Recently I had the interesting treat of seeing the world-renowned Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), an unusual experience in and of itself, which was further enhanced by the fact that I was accompanied by a man. We're talking a grown man who plays semi-pro football, has a somewhat cynical mind, and likes to eat bacon. A lot. Got a good image? If you're not already laughing at the sheer irony of the scene, just wait.
So after a little coaxing, we walked in through the tall glass doors and began perusing. This man, we will call him Daniel (mostly because that's his name), seemed a little nervous, as if questioning his manhood, then after looking around a bit, he looked suddenly enraged and finally spoke the words, "What the heck is this?!" (edited version) probably a little too loud for the comfort of our fellow art viewers. I lost it; I totally cracked up. I immediately thought of the story about the Emperor's New Clothes with everyone around us taking what they saw so seriously and trying to appear sophisticated, while Daniel was the only one to call out the napkin with pencil marks on it accompanied by a half-eaten bagel for exactly what they were: garbage.
Fortunately, there were many better pieces. One of our favorites was this one that looks like a great painting of white birch trees, but up close you can see that its actually a collage made of newspaper and the faces of famous people photocopied onto green paper. Now that's cool. That takes talent and it was also very visually appealing. Both of us could appreciate that.
To be truthful, although some modern "artists" (so they call themselves) have "art" (so they call it) that is little more that a ridiculous excuse for creative mediocrity and sensationalism, I generally really like modern art. And Daniel kept giving me these puzzled looks when, from a room away, I could tell who had painted what and was dashing to go see them up close. The conversation would go omething like this:
"Oh, I love Matisse! His paintings are coming up in the next room!"
"Huh? How do you know who painted those without reading the card next to it?!"
"Oh, I don't know, I studied a little post-Renaissance humanities in college and I just like modern art"
"Yeah, whatever. Okay, I bet you don't know who painted that one..."
"Easy, that's Chagall. Marc Chagall. I like him, he puts a lot of Judaism in his paintings"
(walking over to read the card)
"You cheated! You read the card!"
And thus it went.
For me, the best part was probably seeing all of the Picassos- I was hyperventilating! This is a post-Guernica piece that is pretty similar and since Guernica is ont of my favorite paintings, I was super excited to see it.
We even made a little crazy modern art of out own, of all places, in the Picasso room:
Next we came to some HUGE Jackson Pollock paintings. They truly are a lot more powerful in person, they are so gigantic and so emotional and they were so revolutionary for the time during which they were created. Or at least that's what I was thinking as I stared at them from 3 inches away, drooling. Meanwhile, Daniel sat in the back, rolling his eyes and sending a text. Typical. And totally understandable! Pollock's pieces are a bunch of paint thrown down from a latter and onto a canvassed floor. I would have been worried if Dan had actually liked them. After all, his is a modern man.
Needless to say, it was a great evening and I saw a lot of amazing pieces that I only been able to behold via textbook images before then- and there they were, right in front of my own eyes! Very cool. Modern art is different because its viewers are forced to do a little added introspection since the motives and the feelings of the artists are not as obvious as they may be in a more classically done piece. That being said, I admit that some of it is just a bunch a junk. So the take-home message is don't be afraid to be creative, but let's not go too far, or else you take the risk of being called out by an incredibly insightful bacon-eater.
(*Special thanks to Dan for his patience in coming with me to the MoMA. Not every dude would have or even could have done it. Not only his he handsome, but accommodating as well!)
I love Mondrian!