We visited an institution called MASS MoCA this last weekend in North Adams, Mass. Unbeknown to us , a legal saga was in the process of being resolved, as a court in Springfield found in favor of MASS MoCA . The institution and Christoph Buchel had been locked in a dispute over the disposition of an unfinished project whose budget had ballooned out of control.
What did catch our attention was a show featuring the work of Spencer Finch. I was unable to take shots of his work as there was a general photographic lock down, a likely consequence of the Buchel matter. However, his site: Spencer Finch, includes a number of pieces in the show. One can also look in on the MASS MoCA site.
Why Mr. Finch? The more that I saw of his work, the more I was reminded of A&P and the things that we tend to discuss here. Finch is an artist who can, on one hand, be seen as an earnest soul bemusedly pursuing his muse (A&P), or, on the other, a clever exploiter of the system (not A&P).
We understand that Mr. Finch began by looking into subjective color. A number of his earlier pieces consisted of creating color samples, in watercolor, of objects that he was observing under differing conditions. Three sheets give us such samples taken from objects in a room in the vicinity of the Rouen Cathedral, Monet’s subject in a famous series of paintings. Another grouping displays his attempts to remember and paint various degrees of darkness that he encountered in his studio. This concern with color memory forms a thread in the show which, for me, has a certain continuity and economy, complicated a little by his story about Monet.
Beyond that, the show devolves into a panoply of equipment and effects that ends up far away from what seems the original premise. Indeed, I thought I was looking at a quotidian survey of art from the seventies and eighties until I discovered that it was all Spencer Finch.
My intention is merely to bring Mr. Finch to our attention. I can see at least two areas of discussion: his work with color and memory – or otherwise the nexus between language and perception – and his success as an impresario. What do you think of his approach to the color memory issue? Is there something fresh here? How about his employment of off-the-shelf ways to fill a gallery? Is that fair of me? Honestly, I got the strongest feeling that he is using a lot of sure-fire stuff to give his ideas a greater sense of consequence. But it’s clever. He makes me think of Warhol. But instead of soup cans, he draws from the given M.O. and paraphernalia of art itself. One gallery contains a hundred framed pink-painted discs. These are said to be his attempts on subsequent days to remember the color of Jackie Kennedy’s pillbox hat – all in the purported context of the Warren Report. Warhol spoken here, but in a very interesting dialect.
This installation is programmed to replicate a wind pattern that S.F. recorded at Walden Pond.
So what do you think?