Tenth Anniversary

Best of 2009 – Moby Dick

We are looking back on a decade of Daily Serving’s greatest hits, and todays selection comes from Shotgun Reviews editor Jen Stager: “‘This great white interior was empty even when it was full, because most of what was in it didnt belong in it and would soon be purged from it. This was people, mainly, and what they brought with them from outside, wrote David Batchelor in Whitescapes, in which he recounts his experience of attending a party in a home of tyrannical whiteness—a space inside the belly of the whale, the whiteness of which Melville describes with illuminating precision. It was with surprise and pleasure that I discovered a 2009 group show organized around the theme of Moby Dick and reviewed by Arden Sherman, who writes of Damien Ortegas salt tower: ‘Thick, crystal-white salt was rammed into a narrow, rectangular tower made of plywood. The wood was removed, leaving the salt tower to crumble to the gallery floor, an unplanned but satisfyingly rich effect.’ Not pictured but equally prescient was Felix Gonzales-Torress posthumous, landless sea, Untitled (1991), available in an endless stack of prints on paper. I know we are looking back, but images of crumbling salt, endless sea, and unmitigated, tyrannical whiteness continue to haunt us.” This review was originally published on November 16, 2009.

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The great American novel Moby Dick takes on new life at the exhibition of the same name currently showing at California College of the Arts’s Wattis Institute. The exhibition loosely traces the narrative of the epic (and episodic) tale with each of the three galleries dedicated to the story’s protagonists, Ishmeal, Ahab, and of course, the White Whale, Moby Dick. Thirty-three artists ranging from the emerging to established are exhibited, and a large number consist of specially commissioned works that reflect the artist’s own interpretation of the Herman Melville classic. Among the highlights are Marcel Broodthaers, Felix Gonzalez-Torres, Buster Keaton, Richard Serra, Hiroshi Sugimoto, and even Orson Welles. A room-sized replica of the sperm whale has been executed by artist Andreas Slominski, and though a commissioned work (size, scale, and the dried, crumbling, clay material reveal this) Slominski’s interpretation of the harpoons which brought down the White Whale demonstrates his imaginative personal iteration of the novel’s denouement. Also of considerable interest is an eight-foot salt tower by Mexican artist Damian Ortega. Thick, crystal-white salt was rammed into a narrow, rectangular tower made of plywood. The wood was removed, leaving the salt tower to crumble to the gallery floor, an unplanned but satisfyingly rich effect.

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The exhibition lay-out is perhaps the most striking part about the show, and it alludes to an atmospheric environment—with walls painted a nautical navy blue and the works hung low at what curator, Jens Hoffman, calculates to be the difference in sea level between the port of New Bedford, Massachusetts and the water level at the exhibition’s home in San Francisco, California. A fully-loaded voyage through historic artifacts, fresh art works, and this classic American tale is an experience worth staying on board for. Moby Dick will be on display until December 12, 2009.

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