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WOID #IV-14. Review: MoMA Staff on Strike.



[Editor's note: for those who would like to have their own opinion about
the art on view, there will be a support rally in front of MoMA on
Thursday, May 25, 4:00-6:00 pm]


MoMA Staff on Strike
53rd Street between Fifth and Sixth Avenues.
Closing date not available.

Good political art, like the better part of politics, does not come easy.
The easy part in either case is the slide into old ruts. In politics there
are pre-scripted forms of activism that borrow from the past without
addressing the present. In art there is the whole area of "aesthetic
socialism," the belief that art can somehow substitute for the nuts and
bolts of organizing. The present strike at MoMA is a real strike, with
real, painful issues and very little of the "aesthetic" about it.
Unfortunately, but perhaps inevitably, the signage and writing styles are
predictable. It's a case of the dog wagging the tail.

The Professional and Administrativive Staff Association (PASTA - UAW Local
2110) of the Museum of Modern Art has been on strike for a month or so.
The picket line in front of the Museum is hemmed in by Giuliani-style
police barricades. The fifteen-foot high inflatable rat is across the
street, in front of the Store Annex. The flyers are on yellow and green
paper - you were expecting puce? The strikers have put together a series
of posters, with reproductions of artworks and ironic captions. Magritte's
Eye painting has a dollar bill at its center, with the caption "Clouded
Vision." A copy of Picasso is headlined: "Modern Art, Ancient Wages." My
favorite is the photograph of a Gaston Lachaise woman from behind,
headlined: "Hey, MoMA! Nice Assets." It's the kind of blue-collar
bluntness that usually terrifies art workers, and its adoption by these
same workers suggests a genuine solidarity of class and gender.

My favorite poster, though, is the simple black on white statement quoting
Agnes Gund, Museum President, as wanting "the Modern to be in the
forefront of salaries." It's simple, it's informative, and it's the kind
of word art that a Larry Weiner or a Joseph Kosuth should be proud to
provide. Come to think of it this poster suggests a whole strategy of
"detournement," a clever redirection of the usual, pointless statement a
la Jenny Holzer: "IN A DREAM YOU SAW A WAY TO EARN A DECENT SALARY WITH
ADEQUATE HEALTH CARE , NO LAYOFFS AND GOOD FAITH BARGAINING ON THE PART OF
MANAGEMENT AND YOU WERE FILLED WITH JOY." Snappy, uh?

***************************************************************************

Paul Werner, New York City
http://pages.nyu.edu/~ptw1
     WOID: a journal of visual language in New York, including reviews,
listings and resources.

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