A trip to the DeYoung Museum of Fine Arts was a pleasant adventure on a warm and sunny winter morning in the Bay Area. Upon entering the Golden Gate Park, the carefully planned nature and luscious green surroundings led me to the inviting bright posters promoting the special exhibition “Soul of a Nation: Art in the Age of Black Power” and others. Purchasing a ticket, I was excited and considered myself in for a much-anticipated treat.
The “Soul of a Nation” exhibition focused on art work and art collectives in the age of resistance to racial division and segregation of African Americans from the 60s to the 80s. The works were a magnificent display of not only the talent of so many artists of that generation, but also of the intensity, blood, sweat and tears of those who lived and created art in those times. The portraits, sculptures, and standalone pieces were sometimes harrowing in their depiction of what it meant to be black, segregated and largely ignored by artistic establishments. The organization and division of the works through the exhibition formed a mental picture at large, capturing the struggle of the movement around black power and liberty.
Looking through the works, I was taken aback by the vibrancy and gift of the artists on display, but also by the gut-wrenching representations of life, often in response to racial violence, oppression, and the volatility of the era. By the end of my walk through the gallery, I was convinced that although times have changed, there hasn’t been enough progressive transformation in society, and nowadays, there is even a regression in freedom and raw equality afforded to all citizens of the world.
I spent most of the rest of my time at the DeYoung in the permanent exhibitions, especially in the Art of the Americas galleries. I was particularly drawn to a pair of paintings by George Inness (1825-1894) titled “A Glimpse of the Lake” (1888) and “Moonlight” (1893). Both works captivated me in their use of faded colors and light to amplify a mood of much needed calm, tranquility and a sort of rural allure. I strolled through the passages and galleries looking through as many works as I could, many of which I had seen on prior visits.
The trip to the DeYoung was a peaceful experience, one that will surely be duplicated with pleasure on my next trip to the Bay Area.
A trip to the SF Museum of Modern Art was an experience I anticipated for months. The gallery was especially crowded on this Sunday afternoon, most queuing for the special exhibition of the iconic pop artist Andy Warhol. The entire museum, as usual, was a spark of vibrant modern art, with photography, installations, sculptures, and painted artworks arranged throughout the many floors of the museum. An avid museum goer for many years, I shifted between the different floors exploring and soaking in what I could within the space of a few hours.
The allure of the many temporary exhibitions was a new adventure. The top floor hosted a range of pieces about change in communities, especially within certain areas of Great Britain. It was as enlightening as it was sad to hear the different perspectives of locals who had experienced societal changes in the evolving, and often times regressing economic landscapes of England. There was a harmony and understanding despite the uprooting of the norms and constant uncertainty that made such communities not only bond in their own unique ways, but eventually stronger in their evolution from industrial towns into the unknown. The perspectives on display were skeptical and reserved, just as they were hopeful for the power of change to touch their communities.
An exhibition on the errors of photography was particularly interesting as it uncovered accidental and “erroneous” works of visual art. Opening the question of whether there are rights and wrongs in elements of good photography, the “art of mistakes” showcased many works that held onto their own enigmatic success despite being creations of unintended consequence. The blurred, lined, and distorted photos, especially when brought together and curated for exhibition at SF MoMa, created their own story formed through the many individual pieces on display.
Before bidding farewell to this beloved museum, I quickly glanced over the many permanent works playing part of the gallery on the first floor, ranging from the classic French impressionists to the much-coveted Mark Rothko and finally to one of my favorites, Edward Hopper, to satiate my appetite for exceptional artwork. An exit through the museum gift shop highlighted the many wonderful works of literature and artwork in book form, as well as souvenirs and replica paintings. Departing any museum is usually a walk of sweet sorrow, but one that always begs and expects a return.
There is a small painting by Edward Hopper that sits above my bed. I visit Hopper’s scene often but I can never stay long enough to truly appreciate the breadth of the view. I am always pulled back to my pillow, to sleep away the night and have it rest in silence above my head, calling out to me from a place always so out of reach.
If I raise my hand above my head, it is a finger length too far from my touch. Maybe I should just sit up, maybe I should just open my eyes, maybe I should leave my pillow and leave behind the painting. But it will continue to grow wild in the dark, calling me to its shores, to the same old cottage and lighthouse with a beacon lit only for my eyes.
I cannot be sure that when I rest my head, the painting will remain as it is, peaceful and remedial. But I know that when I open my eyes, my dreams will live somewhere within its frames and I will move on from my pillow, my bed, and my home, but never far from its landscape and accepting shores.
Art without boundaries, yet captured within frames on walls. Lines and paint strewn, drawn, foregone the constraints of society and the sobriety of societal conform. The burst of a life’s work seized within an institution, realized in front of a stranger’s eyes. Displayed, judged, and contemplated, often after the disintegration of the artist whose efforts are emancipated only after their passing from this world.
Photos and sculptures by the unknown thinkers of culture brushing their defeats and victories within the white sheets of canvas. Modesty within the story, aesthetically enhanced dancing in artistic purgatory. The brushes of the painter’s hand, freed from the crutches and clutches of restricted man but never restrained or refraining from it must do and what it can. The ability of an artist, the agility to maneuver the intricacies of creative conquest to produce the best of an imagination at its strongest.
Within small glass cases and large exhibitions, the artist’s rendition of the world’s vision functions with precision edging on chaos. The landscapes and contemporary structures showcasing the ink blots and thoughts of process ponder beautiful rupture. As visitors pass through for a homage in a minute for a collage selected and put together but never truly finished, the work lives on, drawn and pulled on by the artist’s intentions and personal limits before one moves on.
Putting me at ease, the magic in art refuses to seize. I await the next exhibition and eagerly expect the best from the next gallery. Influences range for individuals and subjective to taste, the art I enjoy is a full plate of delicacies carefully prepared and served for keen eyes that wish peace from the absurdity of the world.
Monet, Picasso, and Cezanne, the list of classics is endless. Like a friendless boy finding joy in his books and toys, I loiter through galleries fixated. Elated by the fresh, the smell of oils and paint do little to quiet the hunger in my heart for works new and quaint. The skins of paintings carry the embodiment of artists, similar to traces of mist covering landscapes in morning light.
A painting must not be touched; an artist’s life is usually not worth much. The beauty in the eye of the beholder, growing warmer with each cold blow shouldered. Closing my eyes, the works are still there, bare and naked harboring experiences that cannot be replicated. My feet await the plod through the next corridor, into the world of art through the artist’s front door.
The flowing art that sparks a chain reaction
an attraction of the senses
retraction of inhibitions
deep in its portrayal
lavish in offerings
Let me step into your realm
take control of my understanding
undo the tangled veins of society
place perspective into my hands
and let me get lost in your inner workings
Art unavailable for purchase
free for the taking
hand me a Monet
pass me a Cezanne
to admire the essence of artists in their freedoms
The brushes of Van Gogh
in the hands of a few
the publishing of Picasso
on open view
Countless strokes of the hand; a million little workings
it is only right to pay more
when you shall receive no less in true forms of expression