Addison Seeks A Connection
by James Foritano
An extremely ambitious, some would say busy, exhibition at the Addison Gallery of American Art curated by Maurice Berger intends to reveal the multifarious connections between modern art and the “birth” of American television.
As a thesis, i.e., that television and modern art of the early- and mid-20th century are in any meaningful way connected, this exhibit seems to this viewer both to prove and disprove itself around every corner of the lavish multigallery installation — sometimes stepping on its own two feet as the left foot contradicts what the right foot has just asserted, and vice-versa.
Six 1960s-era photographs by Lee Friedlander, affixed to the immediate left of the left-most room of the exhibition, lent ammunition to the counter-thesis that television has as much to do with art as, say, bubble gum with truth.
In Friedlander’s graphic indictment, a small, anonymous room in six different American cities glows with a small television screen filled, corner-to-corner, with the same bloated face. The viewer of this bland simulacrum might be anywhere except in the reality of their location. Welcome to La-La Land.
But wait! Follow this “wall of shame” around to the right and one of Kay Sage Tanguy’s desert-like surrealist landscapes appears in the introductory scene of that path-breaking 1950s spellbinder “The Twilight Zone.” On a wall-size screen — eerie voiceover by the writer/director Rod Serling — the familiar verities of suburban, post-war America flap and transform themselves in a disorienting surreal wind.