On View

‘What Is a Photograph?’ at the International Center of Photography and ‘A World of Its Own: Photographic Practices in the Studio’ at the Museum of Modern Art

'What Is a Photograph?' at the International Center of Photography. (Courtesy ICP)

The curator of this exhibition, Carol Squiers, turned to work by 21 artists to investigate the ontological reality of a photograph. Does a photograph represent the world? Is it an investigation of light-sensitive chemistry? Does it deal with landscape or with time?

The title of the show poses a good question. Unfortunately, the works chosen to investigate this question, which date from the 1970s to the present, are, simply put, not very strong. What’s worse, while many of them are cartoonishly bad, a few are magical and get it just right. The resulting exhibition is maddeningly close to being good, but it is hobbled by some serious and almost headache-inducing failures that can only be blamed on a lack of curatorial judgment. Read More

On View

‘Ileana Sonnabend: Ambassador for the New’ at the Museum of Modern Art

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Two years ago, when the late Ileana Sonnabend’s family donated Robert Rauschenberg’s famous artwork Canyon (1959) to the Museum of Modern Art, a condition of the gift was that the museum put on a show about the legendary art dealer, who died in 2007. Curator Ann Temkin has now fulfilled that promise, and the exhibition she has assembled will remind you how audiences experienced new art in the second half of the 20th century—and how sharply this contrasts with art’s reception today. Read More

On View

‘There Will Never Be Silence: Scoring John Cage’s 4’33″’ at the Museum of Modern Art

'Classico 5' (1968) by Robert Ryman. (©2013 the artist/The Museum of Modern Art)

Is John Cage’s 4’33” the most radical artwork of the 20th century? When it premiered at a concert hall in Woodstock, N.Y., in August 1952, the 39-year-old composer had already proven himself an indefatigable avant-gardist, but this was adventurous even for him. Written for “any instrument or combination of instruments,” it famously asks for four minutes and 33 seconds of silence. But as this delectable show’s title, borrowed from a letter by Cage, suggests, he wasn’t really after silence, but rather all of the other sounds that, by chance, would accompany it. (He reported that, at that first performance, with David Tudor sitting at a piano, there was wind, raindrops and “all kinds of interesting sounds as [audience members] talked or walked out” before it ended.) Read More

On View

‘Isa Genzken: Retrospective’ at the Museum of Modern Art

'Hospital “Ground Zero”' (2008) by Genzken. (Courtesy the Museum of Modern Art)

Isa Genzken’s retrospective at the Museum of Modern Art, organized by a royal flush of curators (MoMA’s Sabine Breitwieser and Laura Hoptman, the MCA Chicago’s Michael Darling and the Dallas Museum of Art’s Jeffrey Grove, with Stephanie Weber) is one of the best major shows the museum has put on in a long time. Sculptors especially will find much of interest in Ms. Genzken’s approach to materials, and those curious about German postwar art have a lot to celebrate in the show, which puts on view many works never before seen in the U.S.

Like the work of a pop star skilled at self-reinvention, Ms. Genzken’s career is a bit of a hat trick. A thoughtful post-minimal sculptor in the late 1970s, she morphs momentarily into a painter only to become, in recent years, a political installation artist. With shows entitled things like “Fuck the Bauhaus, New Buildings for New York” (2000) and artworks that deal with terrorism and oil dependency, she is always topical. Read More

On View

‘Dorothea Rockburne: Drawing Which Makes Itself’ at the Museum of Modern Art

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Your eyes may burn for a moment when you first enter this tight little survey of drawings by the still-underrated New Yorker Dorothea Rockburne. It’s because she has painted the walls a super-bright white and installed extra lights with a higher-than-standard wattage for the museum. Once your eyes adjust, though, you’ll be well prepared to take in a quiet, subtle stunner, one of the highlights of the fall season. Read More

On View

‘New Photography 2013′ at the Museum of Modern Art

Eileen Quinlan, 'Sophia,' 2012. (Courtesy the artist and Miguel Abreu Gallery)

From the cameraless images of mid-19th century photographic innovator William Henry Fox Talbot on forward, images of the labor involved in lace making have been an integral part of the history of photography. Lisa Oppenheim’s visually engaging image of women’s work, which picks up on Talbot’s and is on view in the Museum of Modern Art’s annual survey of new photography, is anything but dull. Read More

The Internet

MoMA’s Sound Art Show, ‘Soundings,’ Has a Handy Website

A screenshot. (Courtesy MoMA)

“Soundings: A Contemporary Score,” the Museum of Modern Art’s first major sound-art exhibition, which was organized by Barbara London with Leora Morinis, opened this past weekend. Its accompanying website has also gone live, and it is great, filled with recordings of works by the 16 artists in the show, including many not on view at MoMA, like Florian Hecker’s great 2012 piece Chimerization, which premiered at last year’s Documenta 13in Kassel, Germany. Read More

Museums

Now Hear This: For 42 Years, Barbara London Has Been Making Noise at MoMA

'Mass Black Implosion (Shaar, Iannis Xenakis),'
2012. (Courtesy the artist and Anna Schwartz Gallery)

Back in June, longtime Museum of Modern Art curator Barbara London, who has unruly blond hair and a penchant for chunky necklaces, sat down for a meeting with the museum’s security team. The topic at hand was how to safely install 16 speakers and two subwoofers so that the museum would be able to properly play underwater insect noises and ultrasonic echolocation calls of bats recorded by Norwegian artist Jana Winderen. Such sounds are, technically speaking, beyond the range of human hearing, but Ms. Winderen has slowed them down to about a tenth of their speed so that they become audible as fierce, sharp chirps. With the speakers arrayed around the floor and ceiling of the dark gallery, the effect on the listener is of being inside an otherworldly cave. Read More