As I wandered through the museum, I jotted down my favorite artists and pieces (there were eight). Here they are:
1.) "This is Not to Be Looked At" by John Baldessari
I liked this piece because of its simplicity and irony. It is telling us not to look at it, and yet it is on display at one of the premier art museums in the world, and has been looked at by millions of people.
2.) "The Ballad of Sexual Dependency" by Nan Goldin
The above photo was part of a series of about a hundred photos on display of various individuals and couples: men and women, men and men, women and women, friends, lovers. The photos were so raw and real, showing that sex and love, while universal, are not simple things.
3.) "Monitor" by Franz Kline
Most of Franz Kline's pieces look something like this one, except they are massive. I imagine someone who is not well-acquainted with contemporary art looking at this and being like, "Anyone can do that." My response is, "Maybe. But Franz Kline actually did it."
4.) "Factum I" by Robert Rauchenberg
I like the works of Robert Rauchenberg a lot. They are collages combining news clippings, paintings, maps, calendars, and other ephemera of modern life. I feel like Robert Rauchenberg, had he been born a little later, would have enjoyed making punk flyers.
5.) "Six Crimee" by Jean-Michel Basquiat
Basquiat was a pioneer of graffiti and street art. At this point, I feel I should say something about visiting a contemporary art museum. I think a common reaction, as I noted before, is "Why is that in a museum? Any kid could do that. What makes a piece like this special?" It's a fair question. I think there is a common misconception that still lingers in people's minds that what makes a piece of art "good" is the technical mastery it displays. A painting by Michelangelo is relatively easy to appreciate because most people cannot paint as well as Michelangelo. It takes years of training. For the past hundred years, however, art stopped being judged by its technical mastery, and is now generally judged by it's innovation and the ideas it evokes, which makes art these days a very subjective thing.
6.) "Incomplete Texts" by Charles Gaines
I like the work of Charles Gaines because it involves text. He fucks with text, and I like that. Incidentally, there is another Charles Gaines who is famous for helping to invent the sport of paintball.
7.) "Warning Shots Not Required" by Henry Taylor
I don't know the social context of this piece, but it feels like it has to do with war, or some sort of conflict. That is a common theme in contemporary art: conflict.
8.) "Warp Engines" by William Leavitt
I don't know what William Leavitt had in mind when he made this piece, but I had a very personal and specific reaction to it. It features a "faux stone" construction that is very popular in upscale suburban communities. Behind the faux stone are plain old pine 2 x 4s, and behind that is a plastic tube thing that looks like a "habitrail" hamster maze. I felt like this piece was commenting on the artificiality of master-planned suburban communities, which happen to be very common where I live. I do not like master-planned suburban communities, especially ones that used this "faux stone" shit.