Monday, August 7, 2017


Richard Serra » Sequence
A recent weekend visit to the highly regarded SFMOMA helped to reveal two things. One, Warhol does not resonate with me. And two, the museum does a poor job of facilitating viewers into an atmosphere conducive to enjoying the art itself. Many of the galleries were lacking natural light, were unflattering and made for a mess of clogged people. It felt to me as though the museum cared more about its exterior facade and outdoor spaces (complete with cityscape views), than it did about being the vessel for the art meant to inspire. Museums need to showcase the art above all else, then allow for the flow of foot traffic; it should not be confusing. With that being said, perhaps harshly, I thoroughly enjoyed certain exhibits and pieces. Now onto the good stuff.

The in-house collections, donated via the Fisher family, are robust to say the least. Within these modern walls rest priceless works, covering a wide range of artists and mediums. Edvard Munch and Alexander Calder were the main draws in my mind's eye, and Anselm Kiefer, who's art is felt rather than viewed.

Night in Saint-Cloud
There were three of Munch's paintings that made me feel and imagine, and for that, I am grateful to have experienced things of this nature. Each of these three seemed to me, to be truly capturing a moment, person or place. I most certainly appreciate the freedom an artist has to make their own impressions come to life, imagination is the seed from which creativity does sprout. With that said, these paintings moved me and felt more real, more visceral. Night in Saint-Cloud transplanted me into the moment I was viewing. It's so real that it allows for your own narratives to begin filling in the story. Completed in 1893, Night in Saint-Cloud kept pulling me back. Being displayed in a small closet-like offshoot thankfully didn't detract from its profound ability to mesmerize. It began to make me feel. I tried to put myself into the thoughts of the shadowy image—the long gaze out into the night beyond the pane, and perhaps, the pain. The mastery of tone and light make the mood more profound. Frozen between worlds, the inside and the out, almost become one. If I were Thomas Crown...

Another stark and strong presence was, Lady in Black (Olga Buhre). Produced in 1891, Munch's vision is assuredly captured, as is the woman herself. Centuries distance us, and yet I was able to conjure up ideas that were probably not too far from the truth. When art becomes truth it begins the debate, when art is truth, it just is. Olga is forever immortal, oil on canvass, art as truth.

Edvard had a sprawling exhibit and in one of the larger galleries resides Madonna (1895-97). This rendering embodied trial and error. There was perfection in the potential, and the potential for making a mistake allows for growth. Somehow the skin and youth of the woman remain. I was fascinated by the idea of a nude wearing a hat, it had a certain vibrancy. The rouge of her cap contrasts the soft off-white paleness of the young woman's skin. I like that her eyes are shut, she too is thinking, doing, becoming part of the artistic process. Her dark hair and subtle curves grip our attention. There's also a part of me that doesn't fully understand the left arm and shoulder, and that's OK. Madonna was set amongst a variety of his work from the early 1900's. It showcased the different ways in which Munch chose to portray subjects and topics, it did however, fit in nicely with how his range of color became more vibrant. As my partner-in-crime commented, his later works jettisoned toward color, brush strokes and proportion. I like that different eyes see different things. Edvard Munch: Between the Clock and the Bed, will be on loan until October 9th at SFMOMA.

Alexander Calder » Untitled 1949
Alexander Calder is a tinkerer, an artist, and an appreciator of motion. His mobiles are known throughout the world. Calder drew me in to fine art at an early age, his artwork always begged, 'make me move,' so of course I oblige. With enough lung power and some strategy, you can get most of his movables to move. The portion of the museum housing his concoctions is probably the most appealing and inviting space within the ladder-like maze. One entire wall of glass opens to an outdoor sculpture area and the natural light helps to add even more youthful energy. Interaction is a rarity inside the walls of an art museum, and this is exactly why the works of Calder make me feel forever young. The shapes he uses and the vibrant colors give life and movement to that which was fixed. And with one gust of wind, or gulp of air, or even a door being whisked open, his marvels swing to life. It's always worth your time to interact with Calder.

Anselm Kiefer » Margarethe (R) & Die Meistersinger (L)
Anselm Kiefer moves my emotions on a large-scale, not simply because of the size of his canvasses, nor the gravity of his subject matter, but because of the unnerving care and time I imagine the artist taking in order to create such powerful offerings. Impressive, his work reels you in, it literally captures me. You almost become part of the art. I have this need to see it from different distances, part curiosity and to make sure of something. Kiefer never ceases to inspire, always provoking thought, he's an artist who merits the praise. The works to the left were completed in 1981 & 1982. Sulamith is another favorite, completed in 1983. Sulamith mines deep into reality and is better seen in person. The early 80's!

One Rauschenberg is always enough. I have long been fascinated by his aptitude, methods and willingness to be himself (I can only assume). Collection (1954/55) was on display and immediately sucked me in. His daring use of all things possible, gives mixed media and color new direction. His Combines allow adventurous souls to dream, "anything is possible." He reminds us to do, to remain thoughtful, and to be cognoscente of our capacity to over-think. Rauschenberg may not be for everyone, but I will be steadfast, loyal to his otherworldly talents and courage. Thanks be to art.


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