In & Out of Amsterdam: Travels in Conceptual Art, the new show at MOMA, is a portrait of the Amsterdam conceptual art scene. This “scene,” however, was based more around the act of travel than a particular meeting site for artists. The exhibition looks at conceptual art practices between 1960 and 1976, focusing on ten artists: Bas Jan Ader, Stanley Brouwn, Hanne Darboven, Jan Dibbets, Ger van Elk, Sol LeWitt, Charlotte Posenenske, Allen Ruppersberg, Lawrence Weiner, and Glibert & George. All traveled extensively in Amsterdam during that period.
The stated theme of the exhibition is travel, or how “conceptual art and travel operated interchangeably for a brief period of time,” but the (more interesting) result is a show of different methods of presentation and dissemination, many born out of necessity. Conceptual art, which can often feel so insular and exclusionary in a museum setting, here felt dedicated to an exploration of methods of communication and art making that actually communicated to someone, once.
One major highlight is the room of Art & Project Bulletins one the second floor. Each issue is a single sheet of paper, folded in half and printed on both sides. Its content was left entirely up to a chosen artist. The satirical arts journal “Landslide” in the main gallery on the third floor is also worth seeing.
Also in the main gallery is The Tuileries, a piece by Gilbert & George. Commissioned by the heads of Art & Project, Gilbert & George covered the walls and a living room set of two chairs and a table in charcoal drawings of the Tuileries Gardens in Paris. Gilbert and George stand in the foliage in the far wall, looking deadpan.
Though some of the work is still rather esoteric, the galleries had so much wall text I felt as though I’d read a novel once I left the museum. A short bio of the artist is not necessary to appreciate their work, and much of it speaks for itself anyway, as something beautiful or something really funny. That’s the strength of the show.
The show opens on July 19th and runs until October 5th, 2009.