Byron Kim, Synecdoche, dimensions variable, 1991-present. Image courtesy of MoMA.
My latest piece at the L magazine is up. The teaser below.
Who doesn't enjoy a pie chart, a pretty colored graph, or any of the array of data visualizations available on the web? I suppose at some point I'll grow tired of the endless endeavors in information aesthetics we see today, but I haven't hit my threshold yet, which makes MoMA's Color Chart particularly topical. Curated by Ann Tempkin, the exhibition showcases art work which assigns color through arbitrary systems, chance, and readymade source — all the stuff we see on the internet now, but largely in old-school, fine-art form. Which is to say, count on seeing a number of familiar works from canonical artists: Dan Flavin's Untitled 1-5 (to Donald Judd, colorist), a series to incandescent colored bulbs in T formation, Ellsworth Kelly's painted grid of colors on a large wall, and an excellent series of paint by numbers by Andy Warhol. There are, however, a few disappointing contemporary choices: two nondescript works from Damien Hirst's limitless pit of dot paintings for example, and Byron Kim's frequently acclaimed Synecdoche, a grid of paintings based on the skin tones of models, which to my tastes are far too heavily indebted to process-based conceptual painters like Garry Neill Kennedy.
While the exhibition's contemporary content might be disappointing, the curatorial expertise demonstrated for the 60s and 70s yields fantastic results. Basically, the older the work in Color Chart, the greater likelihood the piece will present a surprise. For example, John Chamberlain, an artist well known for his gaudy crushed automobile sculptures, has an underappreciated series on display from the brief period in which he was a painter. Deriving minimal images from the scrap he found in the junkyard, Chamberlain would build up the shapes and color with translucent paint, creating elegant simplicity and a stunning light. Probably the most impressive work in the show comes from Robert Rauchenberg's Rebus, a giant collaged painting in his signature loose style, incorporating color chips in the center of the piece. Among a crowd of calculated and predictably cool work, this moving painting provides an unexpected take on the many approaches artists have taken to charting color.
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