Sunday, October 17, 2010

Modern art in Italy

Last weekend I went to a modern art exhibit (MAXXI), that's right, I like modern art... I guess its due to a wild imagination and those art history classes I took in highschool and college. This one was filled with Italian artists. Its a little bit strange to imagine modern italian art because our minds take us to beautiful pieces like Michelangelo's Sistine Chapel, or the David statue and other architectural wonders. But let the record show they do have modern art as well, and its not just picassized rendition of Winged Victory. Although that would be amusing. BTW I just verbed Picasso. That was awesome. Okay, so about this modern art exhibit: We walk into the courtyard and we are immediately seized by an overwhelming skeleton of a birdman(it had a beak for a nose, I think) lying prone, who was struck down by a large golden pen in the finger. My first thought was, "so the pen really is/was mightier than the sword". MAYBE. But then I notice something else... The pen is perfectly balanced and not crushing anything. It is simply there... balanced... even after the body has decomposed. So, I chewed on that thought for a bit.
Okay, so I have to add now, not everything that I viewed was really worth seeing (*gasp* did I just say that out loud). I am all for artwork that makes you think, and often I get bored with art for the sake of art.
On the other hand, I hate when people try to generalize what an artist was expressing for everyone... I don't believe in that! I think art is made for the interpretation of the individual. Maybe his or her life did influence what they were feeling in the moment, maybe it didn't. We can't look back at the artwork and see order in the complexity. There is no answer. I also hate being tested on the critic's opinion of the artwork. Art is meant to be enjoyed and thought about, not memorized. Any questions regarding why I didn't pursue Art History as a major??
SO back to the exhibit. The entire building was a work of art in itself. I especially enjoyed the upstairs part. The floor wasn't level, the rooms weren't symmetrical and there were quotes posted that destroyed the artist's search for fame and fortune through his/her artwork. They said THAT IS NOT ART!!!! (this was all in italian, but I received a translation from two friends I was there with). I guess artists who are free from concerns of society and popular opinion. Who are either independently wealthy or don't care what people like, or are never noticed until after death are the true artists. Maybe the artist can't expect to make a living doing it, but must use it as a form of expression are the ones that count. that is art.
Okay, another idea that was thrown around in this exhibit... we were walking through these rooms of object perfectly placed by the artist (this is called an installation, those of you who don't have a background in art) you and the half dozen other people are all gazing at the objects, sometimes chairs, tables, and oddly shaped mirrors, or maybe its a random set of objects you can't identify. It doesn't matter, because we are all looking, everyone trying to understand it. We are using our personal kaleidoscope to peer into the world of the artist and understand what it all means. Then you notice a little sign in the corner, something to the effect of, "the artist believes you are the artwork in the room." That blows me away! ME?!? the artwork? Everyone here is art. Then I begin to notice the other people in the room, because they're art too. A mother with a baby carriage. The old couple holding hands next to me. Do they know they're art?
So in the back corner of the upstairs room there was a second skeleton, with the same golden pen piercing its formerly fleshy finger. And then I got it. What the skeleton meant to me, at least. It represented my search for balance- perhaps this was somewhat influenced by my recent experience watching general conference for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latterday Saints. I had a few talks stick out to me, especially ones talking about priorities and balance in life. It takes a lifetime to figure it all out. Once we finally figure out what is most important in life, we die. Okay so the piece could also represent that man's search for balance leads to death, or the fact that it everything is finally balanced after this life is over... but I choose to look on the bright side. I still have time, I am still alive and am searching for balance. Maybe its killing me. Maybe its saving me. Needless to say, I felt like the artist was speaking to me. Amazing.


  1. dang its been FOREVER since you wrote last! glad you are having fun!

  2. I like your comment about humans in the room being the artwork. But did you notice that it wasn't JUST the humans in the room, it was the humans trying to make sense of the world (or the items displayed) that the artist chose to depict as artwork! Very interesting, that it isn't just the mind, but it is an active searching mind, a mind that tries to make order out of chaos, a mind that tries to make reason out of random, a mind that attempts to discover the infinite out of the finite. Perhaps that is what the artist perceives. (maybe I am the true artist for having said this...)