Field Trip :: New Museum "Rosemarie Trockel: A Cosmos"

Image: Dean Kaufman
By Rand Lemley, B.Arch candidate

Over the Thanksgiving break, I travelled to New York to share turkey with my nearest family member. During my stay, I was able to take a jaunt over to the Bowery to visit the New Museum, designed by SANAA and completed in 2007. The building’s cubic volumes haphazardly stacked atop one another successfully mimic the cardboard boxes of the neighboring restaurant supply companies, and house an ever-changing collection of art. The New Museum was founded without a permanent collection and continues that practice today. Instead, they give opportunities for groundbreaking exhibits that explore new ideas.

On my visit, I joined a tour that spent most of its time in an exhibit entitled “Rosemarie Trockel: A Cosmos,” a self-curated retrospective which pairs the artist’s work with her artistic influences. These influences are as varied as her own work, spanning many styles, mediums, and eras. The third floor gallery was filled with Trockel’s giant yarn paintings, but a few yarn pieces from Judith Scott were used as a three dimensional juxtaposition to Trockel’s flat work. Judith Scott was a deaf mute with Down syndrome who worked in the eighties. The message seemed to be that Trockel had been outperformed by Scott, who broke down the barrier to the third dimension.

Image: Jerry Hardman-Jones
My favorite bit of the show was a collection of small pamphlets that Trockel had crafted. The books were no more than 4”x6”, yet had such rich variety of hand drawn type and illustrations. Also on display were strange staged scenes inside glass cubes. One depicted a teenager lying on the floor looking at a magazine, while in a crib a fly sat on a sleeping baby’s face as breathing furry creatures, similar to the tribbles from Star Trek, crept in and threatened to engulf. It was frightening to see the teenager so oblivious to the plight facing the baby she was supposed to care for.

Another interesting juxtaposition was found on the fourth floor gallery. In one glass box, a giant lobster sat atop a plank of wood. Just beside it sits a work by Trockel called “Lucky Devil” that presents a crab atop perfectly square cuts of Trockel’s older yarn works. While both creatures are unfortunate due to their deaths, they have great prestige by being on display in a museum. However, the crab is even more lucky because it sits on the work of an artist, proudly showing its superiority.

The building itself was fairly unspectacular except for one feature that I almost missed. On the north side of the third and fourth floors is a skinny staircase that sneaks along the wall. Halfway up, and out of view to anyone at the top or bottom, is an alcove set into the interior wall and a large window looking out the exterior wall. I felt like I had discovered something private and left the museum with a small bit of excitement.