Saturday, October 6, 2012

Roy Lichtenstein's "Girl With Ball" Bounces to ATL with 163 Other Works at High Museum of Art

During the summer of 2012, the Chicago Art Institute debuted the outstanding "Roy Lichtenstein: A Retrospective" exhibition set to open at the National Gallery of Art next week.

I'm guessing the curators of that exhibition were slightly miffed the Museum of Modern Art's iconic Lichtenstein canvas "Girl With Ball" was already booked for its High Museum of Art premiere in Midtown Atlanta.

Through some freelance P.R. work at the High these last few days, it was a privilege to experience "Girl With Ball" in the museum's new exhibition "Fast Forward: Modern Moments 1913>>2013" through a media preview event held this week. What a treat!

Curated by Michael Rooks with co-curators Jodi Hauptman and Samantha Friedman of MoMA, "Fast Forward" features 164 works by 105 artists including some of my all-time favorites: Salvador Dali, Lichtenstein, Jenny Holzer among them. And there are some works easily recognized from past treks to MoMA, such as "Chief" by Franz Kline. The works including painting, sculpture, photography, film and other media appear centered around key historic dates of the last 100 years.

But what's to love most about "Fast Forward" are the surprises around several corners of the exhibition space. Upon exiting the museum elevators, the first right turn reveals "Unique Forms In Continuity," a gorgeous three-foot bronze statue of a figure in motion evocative of the lyrics to "Against The Wind" by Bob Seger. I love this Umberto Boccioni sculpture, and it's only made better positioned racing toward about a dozen Soviet propaganda posters that make it seem "the walls have eyes" (be sure to view the feature film from 1929 projected among these framed U.S.S.R. works).

Dali's miniature canvas "Illumined Pleasures" -- complete with a self-portrait of the artist's decapitated head, tiny insects and even tinier cyclists -- is displayed just steps from where Dali's "Persistence Of Memory" dazzled High visitors two years ago (also on loan from MoMA), and facing the currently displayed work is a beautiful canvas by Gerald Murphy showcasing an enormous wasp and sliced pear.

The next corner reveals the large and bug-like Kline work inspired by the artist's childhood memories of a locomotive. Moving fast forward another decade, the next corner brings the "Girl With Ball" into view flanked by an Andy Warhol canvas.

With stops in key years of the last century, wall texts describe how then-current events may have influenced the artists and their contemporaries. Another decade-to-decade action -- the evolution of transportation -- is subtly revealed as more vehicles, including a crushed car, take the stage. A three-dimensional untitled work by Lee Bentecou jumps out of the wall as though a fighter jet engine is backing into the museum. "The Chariot" by Alberto Giacometti is a must-see vehicular piece. Shapshots taken from within cars of the mid-century reveal modern moments of days gone by.

I loved locating two matching Jenny Holzer pieces (rubbings from her carved marble benches?) as "Fast Forward" rolled into the 1980s.

And this was the first time my eyes met a Jeff Koons work, a life-sized porcelain of a topless blond woman embracing the Pink Panther. Interesting.

Then the cavalcade of modern moments moves again, one last time to 2012-13 with an immersive floor-to-ceiling, half-room-sized new commission by artist Sarah Sze that must be seen to be believed (sort of a twist on Damien Hirst's creations featuring hundreds or thousands of the similar items on display in a single work). If you're into seek-and-find, try to locate Sze's plane ticket to Atlanta as part of this space-specific creation.

"Fast Forward" is on display at the High now through January 2013, by which time we will all fast forward to the highly anticipated exhibition "Frida & Diego" bringing together the Mexico artists/spouses Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera. Until, then, "Fast Forward" is an excellent option for an afternoon of art exploration in Midtown Atlanta.

Photos via the High, MoMA and select exhibition photos by Nicholas Wolaver

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