The earliest years of the 20th century were a tale of ‘isms’ — from the dying fall of Impressionism to Post-Impressionism to Cubism, Surrealism and on to Abstract Expressionism; all convenient labels which defined and promoted artists in different schools of art.
In the earliest years of the 21st century, however, something very different is going on. Forever Now: Contemporary Painting in an Atemporal World at MoMA in New York could be taken as long-hand for ‘anything that smacks of an ism is irrelevant to contemporary art’. This is a show of work by 17 artists (see our interview with the curator), none of whom represent through style, content or medium the time in which they work.
Put another way, sampling is in. That means historical references to the ism schools of 20th century art or earlier and general sampling of popular motifs — all at the same time. It’s the same thing that’s happening now in literature, fashion and popular music. The Seventies are back? Yeah! So are the Cubist Twenties, and so, for that matter, are the Abstract Expressionist Fifties, Sixties, and so on.
In fact, the only thing that the artists in this exhibition have in common is paint. And maybe that’s the giveaway — the common denominator — even if it isn’t an ism: that this whole sampling exercise, this banishment of isms, is a way out of the cul de sac paint got itself into which led to the ‘conceptual decade’ at the end of the last century.
Rising stars like
Oscar Murillo, established stars such as Matt Grohjahn, Charline von Heyl and Richard Aldrich are painting, not welding. So forget conceptual; talk timeless.
I once knew someone who had a phobia about buttons, which meant everything she wore had to be fastened with Velcro. She wouldn’t get through the door of a new exhibition at the Musee des Arts Decoratifs.
From dainty little l8th Century buttons attributed to Fragonard to specially designed buttons by Alberto Giacometti and Jean Arp, Unbutton Fashion features 3000 examples in everything from ivory to fur.
Buttons? Yes. They were a big expense in the l8th Century when as many as 18 diamond buttons could be needed to do up a gent’s waistcoat. Eventually, male attire became a lot quieter and buttons as a male fashion statement disappeared whereas in women’s fashion they became ever-more imaginative; none more so than the designs used by Schiaparelli, made for her by artists as varied as Alberto Giacometti, Salvador Dali and Jean Clement.
As a different take on fashion this is a fascinating exhibition. The sheer variety is extraordinary and despite what my poor friend would probably say, Velcro simply doesn’t have the same impact.
Debutonner la Mode is at Musee des Arts Decoratifs, Paris, until 19 July.
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