The Unbearable Banishment: Do you have any seeds?

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Do you have any seeds?

On my lunch hour I hopped on a downtown C train to the Mary Boone Gallery in Chelsea to view Ai Weiwei's exhibit, Sunflower Seeds. Last May I did a post about his fantastic Circle of Animals/Zodiac Heads installation outside The Plaza Hotel. He's become so enmeshed in Chinese politics that many people view his work through a filter. He is also seen as a human rights activist. Fortunately I'm not a deep thinker, so I can enjoy his work on a purely visceral level.

This is a scaled-down version of the exhibit that appeared in the Tate Modern in London in 2010. At that show, the turbine hall was covered about four inches deep with porcelain seeds that were hand painted to look like sunflower seeds. Supposedly, there were 100 million pieces to the exhibit. He employed 1,600 villagers and it took several years for them to create the seeds and then paint them. Originally, it was a participatory exhibit that allowed visitors to walk in the seeds. But as people walked on it, a toxic cloud of porcelain dust rose and that put an end to any contact.

While the London exhibit looked to be awe-inspiring, this is a much smaller showing and it doesn't have much impact. The gallery euro trash employee I chatted up said that only about 3% of the seeds were on display. When I go to special exhibits of this ilk, I always hope for a punch when I turn the corner but this was underwhelming. It was a bit of a disappointment. More would have been better.

I badly want to reach down and run my hand through it and even pocket one, but there is a security guard posted who means business. I heard him yell at a few people while I was there.

* * *

On the way back to the subway I passed by the Bryce_Wolkowitz_Gallery and these fun sculptures caught my eye. The artist is David Updike. I think he might be John Updike's son but I'm not sure.

Do you see the pretty pink blossoms in the bud vase?

They're tiny commodes! How fun is that?!

This leaning sculpture is another work in miniature.

They're actually tiny hand painted boxes from retailers like FreshDirect, IKEA, Pampers, etc. I wish I had held a quarter up to give it some scale. These are very, very small works. I like it a lot but I think the piece was $17,000, so you won't see it in my home. The new puppy would make mincemeat of it.

Incidentally, the dog's name has been changed from Coco to Goddamn It Coco.


Blogger Ellie said...

A lot of puppies' names begin with God (Dog) damn.

Love your ability to viscerally enjoy the work!

January 22, 2012 at 2:54 PM  
Blogger savannah said...

i remember reading about the tate exhibit, but when i saw your post title on my side bar i immediately thought of real seeds and that you and Mrs Wife were going to start a garden! of course, you might ask why and i'll tell you: heirloom seeds and articles about genetically modified vegetables. go figure, right? anyway...

i liked the seed video! gave me a much better idea of the installation. xoxoxo

January 22, 2012 at 3:15 PM  
Blogger The Unbearable Banishment said...

Ellie: A lot of puppies and a lot of husbands and wives too! I'm damn lucky I can see this stuff on my lunch break.

sav: The videos are great but if you've got a iPhone or other Apple product, you can't view them. Can't wait for HTML5 to straighten that mess out.

January 22, 2012 at 3:48 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I like art that is whimsical, like Updike's

January 22, 2012 at 3:51 PM  
Anonymous daisyfae said...

can't imagine the scale of the Tate exhibit if that's just 3% of the total...

oh, saw "Red" (play about Mark Rothko) today - have you seen it?

January 22, 2012 at 7:11 PM  
Blogger Ponita in Real Life said...

When I first saw the photo of the seeds, I thought "spitz!" (That is a brand of roasted, salted sunflower seeds up here.) But knowing that they are porcelain bits hand painted, it puts a new perspective on the 'art' part of the exhibit.

Re: That stick of tiny boxes? Coco would not make mincemeat of it... she would EAT it! Literally. A lot of dogs love to eat cardboard and paper. So watch your books. Just sayin'. ;-)

January 22, 2012 at 7:31 PM  
Blogger The Unbearable Banishment said...

nurse: It's a fun piece but I think it was $7,000. I wonder how much of that the artist gets?

Daisy: RED is great. I saw Alfred Molina play Rothko. How'd you like the scene where they prep the canvas? It's like a dance.

Ponita: It's amazing how much they look like actual sunflower seeds. It's pretty genius.

January 22, 2012 at 8:23 PM  
Blogger savannah said...

i'm on a MacBook and could see it fien, so that's just on the iPhone? xoxox

January 22, 2012 at 9:05 PM  
Anonymous daisyfae said...

the production i saw (local professional company) was very physical - and the 'dance' was almost exhausting to watch! loved it! we need to start thinking about my trip in March and what i should see! whee!

January 22, 2012 at 9:12 PM  
Blogger The Unbearable Banishment said...

sav: It must be just the iPhone. I can't see it on mine. Curse you Apple!

Daisy: Do you have dates yet? Is it a for real thing? Ping me offline.

January 22, 2012 at 9:22 PM  
Blogger Please Don't Eat With Your Mouth Open said...

I went for a gander at the seeds when it was at the Tate Modern. It was...seedy (arf). We stood and looked at it for longer than you'd normally expect to look at porcelain sunflower seeds. Impressive in a "Wow, look at all these seeds. Mmm. There's loads! Yowza. Must have taken ages. Coffee?" kind of way.

January 23, 2012 at 4:41 AM  
Blogger Pat said...

Coco's new name made me grin.
I'm wondering how they keep the seeds from spilling over?

January 23, 2012 at 4:49 AM  
Blogger The Unbearable Banishment said...

Jo: So I take it you were unimpressed? Or was it kind of cool on a grand scale? Did you walk in it? How was the coffee?

Pat: They weren't mobile and if nobody kicked it, they weren't going anywhere. They stayed put all on their own.

January 23, 2012 at 5:47 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

They showed the whole thing in London in the Turbine Hall, which is about the only place in the UK which can accomodate it. I've had my fill of scale for the sake of scale for a while I think though. I much prefer the little commodes.

And thank you to your correspondent for alerting me to the existence of a play about Jackson Pollock. Will keep an eye out for that when it crosses the pond.

January 24, 2012 at 4:50 AM  
Anonymous Dolce said...

I love living a cultural life vicariously through you :)

January 24, 2012 at 1:04 PM  
Blogger The Unbearable Banishment said...

looby: I'll always attend the big-scale shows if, for no other reason, to support their efforts. Sometimes, you'll see something really fetching. [Incidentally, RED isn't about Pollock. It's about Mark Rothko. It's worth seeing if it comes to you 'hood.]

Dolce: As always, no charge.

January 24, 2012 at 1:22 PM  
Blogger Eryl said...

Here I am, back to envying you all over again. The tiny loos are great, and the tiny boxes.

I thought this post was going to be about pigeon feeding when I read the title.

January 24, 2012 at 7:06 PM  
Blogger The Unbearable Banishment said...

Eryl: You're the second person to comment on the title of this post. That's actually an inside joke for Mrs. Wife. No need to envy me. I leave out all the dark, unfortunate stuff.

January 25, 2012 at 8:19 AM  
Blogger Please Don't Eat With Your Mouth Open said...

It was quite cool on a grand scale. We stood and looked at it for a good ten minutes. More than I'd usually give for sunflower seeds.

January 25, 2012 at 6:29 PM  
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