Broad Museum curator Alison Gass sat down with City Pulse and offered a preview of some of the exhibits to come at the Broad in 2013-‘14.
The next big exhibit at the Broad, beginning Nov. 22, will fill the entire second floor with the futuristic drawings and models of visionary architect Lebbeus Woods, who died last year. Woods didn't get many designs built, but he's an international cult hero and intellectual idol across a range of creative fields, including Hollywood (he is credited with conceptual designs for "Alien 3.") Cross Buckminster Fuller's vast urban schemes with the dripping Gothic architecture of Catalan mystic Antonio Gaud', toss in a withering critique of mass American culture (except the Cartoon Network, which Woods said he liked) and you have some idea of his distinctive vision. The Broad Museum exhibit, the largest collection of Woods' intricate drawings and models ever gathered, will be on loan from the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. Curators from SF MOMA are heading to the Broad next week to begin work on this ambitious show.
Two things make the Woods extravaganza especially suited to the Broad Museum.
Not only was Woods born in Lansing — much of his family will be on hand for the opening — but he was also cited by Broad Museum architect Zaha Hadid as a major influence. Hadid, too, started out as a "paper architect" who created conceptual designs and paintings before her buildings started to materialize around the world in the past 15 years or so. Gass hopes the Woods exhibit will not only serve up a lot of way-out spectacle (floating buildings, underground cities, a space tomb for Albert Einstein) but dig into Woods’ radical critique of modern culture and trace some of the thinking that led up to Hadid's "parametric" approach to architecture, including the Broad itself.
"The work will formally echo the building it's shown in," Gass said. "That's really exciting to me." Broad Museum Director Michael Rush hopes that Hadid herself will come to the Broad and check out the show. (Gass said Hadid's schedule kept her from attending the Woods show in San Francisco.)
The Broad's Global Focus series, a showcase for individual artists from around the world, will continue this fall with an exhibit by Indian artist Mithu Sen, known for a bold images that play with sexuality and gender.
"The Genres," a series of three exhibits serving up new twists on traditional painting genres, will move into its second phase in January 2013 with "Still Life," a kitchensink-y exhibit by Portland-based Jessica Jackson-Hutchins. The first entry in "The Genres" series, "Portraiture," packed the Minskoff Gallery with crisp and colorful portraits of Bohemian hipsters painted by Hope Gangloff. This winer, "Still Life" will shift from the demimondaine to the semi-mundane with Jackson-Hutchins' pointedly domestic installations using children's clothes, furniture, ceramics and other everyday objects.
Gass said Jackson-Hutchins is part of a growing "un-monumental" movement that elevates the everyday world to investigate how people actually live.
Gass wants to both please and provoke visitors to the Broad, but admits that’s a tall order, if not an outright contradiction. She may have found the perfect mix of visual splendor and tough-minded political content in the work of Pakistani artist Imran Qureshi, who blends age-old painting techniques with violent imagery in a way that reflects his nation's history. Gass has wanted to work with Qureshi for years, and will finally do it for a major show in the Broad Museum’s big Minskoff Gallery, beginning in April 2014. Qureshi was scheduled to do an exhibit at the Broad in spring 2013, but suddenly became very hot in the art world, with a major exhibition in Berlin and a commission from New York's Metropolitan Opera to create a work on its rooftop garden. For the Met commission, Qureshi painted intricate patterns suggesting angel wings, vegetation and feathers — motifs from traditional Indian and Persian miniature painting. But he used blood-red paint, creating the impression from afar that a slaughter had taken place on the roof of the opera house. Gass is glad Qureshi wasn't available in spring, because after the Met project, the art world is waiting to see what he will do next.
“Now he's super famous, but he’s pushed this idea as far as it can go, so he's going to do something totally new for us,” Gass said. There will be intricate miniatures, a large installation, video art and more. “He’s very powerful,” Gass said. “He hits the space between beauty and horror. You're astounded by his skill but it brings the social and political conditions of Pakistan into the gallery as well.”
The third "Genres" entry, beginning in April, packs up the landscape genre and launches it into orbit — literally — with the work of New-York-based artist-photographer-provocatuer Trevor Paglen. There's plenty of beauty in Paglen's large-scale photographic panoramas of the American landscape, taken with an astronomer's lens. But the telltale streaks of satellites, drones, spy planes and other ominous objects layer a different story over the grandeur. Paglen has an obsession with black ops, spy reconnaissance, secret military bases and other hidden layers of the world's power structure, which he deploys with a keen aesthetic sense.
When the Paglen exhibit, curated by Gass, is over this fall, Paglen will return to curate a big show of his own that will look at nothing less than the history of technology's impact on the visual landscape, from Frederick Jackson Turner and Mark Rothko to the present.
How does the human brain process language? What makes art different from, and similar to, words? “Postscript: Writing After Conceptual Art,” beginning in March, will delve into those questions and more, with over 50 artists and works from the 1960s to the present. The theme of the exhibit, language- and text-based art, opens up a gigantic can of alphabet soup through which viewers will do a high-concept backstroke, exploring the relationship between lan guage and art. The exhibit will be the first in the world to take a comprehensive look at “conceptual writing,” the definition of which we will leave to the experts next spring.
The Broad’s major exhibit in fall 2014 is "Re:China" a generous cross-section of Chinese art from the past 10 to 15 years curated by Wang Chunchen of China's Central Academy of Fine Arts, recently chosen to curate the Venice Biennale China Pavilion. The art will focus on technological, social and political changes in contemporary China. Taking advantage of the strong presence of Chinese students and faculty at MSU, Gass and the Broad staff will invite guest Chinese speakers to talk about the issues raised in the art. After this fall’s exibit, Chunchen will keep his hand in at the Broad as an adjunct curator, another signal of the Broad’s international reach.
In 2014 and beyond, Gass and Rush want to bring international guest curators to the Broad to "widen the eye" of the museum, in Rush’s words. More international collaborations, including a project with an arts center in Istanbul, are in the works.