If you help to "paint" Stingel's work, however, don't expect a cut from future sales. This sly bit of participatory exploitation is even a tad worse than writing for the Huffington Post, since at MOCA a contributor to the final product actually has to pay for the privilege of institutional admission. Stingel, with his disconcerting rug, shows us where we live now, deftly driving the point home by turning a public space into the functional equivalent of a domestic living room. Be it ever so humble.
Also in the show are silk-screen paintings of two-tone color splotches by Christopher Wool and photo-enlarged dust-bunnies by Urs Fischer; smoky gray fields spray-painted on huge canvases by Sterling Ruby; Kelley Walker's pastiches of news photographs obscured by splatters and patterns of bricks; a large, mixed-media installation with freestanding panels and a slide-show of Cindy Sherman-style self-portraits by Das Institut (the duo of Kerstin Bratsch and Adele Roder); a wall-size suite of dense, black, ink-jet printing on white linen by Wade Guyton; and, finally, a modest selection of text-paintings in silk-screened coal dust by the estimable Glenn Ligon.
Apparently one holdover from the 1950s New York School is that today's "painting factory" primarily employs men. Just four of Warhol's 14 proposed legacy-artists are women.
Yet, the exhibition's thesis that Warhol's abstractions brought us to this place remains unconvincing.
His vacant late paintings essentially reiterate his revolutionary '60s work. The one abstract series not represented here — the 1977-78 "Oxidation" paintings, made by urinating on canvases brushed with copper-based paints that chemically react to uric acid — was even a rerun from Warhol's glory days. He first tried to make them in1962, but the instability of metal pigments in commercial paints of the day mostly resulted in a mess. Warhol abandoned the project until the paint technology caught up.
The failed "Oxidation" attempt's cheeky slap to high-falutin' New York School grandiosity does underscore what his contemporaneous Pop paintings did achieve. With silk-screens, photographs masquerade as paintings. Campbell's soup cans pictured Willem de Kooning's description of Abstract Expressionism as soup. Celebrity suicide victim Marilyn Monroe, deathbed-plagued Elizabeth Taylor and assassination-day Jackie Kennedy chronicled famous stories of the tragic and the timeless, said by abstract painters to be art's most profound subject. Brightly hued paintings of flowers blooming in the grass literally represented Color Field paintings. And so on.
Warhol's Pop, like Roy Lichtenstein's and Edward Ruscha's, used commercial, mass-media imagery to take down encrusted New York School mythologies. "The Painting Factory" turns that upside down. It's an exercise in re-mythologizing.
The Painting Factory: Abstraction after Warhol, Museum of Contemporary Art, 250 S. Grand Ave., (213) 626-6222, through Aug. 20. Closed Tue. and Wed. http://www.moca.org
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