Just a few months more and no one will want to drive out to northwestern Massachusetts for a while. But while the weather lasts, it's the place to be, what with Martin going out a few weeks ago and now Libby Rosof. I normally assume that anyone reading MK has already seen the artblog, but just in case, she gives accounts of the Leipzig painters show and Cai Guo-Qiang's Inopportune. Both are more closely observed than my rather cursory comments on either exhibit, so if you interested and haven't seen them already, check them out.
A couple of thoughts inspired by Libby's posts. First, I didn't look at any of the curatorial notes for the Cai Guo-Qiang - I was too excited to see it and just dove right in. Perhaps I should have taken a minute or two to have read a little, because then I'd have some idea of what they were thinking when, according to her report, they "invoked 9/11". Car bombings, which Libby also mentions, make sense in light of the video, although that's not the sort of feeling I took away from it (and the car itself, filled with the detritus left over from its trip full of fireworks, was a forbidding sight.) A guy who works with gunpowder can easily make allusions to or associations with violence, but that's a long way from 9/11. I doubt that whoever wrote whatever exactly is in the notes was doing anyone any favors. Call me skeptical, at the very least, especially in light of the thrills that Libby's apt "Steve McQueen and Chinese scroll painting rolled into one" comment implies. That's a rather long way from 9/11.
On the Leipzig show, I must confess that I'm exactly clear on whether Libby liked it or not. I imagine so, but mostly what I read is (high quality and perceptive) description. I have to again note that I don't see nearly as much socialist realism in these paintings (with the exception of Rauch and maybe one or two others) as the curatorial presentation argues. Libby is reminded of Edward Hopper when looking at the Matthias Weischer's work, and I can see what she's getting at in terms of the drab interiors and sense of absence. But I think there's a lot more gamesmanship going on here, in a way that's either important or tiresome, depending on how you see it. On one hand, the paintings are ostensibly realist (if not socialist) works; on the other hand, they're constantly drawing attention to their highly artificial, made quality and status as paintings. So the painting that Libby provides a small image of appears to be a straightforward depiction of a rather empty room, but the rug crossing the edge of the lower right corner looks like nothing so much as a fragment of a Kenneth Noland. The reference is made even clearly by the target that helps to make up part of a composite figure in another of Weischer's paintings (not at Mass MoCA.) There are other references to iconic abstractions, visual games like the one in the image linked to just above, revealed gridlines, etc. It's smart, in a way - you know someone rigorous enough could riff for quite a while on all these gestures, and even those of us who can't do so pick up on the moves. At the same time, it feels like he's bootstrapping up to the level of Important Painting. But anyway, check out her posts, lots of good stuff there.