July 25th, 2013
My brief (hour-and-a-half) visit to the Museum of Modern Art today was not what I expected. I was looking forward to the temporary exhibition Claes Oldenburg: The Street and The Store (on view thru Aug. 5). I thought Oldenburg’s 7-foot-wide “Floor Burger” (1962) would make me smile. Instead it reminded me that I hadn’t eaten lunch. Has the Oldenburg joke (the everyday elevated to art) grown tired? The major Le Corbusier exhibition (Le Corbusier: An Atlas of Modern Landscapes, on view thru Sept. 23) is undoubtedly important (the largest to be seen in New York), but it is also tiresomely didactic and visually unengaging. Still, it was lovely to see Picasso’s “Les Demoiselles d’Avignon” (1907) from the permanent collection again (Looking good, girls), and a real treat to be invited by the museum to walk all over a recent acquisition, Richard Serra’s steel “Delineator” (1974-1975). Another recent purchase, Charles Rennie Mackintosh’s wooden towel rack from 1917, is totally covetable. The high point of the visit was Ellsworth Kelly: Chatham Series (on view thru Sept. 8), a group of 14 paintings, created in upstate New York in 1971 and reunited for the first time since then to mark Kelly’s 90th birthday. Each large-scale work (think: 8 feet tall and nearly as wide) is an inverted L, made by joining two canvases, each saturated in a single color: either black, white, red, yellow, blue or green. This is formalism at its most viscerally exciting. In case you missed the announcement, as of May 1, MoMA is open seven days a week.
» Museum of Modern Art, 11 W. 53rd St., btw Fifth & Sixth aves., 212.708.9400
Photo caption: Ellsworth Kelly (American, born 1923). Chatham II: Blue Red. 1971. Oil on canvas, two joined panels. 96 x 87 1/2″ (243.8 x 222.3 cm). Private collection © Ellsworth Kelly.
Photo credit: Courtesy Matthew Marks Gallery, New York