I hope you're having a nice weekend. I was in Baltimore visiting friends and looking at art. Friday I went to the Baltimore Museum of Art (BMA); yesterday I dropped by The Walters Art Museum in the company of my lovely friend Hillary and her delightful hubby. (Check out Hillary's superb Makeup Museum website.) Today I popped into Washington, D.C. to brunch with an old friend, Tanvi, whom I met blogging a century ago.
A highlight of the trip was a historic special exhibition of work by Joan Mitchell at BMA. The show presents over seventy of her paintings, showing the full range of her oeuvre (1950-1992).
Joan was a member of the Second Generation of Abstract Expressionists who came to prominence in the 1950s. Joan, like contemporary Grace Hartigan, started her career being promoted by John Bernard Myers at Tibor de Nagy Gallery in NYC. I met John once at a party in his house that Grace brought us to.
I just finished re-reading John's 1983 memoir, "Tracking The Marvelous," which describes the heroic struggles of artists of that era to create new, innovative art -- and later how fame and money ruined everything. Today Joan Mitchell's paintings sell for $20 Million dollars, a price inconceivable to the artists living back then in cold-water flats on decrepit Tenth Avenue.
Almost from the start Joan found her home in abstract art; once there she never left it. Her paintings explore experiences, not appearances, and can initially be challenging. My goal this weekend was to travel and immerse myself in the work, like an ocean, and feel its impact. A month ago I visited MOMA in NYC and was startled at how powerful Jackson Pollack's painting is when approached in person. The same with Joan's work. Reproductions don't do these majestic pieces justice. They're large, potent objects brimming with life and meaning. They touch you in multiple ways beneath rationality.
Artists of this period were recoiling from chaos and carnage of the Second World War. They looked for alternatives to human rationalism which had shown its limits. In today's increasingly anarchic world we need to continue that search in all directions.
I was also stunned when I first saw one of Pollack's paintings in person - although I'd seen pictures in books, and they included the measurements, I wasn't prepared for the physical impact of such a large piece. This type of abstract always needs to be seen in person - it's a visceral response.ReplyDelete
How big is the piece in the picture you posted here?
All of her paintings are huge, like 8 feet by 10 feet.Delete
Friends and art! What a lovely weekend. :) Hope you are having a great start to your week, too!ReplyDelete
What I'm always amazed at is how artists who work on such vast paintings, can perceive what to do where and come out with something so cohesive. Where do you even put yourself when painting the middle bits without damaging any other parts. I'd love to see some Jackson Pollock in real life. I did go to an exhibition with abstract works last year and I found them startlingly impressive in person.ReplyDelete
Glad you've been having adventures and got to see Tanvi and Hillary.
True. I can't imagine painting art like this. Thanks for the kind words.Delete
This was me by the way! My phone has developed a weird quirk where it won't log me in and puts me as Anonymous!Delete
Okay! Now I know who you are. :)Delete
I was so thrilled you came to visit! It was so awesome to finally meet you in person! Thank you so much for making the trip and I'm glad to hear you had a good time. Also, I opened your card and...I'm speechless!ReplyDelete
Speechless is good! The purpose of the gift is to enable you do to something positive for the museum. I hope you find a nice idea for that.Delete
While the last couple of years have opened a world of experiences online, there still lacks the presence that physical paintings and works have. Be it very large pieces (like pollock) or pieces surprisingly small (mona lisa, for example), they're best seen in person if you can.ReplyDelete
Interesting post Ally. What always fascinates me about art is how certain pieces become so famous. For example the art at the top of your post (Joan Mitchell's Splash), looks like lots of scribbled colours but is a celebrated piece of art.ReplyDelete
However if I did something like that nobody would bat an eyelid and would probably say it was a load of scribble. How do artists become so famous? What makes their work stand out?
Good question and the answer is complicated. Part of it is the work itself, part of it is the context of the work in art history, and part of it is the stature of the artist based on past work, contemporaries, etc. For example, Joan Mitchell was a member of a group of artists (Second Generation of Abstract Expressionists) all doing similar work at the same time. They reviewed and critiqued each others' efforts. Someone outside that group who painted a picture wouldn't be accorded the same amount of respect.Delete
It sounds like you had a wonderful weekend with friends, and it's good you were able to get immersed in an enjoy the artworks up close! :)ReplyDelete
Hope you are having a good weekend this weekend too :) We are enjoying the sunshine after so many rainy weeks!
Away From The Blue