Wednesday, November 19, 2008

De-Installation Week

For the last week I have been de-installing shows at the museum. First a private collection of drawing, then an annual juried competition of local artists. It is always a little disappointing to take down special exhibitions. The work is typically from outside sources and once the show is over it goes back to wherever it comes from. To the extent that a show speaks to you or seems especially successful, it is never only a question of broader themes but also of particulars, this or that painting, such and such pairing of work, a certain layout, the unique look of something under just that light in just that corner of the room etc. All of that comes down with a de-installation. So of course this is sad and invariably I find I've spent too little time with the exhibition. The paradox of museum work is that with all the handling and installing it is easy to neglect spending time looking at the work. The whole point is to provide people the space for reflection, but I seldom take advantage of it myself.

Shows like the Delta (the juried exhibition) or Visions (the private collection) are precisely what a museum like ours does well. The center of our own collection is in drawing, as is our expertise, and a feel for the development of that core tensile strength which underlies so much sound work regardless of the encrustations of style or the happenstance of position in an art historical dialectical schema is the bedrock of what we offer a viewing public. You could see the whole gamut in Visions, all that American twentieth century back and forth, the loose abstraction, the tight realism, the absolute empiricism of recording something fact for fact till like an object under a microscope raised to the highest power it itself begins to look like another kind of abstraction. And all that work and all those names paired and hung like a giant rendezvous of conversationalists on art, a Lee Walton (2002) hung with a Dorothy Dreher (1950) or Elaine de Kooning's portrait of Fairfield Porter, friends among friends. If Visions was a crash course in connections and names, Delta was a curb-side saunter, a Main Street eclecticism from back when Main Street was more than city firms and fast food spots. There was a Mom 'n Pop -ness to the show, a concern for the familiar, the intimate, the every day. This is often true of the Delta in some part, but rarely has it been so focused, brought in on a firm line and restrained. The quirky detailed obsessiveness of David Rose's miniature diner had everyone I ever saw pass it stop and exclaim. The oil paintings and photographs did the most of the heavy lifting for awards. But then there were also the textiles, an entire village crocheted in bright colors and set up in blocks like a candy colored Le Corbusier campus, or the delicate embroidered patterns in faint fabric that made a flimsy silhouette against the framing glass. Next year we have a big Egyptian exhibition coming to town. There is a lot of anticipation for this in the public and we have already had people coming to the museum looking for the show. It should be a great exhibition and we will undoubtedly see (for us) great numbers. I'm looking forward to working on it. But as I take down these smaller exhibitions this week, I doubt that the big ticketed show will surpass the pleasure of what we have offered for free these last few months. It has been the museum at its best.

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About Me

Little Rock, Arkansas
I work at a local museum, date a lovely boy, and with my free time procrastinate on things like blogs.