Ultimately, Mr. Serra’s tremendous skill is overpowered by hubris. Aesthetics take a backseat to haughty spectacle. Responding to the Tilted Arc imbroglio, Mr. Serra stated that “art is not democratic. It is not for the people.” Engagement with the people? Creating objects that enrich our experience? Mr. Serra is above such mundane matters. He’d rather bully the audience than transfix them.
Perhaps it does take a 7-year-old’s sense of wonder to get around Mr. Serra’s heaving machinations. By the time I got to Torqued Ellipse IV (1998) and Intersection II (1992-93), both ensconced in the sculpture garden, I couldn’t help but smile at how Manhattan’s lofty buildings humanized the sculptures, effectively putting Mr. Serra’s overweening art in its place. The trees peeking over the top of each piece provide a lovely grace note.
Once outside, kids can run around and enjoy themselves without guards shushing them. Adults can inhale deeply and relish the sunlight. No one should have to withstand art for too long.
Richard Serra Sculpture: Forty Years is at the Museum of Modern Art, 11 West 53rd Street, until Sept. 10.
Never Mind Neverland
Fans of Sophocles, “Billie Jean” and the National Enquirer might be interested in Paul Pfeiffer’s Live from Neverland, a video installation at the Project. On one TV, Michael Jackson refutes charges of child molestation; on an opposite screen, 77 college students, dressed in angelic white robes, recite the entertainer’s lyrics en masse. Mr. Pfeiffer deftly syncs and stutters the silenced Jackson film to the cumulative blare of the adolescent Greek chorus. It’s unsettling and clever, but as a commentary on the arrogance of celebrity, Mr. Pfeiffer’s installation is too artful and fatally shopworn, not least because the King of Pop has long been beyond the reach of parody. Live from Neverland is satire without bite, sociology without insight and moralism without outrage.
Paul Pfeiffer: Live from Neverland is at the Project, 37 West 57th Street, third floor, until June 22.
Two Thumbs Up
Picasso, Braque and Early Film in Cubism, on display at Pace Wildenstein, purports to uncover a crucial link between Cubism and the advent of cinema, between modernism’s fractured surfaces and the flutter of filmed images. The gallery mentions a “syntax of radical juxtaposition,” “an artificially constructed context” and other highfalutin’ ideas, but the basic point is that Picasso and Braque liked going to the movies. If that’s what it takes to bring together an astonishing array of paintings, drawings and prints, so be it. The inclusion of cinemabilia—such as an Edison kinescope and a Pathé phonograph—doesn’t distract, and silent movies on continuous loop have their charms. Particularly recommended is Slippery Jim (1910), a delightful cops-and-robber caper with special effects that are no less amazing for their quaintness.
Picasso, Braque and Early Film in Cubism is at Pace Wildenstein, 32 East 57th Street, until June 23.