The show contains other important art, notably Boccioni’s sculpture Unique Forms of Continuity in Space. There are also weaker works on view by Boccioni and his contemporaries, which further highlight the power of Materia and the great works of Cubism. Organized by Laura Mattioli Rossi and Vivien Greene, “Materia” is the kind of exhibit museums should put together more often. Instead of emphasizing the many, as a retrospective does, it concentrates upon the one.
In the early twentieth century, Russian visionaries—who had much in common with the Futurists—sought to eradicate the past and celebrate the future. History dealt harshly with them. Ilya Kabakov, who is now working in collaboration with his wife, Emilia, is a Russian artist who emerged late in the century. He seems to forget nothing. He is a collector of eccentrics and curiosities, a storyteller absorbed in the past who honors all dreamers. In The Empty Museum, their current installation at SculptureCenter in Long Island City, the Kabakovs have built a room that evokes a plush nineteenth-century gallery. The walls are red, the moldings gold. Otherworldly organ music by Bach (“Passacaglia”) fills the room. Visitors may sit on austere black couches to contemplate . . . what, exactly? There are no paintings on the walls, just luminous halos of light. The old masters, it seems, have died and gone to heaven. In 20 Ways to Get an Apple Listening to the Music of Mozart at the Sean Kelly Gallery in Chelsea, the Kabakovs also play with ideas of loss and transcendence. They have set an enormous table with an apple in the center. At each of the twenty table settings, viewers can read a story and look at a drawing that recounts an outlandish attempt to reach the distant apple. One diner, for example, creates an elaborate plan to spear the apple with a fork and shoelace. Another proposes to give a lecture, faint, and then, as he falls, yank off the tablecloth—and in that way seize the apple. In the modern world, senselessness sometimes makes sense, creating a space where Edenic dreams (and sins) can continue to bedevil and enchant.