In the middle of the night I heard that light tap tap tap of fingers typing on a keyboard. « Ruben? Ruben? » I called. I poked my head into the dining room to find his laptop alone and asleep, like Ruben was, too, on the couch. I paused. Ahh…’twas not a keyboard but the pitter patter of raindrops outside. It was raining in New York. A strong, steady rain; a strong, steady wind. A perfect day for spending indoors. In a museum, perhaps. Quelle coincidence. That is just what I had planned for the day.
Operation: Guggenheim Museum
The Guggenheim is a museum of modern art. Now. I have to say upfront that I have a slight…aversion to…or perhaps a beef with… »modern art. » Or at least the kind hanging in museums that you have to pay to see. Let me explain.
The main current exhibitition was « Gutai: Splendid Playground. » A collection of the avant-garde and experimental art of fifty-nine Japanese artists from 1954 to 1972. Of course the exhibition was interesting and worth seeing. But. And here’s my resistance. How is this stuff more worthy or different than what I see on the streets; in regular life? How is it better than the architecture of various urban buildings, both the new and the decaying? Explain why this art is more worthy of acclaim than urban graffiti, particularly in Paris? How is this stuff being recognized for its « talent » when my friend Kirsten’s beautifully detailed sketch of a basket of onions with their delicate, fraying skins so perfectly captured is not?
Furthermore, if I look at a piece of « art » and know that I myself could either replicate it almost exactly or create something that could easily be thrown into the mix and blend in without someone calling rat, I find it hard to ooh and aah over it.
For example, look here:
It looks no different than my elementary school wall when we would throw a wet tennis ball against it. I should have photographed that childhood wall splattered wet with a ball!
Another piece was called « Commercially dyed cotton and glue, three parts » from artist Tanaka Atsuko in 1955. It was literally three pieces of uniformly yellow pieces of square cloth hung on the wall. See for yourself:
It wasn’t even some special, unique, new method for dying cloth he was showing off. But it’s art and don’t you forget it.
(Forgive the terrible quality of the photos. Gorilla photography with an iPhone and no flash is a crap shoot at best.)
Don’t you dare say: « Well, you are talking about it. It created a reaction, a discussion, and that is what ART does. » Puh. Lease. Yes I get that. And there is an argument for that, absolutely. But. BUT…
And here is the very crux of what I am trying to say: I am not saying that the various creations found in the Gutai: Splendid Playground exhibit is NOT art. I am saying that from one perspective or another, EVERYTHING THAT HUMANS CREATE IS ART. Like a haircut. Like the cardboard shelter a homeless person has constructed. Like the meal you served at your last dinner party. LIKE THIS POST!
So. This is why I can’t help but wonder or cannot appreciate how three pieces of commercially died cloth with glue found their way to the Guggenheim in New York City to earn a share of my twenty-two dollar entrance fee as well as into the corresponding book for sale which of course I did not buy at a cost of fifty-five dollars when there is as worthy or better art all around us everyday that also evokes a reaction and a discussion and which is free?
And it’s NOT about the dollar amount. It’s the acclaim and stature assigned to such and such piece and not another. There are people out there that think that because it is hanging in the museum that there is some deeper understanding to be had, some greater value to be assigned to it simply because it is there, some special reverance to be held for the artist, when such talented artists are all around us.
And here’s where I shoot my own argument in the foot. Actually, I am glad to have seen this stuff. Would I have had any idea what avant-garde and experimental art from Japan during the 50s, 60s and 70s looked like had I not seen this exhibit? No. So I learned something. And I love learning stuff. All I am saying that if this art is supposed to evoke a reaction, my reaction is simply this: it sucks.
Ironically, I am off to MoMA now to see the Edvard Munch exhibit and no doubt to bitch and complain about everything else. 😉