An item in last Friday's New York Times proved the point for me once again. A Carl Andre floor sculpture in the collection of the Museum of Modern Art, 144 Lead Squares (1969), received an inspection from the NYC Department of Health after the mother of a young child complained about its possible health risks. Performing a "dust wipe test," the inspectors discovered that the sculpture, which is intended to be walked upon, could hurt children if they touched it and got the lead dust in their mouths.
I am nothing if not a cultural consumer-safety advocate, so I quickly checked on the possible health risks posed by two similar Carl Andre pieces that have been seen at the Seattle Art Museum. Plain (Magnesium and Copper) (1970), which showed as part of the Virginia and Bagley Wright Collection show earlier this year, shouldn't be a problem. Magnesium is found in some multivitamins, and people cook in copper pans. So although I'm no scientist, I say, lick away, kids! It's good for you!
But SAM's own Andre, Lead Aluminum Plain (1969), which last showed during the winter of '98-'99, is big trouble. Lead and aluminum cause lead poisoning in children and Alzheimer-like symptoms in rats, respectively. It's not on view currently, but if you have kids (or lab rats) and you see it, contact the health authorities immediately. That's what the Nanny State is for.
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Seattle's losing a smart young curator at the end of this month. I learned last week that Thom Collins, brought to town by the Henry Art Gallery less than a year ago and trumpeted on press releases that included his multi-page curriculum vitae (MoMA, Northwestern Ph.D., and so on), is leaving his post as associate curator. His speedy departure was accompanied by no press release; Henry publicist Monique Shira says that's standard operational procedure for "non-senior" positions. Collins' voluntary resignation comes in the wake of rumored friction between him and others on the curatorial and administrative staffs, and he will be missed. Local art folk testify to his support of the local scene and his ability to talk about art with people who aren't regular artgoers, and he's worked on good shows by Archigram, Gilles Barbier, and an upcoming project by the great Seattle artist Jeffry Mitchell.
Henry director Richard Andrews says he's not immediately filling Collins' position. A month ago, the Henry brought in Sara Pasti, formerly of On the Boards, as director of curatorial affairs to take administrative burdens off the shoulders of senior curator Sheryl Conkelton and others; this could allow them to explore the use of guest and adjunct curators instead of hiring another full-timer.
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