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Life at the Met

While an ambitious attempt to elide culturally and chronologically diverse, popular, scientific, and artistic sculptures of the human body, The Met’s “Like Life” overreaches. The show is ironically shapeless, despite sub-thematic organizational scheme. In addition, the several carved and polychromed Renaissance martyrs and slightly creepy Victorian material (such as effigies of organic matter and death masks), while relevant, are overstated and detract from what is most successful in the show; the gathering of postwar art in this vein.
Duane Hanson, looks great with two characteristic, “dressed” works, especially, Housepainter II (1984), placed directly off an elevator, which adds to the intended effect (is there a repair going on?). Playing on classical statuary, viewer space, the race and class divides in “the art world,” it now also recalls Fred Wilson’s piece, Guarded View (1991), comprised of headless, dark-toned, mannequin-museum guards, installed in roughly the same position for the game-changing Black Male show (1994-95) when this building was the Whitney Museum. That event resonates here in a section entitled “The Presumption of White,” in reference to the European long-held misnomer of Classical monochrome marble statuary (we now know they were mostly painted) of the ancient Mediterraneans, carried through the Renaissance and into the twentieth century. Wilson returns here with take on this institutional racism in, The Mete of the Muse (2004-2007), which juxtaposes casts of appropriated (black) Egyptian and (white) Greek goddess figures.
Peers and heritors of Hanson’s hyper-realism, interestingly, mostly male artists dominate, as signified by the exhibition title. Most of the contributions by woman artists deal with disfigured, flesh-allusive forms à la Louise Bourgeois, who is featured. The final life-like say goes to Goshka Macuga’s startling philosopher-automaton, To The Son of Man who Ate the Scroll (2016), worth seeing—and hearing.
Like-Life: Sculpture, Color, and the Body (1300-Now) The Met Breuer, March 21 – July 22, 2018

Jody B Cutler

Volume 32 no 6 July/August 2018 p 28

 

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Tamsen Brook
19/08/2018 1:36 pm

Hi Jody,
I enjoyed your article, but wish there were a few images of this totally wild exhibition, which made me search for some.

https://www.metmuseum.org/exhibitions/objects?exhibitionId=dd4a4389-0bcb-41df-a512-d517572f3d05

dott. Giovanni de Santis
19/08/2018 2:27 pm
Reply to  Tamsen Brook

Many thanks Jody for the prompt intervention with the insertion of the image! What a difference an image makes to our reading today, as we become more and more image dependent and less reader friendly. In any case, just reading about art wouldn’t make sense either, as art is a visual experience that needs to be seen.

Anonymous
21/08/2018 2:12 pm

(Thanks – couldn’t agree more … but, well, I just write and await any instructions on … anything else / *smile*)

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