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Calder & Oiticica at Whitney Museum

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If you enjoy work that breaks the norms of fine art; work that invites the viewer to participate, this is a great time to visit the Whitney Museum of American Art.

Through the remainder of the month, on the 8th floor, one may see Museum employees activate Alexander Calder sculptures. With slight touches and hand gestures, Calder’s work is set in motion as it was meant to be enjoyed. Several pieces on display are motorized, unfortunately they do not appear to be plugged in or at least when I was there I did not see them in motion. However, the ones that are activated by human touch are beautiful to see in motion. One may immediately capture the great care that Calder took in combining form and weight to create compositions that have expression through movement. The works are simple and delicate but when they are put in motion they appear to have their own life due to the joints and careful balancing of the pieces assembled to make the whole.

Work your way down the museum and I believe that it is on the sixth floor that one will encounter “An Incomplete History of Protest”. As problematic as the labels “Protest Art” or “Political Art” may be, many of the works in the exhibition were not made in the studio for the gallery, but were realized through collaboration and enjoyed public manifestation on the street in the midst of protest. I tend to consider such art as genuinely “political art” or “activist art”. The exhibition does a reasonable job of presenting an overview of such work over the last fifty years in the United States.

Further down the building, perhaps on the fifth floor is “Hélio Oiticica: To Organize Delirium” which to me is the most fun of all the exhibitions on view. It is unfortunate that the Brazilian artist Hélio Oiticica died at 42 as he was prolific and realized work that is at once provocative, social and contemplative. Several of the galleries, allow the viewer to walk through the work or even wear the pieces as Hélio Oiticica meant the work to be! This is great as it is not uncommon for work originally designed to be tactile has been removed from the visitor’s reach, not so with Oiticica’s exhibition. One gallery even features clothing designed by Oiticica hanging on a rack, for visitors to try on and model in front of a mirror. A walk through the installation “Tropicália, 1966–67” alone is worth the trip to the Whitney. As one winds through the installation, visit the two large parrots in a white cage and if you go around 3pm when they are fed by their handlers you will enjoy their sounds resonating throughout the exhibition.

Written by ricardo

September 4th, 2017 at 12:20 pm