Wednesday, December 27, 2017

A Modern Statement

Yesterday I visited the MoMA, the Museum of Modern Art. Mainly because I've been trying to grow my appreciation for the fine arts. I've done so in the past by looking at really old pieces of art. Like Greek, Roman, Byzantine Empire era art that gravitated towards sculptures and 3D figures that I'm not sure aren't cursed because they're supposed to be buried underground as part of the tombs they were made for. But the MoMA offers a nice palette change in the form of something more modern.

When I think of modern artistry I tend to think of names like Jackson Pollock and a ton of abstract art that was made in America and France. Well the MoMA had plenty of stuff like that.

If works like One: Number 31, 1950 is up your alley I'm sure you'll like what MoMA has to offer.

At the risk of sounding like a traditionalist, abstract art is something I've yet to really get. Call me philistine but a lot of the time I really find myself struggling to get more than the raw emotion the colors convey. I'm just left in this awkward position where I'm not sure what to think about the artwork and I'm even more unsure of what that says about me.

That said, I'd prefer that whatever I look at not be spoon fed to me either. Thinking a little more about art and what the thoughts say about you and the world is good.

Giorgio de Chirico (Photo Source)

My favorite part of the museum may have been the works by Giorgio de Chirico. He's described his own works as being "metaphysical" and they have their place in art history as the precursors to surrealism.

MoMA describes de Chirico's works as being mysterious and I agree. I stopped and starred at these works for a good while because they were all in this wonderful zone between the familiar and yet different.

His most famous work is probably The Nostalgia of the Infinite. I'm a sucker for works like this. The lighting, the shapes, the shadows, the colors, everything. The tower in the painting is the Mole Antonelliana (located in Turin, Italy), but not knowing that didn't really matter to me when I first saw it. You could very easily swap out the tower with any number of towers located across the entire world and feel some sort of connection with it. I did and I still felt that it was a nice dream-like part of the day where the sun is just at the right angle where everything looks golden. It's also fun to speculate what the two figures may be. Could they be lovers? Brothers? Sisters? Elders? Friends? Who knows? Not even the sky is the limit in a dream.

Of course I didn't get everything. At least not right away. The Song of Love above is something that requires further views for me. I think a smarter approach might be to ask myself questions that a professor I had many years ago said I should ask myself when looking at art.

"How does it make you feel?"

Initial Gut Reaction: WTF?!
Second Reaction: A sense of breakage
Third Reaction: Oh shit, there's a train! YEAH!
Fourth Reaction: How is this a song? Let alone about love? Hmm...

"What do you like most about it?"

Well the train is great. I like how de Chirico incorporated a train into pretty much most of his works of art. The things I said I liked about the Nostalgia of the Infinite is very much true here too. The angles, the lighting, the shapes, the shadows. The fact that it's set in the outdoors and that you can see de Chirico's take on arches.

"Do you find anything disturbing?"

The glove that's nailed to the wall. It wasn't until I did some research for this post that I discovered that rubber gloves have been around since the late 19th century. The disembodied Greek statue head doesn't bother as me as much (since most Greek sculptures are broken today), but I wonder what exactly is the significance of the glove and the head. The ball too.

"Do you sense a prevailing mood or tone?"

All of de Chirico's works are melancholy, so yeah that works. There's this somber sadness to it. I've read that de Chirico's works sometimes reflected the anxiousness and fear that consumed Europe during World War I. I wouldn't be surprised if this one was one of them.
Note: According to the MoMA's official site, it appears as though the artwork is meant to symbolize a war torn Europe.

"How do the colors affect you?"

The shading on the colors seems to really reinforce the melancholy state de Chirico may have been(?) going for. But they're never so dark that the dream like state feels like a nightmare. It's just in that right zone where a dream could shift from being a good dream to a weird dream where your deepest fears and insecurities are there, but the best parts of you are there too. Despite that, the way that this appears to have the darkest shades of various colors out of all of the de Chirico works I saw at MoMA suggests to me that it was meant to be even more sadder than the rest. Like there's a stark contrast in my opinion between the almost golden public space before the tower and just this dark green ball at similar points in the painting.

Hmm, see, this is why I'm the kind of guy who needs to take it slow and look at each work of art carefully. I don't know how other museum goers are managing to figure everything out with just one glance and then moving onto the next thing plastered onto the wall :P.

As much as I'd love to also talk about de Chirico's other works (The Anxious Journey there is another one I really like), I think I'll end it here.

The point is that I had a pretty good time at the MoMA and I hope that I can continue to build on my appreciation of art.

As always thanks for stopping by and take care :).


  1. Went to the MoMA five years back or so... I enjoyed your tweets yesterday as they served as walk down memory lane.

    1. I'm glad PTT. Are you a fan of modernism?

  2. One day I'd love to spend some time at the MoMA.

    1. I'd highly recommend it if you're looking to go full on tourist. You've got some incredible Matisses and van Gogh's you hear/read about in textbooks and pamphlets in there.

    2. Huge fan of van Gogh. #1 painting I'd love to see would be The Starry Night.

    3. Lol, then the MoMA is just for you. There was a huge crowd of people looking at Starry Night though, so be warned.