Wednesday, April 22, 2015

On Kawara and Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum Juxtaposed

On Kawara's first retrospective, held at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, conveys to the viewer the dedication and consistency that Kawara demonstrated in his works since 1966.  For a master conceptualist like On Kawara, Guggenheim is a fitting match for the scale and depth of his body of work.  The exhibit showcases many of his series, such as Today, One Million Years, and Title.  It also makes it clear that the longest-running series is Today, by having the date paintings spread across the exhibit unlike the other series, which are grouped by other series between the date paintings.  No one body of work overshadows the rest – every one of them are well-balanced.

The greatest strength of the exhibit is the linear nature of it.  For Kawara's pieces, this linear viewing order not only makes the viewing experience more sensible for viewers but also allows each piece to be displayed in chronological order.  The beginning (bottom floor, beginning of spiral) and end of the exhibit (top floor, end of spiral) created by the spiraling corridor of the architecture makes it easy for the viewers to connect the pieces chronologically.  From an installation standpoint, the spiraling tower of Guggenheim creates an interesting juxtaposition against the linearity of Kawara’s works.

However, the exhibit is marred by one flaw – despite its linear nature, there is no clear end to the exhibit.  Once viewers reach the end of the exhibit, they are forced to turn around and walk back down, which breaks the immersion.  There should have been a clear indication at the end of the exhibit such as an elevator leading viewers back down to the lobby.  Last year’s Zero exhibit executed this very well by leading the viewers to a hall of installation pieces as the grand finale, after which viewers will ride the elevator back down to the lobby.  While it doesn't discount the depth and scope of Kawara’s art, the abrupt end to the exhibit creates a distraction to an otherwise exceptional exhibition.  



  1. Nice review! The organization of your writing and description is strong and you are clear about the strengths and weaknesses of the retrospective. In the first paragraph there are two sentences one after the other that start with “The exhibit…” Consider varying the sentence structure. It is tough to write a review without using the word exhibit, but it appears pretty frequently—maybe create variety by using words like display, show, etc. I like how you explained your opinion about the inconclusive nature of the exhibit by giving a past example of a show that concluded in a better manner. Good job!!!

  2. I thought you made some really lovely points about the exhibition's narrative flow, and how it was strengthened by the architecture of the Guggenheim. I think it would be great to maybe mention not only the abrupt end to the exhibition, but also the people reading the work in the main lobby who weren't able to be heard. Reading your review, made me want you to talk about the abrupt end at the very beginning too, to show you'll be analyzing all parts of the show: good or bad. Otherwise, this was a great review, and I agree with your points on the architecture's part in the whole experience.