The Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth

The Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth claims to have been born in 1892, making it the oldest museum in Texas and one of the oldest in the western U.S. Dressed in a stunning Tadao Ando suit, it shows few wrinkles in its current incarnation. You might spot a George Inness landscape tucked away in a quiet alcove. But you must now cross two streets to view another early acquisition, Thomas Eakins’s celebrated Swimming, since 1990 at the Amon Carter Museum. Complementing the Carter’s and the Kimbell’s strengths, the Modern features predominantly American and European art made since around 1940. It has collected in impressive depth some artists including Robert Motherwell, Philip Guston, Anselm Kiefer, Agnes Martin, Susan Rothenberg, and Sean Scully. Others are perhaps less well represented but no less poetic or powerful for their lack of numbers: Joseph Cornell, Vija Celmins, Michelangelo Pistoletto, Gerhard Richter, Hiroshi Sugimoto, Dennis Blagg…

Seeming to float on a shallow lake, the Ando building itself I nominate for the Modern’s greatest artwork. Delivering on the promise of Richard Serra’s monumental Vortex, whose ever-changing surfaces are a photographer’s delight, any view of the museum—from within or without—which takes in the lake view is, for me, a never-ending source of pleasure. This doesn’t necessarily make for a great art museum, but at least one piece certainly shines in the reflected natural light: Pistoletto’s bronze and mirror The Etruscan. Other works seem to shine from their own inner light: Andy Warhol’s monumental green and black Self-Portrait gradually emerges, as you ascend the museum’s central staircase, from shock of electrified hair to curve of his chinny-chin-chin. And the view of Martin Puryear’s Ladder for Booker T. Washington seems to disappear somewhere around Heaven.

Finally, the Modern’s current notable exhibition: “Richard Diebenkorn: The Ocean Park Series is the most comprehensive show to date of Diebenkorn’s most celebrated works,” to quote the museum’s website. While for me it did not achieve the heights of previous Modern shows, including in-depth looks at Hiroshi Sugimoto and Dan Flavin, it is always worth a visit to the Modern no matter what is currently featured.

submitted by Craig Bunch