In terms of this exhibition's parameters, the subtitle says it all. However, when it comes to the quality of the work on view, that's another story entirely. I should probably disclose upfront that I have never studied the French language and haven't had much prior familiarity with the work of contemporary French artists. However if this mish-mash of a selection is representative, it doesn't seem that I have been missing a whole lot. To be sure, there are some excellent standouts – most notably two emotionally moving installations by Christian Boltanski, a poignant English text-based piece by Sophie Calle, a graceful photo-based assemblage by Annette Messager, and a powerful historical photograph appropriated by Mathieu K. Abonnenc. However, much of the rest of the work on view is either blandly abstract, densely busy, or just plain ugly. There are also many pieces which rely heavily on text. While that is not in itself a bad thing, in a U.S. context those works are by default inaccessible to those of us who do not know French. In a museum setting – and one located on a university campus no less – one might have expected educational wall labels to help bridge the language gap. Yet here not even the titles have been translated, much less the texts of those pieces that consist almost entirely of words. On the plus side, admission to the Frost Art Museum is free, so I can honestly say that you will get your money's worth if you do decide to check out this show.
~Eduardo Alexander Rabel
Images: Orlan, Refiguration, Selfhybridization Pre-Columbian Series, 1998; Sophie Calle, Exquisite Pain Day (Day 7), 2000. Courtesy Frost Museum.