After walking Jackson for an hour around the lake I decided to go to Dia. It’s really quite close – go to Cold Spring, turn north on 9D and follow it for about 10 minutes and you’re there. The entire trip takes less than 30 minutes. The location is nice, right on the Hudson River. After paying the $12 admission fee you go inside a large, airy warehouse like space sub-divided into rooms. You aren’t allowed to take pictures inside, but to give you an idea of the exhibits look here. My pictures are consequently taken outside.
I must say that I don’t relate too well to this type of art. In fact I was so disappointed that I almost asked for my money back. Not so much because of the art but because so many of the promised exhibits were “under construction”. Then I realized that they weren’t being built – they were the actual exhibits! For example: one room had a pile of broken glass at the entrance; a pile of sand with a piece of plywood stuck in it in the center; and a pile of what looked like cement at the far end. Turns out it was an exhibit by Robert Smithson. Another room had a series of bare plywood cubes, some open and some with the tops closed. I thought that these were stands on which some kind of artwork would be placed. I finally concluded that they too were an exhibit (Or maybe I was wrong since I don’t see them on the list of exhibits). And then there’s On Kawara who specializes in small rectangular paintings with dates on them – 36 of them in a room. I ‘googled’ the value of these and one of them (Feb. 10, 1982) sold at auction for $633,295 in 2013). If you want to know what it’s all about read the introduction on his part of the website. You find things along these lines: “The reiteration of countless dates served as the vehicle of ontological meditation rather than epistemological inquiry: time came to be experienced as a lived abstraction. Through this telling juxtaposition of three different works, Kawara subtly restated an abiding preoccupation in his practice: the conviction that temporality and duration, while objectively determined—that is, determined according to standardized systems and concepts—are nonetheless always and finally subjectively experienced in and through the present moment. ”
One of the reasons I went was to see the Bernd and Hilla Becher photographs. They specialized in industrial art and seem to have made it their mission to document industrial installations all over the world. I’d read about them, but didn’t really get their work. I thought that maybe if I saw them large (i.e. not just tiny images in a book or on the internet) I might appreciate them more. Still don’t get it though. The photographs are all of different installations, but they somehow all look the same. There doesn’t seem to be much in the way of composition – just a large industrial plant plopped in the middle of the frame, head on every time. They don’t seem to be great technical masterpieces (i.e. of developing, printing etc.) the way Ansel Adams photographs are. They just left me cold – maybe that’s what’s supposed to happen. Maybe I’m not being fair. After all is this so different from my graveyards, ruins etc? They’re documenting their stuff. I’m documenting mine. But then nobody would consider me a great photographer, the founder of a school of photography (the Dusseldorf School), and the teacher of such luminaries as Andreas Gursky, Thomas Ruff and Thomas Struth. Gursky alone has four of the most valuable photographs in the world: Rhein II sold for $4,338,500, and three prints of 99 Cent II Diptychon sold for $3,346,456, $2.48 million, $2.25 million respectively. I don’t like these much either, but then I’ve only ever seen them in books and on the internet. In their full glory (They’re around 6 feet by 10 feet in size) I’m sure they have more of an impact. I suppose that with photographs such as these we’ve left the realm of photography and entered the world of art where anything is possible.
I just don’t get it. I suppose that I’m just a philistine with no taste. Maybe I’ll come to like this kind of art. After all there was a time when I didn’t like Wagner and there are a number of photographers (e.g. Lee Friedlander) that initially I couldn’t stand but now have grown to like.