Art Comments Exhibition Review

MoMA PRESENTS: Comic Abstraction: Image-Breaking, Image-Making

written by don porcella in new york

Well, I went to the recently renovated
MoMA to see their current exhibition of contemporary abstract art titled "COMIC ABSTRACTION: Image-Breaking, Image-Making" a show inspired by comic strips, cartoons, and animation. Overall, I was disappointed that the artwork selected for the exhibition just didn't match the concept implied by the appealingly seditious title. I loved the idea of the show, but I just didn't think certain artwork belonged in the show and that certain artist’s work didn't fit the concept of the show. I thought one of the highlights of the show was Rivane Neuenschwander's comic abstraction (see below). They are not very big pieces, just 6" by 4” inches each (30 in all) and they are sweetly framed. They are fairly simple and exist only in the form of a good idea and not a great work of art.

Rivane Neuenschwander, Zé Carioca no. 4

A Volta de Zé Carioca [The Return of Zé Carioca] (1960)

Ediçao Histórica, Ed. Abril. (detail) 2004, Synthetic polymer paint on comic book pages

Thirteen images, each 6 x 4” (15.9 x 10.2 cm)

The Museum of Modern Art, New York

Fund for the Twenty-First Century, 2005

The other star of the show in my estimation is the work of Inka Essenhigh. I first discovered her work at Stux Gallery where I am also an artist. People were telling me about her because she had followed a similar path that I am now on. At first I didn’t get her work until I saw it in person at Stux Gallery and figured out exactly what she is doing in her paintings. She presents a perfect blend of chaos and order in her effort trying to make sense of chaos. And the result is a beautifully, lyrical image that is mysterious and open-ended, foreshortened and elastic. She is interested in her paintings demonstrating action and that her paintings are a place for action. As a painter myself, I enjoy most of all her opaquely pastel, comic inspired color palette that combines with the plastic quality of the toxic enamel paint she uses in her process. I imagine her throwing the enamel paint across the surface of her painting with a semi-planned yet unexpected result. Then I can imagine her coming back when the enamel is dry and drawing in and making sense of the shapes the paint has created. This is where you see her imagination take off. I imagine sitting on a hill looking up at clouds and Inka saying to me and pointing up at the sky, “Look over there, there is a cheerleader over there, see it?”

Inka Essenhigh, Born Again. 1999-2000,

Enamel on canvas, 7’ 6” x 6’ 6” (228.6 x 198.1 cm).

Tate, Purchased 2001 © 2007 Inka Essenhigh

March 4 - June 11, 2007
Museum of Modern Art
11 West 53rd Street
New York, NY 10019