BEST MUSEUM EXHIBITION Minneapolis 2003 - Walker Art Center
Go-go globalism seems to be the ruling trend in the big brick culture arcade next to the enormous hole in the ground (which, for all we know, might be some kind of Robert Smithson-type landscape installation). But though the current show "How Latitudes Become Forms" could be alternately titled "How Curators Befuddle Museum-Goers," the Walker has actually had good luck in recent seasons with bringing us the giddy, the brainy, and the boisterously colorful. Both "Let's Entertain" and the touring "Superflat" exhibit had a pinball-machine-hitting-a-billion quality of ejaculatory abundance. While the catalog for this winter's "Ultrabaroque" met all the standards of pomp and ponderousness that are the rule for museums these days, the art itself had a clear and compelling purpose: to search for the influence of 17th- and 18th-century Latin American art in the visual spirit of today. Some of the highlights of the show make this connection most explicitly. In the satirical "Employee of the Month" series, young Mexican artist Miguel Calderón poses and photographs guards and maintenance staff from Mexico City's National Museum of Art in tableaux taken from the art palace's holdings. (The employees' expressions suggest that they're in on the joke--but what that joke is, exactly, is a complicated thing.) In somewhat similar spirit, Brazilian artist Adriana Varejão creates painting-sculptures that appear to be classical or decorative canvasses on the surface yet peel away to expose bleeding layers of what looks like organ meat. Here, the placid face of art--or of a culture--can't mask the live flesh behind the scenes. Self-reflexive but not superficial, political but not predictable, "Ultrabaroque" transcended its title to present some memorable images--something for a museum to do in between digging more holes.