The Gugger

guggenheim_2046_491025There is a show right now at the Guggenheim Museum in New York City that is sort of related to my current Film Architecture theme, The Future is Asian. It is called “The Third Mind: American Artists Contemplate Asia,” and the exhibitions’ webpage is here.


The quality of the Guggenheim’s gallery spaces notwithstanding, it’s appropriate that the exhibition is being mounted in a Frank Lloyd Wright building, for FLW himself was heavily influenced by Asian artists. He was an avid collector of Japanese painting and prints (at one point supporting his architectural practice by dealing in Japanese prints), and some of his works show a very distinct Asian influence. Below is his Imperial Hotel near Nagoya, Japan.


Frank Lloyd Wright’s work, however, wasn’t explicity featured in the “Third Mind” exhibition (you could argue that the museum itself was a sort of third presence in the exhibition). In fact, I think the one impression I was left with during and after the show was the impossibilty of the curatorial mission. Imagine you are to select 100 pieces of artwork that are supposed to demonstrate the influence of Asia (already a dubious concept) on America (another dubious concept). Who do you select? Who do you leave out? What constitues an “Asian influence?” A specfic sort of minimalism? Or a brand of expressionism? Or a strain of geometric patterning? It just leaves me wondering, What is Asian? What is American? And boy, the Guggenheim NY sucks for displaying art.


However, this isn’t to say the exhibition wasn’t worthwhile. Museums are always fun (at least to me, minus the fact that you have to trek all the way up to the Upper East Side). Though there certainly were some headscratching works,  there were a handful of transcendent works from Agnes Martin and Hiroshi Sugimoto, as always, but whose works don’t duplicate well (you have to stand in front of them). Nothing Asian or American about it. Simply transcendent.


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One Response to “The Gugger”

  1. ggstefani Says:

    qt, i totally agree about the impossibility of displaying anything inside a soft serve ice cream cone. it’s really better suited for kids with slinkies or skater dudes than for a serious conversation.

    i hear you on asia and america being dubious concepts and the impossibility of the curatorial mission. but i wonder what isn’t/wouldn’t be. i realize i’m taking a cheap shot here, but i’m really not trying to be facetious. isn’t the dubiousness of any particular concept really just how far we have to abstract ourselves to create the appearance of a consistent whole? and if we zoom in far enough, don’t we destroy that myth no matter how close we were when we started? that is to say, what actually bothers you about this study is that the curators had to mix all of america and mix all of asia in two separate bags, suspending the learned reality that new england art is nothing like the south west’s and japan’s quite distinct from vietnam’s. but. short of a solo show, aren’t museum’s–even if they just showcase a single time period or country–always dealing with dubious concepts?….. on the other hand, perhaps you are wanting to go even further here to say that neither asian or american exist. then i have to ask if you think they ever did? once upon a time: cowboys and native americans = american. buddhist temples = asian. if you do, i wonder how you feel about the loss of the purity of a concept called asian? are we a richer or poorer for the fact that black brush strokes on a white page could be asian or american, that a child named quang could be asian or american? and if asian influence on america or the other way around is no longer the proper question, how would you phrase it? i say that conceding that i think you’re right, it feels like time to move on, but i’m not sure we have the vocabulary yet.

    i a;so think museums are fun,
    when i go to them with you.

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