Passing Through Time, Memory, Decay: A Journey That Wasn’t

at the Broad Museum (through February 2019)
Reviewed by Emily Nimptsch

Time. It can be both friend and foe. It eludes us, slips through our fingers and yet also seemingly extends ad infinitum. The fourth dimension in all of its frustratingly enigmatic glory serves as spellbinding subject matter for the Broad Museum’s current group showcase, A Journey That Wasn’t. Rather than focus on a particular artist, movement, or epoch, co-curators Ed Schad and Sarah Loyer instead chose to delve into this abstract, multifaceted concept. Comprised of 55 rarely seen works, all from the Broad’s vast collection, this sweeping exhibition acts as a philosophical treatise on the passage of time, memory, and decay.

Meaning “remember death,” the macabre genre known as memento mori, has provided poignant reminders of time’s unyielding cruelty since its Renaissance heyday. Famously espoused by Rembrandt and Albrecht Dürer, this morbid theme and its gruesome depictions of skulls and rotting sustenance serve as inspiration for many of the twenty contemporary artists featured in this exhibition. Featuring the painting, sculpture, film, photography, and installation work of Pierre Huyghe, Andreas Gursky, Ragnar Kjartansson, Ron Mueck, Sherrie Levine, Sharon Lockhart, Ed Ruscha, and others, A Journey That Wasn’t finds the beauty and meaning in the aging body and the hurried, exhausting pace of modern life.

Two of celebrated American pop artist Ed Ruscha’s monumental, 28-foot-long acrylic panels titled Azteca and Azteca In Decline (both from 2007) greet guests as they enter the exhibit. Inspired by a multicolored mural the artist discovered in Mexico City, the first piece directly resembles the composition Ruscha saw while the second panel is a peek into the mural’s future. Now cracked, peeling, and somewhat melting, this disintegrating artwork calls the viewer’s attention to themes of civilization and destruction. With its title referencing the ravaged Aztec society and its remaining ruins, this haunting yet hopeful diptych urges the visitor to consider our current culture, its future downfall, and the universe’s perpetual cycle of creation and destruction.

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Ron Mueck, Seated Woman

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