Modern Art, Or Not

One of Joe Bradley's more sophisticated paintings in MoMA's Forever Now exhibit.

One of Joe Bradley’s more sophisticated paintings in MoMA’s Forever Now exhibit.

This certainly isn’t the first time I’ve gone off on a rant about art, and it likely won’t be the last. But during a recent visit to the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) in New York City, I encountered some “art” that I felt compelled to share.

I was at MoMA to see the wonderful Matisse exhibit. I’ve probably seen it six or seven times now. It’s that good. I could spend hours there…days.

Another of Joe Bradley's paintings currently on display at MoMA. Yeah, that's a line.

Another of Joe Bradley’s paintings currently on display at MoMA. Yeah, that’s a line.


But, as I always do, I made sure to explore the other exhibits as well. And one of the new additions is The Forever Now: Contemporary Painting in an Atemporal World. On display are works from 17 artists “whose paintings reflect a singular approach that characterizes our cultural moment at the beginning of this new millennium: they refuse to allow us to define or even meter our time by them.”

What does that tell me? Their work has something in common, and it’s reflective of this current time. And that common theme is that we cannot define our current time by their art.

What? Do these people even read the shit they write? It “characterizes our cultural moment” yet we cannot “define or even meter our time” by it? It captures the here and now, but yet it doesn’t. It is, but it isn’t.

I wonder if this applies to my membership dues? I paid, but I didn’t. How artistic of me, right?

In fairness, there are some interesting items in the exhibit. A lot of crap, but a few pieces make it worth a visit.

The ones I wanted to share, though, do not fall into the “worthwhile” category. In fact, they’re what spurred this little rant of mine.

Two more from Bradley. A cross. And the number 23. Yup, art.

Two more from Bradley. A cross. And the number 23. Yup, art.

The artist (and, in this case, I use that term generously) in question is Joe Bradley. I’ll be the first to admit that I don’t know dick about Bradley. Maybe he’s made some incredible things over the years. For all I know he has a massive body of work that would curl my toes. But the stuff he has on display in The Forever Now exhibit is nothing short of ridiculous.

MoMA describes them as “paintings of radically simplified forms.” Apparently the museum included these pieces in this exhibition because they are modern interpretations of ancient pictographs. In other words, they are both ancient and modern at the same time. Is and isn’t.

Or, you could say they are stick figures and Roman numerals taken from the notebook doodles of a seven year old. They are fit to hang on your refrigerator door, yet they are fit to hang on the walls of a museum. Again, is and isn’t. You be the judge.