I don’t remember the last time I went to the Guggenheim in New York, nor the art I saw there. That’s by design. The man who dreamed up that multi-story fuck-you to every other artist in history made sure that visitors could never forget his genius or remember what was hung on the walls of the temple he built to his own ego.
The corkscrew walkway that constitutes the main thoroughfare past the honeycomb cell-like alcoves that serve as galleries cants down at a gentle slope, ensuring a viewer never sees any painting level with the ground. This guarantees that we don’t for a second forget the structure housing the painting and undercuts whatever impact the picture was meant to have.
The only remedy is to come up as close as possible to the art you’re looking at. Still, even then, a curving wall or worn and crumbling light fixture often invades the periphery. It’s an incredibly frustrating experience.
What made me come here on my drive east is an exhibition by an artist I’d never heard of. A long article in the Times with several installation shots convinced me Gego’s wire forms that she often called drawings without paper might be able to withstand the bullying impact of Wright’s edifice.
Two hours before opening time I sit with my book on a bench across from the museum. I watch a hot dog truck and street vender set up for the day’s trade. A parade of professional and amateur dog walkers parade every breed devised down the sidewalk, sometimes in packs of up to five or six. There’s barely a yap or quarrel. They trundle meekly past, barely acknowledging one another. Are they all sedated or so well trained that their animal instincts no longer fire no matter the circumstance?
It takes a few minutes but Gego’s skeletal hangings cast their gentle spell. Like models for imaginary objects and organisms they hover suspended within the white curvilinear expanses of the building. By not being beholden to the vertical/horizontal constraints under which wall pictures function, there are moments when Wright fades away from view. But it only happens within the alcove galleries, facing away atrium center that’s impossible to ignore while slowly descending. From there, Gego’s wire shapes seem insect-like mirages. Much further away than they really are. Looking down to the ground floor, several tarped shapes make the place feel more like a construction site than a palace of art.
Gego’s floating forms echo in my mind like afterimages after I leave to go have lunch.
J.G. Melon is a cash-only burger place populated for the most part by business folk. The two guys a table over are involved in a casual-sounding but likely dead-serious conversation. The one keeps dropping hints about how much he’d love to join the other’s team. He loves the “culture” that they’ve created over there. The other one apologizes for choosing a burger place after hearing the pacemaker the first guy just had put in.
At my parents’ I notice the coffeebag I drew of Frank Lloyd Wright hanging over the kitchen table.
In the basement, in a tube of rolled-up posters, I find a drawing of my father reading on their uncomfortable living room couch. I keep looking at it, unsure whether I drew it or not. Whoever drew it, did so thirty or more years ago. I find a frame downstairs, fold over the mostly empty top and bottom of the paper, and fit the drawing in.
Now it lives on my mother’s bedroom table.
—Listen to practice readings for my Comfort Station show.
—I reviewed a play about a genocide in Namibia, recommend Beau is Afraid in this week’s Cine-FILE, and a doc about David Johansen of the New York Dolls too. But don’t watch the schmaltzy biopic of Swedish abstract art pioneer Hilma af Klint made by Lasse Hällstrom and his entire family; the doc about her from a few years back is much better.