, in particular that of Lacan. Frankly, I did not realize this intention until I read the catalogue (which, incidentally, is a very interesting one). Still, the exhibits are worthwhile.
Most are photographic collages, some accompanied by text. There is a sense of ambiguity to almost all of them. The result stimulates senses and intellect alike, irrespective of any higher meaning intended.