This weekend was surprisingly free of commitments, and we were determined to make it to all three big L.A. area shows: THING, Beautiful Losers, and Visual Music. We started in Westwood at the Hammer, then headed south on the treacherous 405 to OCMA on Saturday. The next day, we hit MOCA. I would recommend seeing the shows in that order, too, and not just for logistical reasons. The quality and precision of THING makes for a nice contrast to the loose skater-punk aesthetic of Beautiful Losers, and Visual Music is such a synaesthetic powerhouse that it really warrants a fresh palate.
As Murray said earlier, THING was quite the bonanza, jam-packed — flirting with being too packed, but not ever enough to bug me — with interesting work. For the last, oh, several decades at least, sculpture as a discipline has been dull-as-dirt, and it’s no wonder that many artists have turned to environmental, installational, site-specific work to try to reinvigorate the medium. These days, it’s installation that’s often dull: cheap materials and low craft tossed together in order to take up some white-walled space. THING singles out those artists who are working in the more traditional object-making mode without succumbing the same-old-same-old, who have reactivated the sculptural dialogue.
THING asserts that sculpture, that object-making, is its own thing, separate from the related disciplines of installation, performance and new media. It’s a nice distinction, and a needed one. For too long, sculpture departments in academic institutions have been the kitchen drawer where all the problematic genres without a home of their own have ended up. Perhaps THING is pointing to a future where the fine art programs will rediscover respect for object-making. It’s high time that sculpture and other, related genres to go their separate ways — still informed by the other — but allowing each to develop their own language, concerns and practices. THING is an excellent reminder that this division is not only possible, but that allows at least the older of the disciplines to flourish in its newly-found independence.