Ursula von Rydingsvard, Wall Pocket, 2003-04, MoMA, New York
We've all experienced nonrepresentational art; beautiful or jarring abstract forms that provoke in our mind as well as our senses. It has the unique distinction of depending almost entirely upon the museum or gallery wall for its interpretive context. Abstraction splinters the way we think about an artwork because it prods and challenges us to break the experience down into essential units of color form, sound or texture. The reactions it inspires run the gamut from pretentious reverence, abject distain, utter dismissal, playful arousal to befuddled head scratching.
Alma Thomas (1891-1978), White Daisies Rhapsody, 1978, Smithsonian American Art Museum, Washington DC
In our house we have something called the non-representational joke. We had several at the dinner table tonight and I'm thinking of calling the Whitney Museum to see if one of the moppets could submit a performance piece for the Biennial. They go a little something like this:
Why did the chicken cross the road to the water?
Because he dropped his sippy cup?
No (thinking hard).
Because... he was friends with a duck?
I give up.
Because he was a rock and roll boy chicken.
Mark Rothko, Untitled (Violet, Black, Orange, Yellow on Red and White), 1949, Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York.
I know, I had the same reaction! It is so sophisticated and masterful the way she smashes the conventional structure to pieces. So subversive! This is all completely uncharted territory in both avant-garde circles and the comedy world. Here's another gem I learned tonight:
(Laughing about the sound of "tutu who?") Orange.
Say orange who?
Marcel Duchamp, The Bride Stripped bare by Her Bachelors, Even/The Large Glass, 1915-23, The Philadelphia Museum of Art
(This one always reminded me of Odysseus' poor Penelope being beset by suitors.)