[ 2/25/15 edit: The links to individual artworks no longer function. The Crocker Art Museum’s website no longer serves as a digital representation of their holdings. I hope this is temporary, since it is certainly contrary to the larger trend of art museums releasing their collections digitally. ]
It shames me to admit that last week was my first visit to the Crocker Art Museum. It’s been a mere 85 miles away for the last 22 years of my life… I am ashamed.
I will enthuse about their signage tomorrow, but today I just want to remember the art. Their collection of contemporary art was the most enjoyable such thing I’ve seen in several years.
[ The caveat is of course that I have a sizable chip on my shoulder regarding the overwhelming NYC dominance of the USA’s art canon. Much of it is truly fantastic art, but it often fails to address, reflect, or represent the cultures of the Midwest or West. Having grown up in California, I felt dehydrated after visiting Dia: Beacon this summer. (It’s an excellent art venue. Its value to me was mainly in how foreign it made me feel.) ]
Therefore, it was refreshing to see the Crocker’s collection. Much of the contemporary work was wry, whimsical, and pointed. Most artworks addressed and introduced their serious topics in playful ways. The West coast does earn its reputation for goofiness, but that precludes neither intelligence nor awareness of reality. The dominant sense of humor, coping mechanisms, and communication styles simply differ between regions.
A few artworks that I found particularly captivating:
Progress II by Luis Jiminez freaked me out (in a good way). The horse and bull eyes glow red, and both extend so far beyond their base that the entire sculpture threatens to move. It is simply enormous, so the museum’s cute tiny picture is completely misleading.
Daniel Douke’s Widescreen is painted canvas stretched over extremely wide stretcher bars. It sits on a sculpture stand so that viewers see the illusion first and the painterly guts second.
Richard Carter’s Trust erased my giggles faster than a bucket of cold water. The mix of sheer personal grief and the explication of its cause in this artwork is incredible. It just breaks my heart.
Hung Liu’s Shoemakers was simply gorgeous. Drippy paint elicits a knee-jerk rejection in artistic academia, so I appreciate how carefully the supporting literature introduces and explains this unpopular paint technique.