Liralen Li (liralen) wrote,
Liralen Li

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Modern Masters: 20th Century Icons from the Albright-Knox Art Gallery

I spent a great deal of today with Jet, a friend and her two teenagers at the Denver Art Museum's Modern Masters exhibit and the Clyfford Stills Museum next door, so it was a mashup of some of the most influential artists of the last half of the 20th century.

It was a blast. And it's difficult to write about, as most of what got triggered was my visual brain, and both exhibits prohibited any taking of photography, and they even discouraged sketching in the galleries, which was a new thing to me. I loved that three different curators came up to me wanting to give me a golf pencil when I had my Rotring pencil out, and they all backed off when I said that I had a pencil, not a pen. I guess they weren't used to drafting pencils. *laughs*

A lot of the work were these huge canvases, with enormous, vivid colors and surreal shapes that were and weren't representational. They started with the Impressionists and post-Impressionists who were doing things to flatten the painting to make it more a painting than a representation of reality. Then there were the cubists who did objects in multiple bits of time in the same painting, like a dog that was a flurry of feet and tails. Then they went through Dali and his dream scapes into the flung paint of Pollack's work and those of his era.

They ended with the minimalists, works so seemingly simple that so many people say, "My kid could do that." But one seemingly white five foot by five foot square was actually neatly, precisely, and meticulously divided into millions of tiny segments by the faintest of pencil lines. Of course the very end of the exhibit was Andy Warhol's 100 soup cans, which would have made all the abstract painters cringe at being hung next to his work. It all made me think and feel around for what art really is, not that the lucid thoughts had much to do with it.

I think the Clyfford Stills exhibit did a lot more stirring up the emotional visual depths, especially when I could see his evolution from the representational art that he started with and how it evolved into more and more abstract paintings until there was nothing recognizable left, just the emotions on canvas. His ferocious defence of his work and its principles was evident in his letters, in how he controlled what was sold and to whom, and his relationships with the galleries and museums he did show in. Plus, in the very end, all these works were only given to this particular museum because it was built to house ONLY his works.

It really made me think a lot about my painting, about how I really did want to defend myself in them. It also made me daydream about what it would feel like to plan and then pile paint on a canvas and strive to make that particular kind of vision come true.

The day itself was pretty good. The kids were great, and they really paid attention to the art itself. We also stopped at a hands-on sculpture exhibit, and we all played with clay, pounded soap into carvings, and then they got to pound at some stone, too. I ended up before the oil based clay forms, mashing it with all my strength to match a bust they'd had nearby. I had fun making a calf's head out of the softer water-based clay, and then a rose without a stem.

We had lunch at Mad Greens, and before we went home, we bought white chocolate and cinnamon lattes from the Mad Beans coffee house next door. That was a welcome shot of caffeine for the ride home through Denver city traffic. All in all it was a very successful art adventure.
Tags: art

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