Sig Alert on Memory Lane

January 7, 2010

The very first work of art I can remember experiencing as a child is on view in Los Angeles right now. Doug Wheeler’s RM669 is part of MOCA’s dazzling 30th anniversary show. I’ve seen it, and LACMA’s similar Untitled (Light Encasement), more times than I can count; but I was especially excited to visit it this time so I could introduce my two-and-a-half-year-old son to his mother’s most seminal art experience. I just knew he’d love the installation and all that comes with it… the very ceremonial act of taking off one’s shoes before entry, the misty light that has almost a tactile quality…

Doug Wheeler, RM 669, 1969, The Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, purchased with funds provided by Bullock’s/Bullocks Wilshire; image courtesy of MOCA

So, this past weekend, we plowed through the dense, satisfying show, and I watched him connect especially with Alfred Jensen’s A Quadrilateral Oriented Vision, Per I – Per IV and pretty much everything in the Ellsworth Kelly gallery. At the very end of the exhibition, like dessert, was the Wheeler installation. I knelt down and said, “I’m going to show you something really special now. First, you get to take off your shoes!” My son squirmed. Not only were we at the end of the show, but we were at the end of his attention span. He proclaimed loudly in the galleries, “It’s not really special! No take off shoes!”

Well. Ok.

With that, we left. I’d rather he loves it later than hates it now, and more importantly, I hope I can keep his awe and wonder of museums alive as long as possible. (Is forever too long to ask?) Thank goodness we’re fortunate enough to have a pair of great Wheelers in local permanent collections. Maybe next time…

Allison Agsten