Monday, January 05, 2004

Sometimes a picture says nothing at all

I went to the Museum of Modern Art yesterday for the last showing of a very famous exhibit, featuring works by Monet, Sauret, Picasso, Chagall, Warhol, O'Keefe, Matisse and Dali. The place was packed actually and it was very hard to see some of the more famous works, like Van Gogh's Starry Night, which was virtually impossible to see as many headphoned people clustered and refused to move, so moved they were by the painting.

Also on exhibit were some lovely works by Sauret -- up close, you could see each dot and backing away, the beautiful painting that resulted. There was only one painting by Monet on display, much to my dismay, and that was the famous Waterlilies. Up close, amazingly, I wasn't as blown as I was by Sauret's work.

I'm not a fan of Picasso. I hate to say it because the admission reveals my secret philistine, but while I'm at it, I'll also say that I'm not particularly fond of Matisse either (I did visit his museum in Nice last summer), who had a version of Notre Dame on exhibit. I saw much of Picasso at Reina Sofia in Madrid, particularly the very famous anti-war statement, Guernica. I remember seeing all of the guards and video-cameras keeping watching, but I was strangely unmoved. Discombulation and angles don't speak to me the same way flesh and blood do.

The whole exhibit had that same effect on me -- I was not moved at all. I could not discern beauty in the lines of Piet Mondrian and perhaps there was a smile or two at some of Warhol's work, but in general, it's hard to conjure up a reaction to a canvas done up completely in black (even if the artist has claimed to use different shades of black).

I left longing for the timelessness of the Prado and the Louvre. I love and appreciate the clean bright lines of the Classical era, the light and slightly out of focus landscapes of the Impressionists, the deep feeling and emotion of the Romantics, and of course, the dark, rich portraits of the Renaissance. I'll take detail, color and vividness any day over a stark red line painted on a white background.

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