a museum retrospective

Detail of the installation for the retrospective ‘La Maison Martin Margiela (9/4/1612)’ at Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen, Rotterdam, 11 June — 17 August, 1997. 

Martin Margiela has already taken part in various exhibitions on contemporary fashion. His first solo exhibition was held in the Summer of 1997 in the Rotterdam Boijmans Van Beuningen Museum. It was a retrospective of his work, La Maison Martin MArgiela (9/4/1615). Eighteen dummies with Margiela creations, one silhouette from each collection, were arranged outside the Henket pavilion. The visitor stood on the inside and looked out: the opposite of window-shopping. 

The clothes had been treated with selected bacteria and moulds for four days. They had been stored in appropriate surroundings to enable the organisms to feed and multiply. Splendid discolorations were the result. The moulds, the discolorations and the wind brought the silhouettes to life. It was an extremely dramatic picture: the poetry of decay. 

When he would be working on an exhibition, he cared 100% about every last detail of placement, lighting, graphic design.
—  MoMA curator Ann Temkin on the late artist Ellsworth Kelly in the Los Angeles Times

I’ve been doing some thinking, trying to figure out why I think Kylo Ren is less innately redeemable than Anakin Skywalker, despite the fact that they’ve been guilty of the same crimes.  I still stand by what I said before, that Kylo Ren has openly rejected numerous chances for redemption, but I think it’s more than that.

The real problem that I have is that Kylo Ren idolizes Darth Vader.

I mean, think about that for a moment.  What kind of man idolizes DARTH VADER?

It’s not like Darth Vader is one of those villains with good publicity, like Prequels-Era Palpatine.  He didn’t have a long respected political career.  He doesn’t have a reputation for wisdom or kindness.  There are no legends of secret heroic or noble deeds performed by Darth Vader.  He didn’t save kittens from trees or donate funds to widows or orphans in his spare time.

There is literally no redeeming quality to Darth Vader that makes him worthy of veneration or even respect.  Darth Vader was an instrument of terror and destruction.  He murdered, tortured, and maimed his way across the galaxy.

(Please note that I do think Anakin Skywalker had qualities worthy of respect.  But Kylo doesn’t venerate Anakin Skywalker.  He doesn’t give a shit about Anakin’s history of heroism before his fall.  And he doesn’t give a shit that Anakin came back to the Light to save his son.  Kylo idolizes VADER.)

And there’s no way Kylo Ren would not be aware of what Darth Vader was.  He grew up in the New Republic, in the first generation after the Emperor and Vader’s reign of terror.  There would have been news programs, memorials, museums, documentaries, retrospective interviews from people who had direct experience with Vader’s violence.  There likely was video and documentary records.  Witness statements.  Cheap tell-all novels.  All of this input that would have made very clear: “Darth Vader was a monster.”

And from his own family, Kylo Ren would have learned that Vader tortured his mother and his father, that Vader had terrorized and mutilated his uncle.  Even if Han and Leia never talked about it, Luke would have as an important lesson on how anyone, no matter how many terrible things they’ve done, could return to the Light.

So Kylo Ren KNOWS how evil Darth Vader was.  He knows that there was no secret kindness or heroism during the time that Vader was Vader.  He knows that Vader was basically a walking weapon of fear.  He knows that Vader caused immeasurable pain to the members of his own family.

And he idolizes him.

He doesn’t feel sorry for Vader.  He doesn’t admire the man that Vader had once been.  He doesn’t believe that Vader was a good man, the way Anakin had believed in Palpatine’s good press for years.

Kylo Ren knows Vader’s a monster, and idolizes him anyway.

And that’s why I can’t buy this “Kylo Ren was twisted up by Snoke, he doesn’t know Light from Dark” shit.  This is not a man who is confused.  ANAKIN was confused.  ANAKIN had a mentor who seemed to be a good, wise man and respected politician, who listened to him and planted poisonous little fears in his mind.  Kylo isn’t like that.

Kylo isn’t insisting that Vader was a misunderstood hero.  Kylo isn’t insisting that the Emperor was controlling Vader.  He isn’t insisting that Vader never did the horrible things that he’s accused of.

Instead, Kylo is repeating the same crimes.  And I don’t care if you’ve been raised to think Light was Dark (a bullshit claim even before we found out that Kylo Ren studied with Luke until he was 23), it doesn’t take much to figure out that murdering people is an evil thing to do.

Kylo’s not a victim.  He’s a privileged kid who grew up with a family who loved him, who was trained in amazing powers, and he apparently decided that this wasn’t enough for him.  Now he’s joined the science fiction universe version of a neo-nazi organization.  (And for the record, calling Hux a nazi while sympathizing with Kylo, is like looking at a group of swastika tattooed skinheads and saying “Gross, but the one with the Hitler mustache…he’s clearly not one of them.”)

That’s the big difference between Anakin and Kylo for me though.

Anakin became a bully and a monster, but he didn’t start out that way.  He made a lot of bad decisions and trusted the wrong people, and then finally crossed a line of no return.

Kylo is a bully and a monster who idolizes a bully and a monster.  He might have started off as an innocent person too, but one has to ask exactly when did little Ben Solo decide that the man who hurt every single person in his family was worthy of admiration and respect.  And what does that say about him?

Stuart Davis created New York Mural in response to a 1932 invitation from the Museum of Modern Art to design a work on the theme of post–World War I life for an exhibition of American mural designs. In his painting, Davis adapted the flat, bold style of advertising to depict images associated with New York politics—specifically those related to Alfred Smith, New York’s four-term governor and the 1928 Democratic presidential candidate, whose opposition to Prohibition Davis applauded. Visible here are Smith’s trademark brown derby hat and bow tie; the Empire State Building, for which the governor served as publicist; a banana, alluding to his campaign’s adaptation of the popular tune “Yes! We Have No Bananas”; an upturned champagne glass, referencing his support for Prohibition’s repeal; and a tiger’s head and tail, symbols of New York’s Democratic Tammany Hall political machine, with which Smith was affiliated.

Explore more works from Stuart Davis: In Full Swing

Stuart Davis (1892–1964), New York Mural, 1932. Oil on canvas, 84 × 48 in. (213.4 × 122 cm). Norton Museum of Art, West Palm Beach, Florida; purchase, R. H. Norton Trust. © Estate of Stuart Davis/Licensed by VAGA, New York

This week at MoMA: Marcel Broodthaers: A Retrospective closes Sunday, we host a discussion on the topic “Is fashion modern?” with design luminaries, and more. 


[Installation view of Marcel Broodthaers: A Retrospective, The Museum of Modern Art, New York, February 14–May 15, 2016. © 2016 The Museum of Modern Art. Photo: Martin Seck]

Danny Lyon: Message to the Future is on view through September 25.

Danny Lyon (b. 1942), Tesca, Cartagena, Colombia, 1966. Cibachrome, printed 2008. Image 25.7 × 25.7 cm (10 1/8 × 10 1/8 in.). Collection of the artist. © Danny Lyon, courtesy Edwynn Houk Gallery, New York

Three upcoming events celebrate artist Marcel Broodthaers’s current MoMA retrospective through film, poetry, and more. See the schedule and get your tickets.

[Installation view of Marcel Broodthaers: A Retrospective. The Museum of Modern Art, New York, February 14–May 15, 2016. © 2016 The Museum of Modern Art. Photo: Martin Seck]

Detail of the installation for the retrospective ‘La Maison Martin Margiela (9/4/1612)’ at Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen, Rotterdam, 11 June — 17 August, 1997. 

Martin Margiela has already taken part in various exhibitions on contemporary fashion. His first solo exhibition was held in the Summer of 1997 in the Rotterdam Boijmans Van Beuningen Museum. It was a retrospective of his work, La Maison Martin MArgiela (9/4/1615). Eighteen dummies with Margiela creations, one silhouette from each collection, were arranged outside the Henket pavilion. The visitor stood on the inside and looked out: the opposite of window-shopping. 

The clothes had been treated with selected bacteria and moulds for four days. They had been stored in appropriate surroundings to enable the organisms to feed and multiply. Splendid discolorations were the result. The moulds, the discolorations and the wind brought the silhouettes to life. It was an extremely dramatic picture: the poetry of decay. 

May 4: Artists Dominique Gonzalez-Foerster & Rodney Graham discuss Marcel Broodthaers, whose work is currently the subject of a MoMA retrospective. Get tickets now.


[Installation view of Marcel Broodthaers: A Retrospective. The Museum of Modern Art, New York, February 14–May 15, 2016. © 2016 The Museum of Modern Art. Photo: Martin Seck]

Frank Stella: A Retrospective—the most comprehensive presentation of the artist’s career to date—opens Friday. We’ll be posting live from the press preview on Twitter and Instagram starting at 10 am EST.

Frank Stella (b.1936), Gran Cairo, 1962. Alkyd on canvas, 85 9/16 × 85 9/16 in. (217.3 × 217.3 cm). Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; purchase, with funds from the Friends of the Whitney Museum of American Art 63.34. © 2015 Frank Stella/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York. Digital Image © Whitney Museum, NY