Tuesday, December 23, 2008

A visit to the Museum of Modern Art: van Gogh and Miro

So I've been in New York City every week for the past 6 months or so, but haven't been to MOMA once. I guess once it is so accessible, the urgency of seeing all the sites goes away. But I had to get my car fixed, so I had a couple hours to kill in midtown, so I wandered over to see the new Van Gogh show and Miro show. It's nice, I've missed it.

It was also neat that they now have free Wifi access to their audio guide, coupling pictures to the recordings, that integrates perfectly with the iPhone. A neat tech-y addition.

Shows are nice, because they provide a nice narrative. My art history prof in Paris did his dissertation on how museums put together exhibits, and especially for shows, they really do a nice job. The Van Gogh was about the genesis of Starry Night. Interesting to see all the other styles that Van Gogh played with before developing the style (weird perspective and insane brush stroke) that museums have decided define Van Gogh. Nice to see his older work which is more traditional like Lorraine, or more standard impressionist like Monet, or more Urban like Renoir or Cassatt or graphic like Toulouse Lautrec, or the Matisse cutouts or the Nabis. And nice to see such a diverse range of styles over just a couple years. Also nice to come back to older paintings, after having been focused on more modern art. Was especially neat to see his letters, where he describes his thoughts behind the paintings. And his quest to capture starlight on canvas.

The Miro show was nice too. I've long used Miro as my answer to favorite artist, though I've mostly known his work purely only for its aesthetics and childlike whimsy. It was nice to see his work put into an (art) historical context, on his 10 year quest to destroy painting. In some ways you can dismiss Miro for just being derivative of 70's style Hallucinogenic psychedelic whimsy (like Yellow Submarine) except he predated by half a century, and it is a testament to his craft (as noted in the audio guide) that he gets such clean geometric lines and colors using the traditional oil medium, to properly capture otherworldliness. A highlight was his collection of paintings that derived from collages. He made collages from catalog diagrams (much like DuChamp) but it was neat to see how those collages inspired the weird organically abstract magical forms for which he is famous.
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