Confronting the Burdens of Chronology: The Forever Now at MoMA

Proclaiming the current cultural moment as one in which all historical eras coexist, The Forever Now: Contemporary Painting in an Atemporal World (on view December 14, 2014 to April 5, 2015) constitutes the Museum of Modern Art’s first survey of contemporary painting in over thirty years. Occupying half of the museum’s uppermost floor, The Forever Now presents works by seventeen international living artists that is grounded in art historical references but shuns the constraints of art historical chronology. While vibrant and engaging, an exhibition of such stature merits criticism concerning the market-driven nature of much modern-day painting. The show asserts a-temporality as its theoretical basis, appearing first and foremost as MoMA’s unwavering and bold (though risky) attempt to take seriously—and defend—painting when its integrity is severely undermined by the whopping demands of the ever-expanding contemporary art market.

Exhibition entrance at the Museum of Modern Art.
Exhibition entrance at the Museum of Modern Art.

The Forever Now presents painting in the wake of the proliferated image and Internet culture, drawing its thesis from the definition of “a-temporality” (or timelessness) first proposed by science fiction writer William Gibson. In the words of curator Laura Hoptman, the artists represented in the show relieve their art of “modernism’s burden of progress.”[1] The exhibition features predominantly abstract works in diverse media. Striving to present a multitude of inspirations and styles in an a-temporal world, the curators (Hoptman with curatorial assistant Margaret Ewing) provide the viewer an opportunity to experience timeless art in full scale. There are, among other works, Joe Bradley’s crude drawings on canvas, Julie Mehretu’s grey scribble paintings, Oscar Murillo’s colorful patchworks, and Mary Weatherford’s striking neon works. All of them are large, vibrant, and audacious, as if openly making the declaration: painting is alive and well.

FN2
Matt Connors, Telescope, 2014.

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