Yvonne Korshak reviews Off-Broadway, Broadway, Film and Art

Tag: conceptual art

Parker's Transitional Object (PsychoBarn) reflected in the glass of Temple of Dendur gallery while museum Director Thomas Campbell speaks at the press opening

Art Review | Cornelia Parker’s Transitional Object (PsychoBarn) | Metropolitan Museum Roof | Summer 2016

… they never promised us a “real” garden …

Cornelia Parker, Transitional Object (PsychoBarn), site specific installation on roof of Metropolitan Museum, summer 2016

When is a house not a house?  When it’s a Transitional Object (PsychoBarn) by Cornelia Parker, site specific installation for summer 2016, Roof Garden of the Metropolitan Museum

When I first saw photos of Cornelia Parker’s Transitional Object in a newspaper, I thought oh no, why do they have to stick an eyesore on the museum’s lovely roof garden.  When I went to see it actually I found that it’s an intriguing eyesore, not what I’d like best to see on the roof but it does get you thinking.

Cornelia Parker's Transitional Object (PsychoBarn), view of the back showing scaffolding and water tanks used for ballast.

Cornelia Parker’s Transitional Object (PsychoBarn), showing scaffolding and water tanks used for ballast.

As you step from the elevator outside to the roof, you see in the far corner something like a house — but no, that can’t really be a house.  First off, it’s not being glimpsed along the road on a drive in the country – it’s on the roof of an art museum (alert there), surrounded by the Central Park and the skyscrapers of Manhattan.  And, if you had any thoughts this was some quaint touch for the summer roof garden, you fast find out from moving around it that the façade is a cover for a web of scaffolding, pipes and water tanks.  The water tanks are practical as well as expressive: they are ballast to keep the structure in place in high winds. Adding to Transitional Object’s disquieting effect, the shiny mansard roof looks inconsistent with the heavily weathered siding which, we learn, came from an old red barn in up-state New York.

Artist Cornelia Parker sitting on the steps and chatting with a visitor.

Artist Cornelia Parker sitting on the steps and chatting with a visitor.

Many associations and philosophical ideas are embedded in Transitional Object, as the artist, in person and in abundant accompanying written materials is quick to tell you.  As a house facade with an insubstantial and old fashioned look, it recalls a movie set and it was in fact designed after the house in Alfred Hitchcock’s film Psycho, which like many movie sets is a façade with struts holding it up and no real back to it.  Hitchcock designed the house in Psycho after one in a well known work of art, Edward Hopper’s painting, House by the Railroad in the Museum of Modern Art, NYC.   “Psycho House” looms so large in the popular imagination that a version of it is a tourist attraction at Universal Studios but, for the sake of visitors, Universal built it not just a façade but a complete structure (click here for a terrific series of photos about “the house”).  So we have a kind of conversation across culture, in which four of the “same” house, all differently constructed, all have something to say.  There’s the Hopper painting, the movie set in Psycho, the intact Psycho House at Universal Studios, and now Transitional Object — to which we can add a fifth, the archetypal old house, haunted or otherwise, of the rural and small town American landscape, that rests in many of our memories and imaginations.

And then there are reflections …

Parker's Transitional Object (PsychoBarn) reflected in the glass of Temple of Dendur gallery while museum Director Thomas Campbell speaks at the press opening

Parker’s Transitional Object (PsychoBarn) reflected in the glass of Temple of Dendur gallery while museum Director Thomas Campbell speaks at the press opening

Which is the “real” house?  In tossing into our thoughts the house with a history, Transitional Object shakes us up to think about what is really “real.”  That philosophical questions underlies Transitional Object, moving it beyond amusing associations to a work with depth of meaning.

The artist is also interested in the view of the psychoanalyst, D. W. Winnicott, and it’s from his theories that she drew her title.  For Winnicott, a “transitional object” refers to objects children seize upon, such security blankets and teddy bears, to provide comfort and enabling their developing independence from their mothers.

British artist Cornelia Parker, the artist, sits on the steps of Transitional Object (Psychobarn)

Artist Cornelia Parker taking the sun on the steps of Transitional Object (PsychoBarn)

As Parker commented, Norman Bates in Hitchcock’s Psycho failed to make that transition and so, taking on the persona of his own dead mother, he became a murderer of women.  In this connection, the artist feels that Transitional Object, as houses in general, take on a symbolism referring to the womb.  Visually, the array of pipes and water tanks in the back do suggest an external view of the inner parts of the human body, the things that we don’t ordinarily see, that we shouldn’t see, but are always with us.  As a rich work of conceptual art, Transitional Object is loaded with ideas, more than I’ve said, perhaps even more than the artist has thought, some you may discover yourself.

And speaking of the living-dead —  the stately decrepit structure with its guts exposed brings to mind Salvador Dali’s surrealist painting, Burning Giraffe.  Have a look also at Dali’s Spectre of Sex Appeal.  But Dali’s work is small, Burning Giraffe is 13.8 in x 10.6 in, and hangs on a wall, and through that alone is less in your face.  Although not literally a public space, the roof garden of the Metropolitan Museum of Art functions much like a public space.

My preference for this outdoor summertime space is for a work of art that matches and enriches the loveliness of the setting, one that offers some of those emotions and sensations associated with “real” gardens  (I know, I know, What is Real anyhow?).  My all-time favorite — so far — is Tomas Saraceno’s Cloud City, on the roof summer of 2012.  I like the installations that, like Cloud City, engage visitors physically while, with Transitional Object, we mainly look.  To me, it kind of spoils the view … but, thinking about something rich and challenging is a worthy activity.  This is a good place to go with a date – lots to talk about!  And refreshments are available on the roof too.

Cornelia Parker’s site specific installation Transitional Object (PsychoBarn) will be on the roof of the Metropolitan Museum through October 31, 2016.  For more information about the work, and about visiting the museum, click here.

Art Review | “Roof Garden Installation” by Pierre Huyghe | The Metropolitan Museum of Art | Summer 2015

… only there’s no “garden”…

Paving stones are uprooted and water is tricking in and around — is the maintenance crew working on a leak?  No. This is the new art installation on the roof of the Metropolitan Museum.

Huyghe roof garden installation, schist boulder

Huyghe’ roof garden installation, schist boulder

The site is magnificent, nestled in Central Park and among magnificent New York skyline views, but this installation, which has no title, is dull.

In the midst of it all, there’s a large, unworked boulder of Manhattan schist, the stone that forms the familiar outcroppings in Central Park, and supports Manhattan’s skyscrapers.   Some stone dust scattered around the boulder is said to have shaken off during the stone’s transport to the museum, and the artist chose to leave where it settles.

Huyghe roof garden installation, the aquarium element

Huyghe ‘sroof garden installation, the aquarium element

The other major element is a large rectangular aquarium:  inside it is a floating boulder of lava about the size of the schist boulder.  Below that is a mound of sand with small swimming fish — lampreys, and tadpole shrimp we’re told in the written information accompanying the installation.

One can think about contrasts:  the unworked boulder contrasts with the worked paving stones.  Schist is more dense than lava.  The yearly change of roof installation contrasts with the relatively unchanging genetics of the fish.  The inclusion of the accidental grit near the boulder to the roof recalls Marcel Duchamp’s incorporation of of accident — the glass cracked in transport — into his work of art, The Bridge Stripped Bare by Her Bachelors, Even (The Large Glass) about a century ag0 (click on live link to see it).  He even incorporated the accumulated dust.  What a wonderfully challenging work it is!

Conceptual art focuses on thought.  But there’s nothing in this roof top installation that enlarges thought.  Nothing is shared with particular insight, let alone wit or irony.

We might well have had something to enjoy in a more immediate, sensuous and inspiring sense.  The Metropolitan Museum’s gorgeous roof installation of Cloud City by Tomas Saraceno three summers ago springs to mind — and other summer projects as well.

What a disappointing way to treat a summer oasis!

Better go downstairs and see Van Gogh:  Irises and Roses.

Pierre Huyghe’s roof garden installation will be on exhibit through November 1, 2015, weather permitting.  For information on visiting the exhibition and on current exhibitions, click right here.

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