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Thursday, December 7, 2006

And Then There Was One

posted by on December 7 at 12:37 PM

So I’m down here in the art capital of the world this weekend, Miami, and I’m walking through Museum of Contemporary Art Miami’s Goldman warehouse space, where the show Artificial Light is up, when I realize the guards seem skittish. (This is about five minutes ago; I’m writing now sitting on the curb outside.)

I turn and see blue tape across the doorway into the piece I’m approaching. It’s supposed to be a pitch-black room in which the only light is the purple neon of Chilean artist Iván Navarro’s Black Electric Chairs—two chairs made entirely of neon tubing that reference utopic modernist design (they’re based on the Wassily chair by Marcel Breuer) and punishment.

But instead I meet a guy standing just inside the tape, waiting for a trash can to be wheeled his way.

Because minutes before, an old lady tried sitting in one of the chairs. It shattered (maybe she did, too? she was nowhere to be found by the time I got there). When the man turned on the light before the doorway was boarded up, the piece lay in pieces on the black carpet next to the other chair.

A MOCA employee in a black cocktail dress began berating a guard who sounded like he was from an African country. He said he was doing his best.

“We’re dealing with the situation,” said the woman at the desk, and diverted me to MOCA’s other location, where the Bruce Nauman show is up that’s coming to the Henry next month.

Funny aside: yesterday at the main fair, Art Basel Miami Beach, I saw one of Craig Kauffman’s orange transparent vacuum-formed wall pieces—the same piece (though a different one) that mysteriously broke earlier this year at the Pompidou. And you think your work is safe in a museum …

I wish I’d been able to ask the old woman who sat in the chair what she was thinking. Was she hurt? What’s her take on the piece now? Punishment, indeed. I imagine she thought the artist intended her to sit, even though the piece is overwhelmingly visual—the neon refuses to come into focus, recommending the chair to the eye rather than the body.

Then again: You have no idea what our feet are dealing with here. There are miles and miles and miles of galleries and art to see. This accidental vandalism constitutes the protest of an exhausted fairgoer! Who knew Pinochet and Art Basel Miami Beach would come together this way?

Poor MOCA. The showjust opened this morning, and its breakout piece is Growth (Survival) (2006) by Jennifer Allora and Guillermo Calzadilla. It’s a staghorn fern hanging in the middle of a dark room, relying for light on a row of ladders of lit messages by Jenny Holzer. Not only is it a terrific spectacle and a touching piece of work, it got me thinking it might spawn a whole new genre of recombinant art—art where artists use whole pre-existing works to create new work. I don’t mean reproductions or collaborations or really even refashionings. I mean original works with original works, aura y aura. A real response from the art world to mashups.


I realize that those of you in Seattle can’t see Artificial Light today. But as blogger Tyler Green has pointed out, it’s basically the same show as Into Black at Western Bridge in Seattle, so head on down there. (Call first; the director is here, so I don’t know about open hours.)

And now for more art …

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Jen, that's a funny story about the shattered chair. I made it down to see the wood sculptures last week, wonderful! The balloon was so incredible, I could have been tempted to poke it with a pin - no shattering or destruction would have happened though - these works are Solid.

Posted by patron | December 7, 2006 12:57 PM

Wow - an art happening indeed! I hope the old girl's ok. Let us know what you find out, will you? I have some relatives in the area who fit that description.

Posted by Jim Demetre | December 7, 2006 8:44 PM

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