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Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Philly Book Tour, Part II: Museum of Art OR She's Got Everything She Needs

There was no photography allowed at the Mutter Museum, but at the Philadelphia Museum of Art (at least in the Impressionism galleries) the guards didn't seem to mind a snapshot here and there.

I have a love/hate relationship with the Impressionists--or shall I say their popularity has made it hard for this discriminating museum patron to fawn all over them--but I allowed myself to, this one time, appreciate Pissarro, Cezanne, Monet, and Manet, especially what they were able to do with color and light. These three examples of their work stopped me in my museum-sauntering tracks [top to bottom: Manet, Cezanne, Pissarro (sorry, but I did not write down titles--heavens!--and now I can't find the names of these online, though the Pissarro, I believe, is fittingly titled "Fog."]

Also of great interest and delight was Thomas Hirschhorn's "Camo - Outgrowth (Winter)," an installation of 119 globes with camouflage-patterned tape bulging out of various parts of said globes. Along with these were many photographs of people wearing camo: hunters, fashion models, soliders, even a camo-patterned backpack. Also, Dick Cheney in a combat suit with troops clapping behind him, also a military funeral. It's a very powerful piece.

And then there were the Duchamp galleries, which I had no idea were even there, and what a treat as I love Duchamp! It was the first time I'd heard about "Given: I. The Waterfall 2. The Illuminating Gas ..." As I wrote in my journal "OH MY GOD! You peer through two peep holes behind this makeshift wooden door and it's a model of a nude woman splayed out in a field, a wacky/tacky illuminated and perpetually-flowing (optical illusion") waterfall in the distance (how do they keep it going? Is it motorized? Does a guard change a battery every few months? Since it was installed in 1969?)--a post-coital scene? Or has she been raped? Murdered? Though she must be alive as she's holding a gas lamp. Creepy, but much more to admire here than the urinal or the bicycle wheel..." And what a mystery: Duchamp told the world he had stopped making art in 1946, then spent the next twenty years fashioning this final work. They found the materials, along with a "carefully compiled installation manual" after his death. Surprise! He had been doing his art after all. But how bizarre!

I am drawn to visual art because it unsettles me, removes me from ho-hum thought patterns, forces me to consider the role art plays in a given society, along with what compels artists to make art, the viewer to go see it (or pay millions of dollars to own it), and also why we get our culottes in a twist over it (I'm thinking of, for instance, Serrano's Piss Christ).

For me it's about whimsy, the vicarious pleasure of witnessing creative joy (not to mention an imaginative mind) of a Calder, a Chagall, a DeKooning, a Johns, a Picasso--or, the giddiness that ensued as I walked through a Henry Art Gallery chirping with live canaries.

I want to interact, react, feel. I try to stay open, but I draw the line at giant black canvasses (Ad Reinhardt be damned) . Black canvasses, though my friend David George tried to persuade me otherwise, don't do it for me. Nor does the minimalism of Ellsworth Kelley (not a big fan).

I only had two hours, but I crammed as much viewing in as I could muster without fainting from fatigue and overstimulation (!).

Next installment: The Chagall Exhibition

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