Exhibits currently on view at The Metropolitan Museum of Art
Inspired by Susan Sontag’s seminal 1964 essay, “Notes on ‘Camp,’” The Met Costume Institute examines the spread of the camp aesthetic from its largely gay, subcultural roots to its acceptance by the mainstream. Often characterized by an ironic appropriation of things associated with bad taste (like kitsch), camp was first cited as a term in 1909, when its connotations were decidedly more negative. However, by the 1970s, camp became synonymous with cutting-edge sophistication, and it wasn’t long before fashion designers adapted it for haute couture and ready-to-wear clothing. Examples of both can be found in this show of outfits that reference the more outré reaches of pop culture while also making knowing asides about the nature of fashion itself.
A half-century ago, the United States put a man on the moon, an achievement that seems almost inconceivable today, when can-do spirit and faith in progress has been supplanted by social-media-abetted know-nothingness and self-absorption. Yet the mission was indeed accomplished, and the Met offers proof in the form of photographs brought back by astronauts from their lunar excursions. Their equipment of choice for documenting their adventures was the Hasselblad medium-format camera, which produced pictures of astounding clarity of the moon’s surface and the humans who trod upon it. These images serve as the centerpiece for this show, which also includes an historical assortment of photos of the moon from the 19th century to the present, as well as celestially-related drawings, prints, paintings, films, astronomical instruments, and cameras that were taken into space.
A sculptor who often used hemp fiber as a medium, Indian artist Mrinalini Mukherjee (1949–2015) wasn’t very well known in this country, which probably explains why this exhibit represents the first comprehensive survey of her work in the United States. Her abstracted forms, which combined figurative elements with those inspired by nature, were woven intuitively, without benefit of preparatory studies. These spontaneous creations form the backbone of this show, which also displays example of Mukherjee’s efforts in ceramic and bronze.
Technically, it’s “Play it fucking loud!”—at least that’s what Bob Dylan famously instructed his band to do after being heckled for going electric at a gig in ’66—but we understand why the mighty Met would want to scrub out the cursing. To toast the greatest genre of music—that’s rock & roll, of course—New York’s art-institution powerhouse turns it up to 11, displaying posters, costumes and other historical ephemera, not to mention around 130 guitars, drums and other instruments used by everyone from Chuck Berry and the Beatles to Van Halen and St. Vincent.
This re-installation of The Met’s holdings of 17th-century Dutch painting brings together masterpieces by Rembrandt, Hals, Vermeer, and others in a thematically arranged hanging that presents these treasures from Holland’s Golden Age in a whole new light.
Alicja Kwade, a Polish artist who lives and works in Berlin is this year’s recipient of The Met’s annual commission to create an installation for the museum’s roof garden. These projects are perennial crowd-pleasers, as they add a touch of artistic enhancement to the rooftop’s spectacular views of Central Park and the Midtown skyline. Kwade’s approach seems tailor-made for the site, as it usually entails minimalist sculptural ensembles made of glass, stone and metal—materials that give her efforts a luxurious gloss. Kwade often plays perceptual tricks on the viewer as part of her overall interest in deconstructing the philosophical and scientific teachings we rely on to make sense of the world. At The Met, she reaches for the cosmos with a pair of pieces that evoke the Solar System.
This long-term exhibit surveys large-scale American abstract painting and sculpture from the postwar era to the present.