I think modern art’s all about perspective, but then again you could say that about all art surely? One person’s passion for a Picasso can be another person’s turn-off. With modern art though, it can really take the statement ‘beauty is in the eye of the beholder’ to its absolute limit in some extreme cases.
Take an installation that comprises of a length of rope bolted to the wall, which then pools on the floor connected to a small square of concrete…or ragged remnants of coloured wool strands scattered across the floor (that you almost walk into…). Or piles of normal everyday house bricks… They do absolutely nothing for me I’m afraid. So with some trepidation I made my way up to the sixth floor of MoMA in June 2009, to view a temporary exhibition called ‘Tangled Alphabets’ displaying works by Leon Ferrari and Mira Schendel. It was the last day of the exhibition, and was included in the cost of general admission so I thought, what the heck! Expose myself to something different!
Now, Leon Ferrari uses a variety of mediums for his pieces, but the ones that really got under my skin were pieces that involved incredibly complex work with metal wire, and pieces involving written words – either pen and ink decorative type script, or Letraset, or general typeface. Don’t get me wrong, some of his work is getting close to the rope and wool pieces, but some of it just blew me away. I’ll never forget walking around and around one of his tall wirework pieces with this big grin on my face – it just got under my skin and made me feel all giddy. Looking at a photograph of it wouldn’t have made me feel like that. It’s a three-dimensional piece of work – looking inside it and trying to follow the pieces of wire from start to end was fascinating.
Well, I came out of that exhibition more aware of what I did and didn’t like. This self-awareness accompanied me through the other floors and galleries, the giddy feeling (or lack of) catching me unawares sometimes. Picasso….big no no – yes I know he’s considered a genius, and after viewing the (in my opinion) disappointing pieces at the Picasso Museum in Barcelona, I’d hoped that some of the more famous pieces would make me feel differently but they didn’t. Matisse…wow that picture The Dance is enormous but that’s about all I could think of to say about it…Andy Worhol’s picture of Marilyn Monroe – is it REALLY that small??? I must admit to being a bit in awe of seeing the Campbell Soup Cans though…
A group of pieces that really surprised me (again) with the depth of my reaction were the Jackson Pollock’s. I’d seen prints / photographs / images on the web, but nothing could prepare me for seeing the originals. Absolutely enormous canvasses covered with strands of dripped, poured, and flung paint that I could get so close to – I could lean on the wall they were hung on and look down the length of the canvas – I could actually see the thickness of the paint strands standing proud. The big grin stayed with me for quite a while in that part of the gallery!
I could keep writing forever on the pieces that called to me, made me smile, or made me move swiftly on, but I’m going to stop. Because as I said at the beginning – modern art’s all about perspective. My loves could be your hates and vice versa. What I do want to leave you with is this thought – until you see it for yourself, for real, almost able to touch it, you’ll never really know how it makes you feel inside.