Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Doubling Down --- Day 3/225

Walk: Asian Art Museum, Trader Joe's
Distance: 2.4 miles

Ciwt returned to Gorgeous, the Asian Museum/SFMOMA joint show, and is now doubling down on her panning review of the endeavor.  (See Day 3/215) She went this time with a friend, an art lover without quite as much art history type knowledge, just to see how fresh eyes might react to the show.  Ciwt is happy to report her friend found it just as annoying while Ciwt found it even more so on many levels upon second viewing.

In a word (two actually), the show has a passive-aggressive quality to it.  Viewers aren't allowed their own thoughts about the juxtaposition of the pieces.  They are forced by the curators to look in terms of the chosen adjective, Gorgeous, which is further reduced into viewing categories such as: seduction, pose, dress up, in bounds, danger, beyond imperfection, reiteration, fantasy, evocation and on reflection. See what Ciwt means?  Have you ever looked at art - any art - in any of these terms?  Then there is the business of not being able to make much or any connection between the terms and what you are viewing - even if you play the curators' game and try.

Good luck finding signage.  It can be entirely across the room and at an angle from the piece.  To Ciwt it felt like the curators had had an impossible, utterly unwanted task foisted on them, so they put together a 'We'll show them' show.  My friend said at one point it was like when a not very smart person thinks (s)he's being brilliant and you have to listen.  Neither of these scenarios are remotely true, but you get the point.

The real tragedy is the shallowness that is forced on the art.  An exquisitely moving piece of wooden sculpture which might have taken an Asian artisan many years of toil with primitive tools is presented under a category like 'beyond imperfection' - which so overlooks its deep artistic presence and history.  The modern art too can suffer from seeming archly bombastic in the presence of Asian art which comes from a history of tradition, spirituality, myth and discipline to name just a few tenets of Eastern art.

Carved purple quartz Phoenix

The good news is Ciwt and her friend ended the day communing with one of the most comprehensive and masterpiece-filled collections of Asian art in the world.  More another day on that.  Meanwhile enjoy looking at the marvelous, no, Gorgeous!,  works above and below.

                                           Glazed  earthenware Dog, eastern Han dynasty 
                                                      China, 25 to 220 CE

Rock Crystal Buffalo, 1800-1900, Qing dynasty 1

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