Lonneke Gordijn and Ralph Nauta

Sol LeWitt was fond of cubes. Sometimes, he would make sculptures that were nothing but cubes, cubes within cubes upon cubes. In the early 1970s, LeWitt produced works like “Cube Structures Based on Five Modules.” The title captures the essence of the work. LeWitt took a bunch of open cubes made of wood, painted them white, and arranged them in various geometric structures. He just liked the cubiness of cubes.

“Dead or Alive.” Through October 24. Museum of Art and Design, New York.

This led a number of critics to think of LeWitt as a formalist. All the geometry spoke for itself. This was an artist of Cartesian spaces and strict rationalism. LeWitt was showing us something about the austere beauty of form. His white lattices were supposed to be an abstract representation of Mind… More…

Seriously. She's beautiful.

She makes for a beautiful corpse. That alone is impressive. Factor in that she is almost 4,000 years old and she may be the most impressive corpse in human history. You can gaze at her for as long you want at the Bowers Museum in Los Angeles County (she’s in the “Secrets of the Silk Road” exhibit until June 25).

“Secrets of the Silk Road.” Through July 25. Bowers Museum, Santa Ana, CA.

Nobody knows a damn thing about who she really was. All we know for sure is that she died about 3,800 years ago in what is now the Lop Nur desert of Western China. She was buried amongst a complex of tombs first discovered by a Swedish archeologist in 1934. Chinese history being a complicated affair, no one was able to give the site… More…

Germany, for now.

I didn’t understand the fuss. Sure, the redesign of Berlin’s Neues Museum — unveiled last October — seemed awfully nice; the place was finally fixed its World War II-era damage. But for all the queues that wind around the museum and the sell-out exhibitions, most of the fuss centered on one Egyptian bust. The Nefertiti bust looked pretty enough on the museum’s website and in the news stories, but I didn’t think it seemed like anything worth standing around for hours to see.

Art as Plunder: The Ancient Origins of Debate about Cultural Property by Margaret M. Miles. 440 pages. Cambridge University Press. $32.99 (new in paperback).

Or so I thought. When I finally got around to seeing it, the 3,500-year-old bust seemed to glow with its own light. Like all powerful religious and royal artwork, it inspires an… More…

Be sure to stop at the gift shop.

“Can we take a picture of the bunnies on the way out?” I look where Kris is pointing, and sure enough, there are bunnies. Two of them, not real ones but painted ply-board cutouts, smartly dressed in painted sweater jackets with painted buttons. They stand on their hind legs and peer primly over painted ply-board eggs. One of the eggs is cracked and a painted yellow chick bursts free, raising tiny yellow wings in jubilation.  Behind the chick are iron gates and a sign: Louisiana State Penitentiary. It is five days before Easter, 2008.

 

“Sure,” I say. Kris is on spring break from graduate school, and because it’s me she’s visiting — the woman who wooed her right before packing the heck up and moving here to Louisiana — Kris is spending part of it at a prison…. More…

The species-friendly ambassador of the Smithsonian's Sant Ocean Hall.

 

 

To enter the National Museum of Natural History’s new Sant Ocean Hall, you must first pass the institution’s iconic African elephant. Here the taxidermied remains of an actual elephant — shot dead in the wild and given to the institution by a big-game hunter in 1954 — stand guard over the knowledge contained within.

But are the elephant’s days as a sentinel of natural science numbered? Behind it, in Ocean Hall, a large artificial whale floats above the 23,000 square feet of exhibition space devoted to the world’s seas. Phoenix — the Hall’s “ambassador,” as the museum repeatedly refers to it — is a full-size foam-and-mâché replica of an actual North Atlantic right whale. Whereas the rotunda’s anonymous bull elephant last raised his trunk over the African savanna more than half a century ago, the real Phoenix… More…

But the real crime is the ticket price!

The National Museum of Crime and Punishment opened in Washington, D.C., two weeks ago with McGruff the Crime Dog greeting guests outside the entrance. The museum (which was financed by an Orlando lawyer and produced in conjunction with the Fox TV show America’s Most Wanted) strives to bring interactivity and entertainment to a museum about crime. I visited on a soft opening day, and then again the next day for the grand opening, the major difference between these days being that on grand opening day, McGruff high-fived me at the door, John Walsh of America’s Most Wanted was rumored to be in the building, and entrance was free for all law enforcement officers.

 

Both days, though, were united by the strange tonal shifts one experiences when one engages in silly fun, reads random factoids, and is then… More…

Wide eyes. Mustache. Jeweled cane. Ocelet.

Salvador Dalí was skating on thin ice. It was a shtick and he was doing his shtick. He would open his eyes wide and give the patented Dalí stare. Surrealism. Granted, Andre Breton was never exactly a paragon of personal dignity but at least there was something at stake in the early days. By the end, Dalí was nothing but a parody of the thing he’d created of himself.

But it isn’t all crap, and that’s the revelation at the heart of the new exhibition “Dali: Painting & Film” (now leaving the Los Angeles County Museum of Art for St. Petersburg, Florida, and then MoMA this summer). Somewhere between the posing and the vamping and the recycling of tired imagery he created something. It was a new kind of landscape and, I think, a new kind of realism. The technique was relatively simple. He took the luminosity from some of… More…