Kathy and I visited the Whitney Museum of American Art this past Saturday. Even though I have little experience with art and museums, I was so excited to visit this particular museum. I have wanted to go to the Whitney since I saw a friend’s picture on Facebook of her in a beautiful and captivating exhibit called “Firefly” back in the fall. Although the exhibit closed awhile ago, I was still interested in seeing the work of our modern day creative minds.
As we walked in I immediately noticed the wide expanse of the main floor, the creative ceiling patterned with circular drop down lamps, and the uniformed guards on each floor. All the makings of a fine museum. After a quick detour to the bathroom, we went up in the elevator to the first exhibit. It was called Sinister Art. It was filled with strange pictures and objects and photos of deformed caricatures of people, disturbing murals on the topic of the Vietnam War, and manipulated photos that showed the effects of strange photography tricks. I couldn’t quite understand it.
The next exhibit was in a dark room with projectors showing at least twenty different videos all around the room. Again, the images were strange. Women in all forms of undress pranced around in one video. In another, photos of soldiers that died in wars was shown on repeat. Yet another video showed the alphabet being recited multiple times and culminated in a scene where a woman threw up blood. I couldn’t believe that such perverse things were being shown on these screens.
The last exhibit we visited was of one artist called Richard Artschwager. According to Wikipedia, Artschwager is a painter, illustrator, and sculptor who is known for his “stylistic independence” and “associations to the Pop Art movement, Conceptual art, and Minimalism.”
His exhibit was the most interesting out of the three exhibits we saw. His works were brightly colored and included oddly shaped formica furniture, a series of paintings depicting the destruction of a building in Atlantic City, and the famous blps, which are (excuse my terrible explanation of them) a form of punctuation marks. All of it was obscure and mysterious.
Although I know that all are vastly different, I started comparing the Renaissance art from Europe in the 1400s and Chinese art with nature being the subject to the modern day American art that I had just seen. There was something so wrong with this new art. While Renaissance art celebrated the natural, elegant human form and placed man in the most positive light, this American art dehumanized man. While the Chinese saw the beauty of nature and the emphasized the relationship between people and nature, modern art sought to force nature into the confines of human hands. For example, one of Richard Artschwager’s works was a grass covered concrete table and two chairs. Nature was forced to grow on what was left of human creation rather than work with humans together in harmony.
It seems to me (and I am no expert, this is my own limited opinion) that the twenty first century has brought a selfishness to art. Artists are no longer content to capture the beauty of natural things. Instead, artists now seek to be understood. They want the public to study and wonder about their creations, and by doing so, hope that their genius will be unraveled. However, from my own experience, I have found that the human mind, no matter how intelligent, is a faulty machine. It is best to look outside of ourselves to find true beauty. Only after we see the expanse of the beautiful, natural world, are we able to look at our own reflections and understand it.
I am probably entirely wrong about modern art, and I am most likely wrong about art from the other centuries. I guess all I know is that I hope to look outside more and to appreciate what is around me more so that I can look at myself and know that I am a creation just as beautiful as everything else.