Tuesday, 1 July 2008

Museumising(Totally unrelated pic — but I so loved this building in Phoenix, with that sign!)

After decades of having to be satisfied with merely looking at pictures of art in books, including three years of art history — during which the experience was augmented by looking at slideshows of pictures of art in books — I'm in heaven over here!

In Phoenix last week, we visited the Heard Museum, which concentrates on Native American art and anthropology and is set in a converted and expanded 1920s house set around a courtyard which reminded us all very strongly of Hackett Hall at the University of WA!
The museum was full of jewellery, baskets, rugs, pottery, household items and other art by the many nations of the south-west, including Navajo, Hopi and Apache.
I was stunned by the very first exhibit in the lobby, of three big and beautiful pots from the same tribal region. The first was made and decorated in the tenth century, and it was set beside one made by a woman last century and another made more recently by that woman's grand-daughter. All bore the same traditional bear-claw design, and all three were similar in shape and style — continuity of method and design that had lasted a thousand years and more.
Off the lobby was an exhibition of modern art by this brilliant young Navajo painter, Tony Abeyta, who worked straight on to the wall in Indian ink washes and charcoal to create a vast image of the Navajo underworld. It was breathtaking.
:: That evening, we went to the Scottsdale Museum of Modern Art, where I was riveted by an exhibition by a Los Angeles artist, Pae White, who — among a lot of other great work — created brilliant mobiles out of coloured paper and thread that moved subtly in the slightest movement of air. They were hypnotic. If you click here, you can see pictures of some of her work on show in New Zealand.
:: And finally, after a few days among the weirdness and wonders of Las Vegas, the Nevada Desert and the Sierra Nevada, we braved the surprising cold and gloom of San Francisco in June to see a big exhibition of Frida Kahlo's paintings at SFMoMA, plus room after room of photographs of her and Diego Rivera, including a touching few seconds of video showing the two of them together at their house, Casa Azul. This exhibition was organised to celebrate the centenary of her birth.
I've never been much of a fan of Frida, finding her work a strange mix of the simplistic and the spooky — understandable, of course, given the horrendous accident that nearly killed her in her teens. I'm also cynical about the constantly repeated self-portrait, which she seemingly rattled off, in the same pose, same angle, again and again, differing the background decoration and surrounding objects. I'm still not convinced, though I am perhaps more sympathetic after seeing this exhibition.

1 comment:

Jennifer said...

Love the stories of your travels, and especially the account of the art you were able to see. I never got the whole Freida cult, either, so there you go. I always wondered, "is this all just because she was a woman?" I really loved the story of the 3 Native American pots -- so few of us have that kind of sense of continuity with our pasts, and so few artists seem willing to embrace that kind of work peacefully and respectfully (instead of wanting to make an individual statement/mark).