A few weeks ago, on my monthly trip to the Museum of Modern Art in New York, I was blessed enough to have stumbled my way up the six pairs of escalators and into the contemporary painting show currently on view called, “The Forever Now: Contemporary Painting in an Atemporal World.”
The show contains work from 17 different budding contemporary artists, all but one being from the United States. The pieces are all quite different, yet they all represent the entirety of contemporary art in its present state. The overall goal of the show is to shed a light on the fact that all art is, “Atemporal” (hence the subtitle). This effectively means that all art, whether from the past or the present, is current because our eyes are seeing them now in this exact moment.
The beauty of the show was the fact that all of the artists’ work differed so greatly, yet they were all tightly bound by the fact that they’re all influenced by the same approach. The pieces ranged from digital to conceptual, some relating heavily and some veering very far off from each other. Before walking into the space, on the right side of the doorway sat a collection of large glass-enclosed frames, each stacked vertically against each other, up against the wall. This piece was by Kerstin Brätsch and titled “Blocked Radiant D (for Ioana).” Each frame held a unique painting on paper. I loved this piece, mostly due to the fact that it was completely overlooked by the majority of onlookers who simply wrote it off as some misplaced piece, probably located in an upcoming show. Each painting, excluding the first one in front, was very hard to see. One had to look very closely in between the tight space between the frames to see the content.
As I made my way across the pristine wood floors of the show, the work of Rashid Johnson quickly caught my eye. Normally, I feel quite jaded when bombarded by the common monochrome painting scrawled with excretion-like lumps and scratches. However, I took to liking this piece titled, “Cosmic Slop ‘The Berlin Conference.’” It came off as a bit more put together than many works similar to it. It had a very clean feel that I was attracted to.
Located in the center of the space was a large installation, held together by a set of horizontal and vertical steel bars. Within the bars hung paintings on paper that were then transferred onto glass. The installation was by another by Kerstin Brätsch, titled “Sigi’s Erben (Agate Psychics).” Light filtered through the glass hanging from the bars, making the piece even more breathtaking.
A big favorite of mine within the show came from Richard Aldrich with his piece titled “Angie Adams/Franz Kline.” The painting resembled a somewhat more complex monochrome. A stark juxtaposition was present through the use of the contrasting colors, black, blue and clay. This painting kind of woke me up, in a way. I felt refreshed by the way everything was positioned along with the almost violent circle-like strokes in the background.
Another piece that I felt quite captured by was Joe Bradley’s “Man Made Dirigible.” This was one of the most simple pieces in the show, yet one of my favorites. The piece consisted of a large, grease pencil-drawn stick figure on canvas. It was included in the show to represent the radical simplicity of certain sects of contemporary art. It led me to remind myself of the beauty of simplicity in art. The irony of the piece is that it can be seen as both an ancient pictograph and a more modern emoticon. This then leads you to, once again, contemplate the “atemporal” idea of the entire show.
Although I was very enamored by almost every piece in the show, there was one that I absolutely hated. As I made my way toward the end of the space, I came across a massive piece of digital art by Laura Owens. Reaching from almost floor to ceiling was a 3-D looking canvas, covered by what looked like the lined paper I was required to write on in kindergarten. The words “Always do your best” were scribbled across the top. If this bombastic red and blue, dotted-lined paper was not enough to give me a headache, the tiring (and lame) fairytale story printed in 3-D words was just enough to push me over the edge. Don’t get me wrong. I do in fact have a love rooted deep (like, really deep) within me for digital art, but this particular piece was not for me.
There was a bit of mixed opinions regarding “The Forever Now” show. Despite this, critics and viewers alike seemed to all come to a consensus. It was both eye-opening and a somewhat needed slap in the face for today’s art world. It reminded the viewer of the sometimes-overlooked meaning of contemporary art. A heavily mentioned negative that was brought up by many critics was the fact that the show did not include more facets of contemporary art paintings. Although the work seemed to be diverse, it was lacking in a few different areas, making its idea of the “atemporal” and “recurring now” a bit less reputable. I personally loved the show, despite its apparent lack of varied style. I saw it as a refreshing and stimulating twist of the common contemporary art show.