So, in direct contrast to discovering art in unexpected places such as a simple series of brush strokes painted on a course concrete curb, (last week’s pattisays blog) this week, as fall leaves fill the air and pumpkins pop up on every surface, my observations are about discovering art occur in an actual art gallery, specifically the National Gallery of Art in Washington D.C.. Imagine that! The city has been abuzz for months in anticipation of the recent unveiling of the updated East Building.
It was in 1978, the year I left my home town of Washington that I.M. Pei’s exciting new modern edifice was presented to an anxious art-loving public. So very different from the West Building and all others in the historic vicinity, some people were astonished but most were thrilled. This sleek angular sculpture of a building was a statement in and around which to display the growing modern and contemporary collection. An art-piece of its own accord. Yes, the building was at once regarded as its own work of art. We eagerly raced to touch the famous wedge of geometry that came to such an acute angle that it begged to be touched.
Nearly 40 years later that same fine edge is silently showing its age missing little chunks of compound and lovingly discolored with all the hands from around the world that have touched and smiled at the towering stone form in contrast to the rotund, ornamented and domed Capital in the background. Both majestically iconic, but stylistically so very different.
But wait – this elegant aging beauty has had a three year rejuvenation treatment! New stairways and elevators connect galleries making the flow of exhibits more enjoyable. The tunnel connecting East to West sparkles with light and all the subtle changes result in a seamless passage through and enhanced experience for visitors.
The glassy, crisp, stark, expansive lobby where the enormous Calder mobile is suspended defying its enormity and weight as it gracefully, almost motionlessly, moves silently with the subtle, indiscernible stirring of air is the fulcrum of the building. Exhibit halls tucked away but newly connected are exciting to frequent visitors who know the building so well.
I naturally had to have a little fun and in keeping with the season made a couple of entertaining discoveries. Here Four Square and oil on Canvas by Franz Kline in 1956 is noted by The Art Story/Modern Art Insight “a fine example of his gestural approach to painting. The viewer is led to ponder the canvas, seeing as either a close-up of a linguistic symbol, or perhaps, a set of open windows.”
Really? Linguistic symbol or a set of windows? Well, maybe it’s the season…but I instantly saw a cat – a crazy black cat, an abstraction of James Dean’s “Pete” perhaps, which made me want a mask and to be that crazy cat and prance about for Halloween!
In another piece, Portage, by William Kentridge of South Africa born in my birth year of 1955, a folded accordion-like book with torn black figures of paper affixed to encyclopedia pages resulted in my seeing another black cat! I do think it was of human figures bearing weight, carrying, moving through various poses. Call me Halloweeny – but this one was decidedly a black cat. Don’t YOU think?
It was fabulous, exciting, fun and emotional to see the colorful Matisse cut-outs once again in such close proximity with Matisse’s placement marks and rough cut pieces – crude yet refined – rough yet lovely. Seeing these incredible compositions up close again is breath-taking.
Oh, and might this be another seasonal mask?
From awestruck to silly…to a quiet reverence at coming to the black and white photo of this enormous piece in Hotel Regina in Nice in 1953!! Seeing it in the setting of its day and captured in a photo all those many years ago was one of many moments of reverence.
Once again, pay attention to the little things, be surprised, let yourself be amused and enjoy discovering art wherever you might find it – unexpected and very much expected places!