Post #829 • July 13, 2006, 4:29 PM • 42 Comments
I've become interested in comics again over the last several months, and I've wondered why. I got an answer to that and one or two other things while viewing Nominally Figured at the Fogg.
For one, I finally decided where I stand on Louise Bourgeois. I tend to like her work in stone, in the way I like broccoli - I don't want to make a whole meal out of it, and it's not cause for any great excitement. She can put together a handsome object in a manner that qualifies as contemporary, by whatever metric you might measure that. Her work, installed into a typical exhibition of contemporary work, is often the best in the room. If that is the case, the show is in trouble. For future reference, I'm calling this the Bourgeois Test.
Nominally Figured shows off the Fogg's newer acquisitions, much of which are destined for a renovated version of the facility, and constitute an expected roster of names. I get the sense that the late 20th Century already has a standard canon (even though, if you think about it, that's ridiculous) and the show adheres to it: Andre, Bourgeois, Artschwager, Tuttle, Cragg, Hesse, Piper, McCarthy, Kruger, and one or two dozen more. The Bourgeois Test comes in positive, with one of the stone pieces, juxtaposing a curvilinear element on top with a roughly cut base. A couple of Eva Hesse drawings, crunchy, dark little things, are attractive. There was a Richard Tuttle, consisting of a small stick with a join in it, leaned up against the wall of the case it was in, and I would have enjoyed its restraint and simplicity more if a motorized homunculus by Kristof Kintera wasn't beating its head on the wall loudly enough to hear in the Busch-Reisinger Galleries on the other side of the building. You and me both, I thought. What justifies all this effort on my part as a viewer? It didn't help that I first went to see Beckmann's The Actors, twelve feet of beautiful allegorical insanity. The Actors is a gift to the world, labored over, made large, and pointed like a mirror at aspects of contemporary existence. Much of the comics I've become interested in lately are the same, though using panels and text instead of scale. Nominally Figured is, in contrast, asking for a gift from me - my patience, for one, but also my generosity as an uncompensated viewer. Sometimes, I have it to give. But too many requests use it up.