Resisting the Ordinary

Addie Reine

The unsettling works of the “Abstract Resistance” exhibit bewilder and astound as contemporary masterpieces fight against our perception of art through graphic interpretations of traumatic historical events. The mediums used to showcase these individual interpretations by the artists include sculptures, film, written work, paintings, photos, and to some what might resemble a pile of junk.

The “Abstract Resistance” exhibit is on display at the Walker Art Museum in Minneapolis, which is located straight across from the Sculpture Garden. The exhibit premiered on February 27 and will be running through May on floors four, five, and six.

The purpose of “Abstract Resistance” is to ultimately perplex the audience by leaving the artwork undefined and therefore open to interpretation. Consequently, the art can inspire thought-provoking questions on the viewer’s part. Although these questions are not meant to be answered, they are meant to increase audiences ability to simply confront the questions.

From World War II to present, the artwork demonstrates the complexity of unexpected and striking events in history and today, such as September 11. Some works, such as “Ground Zero” by Ellsworth Kelly, are more easily understood as the issue they present is straightforward.

“Ground Zero,” a photo taken from the New York Times Newspaper of the World Trade Center covered by green paper, portrays the artist’s opposition to exploiting this site and his idea of a monument of grass in its place.

Other works, however, such as the 52-minute film, “Poke in the Eye/Nose/Ear,” by Bruce Nauman, provide an expansive window of interpretation because there is not a definite issue that the artwork portrays. This film shows a middle-aged man’s face as he is continuously poked.

Aside from the stimulating works, there are also graphic and disturbing pieces. A film by Hollis Frampton, “(nostalgia),” immediately draws one’s attention as the sound echoes from the television screen throughout the white-walled gallery; however, one realizes too late that the television displays a limp corpse of a human being violently flung against a pole. Along with the unfortunately up-close indecent exposure plastered onto the screen, this piece is neither insightful or pleasurable to view.

Particularly unique, although incredibly unsettling, is the artwork of Kara Walker in which he writes on 52 sheets of paper using words and images of racism and relationships that the reader is free to create for themselves. The images that were formed from this work were inappropriate, graphic images and in this way the work fulfilled the “Abstract Resistance’s” theme of discomforting confrontations.

While the “Abstract Resistance” exhibits a thought-provoking and the philosophical approach to contemporary art is intriguing, the exhibit’s graphic concepts can sometimes prove overpowering and distracting to what the exhibit has to offer. Still, because the Walker offers more than the “Abstract Resistance” exhibit, this museum makes a great Saturday afternoon venture into the world of art.

Questions, and you will have some–about the exhibit, or even about how to find the nearest bathroom in the maze of the museum- can be answered by the knowledgeable and enthusiastic guides roaming the galleries.