Unmonumental at the New Museum (NYC)


Ugo Rondione’s Hell, Yes! graces the front of the new New Museum.

Unmonumental investigates collage in contemporary art practices and it does so by turing the exhibition itself into one large collage. The outcome is just as confusing as it sounds like it should be.

I supoose the ideal way to have viewed Unmonumental was to visit the museum three times. First, when Unmonumental: The Object in the 21st Century opened on December 1st and the galleries hosted only the sculptural assemblages. Then it might have been a treat to re-visit when Collage: The Unmonumental Picture was added to the walls on January 16th and less over-stimulating when The Sound of Things: The Unmonumental Audio took the airwaves on February 13th.

Videos were added to the collage on February 15th as part of Montage: Unmonumental Online which doesn’t seem as overwhelming because you have the advantage of knowing that you don’t have to take it all in at the museum, but can view all of these projects while browsing Rhizome.org in the relatively stress-free environment of your own home. (I suggest works by Michael Bell-Smith and Kenneth Hung.)

Stand-outs (to me) in the exhibition are:

Sculpture: The always awesome Rachel Harrison (with exciting assemblage seen below), and Gabriel Kuri who I believe made some neat sculptures out of two wire garbage cans with stuff caged in between (one of the “stuffs” was a bit of plastic in rainbow colors).

Rachel Harrison

Collage: Actually a lot of the collage was pretty cool, and to me works on paper are pretty much the essence of “unmonumental”, especially on so small a scale. I was pleased to be intoduced to the work of John Stezaker and Martha Rosler.

John Stezaker
John Stezaker

Martha Rosler

Audio: I can safely say that I digested none of this. Totally my fault as I found myself flying through the museum at top-speed. It was like I couldn’t concentrate on anything.

I am left wondering if it is now heroic to be un-heroic. I am left wondering what un-heroic means. I feel as disjointed as an assemblage. Calling this show inspiring is a bit like calling this exhibition monumental. It’s a survey of a state of mind. It mirrors the complexity of every-day existence. I don’t suggest a trip to the New Museum if you are trying to run away from your problems.

Part of Young-Hae Chang Heavy Industries’ Black on White, Gray Ascending (2007) as seen from the food service.

I did enjoy the piece by Young-Hae Chang Heavy Industries in the lobby next to the food service, and I suggest bi-passing the whole “paying for a ticket to see the show bit” and just hanging out there for free. But you can also enjoy some of their projects right here (THESE GUYS ARE AWESOME!!!!!!!!!):




So why leave the house anymore really?

Roberta Fallon covered the Unmonumental opening earlier, view that post here.


john sezaker, kenneth hung, martha rosler, new museum of contemporary art, rachel harrison, young-hae chang heavy industries



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