The recent reopening of Purchase College’s Neuberger Museum of Art was vintage Neuberger – a provocative show, good music and terrific food, all with a Latin beat that set some 1,000 guests in motion.
The museum had been closed for renovations to its heating, ventilation and air conditioning systems. Now 10 months and $10.8 million later (thank you, New York state), it’s as if we never said goodbye (and you, too, Andrew Lloyd Webber).
The Neuberger has returned with “Pre-Columbian Remix: The Art of Enrique Chagoya, Demián Flores, Rubén Ortiz-Torres and Nadín Ospina.” Here the art of the Mayans, Aztecs, Toltecs, Olmecs, etc. collides with contemporary culture in humorous, pointed ways that force us to consider our relationship with the past.
For these Latin-American artists, the connection to the pre-Columbian peoples “is as removed as it might be to a Swiss, Japanese or African individual,” says Ospina.
In other words, just because you live in a place that was once occupied by others, it doesn’t mean that you connect to the earlier culture, says Patrice Giasson, the Neuberger’s Alex Gordon associate curator of art of the Americas.
That may be true, but as Eugene O’Neill writes in “Long Day’s Journey Into Night,” “the past is the present. It’s the future, too.”
Time is a river, a continuum. The fact that these artists have chosen to engage Latin America’s pre-Columbian past in works that juxtapose Snoopy’s doghouse and Mayan temples, Homer Simpson and Aztec warriors (Ospina), for instance, proves that the past is something you have to live with – though not in. The show also makes you wonder: What will future generations remember us by?
Given that this was a Neuberger party, there were the usual unusual parlor games, including flower readings by Louis Freire (Frair). You picked a flower from a vase, concentrated on it, then he took it and told you about yourself. He told me that I was independent and not spontaneous, which he might’ve guessed from my demeanor and dress. But then he told me something he couldn’t have known without great intuition.
Working on the spontaneity thing, I decided to stop by the Purchase students’ Passage Gallery. It was totally high-tech and yet surprisingly engaged with something very old-fashioned – storytelling.
For more on the Neuberger, visit neuberger.org. For a flower reading with Louis Freire, contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or (347) 307-3225. And for more on the Neuberger reopening, check out WAG’s June “On the Road” issue.