Stepping it Up

New York is throbbing with art these days. Christo and Jeanne Claude’s newly placed gates, shining in the crisp winter cold, transform Central Park into an array of light, mimicking its beautiful autumn with massive saffron-colored curtains flapping in the wind. The Museum of Modern Art just recently opened a shimmering new space full of works from its invincible permanent collection, attracting hordes of visitors, all nudging each other to see what’s new. The San Francisco Museum of Modern Art is continuing its extensive Lichtenstein retrospective and complementing it with works by a California artist, Robert Bechtle, in an exhibit that opened just this week.

Lots of good shows are on all over the country., so what is San Diego’s response? An equally new, if less impressive museum season. The stimulating experience of the minimalist exhibit at Museum of Contemporary Art, San Diego, has come to an end, leaving the creative appetites of the art enthusiasts yearning for more art in San Diego. This city is certainly not ready to settle down for small-scale, permanent collection exhibits, with both its large, hip student population and the creative forces of the high-tech industry all craving good art.

In response, MCASD has recently opened up a new exhibition by Terry Winters, “Paintings, Drawings, Prints 1994-2004.” Covering up all of its gallery space wall-to-wall, the exhibit features a range of works from over a decade, from highly celebrated paintings and drawings to prints. Organized by the Addison Gallery of American Art in Andover, Mass., the exhibit will be on view through April 17.

Presenting an extensive collection of 160 works in such confined space, the exhibit still manages to offer an exclusive experience to review the retrospective, which is organized into seven chronological sections. This is an especially important opportunity because Winters constructs his works in relation to each other. The product is a body of works with conflicting subjects of the natural and the synthetic worlds that mingle and interrelate within a range of mediums, making the artist unique.

The experience is bewildering as you enter the museum: The massive paintings overpower from all directions, a majority of them produced only in the previous year. “Turbulence Skins 2002-2004” greets museum-goers at the entrance.

In light of the entire show, a different choice of works for the first floor could be assembled. The effect that the “Set Diagram 2000-2002” created will remain a teaser, with the vivid colors blending into each other, blazing onto the streets through the glass-covered galleries, attracting the eyes of the passers-by. “Set Diagrams” could be considered a plausible choice as the first thing to see on the second floor, if it weren’t for the awkward and intentionally disproportionate placement of the works, which is vital to the strength that is derived from grouping them together.

The strongest works in the show were placed misleadingly, in a space where they can easily be passed by unnoticed. Exhilarating in medium alone (rinsed woodcuts printed on Japanese kochi paper), these works present figures that excel in elegance, with computer graphic twists that give them a contemporary flaunt. The misplacement of these works, which were presented previously in New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art and MOMA, is unfortunate.

“I’m interested in how to give a picture of these things we can’t see,” the artist states. Winters offers works beyond experience, liberating imagination from its boundaries and accrediting an intensely personalized reading.