GREATER NEW YORK
MoMA PS1 | OCTOBER 11, 2015 – MARCH 7, 2016
In a show largely as soulless as the institution its venue once housed, the exquisitely engaging work of Yoshiaki Mochizuki comes as a welcome surprise. Nestled in a hallway on the museum’s third floor, the six small paintings on view are easy to miss. But miss them you mustn’t—especially if you, like so many of us, long for contemporary art rich in form and content that doesn’t capitulate to “addressing issues,” “interrogating” this or that, or teaching us anything beyond the cultivation of wonder.
Getting to them isn’t easy. The show’s first two floors are crowded with works so devoid of visual nuance one wonders if they weren’t made in a day. In one room, we encounter a gaggle of hulking sculptures by Amy Brener that, while busy and colorful, are lifeless and mute. The wall text instructs us that the works are “totems for an unknown world” that “speculate on new relationships between the human, nature, and technology.” More institutional pedagogy follows, with unmemorable works addressing “the performative nature of gender, the theatricality of luxury branding, and the corporeality of urban space” (Stewart Uoo). Daydreams of recess take hold.
And then, turning a corner, there they are. Extending across a single wall, Mochizuki’s dark, semi-reflective abstractions exude such mystery that we’re quickly transfixed. Throughout, subtle patches of an irregularly sanded ground pulsate beneath layers of meticulously inscribed linear incisions. Dense, rhythmic, and utterly inscrutable, the paintings shake the mind from its defensive stupor. Mercifully, the wall text yields little, leaving us but to wonder. Then, fittingly, we notice that our own obscured image is always there in the muted mirroring of the paintings’ surfaces. Literally and otherwise, the presence of this work, so emphatic in its fullness, invokes ours. Finally, we’ve shown up for school—and want to stay for a while.
TANEY RONIGER is an artist, writer, and frequent Rail contributor.