An evening at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum seeing performance art and music presented by Latin American Circle plus having two of the exhibits open to us – all for $15.
When I got to the museum there were several lines. Something was happening in the auditorium downstairs but I knew the performances I was seeing were taking place in the rotunda. I got on a line by the front door and then saw there were two other lines. Not sure if I was on the correct line but since the others went in first, I’m guessing that was the line for members. Once inside we were told we could go onto any floor (from two to six) to watch the first performance. I went to the second floor first and found a good spot. As we waited, I watched the floors fill up.
Curator Pablo León de la Barra came out to welcome us and tell us about we were about to see. Unfortunately, I couldn’t understand a word he was saying. The rotunda is not made for legible amplified sound.
Looking out the window on the first floor I could see people carrying chairs up from downstairs, onto the street, and going around to the front door. Soon I could see them entering the rotunda. Each chair and stool (including a milk crate) was different – different types and material – and each person was different – different genders, races, ethnicities, and dress. (We weren’t allowed to take photos during this piece.) The first person set their chair down and sat down and each person followed and they formed a circle. Just before the last person sat down, the first person got up and each person followed in turn, took his/her chair, walked around the circle, and went to another part of the floor and another circle formed. And then again. Then they took their chairs up the ramp, onto the second floor, down the stairs, back onto the rotunda floor and then they formed the three circles again. After that they walked up the ramp again and were done. I thought that Asamble (2015) by Amalia Pica might have been a site-specific piece with the unending winding circles mimicking the ramps around the rotunda. But it looks like the piece means something else entirely and has been performed at other locations. Click the link above to see a video of Asamble performed in London. Also, the link has a link to Pica talking about the “work’s inherently diverse and participatory nature, focusing in particular on its creation of a temporary community made up of local residents and others – the circular form of which evokes a universal emblem of assembly and explores the challenges of democratic consensus.” I guess I missed the point.
The participants were Yannick Trapman-O’Brien, Damián Allegretti, Laili Amighi, Stephanie Budijono, Jessica Burke, Lindsey Cash, Cynthia Citlallin, Joya Erickson, Ben Falcon, Jonathan Farbowitz, Catarina Flaksman, Kristen Holfeuer, Bonam Kim, Seung Hee Kim, Jilly Krauss, Jennifer Kwai, Davi Leventhal, Clara Lu, Michael Mendez, Isabela Muci, Akeem Muhammed, Anjala Pala, Marianna Pecoraro, Rick Rodriguez, Alan Seise, Julieta Tetelbaum, May Yeung, Shauna Yuan, and Claire Zimmerman.
De la Barra invited everyone to come down to the floor for the next piece but some of us stayed up on the floors and looked down, which I think was a better choice. Gilberto Bedoya, Edwin Estevez, and Marco Antonio Fernández performed on marimba while Pedro Jiménez, Naufus Ramírez-Figueroa, and Kendra Ross came out and danced around the crowd dressed as a Mayan pyramid, a colonial church, and a modernist block. It was fun watching them dancing in and around the crowd and at one point I thought that it looked like they were naked underneath the costumes. Suddenly they started knocking into each other until the buildings broke apart. Most of the audience was laughing and then when they stood together – naked – in front of us the crowd erupted in cheers. A Brief History of Architecture in Guatemala (Breve Historia de la Arquitectura en Guatemala, 2010) by Ramírez-Figueroa “is a dance performed in costumes modeled after iconic Mesoamerican building typologies and examines the tendency of architecture to memorialize regimes of power and exploitation.”
The third piece we could hear before they entered the rotunda. Kitchen Drumming (Batuque na cozinha, 2013/17) by OPAVIVARÁ! (Milo Alexander, Sadia Bruce (FogoAzul), Stacy Kovac (FogoAzul), Alison Mazer (FogoAzul), Cecile Scius (FogoAzul), and Tony Jam Pots and Pans) entered playing all types of kitchen equipment as percussive instruments. The sound was joyful and “fused celebration and protest by evoking carnival parades, marching bands, and anti-government demonstrations.” One man went around, with bottles of liquor strapped to his chest, giving drinks to people in the crowd.
(Check out the tall hair on the guy in the crowd.)
OPAVIVARÁ! played on and on and on and some of the crowd was taking advantage of the free wine and then I noticed people wandering the exhibitions and decided to do the same. As I walked up the ramps the sounds became more cacophonous. I also looked over the edge at the fourth and sixth floors and the butterflies in my stomach confirmed that my staying on the second floor was the correct choice.
Visionaries: Creating a Modern Guggenheim looks at the collections that created the Guggenheim Museum. There is, of course, Solomon R. Guggenheim’s collection, which was influenced by German artist Hilla Rebay, who helped him amass his collection. There was also art from the collections of art dealer Karl Nierendorf, Solomon’s niece Peggy, and artist and curator Katherine S. Dreier.
From where I was standing the exhibit started with Impressionist, Post-Impressionist, and School of Paris works collected by Justin K. Thannhauser. Before I looked at the labels, I recognized many of the paintings by masters like Manet, Renoir, Van Gogh, Gauguin, Degas, and Picasso. The painting that I liked the most was the Pissarro because it was originally considered vulgar because a large canvas was used to paint an ordinary landscape instead of a Biblical scene or nobility.
Pollock’s Alchemy is an exhibit all on its own.
(Photo from Guggenheim website.)
As I went up the ramps, I saw more paintings and sculptures – Kandinsky, Magritte, Chagall, Mondrian, Calder, Klee, Duchamp, and Miró were just some of the famous names. It’s amazing to think that one person could put together a collection that included many of these artists.
The second exhibit we had access to was The Hugo Boss Prize 2016: Anicka Yi, Life is Cheap. A small entryway has canisters that were supposed to be emitting a scent called Immigrant Caucus (combination of chemical compounds from Asian-American women and carpenter ants) but I didn’t smell anything. In the room were two dioramas opposite each other. The first looks like a bunch of plates and cloths with abstract designs on them. It turns out that the designs are actually bacteria from strains obtained in Chinatown and Koreatown that are spreading across all the tiles and cloths. On the other side was what looked like a giant circuit board that was actually a giant ant farm. Unfortunately for them, most of the ants looked like they were dead.
I haven’t been to the Guggenheim in many years and I think this was only my second visit seeing the exhibits. What a pleasure to be able to wander around with only a few people and to get to see some classic works.
As I left, the marimba players were performing (OPAVIVARÁ! was playing for most of the time that I was looking at the art) and people were still hanging out and drinking and talking.
By Carene Lydia Lopez