Molecules That Matter, at the Tang, REALLY helps one appreciate the presence and role of a good curator. This is not a knock at the curator of Molecules That Matter, because no curators were involved. The show was co-assembled by a chemistry professor, the Director of the museum, and the Chemical Heritage Foundation. It's an art and science show, organized around an introduction to ten molecules, each of them represented by big models, so you can learn at a rudimentary level about things like "what is aspirin" and "how it works"... with superficially related art and a lot of visual aid set props and labels sprinkled throughout.
Maybe if you are studying or teaching 8th grade art or science, you might like this show, otherwise... don't go out of your way.
Isooctane - Gas! This molecule is explored through the display of an oil barrel, a gas pump, an Ed Ruscha gas station print, and an edited montage/collection of non-stop movie car chase scenes from various movies. Michael Oatman and Eddo Stern have done similar movie time-tunnel sequence videos, but I don't think this piece is intended as art, rather it's provided as a visual aid for what gas does.
Frank Moore - I generally like Frank Moore, but this is not the most interesting Frank Moore. Doesn't have all of the little things going on, scale shifts, no busy-ness or funky frame. It completely has not registered what molecule this piece was serving.
Jean Shin - This piece is worse than the worst undergrad Tara Donovan fan art. Towers of empty prescription pill bottles stacked on round mirrors, some from the floor and some from the ceiling. I think there is supposed to be some endless column thing happening within the mirrors, but it's not working because when you look up you can see all of the white caps reflected back at you. Internal logic functioning or not, this piece is horrible. I can't believe it's been shown at Sculpture Center, University Museum at Albany, now the Tang, and will travel elsewhere with this show.
Copies of Rachel Carson's Silent Spring, and some old t-shirts and buttons, on pedestals under plexiglass cubes. I'm forgetting what molecule this was about, sorry. Oh, it was probably the DDT.
Alexis Rockman, Romantic Attachments (2007) - a big painting, like a bodice-ripper romance cover, of an ape-man standing over a freakily constructed naked woman, and he has a torch raised in the air. This is a sublimely ugly painting. It seems like it might be really bad, but there are interesting combinations of paint things happening, like the underside of the girls hair, which is kind of a dark stain of drips, and how the slathered and smeared tree is put together. The sky is poured and stained, and the grass is like palette-knife applied amateur painting class grass. So many weird and backward things happening in this total form and concept PROTO-PAINTING, with the apeman bringing fire to the naked human girl, and the amateur moves.
Here is some good advice from Alexis Rockman on how to get ahead, from an article on Ross Bleckner - "Ross taught me a lot about how to be an artist, both socially and professionally - how to make myself available, how not to alienate anybody."
Fred Tomaselli - an old one, with columns of aspirin embedded under resin. Representing the molecule known as aspirin.
Michael Oatman - Michael Oatman has a big collage in an antique test-tube frame, a piece which might actually be something the Tang still had leftover in storage from his big show there a couple years ago. Yes?
Polyethelyne (plastic) had some tupperware, pink lawn flamingos, and good art by Roxy Paine and Tony Cragg.
Thomas Asmuth - this guy got screwed. His piece is included with the Prozac display... it's a soft sculpture of the Prozac molecule, like a big cuddly caterpillar... but instead of being flopped down and presented as something that is accessible and friendly, with which you can snuggle and seek comfort, it's standing upright, suspended by a cable, on a white pedestal, with a DO NOT TOUCH sign.
This piece is ruined by the presentation, and feels like a case of a relatively unknown artist who is being (felt) forced to make concessions to be included in a museum show. The Tang is SUPER anal about anything possibly being touched or photographed.
Bryan Crockett - three larger-than-life pink marble sculptures of genetically engineered rats, based on real experiments, representing three of the seven deadly sins. An obsese rat, a freakazoid steroid attack pit-rat, and I forget the other one. The marble is cast marble, with details carved or added later.
At least three of the artists in this show (Crockett, Moore, Rockman) were also included in Exit Art's Paradise Now, which I saw in NYC but had also came to the Tang. It's almost like they flipped through the catalogue of that previous art and science show, searching for artists that could be applied to selected molecules. I definitely get the sense that the molecules came first and the applied artists were an afterthought.