Monday, February 28, 2011

Exploring MoMA

We had a great time exploring the Museum of Modern Art in NYC on Saturday. Luckily, I had borrowed the picture book Seen Art? by John Sciezca and Lane Smith, so the whole family was familiar with many of the more well-known works. But it was also great being exposed to some new ideas and to try to expand our definition of art. Sometimes it was a stretch - "modern" art seems to have such a wide definition and ranges from the ridiculous to the sublime. I'll start with the ridiculous: The piece below is titled "The Middle of the World" by Gedi Sibony and it consists basically of vertical blinds lying on the floor. As my ten-year-old said, "I don't get it." Another that confounded us was nothing more than a stack of newspapers on the floor (didn't get the title or artist on that one). But there were some that were a little more fun, like the Needle in the Haystack which was a large cube of stacked hay bales wrapped with gold wire, which had an 18-karat gold needle on the end. The girls enjoyed searching for the needle and were happy to have found it!
We also enjoyed the photography exhibits. The photo below caught my husband's eye. It's called "Hands of Marionette Player" by Tina Modotti. Truly a picture worth a thousand words.
I really enjoyed Picasso's many renditions of guitars, including the collage below. One of the paper collages on display was not even glued - the paper was pinned in place, as though he hadn't made his final placement decision yet and might still make some changes. I think I'm only beginning to understand Picasso's approach to art. There's something very childlike and appealing in his use of everyday materials like old newspapers, wallpaper, cardboard, pencil and glue. You can tell that he was having fun - playing and exploring, but also breaking new ground. (My husband thinks modern art is about breaking rules. Maybe he's got something there...)
Matisse also seemed to be having great fun. His pieces always look so happy, especially "The Red Studio," below. Standing next to this piece, you feel like you can almost step into that big open space in the middle of the room, pick up one of the crayons in the open box on the table, and start coloring. The clock against the far wall has no hands, as though time is inconsequential while he's there happily working.
Here are a few Impressionist favorites of mine - Seurat and Monet. After the confusing and nonsensical contemporary stuff we saw first, these seemed like such a relief. My mind was searching for something that made sense, something rational and beautiful.

Finally, my favorite of all - The Starry Night. It was my first time seeing it in person and it was breathtaking.
I'm not sure how my recent exposure to modern art might influence my own art. Maybe it will help me define and appreciate my own personal sense of expression. Or maybe it will inspire me to break a few rules! Only time will tell...

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