Sunday, January 6

Unmonumental reflection of life

The New Museum is one of the most interesting institutions in the New York arts world. The founder and first curator, Marcia Tucker the legendary and passionate pioneer trail blazer who kicked opened the doors for daring and innovative arts. The New Museum is a staple in thriving lower Manhattan arts scene, founded in 1977 it is the only museum in New York City devoted to global contemporary art. A new permanent home for the museum opened on December 1 to much acclaim and celebration. I visited the New Museum to see the amazing building and current exhibition. One museum-wide show took up all three exhibition floors- Unmonumental.The show points to an important shift in the way art is being made and the way we are all participating in the arts. Most of the artist in the exhibition creat work from assamblage-- that is putting together and arranging found objects with enormous care and precision.At the heart of assembalage is taking care to bring disperate small things into an arrangement full of meaning. This is the point of Unmonumental to point to things that help us reflect of the world. Across New York city at the Whitney is an retrospective of Lawrence Wiener-- who also asks us to reflect on the world and the important relationships between things.Unmonumental is an exhibition of young international artists who grew up in a globalized and digital world with an entirely new set of problems to face. Although the important issues in their work: spirituality, love, forgiveness and death are timeless, they ask us to reflect upon the most pressing issues of the present. Iza Genzken, the oldest and hippest artist in the show creates a huge Elephant out of trash she found in and around Berlin. This is the largest single work in the show and full of surprises, moments of profound transformation. Many of the younger artist have room to grow-- but Ms. Genzken's mature works reveal an artist in her prime. Elephant asks us to reflect on important issues of fractured identity, or loss of faith or loss of icons. What can we make of radically decentered world and of the rapid progress of globalization and international trade? One thing is to make small gestures with profound transformational power. My boyfriend who prefers more traditional art but really likes elephants, appreciated this sculpture for the surprising way the artist creates a recognizable likeness out of disgarded dolls, fake flowers, blankets,pipes, plastic scraps, tubing, using simple geometric shapes. There is also a sense of the spiritual in her composition, a way of understanding god through simple everyday materials. And although elephant is a large sculpture, the scale is still human and approachable.Ms. Genzken shows us the value of the undervalued-- she elevates the most mundane to the most transcendent.In the end her work is just a perfectly balanced sculpture of junk, but its temporal nature and impermanent materials suggest new possibilities in a new world.