Morsel: Robert Breer's Floating Gumdrop

Robert Breer's Osaka I (1970) in MoMA's Sculpture Garden, July 2018. Photo: Chris Murtha

The subtlety of Robert Breer’s whimsical Osaka I, which is currently on view in the Museum of Modern Art’s Sculpture Garden, stands in contrast to most kinetic art. Powered by car batteries—a nice nod to the artist’s father who was an engineer for Chrysler—the sculpture moves at a rate of 2 ½ feet per minute. Slow enough to go unnoticed. That is until you walk away and return to find it several feet from where you swear it was just standing.

Having noticed that, you stop to look at the sculpture—one of what the artist called “floats” or “motorized mollusks.” Staring at it, your eyes start to blur and your head gets a little funny because it’s subtle enough to make you question your vision and memory. It’s like trying to see the moon move.

A woman sitting in a nearby chair starts to get uncomfortable when she realizes she is sitting way too close to the art. “Wait,” she thinks, “is this art? And did I approach it or did it approach me?” To be safe, she moves to another seat. Several eons later, the giant white gumdrop nudges the woman’s former chair and politely reverses course—looking for other visitors to unseat or unsettle, silently menacing the garden.

Robert Breer's "floats" amid Nakaya Fujiko's fog sculpture, Pepsi Pavilion, Expo '70, Osaka, Japan.

After establishing himself as a filmmaker specializing in experimental abstract animations, Robert Breer (1926-2011) started producing motorized sculptures in 1964. Osaka I was initially exhibited at Expo '70 in Osaka, Japan, as one of seven "floats" installed outside the Pepsi Pavilion, which was organized by E.A.T. (Experiments in Art and Technology). Later that year, it was exhibited in MoMA’s Sculpture Garden (from August 20, 1970 to April 11, 1971) and was acquired by the museum in 1971. It currently finds itself roaming the garden again as part of the Peter Fischli-curated “If Everything Is Sculpture Why Make Sculpture?

Robert Breer's Osaka I installed in MoMA's Sculpture Garden in 1970. Photo from MoMA's online archives.

Morsels are a series of brief texts—ruminations—on a single work of art.

On Lutz Bacher for Artforum

I reviewed Lutz Bacher's The Long March—an exhibition that examines cult of personality via Mao Zedong—at New York University's 80 Washington Square East Gallery. The following is a selection of my digitally “scribbled” notes from Open the Kimono, a slide show of Bacher's hand-written jottings, “lessons” culled from mass media presented in a nearby lecture hall. Read my review for Artforum at the link below.

Weaponizing the media

Your focus needs more focus

One cannot speak truth to power if power has no use for truth

Perhaps she’s tired of being Queen

Results may vary

Nobody needs to die tonight

How far is this from normal?

Human resource exploitation manual

I feel motivated

You’ll find you have the power to move the very earth itself

We have a human problem in addition
to a technology problem

Tornado of impulses

This was still America
 

Lutz Bacher
The Long March
80 Washington Square East Gallery
On view through September 8
artforum.com/picks/lutz-bacher-76082

All images: Lutz Bacher, The Long March, 2017, series of framed cards, paint on walls; installed at 80 Washington Square East Gallery, NY, June 21 – September 8, 2018. Photos: Chris Murtha.

For those interested in seeing more of Bacher's work, her FIRE (2016) is currently on view through August 19 in Readymades Belong to Everyone, the inaugural exhibition in Swiss Institute's new location. Additionally, the basement gallery is painted in a similar manner as the walls at 80WSE: various shades of gray in one light coat—an untitled work credited to Dusty Baker, likely another alias for an artist who already operates under a nom de plum.

Morsel: Duchamp's Marzipan Arcimboldo

Like the insects drawn to the marzipan fruits and veggies in Marcel Duchamp’s late work Sculpture-morte, we too are endlessly attracted to such saccharine artifice, the all-too-real.

But are the flies in this trompe-l'œil attracted to the image of the fruit (as a viewer is to a painting) or the sweet aroma of the marzipan? And are the flies plastic or rubber—the kind used in a practical joke—or made of marzipan as well?

It seems unlikely—or worse, unsettling—that both predator and prey would be made from the same sugary substance. What form of cannibalism would that be, in which the mirage consumes itself?

Both images: Marcel Duchamp, Sculpture-morte, 1959, insects with marzipan fruit, vegetables, and bread on board-mounted paper, in glass box, 13 1/4 x 9 x 2 1/4 inches; Collection Centre Pompidou, Paris.

Morsels are a series of brief texts—ruminations—on a single work of art. This one is un morceau pour Marcel.

On Jason Dodge for Artforum

After some time away from critical writing to focus on my studies, I'm excited to get back into the swing of it. Read my review of Jason Dodge's exhibition at Casey Kaplan over at Artforum.com.

As is typical for Dodge, this exhibition is a curious collection of commonplace objects assembled towards poetic ends. The artist's engagement with poetry extends to his publishing company fivehundred places and the title of this exhibition, which was borrowed from the Franz Wright poem “Recurring Awakening.” That title – "hand in hand with the handless" – might as well be a mantra for the Readymade. But unlike Duchamp's supposedly indifferent Readymades, Dodge's are suggestive of meaning, which must be teased out by the careful observer. This initially elusive exhibition rewards such consideration.

Jason Dodge
hand in hand with the handless
Casey Kaplan
On view through July 27
artforum.com/picks

All images are installation views of Jason Dodge, "hand in hand with the handless," Casey Kaplan, New York, June 21 - July 27, 2018. Photos: Chris Murtha.

Recent Reviews for Artforum

I recently wrote two reviews for Artforum.com. The first, on Arlene Shechet’s second exhibition with Sikkema Jenkins & Co, was an absolute honor to write. Though primarily known for her ceramics, Shechet’s work has evolved from one material to another over the course of her career, and here she begins a new chapter with a series of hardwood sculptures.

The second piece reviews Polish artist Honza Zamojski's exhibition in the compact East Village gallery of OSMOS, aphotography journal. Zamojski, whose impressive multidisciplinary practice also includes writing, curating, and publishing, performs a series of subversive interventions with black-and-white photographs of magnet sculptures.

Arlene Shechet
Turn Up the Bass
Sikkema Jenkins & Co.
On view through November 12
www.artforum.com/picks/id=64323

Honza Zamojski
Ghostism
OSMOS Address
On view through December 4
www.artforum.com/picks/id=64478

Top and bottom: Installation views, Arlene Shechet, Turn Up the Bass, Sikkema Jenkins & Co.,
October 13 – November 12, 2016; Middle: Installation view, Honza Zamojski, Ghostism, OSMOS Address, October 14 – December 4, 2016. (Photos: Chris Murtha)