Color with a Y Chromosome at MoMA

In the lobby, above, Jim Lambie's wildly striped and angled color.

In the sixth floor atrium, below, a Donald Judd sculpture dominates. My photography ends here, as the no-photos policy kicks into place.


I was going to make another stop on the Geometric Trail, but we're taking a quick detour up to 53rd Street for Color Chart: Reinventing Color, 1950 to Today at the Museum of Modern Art, organized by Ann Temkin. The exhibition is all about hue, whether right out of the tube, off the chart, or based on color systems devised by the artists or left to chance. There's oil paint and mototcycle enamel, car lacquer and Color Aid, Pantone and the Macintosh palette. In other words, it's a big show with broad parameters.

So, first the good news: This wide-ranging survey covers more than half a century of chromatic work with the usual suspects well represented: Dan Flavin, Damien Hirst, Ellsworth Kelly, Yves Klein, Frank Stella and others. You've probably seen most of this work in museums over the past few decades, but it's thrilling to see it all together.

The exhibition starts dramatically in the lobby with Jim Lambie's striped floor, all sharp lines and acute angles, continues into the sixth-floor lobby where a Donald Judd painted aluminum sculpture dominates, and opens into the special exhibitions gallery, where you are greeted by a horizontal painting, installed up high, by Marcel Duchamp. In the first gallery alone there's work by Frank Stella, Ellsworth Kelly, Jasper Johns, Robert Rauschenberg and Andy Warhol.

Now, the bad news: If you've followed the names I've dropped so far, it should be obvious that this show's color comes with a Y chromosome. Of the 44 artists in the show, 38 are men and six are women. This is the curator's privilege, of course, but I wonder how such broad parameters could be so exclusionary.

You should see Color Chart. It's a visually powerful show, but to my mind it's half a show. Spend some time with the two large Jennifer Bartlett pieces--each an installation of enameled squares in her signature dots and grids (alas, no pictures available from the MoMa website)--and Angela Bulloch's lightbox that flashes the colors of the Macintosh 0S9 operating system (ditto). While those colors are flashing, imagine the reductive color fields of Marcia Hafif, the macro-pointillist compositions of Alma Thomas, the undulating geometries of Bridget Riley, the dyed floor sculptures of Polly Apfelbaum--and make your own list while you're at it.

The show is up through May 12.

Feel free to add names to the Comments, below.


Anonymous said...

Marcia Hafif has amazing work on her site. Thanks for the link. As for the Y chromosone work shown on your blog, I'd say MoMA is showing work no better than LeRoy Nieman. Waste of fine real estate.

Anonymous said...

Katherina Grosse? but that might cause major logistical probs.
or Mary Heilmann. Who cares @ over exposure; it's interesting that she states in "The All Night Movie" that she used to hate and now loves Color Field.

Joanne Mattera said...

Yes, Katharina Grosse and Mary Heilmann--good choices. And I forgot to mention Frankenthaler.