New Jersey has a hidden treasure in the Zimmerli Art Museum of Rutgers University. Every time I volunteer there as a ZAMbassador, I encounter a new world of fascinating exhibits just waiting to be explored.
That said, the much-vaunted Art=Text=Art exhibition utterly disappointed me. It’s not that I don’t appreciate art; I do, very much so. But when the exhibits are so abstract, so aimed towards a narrow and fringe audience that finds value in a newspaper defaced with random splotches of paint, I can’t appreciate it as much as I do the collection of Soviet nonconformist art which screams of political oppression. To me the Zimmerli houses artwork with a much more clearly defined purpose in its famed Dodge collection than in this transient exhibit. But, in deference to the wonderful museum, let me point out what I could glean from the bizarre motley of Art=Text=Art.
To the avant-garde, there were appealing works in the exhibit. Artist Mel Bochner was on display with his 2006 oil on velvet monoprint “Irascible” – a large textual piece comprised of the word irascible and all of its Roget’s Thesaurus synonyms. Remarkable ease with the subject manifests in the passive mention of expletives as alternatives to “irascible.” Beyond the structure of the piece however, lies the complex use of color that I found peculiar. A surprisingly bright pallet of colors is barely visible behind the pervasive drudgery of grey splattered all over. I saw it as a representation of how irascibility, represented by the overwhelming grey colors, obscures a more warm and joyous nature, represented by the brighter array of colors.
Another intriguing piece on display was Bronlyn Jones’ “Erasure List.” The focus of this piece is examining what is left unsaid rather than what is said. Through the simple anaphora of “what is” not written, Jones examines what we neglect to consider. It is a simple piece with some powerful philosophical connotations – just what I admire!
Sadly, the rest of the exhibition failed to deliver for me. I was bored by the succession of larger circles on a wall (“Untitled” by Jill Baroff) and flabbergasted by pure scribbles on paper (“L.99.1″ by Christine Hiebert). These works and many more were highfalutin abstractions that just took away the initial intrigue I had in visiting the Zimmerli. My advice to art-lovers and museum-goers: don’t waste your time at Art=Text=Art. The ZAM has a lot more to offer by the way of European art, Soviet nonconformist art in the Dodge collection (highly recommend that one!), and other exhibits. Following the “Rachel Perry Welty: 24/7″ exhibit featuring a relatable commentary on the pervasiveness of technology and consumerism in our daily lives, Art=Text=Art dealt with esoteric, abstruse, and recondite themes that just did not appeal to me. I’m disappointed with the exhibit, but next time, I’ll skip to the other sections of the Zimmerli!
Art=Text=Art is on display until January 6, 2013 at the Jane Voorhees Zimmerli Art Museum of Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey. For more information, visit www.artequalstext.com or www.zimmerlimuseum.rutgers.edu.