A new maximalism? Collecting, typologies, and objects in “The Keepers”

The Keepers, at the New MuseumThe New York Times Magazine recently ran a column about the tyranny (and ubiquity) of minimalism as a hipster aesthetic. Author Kyle Chayka explored the fashionable trend toward downsizing—purging clutter and embracing fewer and more efficient, if often beautiful, objects. For those longing for an end to the less-is-more movement, an antidote may have arrived: “The Keepers,” at the New Museum through September 21.

[Image at top: 500,000 drawings]

Vanda Vieira-Schmidt
Vanda Vieira-Schmidt, b. 1949, Berlin. The artist started working on these drawings more than twenty years ago, and 500,000 of them, all on copy paper, are displayed in neat but unevenly-sized stacks in the center of a small gallery. In the 1990s, “after a series of short stays in psychiatric institutions, she moved to a residential care home in Berlin, where she continues to reside.

Comprising more than 4000 pieces, “The Keepers” has many quirky collections, some created by artists and others acquired, from string drawings and little paintings to collaged books and a massive collection of vintage photographs featuring people holding teddy bears. The fascinating show embraces a new maximalism in which typologies, cataloguing, and compulsive collecting (and making) become art forms in and of themselves. As I was walking through the exhibition I was reminded of a recent critique with a student whose only work was a loose pile of coins he had found on the street, of Sarah Sze’s orderly presentation strategies, and of Morandi’s preoccupation with a small group of bottles, vases, and jars.

Tour-de-force shows like “The Keepers” can be extremely influential among young artists. I expect to see robust collecting strategies and typologies in greater abundance in the coming year. More importantly, though, the exhibition may stimulate greater focus and intensity, which could in turn yield more sharply defined projects and less pluralistic approaches within individual artists’ practices.

Hannelore Baron
Hannelore Baron, b. 1926, Dillinger, Germany, d. 1987, New York, NY. Baron crafted artifacts from found objects and scraps of wood that embody personal memories. Her family was terrorized by the Nazis, and they eventually left Germany .
Henrik Olsen
Henrik Olsen, b. 1967, Esbjerg, Denmark. The installation, which recalls research presented in poster-form at an academic conference, explores hidden LBGTQ histories within the history of art.
Gee's Bend quilts
Quilts from Gee’s Bend, made  by Missouri Pettway and Loretta Pettway, are hung casually on the wall.
Olga Frobe-Kapteyn
Olga Frobe-Kapteyn’s mixed medium pieces, all made 1927-34.
IMG_2623
Yuji Agematsu: Debris collected on the street is presented as little tableaux in cellophane cigarette wrappers. (thx to D.K. Sole for the artist ID)
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Large objects by Carol Bove and Carlo Scarpa are displayed together on a low pedestal.
 Hilma af Klint
A beautiful series of paintings by Hilma af Klint. Klint hoarded her work, refusing to show it until after she had been dead for twenty years.
Hilma af Klint
Hilma af Klint
Richard Greaves
Images of “architectural accumulations” created by Richard Greaves and photographed by Mario Del Curto.
The Keepers, New Museum
Shinro Ohtake makes big, colorful collage scrapbooks.
Wilson Bentley
Hundreds of Wilson Bentley’s amazing black and white photographs of snowflake patterns are included in the show, via the Smithsonian Institution Archives.
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Ydessa Hendeles, Partners (The Teddy Bear Project). Hendeles, whose parents are  Auschwitz survivors, collects vintage photographs of people with their teddy bears in an effort to keep their memories alive. NOTE: This is a photograph of the two-story installation at the museum, not a photograph that is in the exhibition!

The Keepers,” curated by by Massimiliano Gioni, Natalie Bell, Helga Christoffersen, and Margot Norton. The New Museum, LES, New York, NY. Through September 21, 2016. With projects by Hilma af Klint; Yuji Agematsu; Korbinian Aigner; Levi Fisher Ames; Ed Atkins; Hannelore Baron; Wilson Bentley; Tong Bingxue / Ye Jinglu; Arthur Bispo do Rosário; Carol Bove / Carlo Scarpa; Roger Caillois; Maurice Chehab; Oliver Croy / Oliver Elser / Peter Fritz; Howard Fried; Olga Fröbe-Kapteyn; Aurélien Froment; Richard Greaves / Mario Del Curto; Ydessa Hendeles; Susan Hiller; MM; Vladimir Nabokov; Shinro Ohtake; Henrik Olesen; Loretta Pettway; Missouri Pettway; Quinnie Pettway; Zofia Rydet; Harry Smith; and Vanda Vieira-Schmidt

Related posts:
Hilma af Klint at Serpentine Gallery: Sustenance and Possibility
Peter Dudek on Presentational Sculpture*

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