Today, I treated myself to a visit to the High Museum here in Atlanta to take in the new exhibit titled Picasso to Warhol: 14 Modern Masters. Like all the exhibits on the special second floor space, this one didn’t disappoint. I didn’t like it as well as the Dali exhibit they put on last year; however, I think that was due to the different depth of each. Trying to cram fourteen artists into a space that served previously to feature one made the current exhibit feel a bit rapid—like a stone skipping across the lake rather than plunging in, which is what I prefer.
However, it was nice to see these fourteen men and women near one another; it was easy to see how one influenced the other or how one used his or her predecessor as a springboard into a new creative sphere. It was also a nice exhibit because it included multiple mediums–painting, photography, film, sculpture, collage, and many others. It was arranged chronologically by the artists’ ages, and it flowed beautifully from one mini collection to the next. Many of the sculptures were stationed on slightly raised platforms in the middle of their respective spaces, and that meant patrons could walk around them and take each in from multiple angles and perspectives. It was crowded but never felt that way due to the exceedingly well-designed layout and spacing between pieces.
The audio tour, which can be purchased for $6 ($4 if you’re a member!), is well worth the cost as it allows you to gain greater insight about several key paintings in the collection and enriches the experience as a whole. The High also created a pretty excellent app called ArtClix, which allows those who have downloaded it to snap pictures of paintings, access audio/video information about them, post those photos on social media sites, and interact with both museum staff and other patrons nearby via comments. It’s free, which is always nice, and it can also be used once you leave the museum.
I discovered several things about modern art and myself during the two and a half hours I spent touring the exhibit, first with my audio tour and then again with my iPhone as my guide.
1. With the exception of Nude Descending a Staircase, I really do not care for the work of Marcel Duchamp. Say “Shame on you!” if you want, but I toured the space featuring his work twice–very slowly–looking for something that spoke to me. I got bupkis.
2. I did discover that I have an affinity for Giorgio de Chirico, an artist about whom I knew very little about before today. The dream-like quality of each of his works is utterly compelling, and while he only painted everyday objects, the manner in which each is presented makes them seem totally foreign.
3. I have underrated the work of Jackson Pollock. Granted, it is not as technically masterful as Johannes Vermeer or Rembrandt van Rijn, but there’s something more to it than squiggly lines and splashes of paint. Today, I learned that he didn’t paint on a canvas that had been stretched on and stapled to a frame. Instead, he laid it flat on the floor and walked around it do to his work using a method called Drip Painting. (As a result, he became known as Jack the Dripper in certain circles.) He said it made him feel more connected to the work because he could approach it from all sides, be on the same level as it so to speak. He would paint using sticks and other objects rather than simply paintbrushes and perform a sort of choreographed dance around the canvas, slinging paint according to his mood, and then repeating the process again with another color to create a multi-layered work that seems simple but becomes more interesting once you start looking at it and trying to trace the origin, source, and rhythm of that movement. In a way, the canvas is a map of that dance he did to create it. The creation (and creator) of it is still “alive” inside of it in a manner of speaking. You can even see his hand prints in the upper right hand corner.
4. Museums might just be okay for kids…some of them at least. For this piece, there was an Artclix info page, a track on the adult audio tour, and a track on the family/kids audio tour. I listened to mine, stood there contemplating, and then noticed this cute little girl staring at Number 1A the same way I was. She was moving her arms, imitating Pollock’s movement as best I could tell, and she was really into it!
I’m not normally a fan of kids at museums. Often, they’re bored by the second painting, and the remainder of the time they’re there, they’re whining or trying to touch the art. Most curtain climbers who I’ve come into contact with don’t have a volume control on their voice boxes either. Museum rules be damned! They see no problem telling everyone around them, especially when they have to go to the bathroom (including which “number” they have to do of course) or what they think when they see a naked person. Generally, they ruin the artistic buzz of everyone else in the gallery until either their parents give up and take them home or they fall asleep in a sweaty heap on someone’s shoulder.
However, this little one made me re-evaluate my stance. She was obviously digging on what she saw, interacting with it in a way that I think Pollock would have enjoyed. She stood in front of that large canvas, braids flopping and boots thumping on the floor, and embraced it as best as her little arms and growing mind could. Simply put, she couldn’t get that same experience from simply reading about him in a textbook or from a photograph of the artwork. I’ll put up with the others who beg for juice boxes they can’t have in order to afford kids like her the opportunity to experience art as a young-un.
I snapped a few photos with my camera phone, but they really don’t do the moment justice. However, I hope you enjoy looking at them almost as much as I did taking them!