Art Detroit

She was a large woman. She’s spinning around like a turntable and I’m thinking this is genius. Front. Back. Roundandround. I'm so pleasantly surprised. The gold lame dress didn’t hurt either. 

I like the big stuff, the Yankee Stadiums, the Roman Coliseums. They're all in. Floor to ceiling. Eyeballs and toenails. No hesitation. When it comes to art, Detroit has some of it. Here's a Diego Rivera elsewhere in the city.

This, however, was intimate. Not small, but intimate. You could walk in and out of the room without even worrying about it. She was at the center of it all. 

The guitar she held played a couple of chords over and over again. Now that's gonna cut one of two ways. 

But it was good. She was good. 

The gold curtain was a part of the show too.

Three thousand years of placing women on pedestals never made so much sense.

And whoever put her there, he really nailed it. 

Old picture.

New frame.

Art, man, art.

Ragnar, you did a nice job. 

[A review of Woman in E, Ragnar Kjartansson's exhibit at the Museum of Contemporary Art Detroit (MOCAD), now through April 10, 2016]

Woman in E
Ragnar Kjartansson
Museum of Contemporary Art Detroit (MOCAD)
4454 Woodward Avenue, Detroit
January 15 through April 10, 2016


  1. If I may -- I am writing a paper on this exhibit, and I was wondering what your take on the exhibit was. There isn't much written on this in terms of analysis or commentary outside the descriptive, so I was wondering how you felt about it overall. How did you view the Woman in Gold, and what is your interpretation of the work? What did your gaze add to the work, and how do you feel your involvement affected the aleatoric qualities of the Woman in E? I found it intriguing that the moment you walk in, you are immediately part of the art - you are affecting it and others' experiences of it, and your gaze is just as much part of the work as the Woman in Gold herself.

    1. Thanks for your question, and my apologies for the delay in responding to this. I am reluctant to comment too intensely on the show, since art criticism is not something I feel particularly adept at. I will say this thought ... The presentation of a woman on a pedestal is of course a very old trope in art. In that sense, it is both entirely predictable and quite hard to reinterpret. I think what transpires in this case is that the invitation into the art space is a lure to a separate experience of being in the space itself. While aleatoric is not a word in my everyday vocabulary, it also doesn't seem like the right word to me in this context either. I actually would say there is very little that was random or "dicey" here. To the contrary, every action visible or audible was predictable, consistent, repeating. As for the role of the viewer's gaze, I don't know how that differs from any other form of visual art, though I will agree that the space the viewer occupies does transform the space. What I found more interesting was my distance from the art, the sense of independence I had from it, and oddity of being a viewer, and observer, a voyeur, of this strange phenomenon that had nothing to do with me, would happen whether I was there or not, didn't even need an audience to exist. Because the protagonist is a human being, and human beings usually need audiences, at least in art contexts. Anyway, those are some random thoughts. Good luck on your paper. I really enjoyed the show, and really enjoyed it and enjoyed being surprised by it.


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