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Thursday, November 30, 2006

The Anti-MoMA, and Clyfford + Brad

posted by on November 30 at 12:17 PM

Nicolai Ourousoff waxes poetic in this morning’s New York Times about the Museum of Contemporary Art Detroit, which opened Oct. 26 in what used to be an abandoned car dealership.

The headline, “Seeing the Seediness, and Celebrating It,” made me cringe for fear that the architect and the sophisticates involved in funding and organizing MOCAD were, well, making a show of slumming it, and that Ourousoff had jetted in from New York to jot down the charming phenomenon.

But Ourousoff’s piece explores the links between contemporary art and urban cycles of creation and destruction as opposed to suburban fantasies of stasis. And check out the photographs.

Here’s the aptly glum facade of the building, decked out with Barry McGee’s sardonic graffiti exhortation, the barely readable “AMAZE.”


Here’s a Kara Walker video showing in a typical exhibition space, which looks post-something, sort of bombed out and halfway to oblivion. (For better or worse, this is a place where you can barely imagine showing a painting.)


Here’s a Nari Ward piece on the wall, but that burst of light you see in the background is near a ceiling space heater, which is the crude way that the place gets warmed up. (In Detroit!) In another gesture that isn’t visible, the architect, Andrew Zago, housed the mechanical systems for the museum not in a side room or a hidden bubble on the roof but in the corner of a gallery, behind a chain-link fence.


The other architectural news this week (sorry about my absence, I’ve been away!) is that Brad Cloepfil’s Portland-based Allied Works won the contract to design the Clyfford Still Museum in Denver. It’s a plum job, because a single-artist museum offers an architect something very, well, singular to bump against conceptually, and also because Still is a particularly intriguing character, he of the high-minded anti-commercial principles that gave Rothko such a heavy conscience.

Still was a classic modernist, the very height of the movement in all its piousness and surety. Jeff Jahn on PORT (which also has a great look at Thom Mayne’s new courthouse in Eugene, although it glosses over Seattle artist Cris Bruch’s contribution) writes that Cloepfil’s earthy/heavy and light/airy sides are a perfect match for Still’s dichotomous paintings. I don’t know; the tidiness of Cloepfil (he of the Seattle Art Museum expansion downtown, among many other projects) would seem to deflate the oversized grandeur of Still. Stay tuned for the design.

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