I chose to see Rosemarie Trockel: A Cosmos at the New Museum because I didn’t know what to expect. I wanted to be put off. The reviews had assured me that is what I would get and that was what I got. Sometimes you need to be asked to look harder and think better. Really, what else should we be asked to do when we see art? I had the same experience at Boetti and I’m always happy to have it. It was confusion followed by acceptance like a recovery step.
Seen in a series of white boxes, few shows at the New Museum look good or bad. They are white boxes of the standard chelsea gallery variety (though one is painted gray, hoorah). Trockel curated some art and historical objects into her Cosmos. It makes things unsettled, again, in a good way. Who made what and why? Keep asking, keep learning. In the end, like Crosseyed and Painless (a favorite Talking Heads tune of mine), Trockel loses her shape trying to act casual. The environments, zines, wool and yarn work and sculptures become a broad career shown in a blurry amalgam of stuff.
This stuff is often quite beautiful. Recent sculpture is shiny, wobbly and off center. Ceramics that are rough hewn and metal casts are pretty, sometimes to their detriment. I was enamoured with a low slung table that appears to be marble (it’s ceramic), about twice the size as your standard coffee table but just a bit shorter. It held nine large tablets, also in white lacquered sheen. Draped over the piece was a torn edge black cloth covering the interior edge of each tablet and the recessed void at its center. It looked like a shroud and immediately made me think of death. In fact, it is called Landscapian shroud of my mother, 2008.
The drawings are a bit sad. They seem like they are trying to be someone else. The yarn works from the last few years are minimal and pretty. I am going to break my recently christened rule and invoke Daniel Buren’s name. They owe such a huge debt to classic minimal work, it is not worth name dropping them all.
I commend this type of presentation. I want to be taken for a ride. Can we agree that making it easy for us as viewers isn’t doing anyone any good? Jordan Kantor’s review in Artforum just hit my desk today. Read it, it will get you much closer to the truth about this show than I can. Let’s congratulate the New Museum. This isn’t a line up for hours blockbuster, and they knew that when they signed up.