Friday, February 17, 2012

Rant About SFMOMA's Worthless Mark Bradford And Rineke Dijkstra Exhibits

I support the arts.  Let's be sure we're all clear about that.  I especially like the arts in San Francisco.  I like the arts in this town so much that I want them to be as high in quality as they can be.  That's why I'm calling out SFMOMA's new exhibit of works from Mark Bradford and Rineke Dijkstra as being unworthy of serious consideration as art. I got a chance to preview these exhibits because I bequeathed a legacy gift to SFMOMA in my will.  I don't regret my gift, but I hope the museum spends its portion of my estate wisely after I've departed.  Stuff like this is not an encouraging sign.

I saw the Bradford exhibit first.  The guy taped over a basketball and called it art, some kind of tribute to an NBA player.  How juvenile.  He also papered over a room with black paper and masking tape.  That is something anyone can do with zero artistic training.  His most complicated works were collages of found paper printouts from advertisements that he mixed with tape, tinfoil, and other street junk before scrawling and scratching on them in various ways.  The whole thing was embarrassing to see.  It was even more embarrassing to see so many urbane sophisticates standing around admiring this garbage.

I sauntered over to the Dijkstra side of the fourth floor after becoming thoroughly bored with the Bradford exhibit.  I didn't get any more excited.  Her photographs had zero emotion, personality, or action.  I'm guessing that she directed each of her portrait subjects to look as bored and uninspired as possible.  The only photo full of life was from her bullfighter series, with one guy smirking at the camera after a successful fight.  He was the only subject I connected with, because I actually wondered why he was so full of life among all of the Dijkstra photographs.  The curators praised Ms. Dijkstra's video works as some kind of inspiration.  I just think they were pedestrian.  The teenage video subjects could have shot the videos themselves and no one would have known the difference.

I haven't been this turned off by an SFMOMA exhibit since I saw a Richard Tuttle exhibit in 2005.  That was the dumbest display of non-art I've ever had the misfortune to witness.  I didn't think SFMOMA could ever top that but these current exhibits come pretty close.  It's depressing to see an entire industry of art critics, curators, and buyers degenerate into praising nonsense for the sake of exploration.  Conceptual art has its place but seeing the same concept repeated in a single exhibition - bored photo subjects, junk wallpaper - demands some minimal effort at differentiation.  I'm all about innovation, but when experiments fail then the gatekeepers of our most prominent art institutions should discriminate in favor of quality.  Someone has to say the emperor has no clothes.