The Philadelphia Museum of Art continues its strong commitment to contemporary art with the introduction of “Notations,” a new series of gallery installations that will serve as a flexible tool to explore contemporary art in the Museum’s expanding collection and to experiment with various exhibition alternatives. The series of rotating projects will be presented in the Gisela and Dennis Alter Gallery (176).
“‘Notations’ will provide the perfect opportunity to survey the Museum’s collection of contemporary art, show some rarely seen as well as better-known objects, and assess the collection’s strengths and needs,” said Carlos Basualdo, Curator of Contemporary Art. “The spirit of ‘Notations’ is that of a precise sketch allowing the visitor to better understand the Museum’s growing collection of contemporary art, rather than that of a grand exhibition. The series will include solo and group shows, and will also include loans from private and other public collections.”
The first installment of the series, entitled Energy Yes!, is a multimedia installation featuring local and international artists who are pursuing parallel concerns and seeking to engage viewers in an interpretative and animating dialogue. On view from April 8–September 30, 2006, Energy Yes! highlights works by Joseph Beuys, Andy Warhol, and Thomas Hirschhorn, that are new acquisitions and recently promised gifts. The title is borrowed from Hirschhorn, for whom “Energy Yes, Quality No!” is both a battle cry and a motto. A centerpiece of the installation is Hirschhorn’s monumental Camo-Outgrowth (Winter), a 2005 assemblage consisting of 119 schoolroom globes of the Earth arrayed on shelves lined with photographs of people wearing camouflage. The newly acquired work will be exhibited with Warhol’s large Camouflage Self-Portrait (1986), in which the artist’s famous face is enveloped by a camouflage pattern in hot pink and red, and Beuys’s Felt Suit (1970), a multiple-fabric sculpture related to the artist’s experience as a German pilot in World War II. Beuys’s interest in fat and felt as sculptural materials grew out of a wartime plane crash in the Crimea, after which he was rescued by nomadic Tartars who rubbed him with fat and wrapped him in felt to maintain his body energy.
“Energy in this context is understood both literally and metaphorically,” said Basualdo. “Literally, as the electricity that illuminates Bruce Nauman’s neon work, The True Artist Helps the World by Revealing Mystic Truths. Metaphorically, energy can be understood as the very substance of artistic labor, the fundamental means of transforming matter into consciousness. The question of what constitutes the work of an artist is central to many of the pieces in the installation.”
The late Argentinean artist Victor Grippo’s Analogía I (2da. version) is a reminder that all living beings are animated by immaterial energy. The piece contains hundreds of potatoes connected by electrical wiring and hooked up to a voltmeter that shows the total amount of energy generated by the potatoes when the visitor presses a button. The installation will also include an alternating series of drawings from the Museum’s collection, including works by Cuban artist José Bedia, self-taught artist Martin Ramirez, and American artist/composer John Cage. The "Notations" series is named after Cage’s 1968 book Notations, an international anthology of musical scores by avant-garde musicians, with contributions from visual artists and writers. It is also an exhibition in a book, in which the scores double as drawings.
Energy Yes! is organized by Carlos Basualdo and Emily Hage, the Andrew W. Mellon Curatorial Fellow in Modern and Contemporary Art.