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Saturday, April 17, 2010

A date with Monet.

This past weekend, a few friends and I ventured down to NYC to visit the Monet Water Lilies Exhibit at MoMA.  Since taking a class on Modernism and Postmodernism in college, I've been fascinated with Modern and Postmodern art (well, that sounds rather redundant).  I've found that it's difficult to appreciate some of the pieces unless you actually know a bit about this specific art movement, so my parents didn't really understand my appreciation of this:

Jackson Pollock
(photo by me, after people actually stopped walking in front of my lens)

I love Pollock's work.  While I'm especially fond of his drip paintings, my research for a term paper left me baffled by the fact that his earlier work looked completely different.  I love studying artists' lives and how the events going on with the artist influence their artwork. I have a special spot in my heart for artists (and anyone, for that matter) that have suffered from depression, as Pollock did.  I guess it's a way of relating to the art and artist, and even empathizing, on a completely different level that a lot of people can't understand (and I hope that they never do, because depression is not a fun thing).  I digress...

The trip was absolutely fabulous.  We started out at MoMA, visited the top three floors, had lunch in their fabulous Cafe 2 (although I didn't think their seating strategy was all too wonderful), then viewed the galleries on the second floor, as well as the sculpture garden.   It was pretty crowded, so there was an overabundance of people walking in front of you as you were trying to look at a painting.  My favorites were the older ladies who either a) wandered in front of you while viewing a painting and stopped altogether, forcing you to move, or b) tried to push up against you as close as humanly possible (which is absolutely not socially acceptable) so that you'd move away from the glass case displaying rare sketches by Picasso.  I found myself locked in a battle with a pushy lady who may or may not have had a cane and was placing her grubby hands all over the glass.  I could tell that she was expecting me to do "the right thing" and move aside so she wouldn't have to *gasp* walk two steps to the left to pass me.  I was there first, and she was totally going against traffic!  She was pretty desperate to see how Picasso's deconstruction of a Minotaur screwing a young lady was progressing (oh, that's not the real title of the sketch series, by the way), so maybe I should have yielded to her nagging persistence, but... I was there first!  I stood staring at the same sketch for at least ten minutes before she huffed her way past me and let me get to the last piece in the series.  Whatevs, you old bag.  Again, I digress.

I was really impressed by how many famous paintings and sculptures they had in the museum.  At one point, I entered a gallery room and saw a flash of blue out of the corner of my eye.  I thought to myself, "Is that what I think it is?"  I turned, and it was this:

Isn't it perfect with its golden frame?  
My flash totally went off as I was taking this picture and I almost died as the guard gave me a stern look.  
At least he could tell that I was mortified and on the verge of becoming physically ill from my stupidity.

There's something so surreal about looking at an original painting by an artist you love.  It's very difficult to verbalize, so I'm not going to attempt it.  I can't even imagine how it must feel to be in a place like Rome or Florence.

Before I get to the Monet, one of the most interesting parts of the day was the special exhibit of performance artist Marina Abramović.   We first encountered her in the atrium, where she was sitting at a table, staring blankly ahead of her.  Audience members could actually go and sit across from her and have a "staring contest" or, more artistically speaking, a meditative moment of connection with the artist.  I toyed with the idea, but chickened out, as usual.  We then found the exhibit dedicated to her lengthy career and were met with warning signs about nudity, no photography, and no children.  At first, I was really uncomfortable, because there were lots of nude performers, but once I got over that initial discomfort and realized that everyone else was looking at naked people too, I became more relaxed.  One of the things that relaxed me the most, was when I noticed a really pervy looking man creeping closer and closer to one of the nude performers.  As he did so, I could see security inching their way in, ready to pounce.  I thought that was kind of hilarious. (Although, this article just came out yesterday which makes me cringe a little for the performers.)

I didn't understand the meaning behind a lot of the work, and I will admit that I didn't really read a lot of the plaques that were positioned around the exhibit, partly because I was a little uncomfortable lingering.  In retrospect, I realize that they probably would have given me more insight into some of the performances, which included a naked woman suspended on the wall, sitting on a bicycle seat, another naked woman lying underneath a skeleton, two people with their hair tied together, and two more nude people standing in a small doorway, forcing people to squeeze between them (I decided to walk around to the other side of the gallery to avoid this installation in particular).  The exhibit contained actual video footage of many of her previous performances.  Some of her performances were utterly disturbing, like the one in which she's repeatedly walking into a wall, the sickening sound of her naked body hitting it again and again (with force), as well as the one where she's standing nude, with a skull clutched in her hands and her hair brushed forward over her face like Cousin It, repeatedly slamming the skull into her chest (again, with force).  Upon reading more about her life, performances, and the meaning behind them, I grew a greater appreciation for the exhibit as a whole, and really wish I had read more about it before going... (If you're interested, a quick google search brings up tons of info.)

The Monet exhibit was a lot smaller than I thought it would be.  The collection consisted of six paintings, two of which were enormous, wall-size paintings.  I took the most photos in this gallery for some reason, and I was pretty pleased with the way that most of them turned out.  One thing I will say is that the gallery lights were horrible to the colors of the paintings in the photos, so I bumped them up a bit with an editing program to give a better representation of what they looked like in real life.

All photographs by me.
not to toot my own horn, but I'm super in love with this last photograph.  I love how you can see the cracked paint and brush strokes. (click on it to enlarge!)

I think that the photos speak for themselves, but it was a really amazing exhibit.  It's unbelievable when you stop and actually think about the fact that he created these masterpieces with debilitating cataracts impeding his vision and color perception. 

There was also a really good Picasso exhibit showcasing his printmaking skills and creative process of deconstructing things on paper (the one in which I had the stand-off with "the old bag").  This was one of my two favorite pieces from the exhibit:

Pablo Picasso, 1939

All in all, it was one of the best days I've had in a very long time.  There's something about art that just relaxes me completely and gives me that "everything is going to be ok" feeling.  Plus, it really helped that I was there with some very good friends.  Very therapeutic. 

We ended the day with some shopping at Rockefeller Center and a carriage ride around Central Park.  Perfection. 

While art is different for everyone, I highly recommend MoMA to anyone who is remotely interested in modern art.  It's definitely worth a visit. 

And, Central Park in spring is just lovely...

sorry for the long post.  i toyed with the idea of chopping it in two, but could bear splitting anything up...  i guess this makes up for my month-long silence, right?
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