The title is notable because it implies risky questions: What is contemporary art? After 20 years of displaying art objects and installations, has MADC ever really defined what it does? Do they need to? And if there is no definition -- if it's up to the patron to decide what is and isn't art -- how do you commemorate two decades of, well, whatever it is?
"Day" is a diverse survey of typical contemporary art, spread out among MADC's many enormous rooms. The 19th century compound is big and stately, and there is plenty of space to project videos, set up sculptures, and hang frames on the walls.
The first thing you see is "Quetzalcoatl," a crescent of connected shopping carts arranged in the middle of the tile floor. Footlights send subtle shadows along the whitewashed wall, but otherwise the display is very simple. In a printed statement, Guatemalan artist
Let's cut to the chase: Contemporary art is generally odd and uncomfortable, and the people who visit an art gallery feel compelled to "understand" it. While the Mona Lisa is something you "appreciate," contemporary art is something you either "get" or "don't get." Some people hate this: They grumble and shake their heads, they insist that their kid could do that, and they stomp off, convinced that all artists are pretentious blowhards.
Others will find meaning in works like "Quetzalcoatl," and they may even find that particular arrangement of shopping carts brilliant. A more approachable sample is
The problem is that art has been "modern" for more than a century, and "contemporary" art refers to almost anything after Picasso.
MADC has put together a good exhibit, showcasing international artists with a wide range of materials and ideas, and it is definitely worth an afternoon stroll. Two entire walls are dedicated to a timeline of MADC exhibits, and it is remarkable how much the museum has done in 20 years. The artworks at MADC can be frustrating, but the space itself is essential: MADC is a playground for postmodern creativity, unconstrained by commercial pressures. Every country should have at least one such place.
This critic was neutral about most of the exhibit until the final room: "Zincfonia Tropical" is a short video (one minute and 45 seconds) about a mango rolling down a corrugated steel roof. The mango bounces along, falling from one edge onto another surface, until it is joined but a bunch of other mangoes. The video is lighthearted and fun and distinctly
The best way to approach a group show like "Day" is to seek out that one thing you particularly like. Think of it as a scavenger hunt. If it speaks to you, MADC has done its job, and will hopefully keep doing it for another 20 years.
"El Dia Que Nos Hicimos Contemporaneos" continues through
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