The Arcades: Walter Benjamin and Contemporary Art
The impressive line-up of artists assembled for "The Arcades: Contemporary Art and Walter Benjamin" at the Jewish Museum had us in an eager anticipation and when we were down in New York this week we took the opportunity to visit. Printmakers typically forge their relationship to Benjamin's writing through his seminal essay "Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction", however the artists assembled for this exhibition proves that an analysis of "The Arcades Project" can also provide fertile ground for examining the role of print in an experience of the city, modern life and what Benjamin himself referred to as the "world in miniature".
Throughout the show we are presented with potent themes including the complexity of capital, celebrity, the experience of the city and image reproduction in relation to power and information. These themes are illuminated through varied printed forms, from the gradually degrading photocopies of Timm Ulrichs, the careful graphite rubbings Milena Bonilla made of Karl Marx's gravestone to the framed silkscreen prints on mylar by Adam Pendleton that are then framed again by a giant reproduction of a printed page presented as a wallcovering. Between the poetic wall didactics and the large amount of work, the modest rooms of the Jewish Museum certainly feel full but the show is incredibly thought provoking and cerebral approach to a writer who clearly continues to resonate with contemporary artists.