The Modern in SFMoMA.

Yesterday I went to SFMoMA. It is part of my Sleeping in My Own Bed Vacation. I like art museums, but I never seem to take the time to go to them. I have yet to go to the San Jose Art Museum. I have spent the last four years living within walking distance of it. I am not sure why it is so hard for me to make time for it.

I am very happy I went. I picked going to SFMoMA over going to a couple of movies. I think it was worth the time and effort. Going to the museum made me think about art. It made me notice things that I had forgotten.

A few weeks ago, I had a conversation at work about modern art. I am a fan of Modern art. One of the other people at the table said they do not like the Modern or Post-Modern movements. They would see things and have no idea why they are art. He could think up these things. He was not sure what made these things art.

Going to SFMoMA reminded me that the Modern and Post-Modern movements were very conscious that their work would be seen in museums. The artists had to think about museum placement and installation. These pieces become more interesting as a part of a collection. The art pieces were created to be part of a collection. Seeing 20, 100, 500 works at the same time and it is easy to see an artist idea. The pieces on their own are not as interesting as they are when they are seen as a single work.

I saw several pieces that made me think of this:

Untitled (Stainless Steel and Oil Enamel on Plexiglass by Donald Judd
Sans II by Eva Hesse
White Painting Three Panels by Robert Rauschenberg

These pieces would not be as interesting if I saw them by themselves. They draw my attention with other art around them. I think this is what some people do not understand about this kind of art. They do not see themselves as artist, but they feel that they could have done any of some pieces themselves. I think that is one of the points.

All art now is created in the contest of the art world. This is not new, but it means something different now then it did 100 ago or 100 years before the modernism started. The context of the art world is influenced by all the art that has been created before and clouded by the things happening in the rest of the media landscape.

More SFMoMA notes

The two Big shows at SFMoMA were a Roy Lichtenstein exhibit and a Robert Bechtle retrospective. It was the last day of the Lichtenstein exhibit. I liked the exhibit because it was more then just his well known period in the 60s. He was worked from 1962 until his death in 1997. You can see the influence of Pop Art and his comics phase for the until his death. It was cool to see his other work.

I had never seen any of Lichtenstein's post 60's art. Some of it surprised me. He did work later where he did his versions of other people's work. He did cool versions of Dali and Picasso painting. It is cool to see someone do Dada and surrealism as an illustrator. He never lost the illustrator influence. His landscapes proved how he could use that illustrator influence and still make something unique. He kept on using the tone dots until his last paintings.

What I like the most about Lichtenstein is the sense of context. With the comic panels you always had the feeling that you were in the middle of the story. There is something that comes before and after the painting. I love that feeling. It is not always something you get in fine art.

Before going to SFMoMA I knew nothing about Robert Bechtle. I really like his art. He has a photorealism style. From one distance his paintings look like photographs. From a closer up it looks like a painting.

His subject matter is so everyday. He mostly painting California streetscapes. Now that I have lived here for a few years it is easy this area in those painting. It is easy to see why someone would paint them. I can see the beauty of the streets. These paintings were so stark. They are real and unreal all at the same time. That is what paintings should be.

Art is experience

The other major idea I was reminded of when I was at SFMoMA is how experience impacts viewing art. I saw some surrealist paintings. I had not thought about the surrealist movement since I was in college. Back then I was not a big fan of surrealism. I thought it was kind of gimmicks back then. Now that I have seen more of the world I enjoy the painting much more. The melting figures on a grey background reminded me of the desert. Now I think I have seen the things in the world that got people to paint these pieces.

The tricky part is that you have to bring your experiences to art without letting those experiences get in the way. I guess it is the same with everyday life.


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