Visual Arts

A Family Affair

Whether it's hiking, camping, or going to the movies, most people remember the activities they shared as a family. I landed a family that played board games and went to Star Trek conventions. I try to block out those memories.

If only I could have been a Moquay. Rotraut, the matriarch (she's German-born), married a famous artist, Yves Klein. After he died, she married Daniel Moquay, a theater guy, and the Moquays became a family of art collectors and creators, settling in Paradise Valley in 1982.

And though I'm stuck reminiscing with my dad over Spock's death in Star Trek II, at least I can enjoy the Moquay tradition by visiting "Art Is an Idea: The Moquay Collection" at Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art. The show, co-curated by SMoCA's Cassandra Coblentz and Marilu Knode, includes some of the family's favorite pieces from their collection.

The exhibition focuses on Nouveau Réalisme (New Realism), the post-World War II movement in Paris influenced by Dada that reached its height in the early 1960s. The movement aimed to bring art practices out of the studio to coexist with everyday life. The artists experimented with materials, media and performance.

One work that illustrates that direction is Roman Opalka's Detail 3901092-3923101, a piece from an ongoing series. In 1965, Opalka began counting to infinity, painting each number in white pigment on backgrounds of varying degrees of gray. Speakers play the recording of his deep voice, slowly saying the numbers in Polish, his native language, as he painted them. The canvas, covered with an overwhelming number of tiny figures, is amazing. Coupled with the soundtrack, it's a cleverly executed multimedia piece that involves the viewer in the endlessness of the endeavor.

Probably the best-known artist in the show is Christo, whose 1962 Wrapped Object is a small bundle wrapped in dirty, stained fabric, tied maniacally with string. Like all his wrapped works, Wrapped Object piques your curiosity. I had the urge to rip it open and see what it's made of. It may not have the scale and grandeur of Christo's famous installations, but it's an early example of his uncanny ability to manipulate our desires.

SMoCA heavily advertises the inclusion of works by Yves Klein, one of the founders of Nouveau Réalisme and perhaps best known for dragging nude women, covered in his patented deep blue hue, across his canvas. Although it's great to see a famous artist's work (see "Going Dutch"), Klein's pieces aren't as gripping as the others in the exhibit. His Feu N.C5, for example, consists of mounted cardboard with darkened charred areas that are covered with black and red circular splotches of paint. It's an important work because it shows the experimentation with materials and processes common to Nouveau Réalisme but, visually, it won't rock your world.

Overall, the show offers quite the roster — including other artists I must name-drop: Robert Smithson, Thomas Hirshhorn, and Jean Tinguely — making the Moquay's art-collecting tradition the envy of this spawn of a Trekkie family.

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Lilia Menconi
Contact: Lilia Menconi