We went to a wedding downstate over the weekend and we took the opportunity to go to Dia:Beacon and (slightly out of our way, on the trip home) MassMoca. We had never been to either space before.
The scale of Dia:Beacon is pretty overwhelming, the building was built as the National Biscuit Carton Making and Printing Plant in 1927, I think it is something like 400,000 square feet. The spaces are enormous and they are all lit by skylights which makes for interesting shifts in color in the monochrome work as the clouds go overhead. The first thing you see when you walk in is Imi Knoebel's 24 Colors – for Blinky , 1977, an installation of large, brightly colored, unusually shaped monochromatic paintings. The installation takes up a significant chunk of space and as far as monochromatic paintings go, this is as good as it gets (I generally take a dim view of this kind of art). I liked the Richard Serras, the Robert Smithson mirror pieces, Sol Lewitt's wall drawings (I pity the people that actually had to do the drawing) and Louise Bourgeois' giant spider, which, by the way, does not have a face! They also have one of the best John Chamberlains I've seen, the colors make me think of the Dukes of Hazzard's General Lee mashed up with Roscoe's police car, and the worst John Chamberlain, see below. The main space of the cavernous basement is currently hosting an installation of projections by Tacita Dean entitled: Merce Cunningham performs STILLNESS (in three movements) to John Cage’s composition 4'33" with Trevor Carlson, New York City, 28 April 2007 (six performances; six films, 2008. The installation consists of film loops of Merce Cunningham sitting in a chair doing nothing, the projections are very spaced out so that you have to walk through large areas of darkness to reach the light. I enjoyed the experience of being in the space.
NOTE: I got the following images from various places on the net, neither Dia:Beacon or Mass Moca allow photography. See more Beacon pix here.
Sol Lewitt drawings
MassMoca was a bit more conventional, with the way it stages shows I liked some of what I saw in Badlands:New Horizons in Landscape, particularly the work of Vaughn Bell. The other group show, Eastern Standard: Western Artists in China, purported to be "[Western] artists addressing the complex issues facing China in the wake of industrialization and globalization." There was some interesting work in the show but you get the impression that being on the outside of Chinese society, the Western artists really are basically limited to making art work about architecture and the Three Rivers Dam. There is no sense in any of the work of how a Chinese person, might feel about all of those "Complex Issues."
I really liked Jenny Holzer's work when I was in High School, (she had a big show at the Albright-Knox in 1989, when I was 16), but over the years I have come to think of her "truisms" as a collection of dull platitudes, and I find her newer political work particularly irritating. At MassMoca, Holzer currently has a fantastic installation and some abysmal political work. The installation is a projection piece that scrolls the poems of Stanislaw Barañczak from two different directions across the room. There are enormous bean bag chairs for viewers to sit in and watch it all go by. It is difficult to read, but who cares, the visual effect of the type stretching and breaking across the surfaces of the room is amazing. Her other body of work consists of huge silk screens (on canvas) of Defense Department graphics from the planning of the Iraq invasion, and redacted documents from the war. This, to me, seems like the lowest kind of preaching to the choir, op-ed art.