Stop Making Sense

But high points are few and always held in check. Perched in the middle of the "Innocence" show, Jeff Koons's incomprehensible, ungiving stainless-steel Rabbit elicits curiosity. Had it been installed in a room with Johns's Flag and Matthew Barney's The Cabinet of Baby Fay La Foe (which is in the "Matter" show with other works that employ wax), a powerful black hole might have formed in the museum.

But this just gets you thinking about what's missing. About how extraordinary it would have been to see genius outsiders like Henry Darger, James Castle, and Morton Bartlett. Or a cluster of late Picassos, just to suggest that he may have been one of the best painters of the '60s. As for newish work by Laura Owens, Chris Ofili, John Currin, or Kara Walker—forget it; according to "Open Ends," they haven't happened. For that matter, neither did the dematerialization of art in the '60s, Barry LeVa, or the paintings of Frank Stella.

Worst of all is the total elimination of the American painting of the '80s. There's not a single canvas by Julian Schnabel, David Salle, Elizabeth Murray, Eric Fischl, Terry Winters, Joan Snyder, Lari Pittman, Carroll Dunham, Peter Halley, or Philip Taaffe. This would be comical if it weren't so creepy and disturbing. Evidently, painting's OK as long as it's German. So closed-minded is "Open Ends" that its title turns ominously literal: Openness ends.

Hard landing: Barnett Newman's Broken Obelisk (1963) at MOMA
photo: Robin Holland
Hard landing: Barnett Newman's Broken Obelisk (1963) at MOMA


Open Ends
Museum of Modern Art
11 West 53rd Street
Staggered closings through March 4

I love that MOMA's experimenting with their collection, playing with themselves. A glance at the catalog confirms they're doing a superb job of collecting the art of the last 20 years. But after 18 months of investigating alternative ways of looking at their holdings—some ways more successful than others—the drudgery of "Open Ends" suggests the museum is tired of all this summarizing. Presumably, they—like us—want to put "MOMA2000" behind them.

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