Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Pompidou Center and Modern Art- a Love/Hate affair?

If you are not a fan of modern art, it's probably because you think of Modern art as things like the contents of a garbage can being put in an acrylic box and labeled as art.

It's true. There's a display like that at the Pompidou Center, as well.

Now... let me just say, that I don't think that the contents of the garbage can are visually pleasing or took a lot of effort for the "artist" to arrange (or dump) in the acrylic box. However, if you think of art as a way of examining mankind, the human condition, or as a slice of everyday life (you may... you may not... I'm not going to tell you what art is or isn't), then I can see the value in it. But to me, if it's going to be labeled as art, then there should at least be some kind of commentary along with it. You know, if there's going to be three Coke cans, a subway ticket, and a half-eaten sandwich on display, then maybe use those items to address branding (since Coke is a universally recognizable brand), or how a subway ticket identifies the garbage as coming from a certain place, and therefore makes the rest of it that much more interesting (maybe).

Anyway, I'm not necessarily trying to defend "garbage can" art to anyone. I think I'm more trying to understand what purpose, if any, there is in displaying it.

HOWEVER, that is not really my style of Modern Art. So when I say I love modern art, please don't let that be the thing that jumps to mind. Instead, why don't you think of these?

Wind by Xao Wou-Ki (I love how moody this canvas feels, even without knowing the title).

Untitled XX by William de Kooning (I just love the riot of color and that there seems to be no rhyme or reason to it).

Detail of a painting by Simon Hantai. He folded the canvas a bunch of times until it was small, then only painted the surfaces that showed. Unfolded it, refolded it, applied more paint. After many times of doing this, the resulting canvas is randomly covered in color (possibly more than one) or even left completely blank in places. He did have a purpose in doing this (something to do with ignoring the will of the artist in the placement of paint, letting it just be random, etc.), but I just really like the overall effect.

Oh, Mark Rothko. I think your paintings are wonderful. Deceptively simple-looking little festivals of color.

Love me some Jackson Pollock. This is a detail of 'The Deep.'

Nicolas de Staehl's "Les Toits." I absolutely LOVE this painting. It's quickly becoming a new favorite. I'm kind of traumatized by the fact that he killed himself after meeting with a particularly harsh art critic. I hope I get to meet him in heaven and tell him how much I love this painting. (Is that weird? Maybe just a little, but I would totally say the same thing about Monet, Van Gogh, Pollock, Rothko, and many others.)

Kupka's "Autour d'un Point" (..."Surrounding a Point/Dot" maybe?). Very graphic. Very cool.

Kupka's "Animated Lines" and Delaunay's "Rythm with no end"

Jasper Johns - Figure Number 5

More Simon Hantai. This is titled 'Painting' and called "Pink Writing." You can see there are a couple of different things going on with splotches of color and the dripping black circles...

but what you may not realize at first is that all of the texture and detail covering the whole canvas coms from handwriting on the canvas. Hantai wrote directly onto the canvas (I think it took the better part of a year or more) in pen. If I remember right, he copied down famous quotations or inspiring passages of literature or other texts. He made himself write on the canvas for an hour every day or something to that effect, until it was complete. I would never put myself through that, but he seems to be the very dedicated, experimental type who is willing to put in a lot of time to see the results of a certain approach (c.f. the folding canvas experiment noted above).

So, there you have it. My favorites from the Pompidou Center. Yep, there were some things I thought were more difficult to appreciate than others, but I still found many things I thought were lovely, thought-provoking, and very (even excrutiatingly) detailed.


Scrappy said...

Okay, so I am in love with Wind. Awesome! I want it!

Billy Bob Bambino Bombabious Baby the Third said...

One of the problems we have in our post-Walmart world is that everyone seems to want things pre-chewed. You know what I mean? There's a certain satisfaction that comes from chewing things - like chewing food releases hidden textures and flavors. People want things that have no hidden meaning, nothing they can discover for themselves, and most of all nothing that makes them uncomfortable, think, or feel. People feel like if they don't "get it" they are somehow less intelligent - like if they were somehow smart enough they could understand art without having to have it explained to them... And honestly, I can understand that: no one wants to feel stupid...

But that's just the point of good art - how it makes you feel, how it changes you, how your life will never (cannot ever!) be the same after having experienced it. This is true of all art forms - from music to architecture. But it is particularly true of expressionist art. You are completely on your own. Which is part of the reason I don't like critics of modern art. I like to hear about the process of the creation of art, because sometimes that gives me a clue as to what the artist was thinking. But usually not even then, unless it is very mechanical. I want to approach all art from the standpoint of my own mind. I like to sit and observe and ponder without the influence of others. And I almost don't like to discuss what I have felt with others because it is such an intensely personal experience... Most people don't get it (or me!) anyway...

I think you know what I mean.

I love the Pompidou. We studied it extensively in my architecture classes. I love how he moved the mechanical and circulation spaces to the outside of the building so the studios and galleries inside could be unfettered and open and clear. It has been copied frequently since. And like your garbage in the acrylic box, it exposes us to things we otherwise might not consider... Interesting...

Sarah said...

Scrappy, I am with you. I would hang every one of these in my own house. (Well, if I still had my own house.)

Sarah said...

Bill!!! I do know exactly what you mean... and I'm so glad YOU know exactly what I mean! Thanks for your thoughts, I agree 100%.