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Fresh wallbangers

The point of any collection is, presumably, twofold: build it, and show it off.
The Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth does just that on occasion with its ever-growing permanent collection; they've recently lassoed enough new additions to launch an exhibition, Recent Acquisitions and Selections From the Permanent Collection.

In-your-face modern and contemporary art, the passion and forte of the Modern, generally packs a visceral punch--especially when the works are really big, which most of the new stuff is.

Because the works take up so much wall space in the modest-sized museum, the Modern only drags them out of storage at rare intervals between themed exhibitions. So their own collection sees the light of day for a spell, and the viewers get a fleeting glimpse of some great imagery before it gets boxed up and forgotten, or shipped off to traveling shows.

The current show offers few surprises in the realm of painting. Two more Andy Warhol silk-screens, "Pistol" (1982) and "Self-Portrait" (1986), join the museum's long-in-place "Twenty-Five Colored Marilyns" (1962). Warhol's work in the decade leading up to his death has gained plenty of re-considered importance (some would argue Warhol's power dwindled after 1968, the year he was shot). Fans of his '80s work or not, most would have to admit that both new additions are the cream of Warhol's last crop: the ominous red and black handgun confronting the viewer; the techno-green, hallowed, and pock-marked face exploding across a jet-black background. Both are powerful images from Warhol's circumscribed repertoire.

The monumental (read: would cover the side of a barn) painting by German artist Anselm Kiefer, "Pope Alexander VI: The Golden Bull" (1996) carries on the neo-expressionist's way with fractured, near-scorched impact. A crumbling, imposing pyramid, presumably the Pyramid of the Moon at Teotihuacan, a notoriously bloody sacrificial site of the ancient Aztecs, cuts the canvas from bottom to top, a placid stream of liquid gold snaking its way down one side and spilling out toward the foreground. This Kiefer joins an older brother too: the Modern bought his "Quaternity" (1973) last year.

Perhaps the most refreshing aspect of the new additions are the photographs. Long considered the bastard son of painting, the black sheep of fine art (the Amon-Carter's vast, thoughtful collection of photos notwithstanding), photography is gradually finding its way in to more permanent collections. In fact, four of the Modern's 14 new pieces are photos. Christopher Bucklow's "Guest 8:01 p.m. July 1996 (N.V.)" brings the British artist's creepy, futuristic vision with it; Bucklow captures the ethereal, light-beaded silhouette of a figure looming toward the viewer with, ironically, pin-hole techniques as old as the medium itself. Sally Mann's brand of social criticism through recording her kids is nailed in the photo "The New Mothers" (1989); Mann's two young daughters apathetically tend to their dolls while smoking cigarettes and looking generally cynical. And Yasumasa Morimura's "Self-Portrait (Actress)/Elizabeth Taylor 2, 1996" comes from his series of giant cross-dressing photos, in which the Japanese artist trusses himself up to look like famous Hollywood actresses (Monroe, Dietrich, etc.). Self-indulgent, a bit forced, but superficially appealing in their glossy over-the-top theatrics, Morimura certainly assaults-pays homage to a genre while tossing in a taste of Kabuki for good measure.

These and more will be fresh sights for tired summer eyes. Check it out.

--Christina Rees

Recent Acquisitions and Selections From the Permanent Collection is at the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth through October 18. The museum is at 1309 Montgomery St. at Camp Bowie Boulevard, Fort Worth. Call (817) 738-9215.


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