Wednesday, April 29, 2009

the museum experiment

so i'm in philadelphia for the american association of museums annual conference, and i spent my first day walking around overwhelmed by the sheer number of museum opportunities (both arts and heritage related) available to me here. i visited the institute of contemporary art and the philadelphia museum of art, and will be visiting a few more institutions over the next 4 days. these are some things i realized today:

1. i'm really starting to love ceramics - i saw a great exhibition of contemporary ceramics with pieces that were both rough & tumble and elegant & refined.

2. there was bill viola video piece - silent mountain - that brought tears to my eyes. it a diptych comprised of a male and female actor depicting loss and grief over some unknown revelation which has been slowed down so that all the subtle intensity of those emotions are fully and torturously presented. it's excrutiating. and sublime.

3. i had no idea how LARGE cy twombly's paintings really were -- there was an entire gallery devoted to a single piece - 50 days at illium (a reference to classical greek myth and antiquity) - and it was glorious.

4. for some reason duchamp always makes me laugh - i think his work is very witty - but his Étant donnés: 1. La chute d’eau, 2. Le gaz d’éclairage (Given: 1. The Waterfall, 2. The Illuminating Gas), which he worked on in secret for 20 years, is as unsettling and complex a piece as i've encountered in a number of years. i am quite ambivalent about it. it is a secret(ive) piece about a secret (hidden) act, and yet it places me squarely as voyeur - and these ideas apply to both the piece itself and the artist (as an artist, perhaps even - in today's pantheon - the artist), as duchamp's project was as much about the role of the artist as about the function of art.

5. i never realized how integral and crucial the plinths/ platforms/ supports were for brancusi's sculptures (and pairing them in the same space as mondrian's paintings was a brilliant choice).

6. i saw an amazing collection of mughal miniatures and medieval prayer-books/ book of hours. breath-taking. inspiring. actually, i walked through that section of the museum with tears in my eyes. the loving devotion and intensity of labour were very moving.

that's all...