Looking at Music 3.0 at the MoMA

MoMA entrance for Looking at Music 3.0 with posters of bright colors plastered to the wall

Here's a good way to predict your appreciation of Looking at Music 3.0, the Museum of Modern Art's small but busy and loud exhibition on how (mostly hip hop and electronica) music has influenced contemporary art… Does the idea of strolling into a MoMA gallery and seeing Rakim up on a big screen laying down his classic rhymes ("Thinking of a master plan, this ain't nothing but sweat inside my hand…") appeal, or appall? How about slipping on a set of headphones and rocking to Brian Eno's mid-'70s masterpiece Third Uncle? Or Le Tigre's  "riot grrrl" anthem From the Desk of Mr. Lady? 


An LP in the foreground, viewers in the mid ground and a giant tv screen in the background at the Looking at Music 3.0 show at the MoMA

We love all of the above, and so had a nostalgia-laden blast at the MoMA's Looking at Music 3.0, watching seminal videos, and listening to seminal tunes (Public Enemy's Fight the Power! Tribe Called Quest's Scenario! Weezer's Buddy Holly! Kraftwerk's Trans Europe Express!). And Laura Levine's great '80s-era photographs of the likes of Fab Five Freddy and Madonna and The Beastie Boys are a treat, though we definitely wish they had been blown up at least three times larger. And Miranda July's zine-y chain letter was fun, and the Residents' Freak Show CD-ROM was on display and playable, which is always a welcome surprise at this or any other museum. 

  Black and white photograph of a young Madonna in a bed with sheets and just her head poking out at Looking at Music 3.0

That said, Looking at Music 3.0 at the MoMA isn't really much of an art show. The promised connection between the songs and/or the fashion and/or the musician's aesthetic sensibility with any contemporary art movement isn't really played out in any sort of meaningful way. Even the most obvious links–between hip hop and graffiti, say, or electronic music and experimental video–are left mostly unexplored. If you're a MoMA member, or are going to the museum for another exhibition (to see the excellent Abstract Expressionist New York show, for example), it's definitely worth stopping in at Looking at Music 3.0, if only for the memories. But don't make a special ($20) trip.   

A viewer looks on at the two television screens set-up showing hip hop artists at the MoMA Looking at Music show

Looking at Music 3.0 of the MoMA Details

Looking at Music 3.0 is on display at the Museum of Modern Art until June 6, in the Yoshiko and Akio Morita Media Gallery off the atrium on the second floor. The MoMA is located on 53rd Street between Sixth and Fifth Avenues, and is open Monday, Wednesday Thursday, Saturday and Sunday from 10:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., and on Friday until 8:00 p.m., when admission is free after 4:00 p.m. Closed Tuesdays. For lots more information about everything, please the MoMA's website.  


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