6. Museum trip
For this week’s assignment to venture out to a museum to further explore the culture of the place that we are going to visit for the next few months, I thought it would be a bit more of a challenge to go to a large and well-recognized museum to go look for cultural artifacts, photographs or paintings based in the Czech tradition. You see, when thinking of notable artists, photographers and craftspeople one always tends to think of the Italians, the French or other nationalities, without giving second thought to most others worldwide, leaving me hard-pressed to find articles worth writing about as they pertained to Czechoslovakian design. Firstly, what was “Czech style” and where would I possibly find it? Sure, I looked up a location of a small exhibit within the Czech Museum, but I figured, why not go to the Metropolitan Museum of Art and challenege myself to discover these relatively little-known artists and expose their work to the masses (well at least our class anyway)? Needless to say, it wasn’t easy.
By the powers of the internet, I transported myself to the Centre Pompidou. This museum not only houses some of the most amazing modern and contemporary pieces, and has amazing retrospectives and interesting group exhibitions but also the actual building is a modern feat. While the building has been criticized for looking too mechanical and not elegant enough for Paris, I would have to disagree and tell you that the beauty of the building lies in the inside and that the perspective that the outer elevators give are actually spectacular.
When I visited the Pompidou last January, they had a wonderful Alberto Giacometti show that included hundreds of sculptures and works on paper. Wanting more, I searched their website and found that they currently have a Futurist exhibition up and that it will be showing until January 26th so I’ll actually be able to see it! The Futurists are known for being the first avant-garde movement of the 20th century and for celebrating industrial progress and the urban city. This exhibition gathers more than 200 works by French Futurist, Cubist, and other avant-garde artists such as Georges Braque, Robert Delaunay, Félix Del Marle, Marcel Duchamp, Albert Gleizes, Frantiek Kupka, Fernand Léger, Kasimir Malévitch, Jean Metzinger, Francis Picabia, Pablo Picasso and Ardengo Soffici. The exhibit has the goal of deepening the publics understanding of how theses modern movements were entwined and how they sprouted from a communal atmosphere in Paris.
For my museum trip, I went to the Czech center in New York where they had a small exhibit on the history of the Czech community in New York in the 19th and 20th centuries. The exhibition refers to the idea that places represent realms of memory with the Bohemian Nation Hall (the actual 321 East 73rd st. building) having the greatest historic importance. The reopening of the Czech Center New York (they just moved back after having finished years of renovations) marks the 90th anniversary of the creation of the Czechoslovakian state.
I found this gallery to be very educational and eye especially when I consider the “On Eye Opening Art” article we had to read for class today. Not only does it mention that “we travel in search of beauty”, but that places drawn differently than we are used to my “influence where we would like to travel to.” Thus the “redrawing” of a place such as what Van Gogh painted in Arles entices the traveler because that world he thinks he grasps so well has now been given this new, original, unknown feel to explore.
Personally, I appreciated the pictures of the buildings that had either a Czech cultural significance or architectural influence. It gave new meaning to the architecture of New York that I had not considered up until now.
Though I intended on using the fine resource Germany in NYC to find an explicitly German art exhibit happening somewhere in Manhattan, I had to visit my Aunt who lives outside of Boston this past weekend. It was relaxing, but not at all particularly German. Instead of being able to take advantage of the arguably more helpful and more informative interpretation of the activity, that is to view how your country is and has been artistically represented and preserved, I simply wandered the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, which I had never been to before. I tried to take to be alert to the “museum experience” I was having, but, because this experience was in a space I had never seen with art I had never been able to contemplate or interpret, I was actually experiencing the museum and somehow, therefore, not able to simultaneously contemplate myself experiencing the museum and the art. Now, however, I have enough hindsight to think about how much I really enjoyed just digesting the art on display.
All of this in mind, I intend to go to a museum or exhibit in Manhattan within the coming weeks, and I intend on writing a post about that experience, as well. In the meantime, I would like to simply contemplate the readings for this week, and how they seem to absolutely require that I see German art soon.
First, the chapter from de Botton’s Art of Travel was interesting, I feel, because he is so directly able to convey the importance and impact of seeing really great pieces of art. A lot of the things he writes seem as if they may have never needed to have been written, but de Botton’s prose justifies itself. On being influenced by art, de Botton writes:
There’s nothing worse than having your mind set on doing one thing, attempting to do it, and then being shut down by outside forces. I was so excited to go to el Museo del Barrio because 1. I had never been and 2. It’s a museum that caters exclusively to Latin American and Caribbean art and artists. I took the 6 from Spring Street up to 103 St, got a little bit lost, went to the wrong museum, walked up and down the streets searching for the museum, found the museum, and it was closed for renovation. With my Iphone in hand I quickly searched on Safari for “Argentine Art NYC” and was directed to the Argentine Consulate in NYC. I checked the calendar and found out there was a gallery being displayed on Naïve Argentine art at the Gina Gallery for International Naïve art. So I left, feeling defeated, and went to the gallery on Columbus ave and 86th st. The work displayed included paintings from Virginia Bellati, Maria Laura Bratoz, Gato Frias, Veronica Labat, Roxana Muchnik, Andrea Poceiro, Lidia Papic, Martha Tominaga and Eduardo Ungar. Naïve Art is characterized by it’s “childlike simplicity” with a lot of colors and contrasts. The paintings aren’t as refined as other genres of paintings, and sometimes one can feel awkward just looking at them. They almost look like cartoons. I personally loved the Tango Show painting because the whole ambiance looks quite intimate and sensual. The choice of colors brings a sense of depth and mystery to the forefront. Also, the shapes of the women are very voluptuous but the women also seem to be of a higher class.
Hello, again! So, I went to the Metropolitan Museum of Art or “the Met” (as New Yorkers/those who are familiar with it may say) for the first time Sat. I am a history nut so this was going to be like heaven for me. I have to say that I brought some preconceptions with me. I am a huge Gossip Girl fan and the first thing I was looking for when I was going down Fifth Ave. were the steps where Blair Waldorf has lunch everyday. Unfortunately, it was nighttime and I guess they are doing reconstruction or something because the steps were covered and therefore I did not whip out my camera for this “iconic” image. So I entered through the Center for Education, first thing they said they had to check my bag and someone said something about a camera and I thought we were not allowed to have them so I didn’t bring it with me sadly. Then, amazingly I found out that admission was a suggested donation and for college student like me that was a blessing within itself, still I was happy to donate.
For my museum visit, I rode my skateboard to the Bea Art Hall Gallery, which is actually the hallway of the Centro Cultural Brasil in New York. They are showing about 10 pieces, all of which are inspired by the writing of Joaquim Maria Machado de Assis, a novelist, short story writer, and poet, who lived and worked during the 19th century. The pieces invoked images of Brazil, which is only natural since Machado de Assis never left Rio de Janeiro. One painting jumped out at me, because the whole canvas, about the size of my midsection, displayed two toucans. I could not fully translate the Machado quotation next to the painting, and so I asked for the only employee there to help me translate. The words read something along the lines of “God, you have given man a face or friendship. Devil, you have made men confused between love and friendship.” And the picture was of two toucans. The woman said that the toucans were specific to the Amazon, and represented Brazil. Another instillation piece had leaves strewn about on a shelf. All of the leaves were green, yellow, and black, which I took to represent the Brazilian flag. There were some portraits of Machado de Assis, one of which had lines of his writing spewing out of his mouth. To tell the truth, the art itself did not give me any particular impression of Brazil, or even of Machado de Assis’ works.
I decided to look for one Argentine painter whose style caught my eye and see if they’re images depicted a landscape. After looking through lots of artwork and reading Meinig’s essay, I realized every image captures some sort of landscape. The artist I landed on and spent time looking through galleries of his work is Antonio Berni. He was born in Argentina and studied painting in Buenos Aires. His artwork greatly reflects his patriotism through the landscapes he chooses to depict. Some of his work is set in more traditional landscapes but they did not convey as much to me as his more politically motivated pieces.
Manifestación is one his most famous paintings. It is not a traditional landscape
but contains many of the elements Meinig explains as part of a landscape. There is no “nature” in the Romantic sense because man is more overwhelming in the image than any natural object. But every face is illuminated by natural light. This gives every person an equal importance in the painting and in political matters. The “habitat” is the backdrop and sets the painting in a more urban setting especially by including a smokestack in the far back. It is important that this particular scene be set in a city where the common man has worked hard as their contribution and this shows “man’s power to affect the earth.”
I went to the Met this past weekend to look for visual representations of England in the European Paintings section. I had never visited this part of the museum before so I wasn’t sure what kind of paintings I would find. Surprisingly, there were much fewer English landscape paintings than I thought there would be; the English section of the gallery primarily consisted of portrait paintings. Some of these paintings, however, were created with the traditional English landscape in the background and I was therefore able to get a glimpse at how the country was perceived and depicted. In the portrait paintings that were set outdoors, like that of Elizabeth Farren by Sir Thomas Lawrence, the concentration on the human figure doesn’t seem to detract from the wish of representing the background scenery as incredibly beautiful and rich. The woman’s elegant clothing and posture seem to highlight (perhaps even add to) the landscape behind her.
At the International Center of Photography there is a Cornell Capa exhibit called “Concerned Photographer”. Part of the exhibit is dedicated to photos that document the collapse of Juan Perón's dictatorial regime in Argentina in 1955. The images showed huge, dense crowds protesting, marching, and gathering throughout the streets of Buenos Aires. The photos, all in black and white, accurately conveyed the political climate of Buenos Aires while powerfully capturing the emotional involvement of the people.
The photos represented Argentina as a politically unstable country where citizens actively fight for their own societal desires. I am at least a little familiar with Argentina’s history of political/social/economic divides and turbulences. My cousin, who has spent extended amounts of time in Buenos Aires, has also told me about the economic instability that has affected the city. For these reasons, Capa’s images at the ICP conformed to my understanding of Argentina. Although the pictures captured the political environment of Buenos Aires fifty years ago, I still attribute similar qualities (like the existence of social inequalities, the political awareness of citizens, and an emphasis on group mobilization) to Argentina today. I already assume that political demonstrations occur often in Buenos Aires. I remember my cousin saying that many of the universities in Buenos Aires are free, public, and somewhat chaotic because people are constantly handing out political flyers and demonstrating their opinions.