Joy (cithra) wrote,

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SAM, Vincent, & Piet

My mother and I visited the Seattle Art Museum exhibition Van Gogh to Mondrian yesterday morning. It is a collection put together by Helene Kroller-Muller, traveling from the Kroller-Muller Museum in the Netherlands. (Forgive the omission of various diacriticals, please.)

It isn't my favorite period or type of art particularly, but I'm always up for looking at stuff with people, so while I hadn't planned to see the show on my own, I was pleased to be invited by mom. I was doubly glad on the day as it meant I could drive the wheelchair.

Yes, as an aside my mother seems to have taken up tumbling as a hobby in her old age (I snark to mask worry). Not to mention that she's got the same bizarre feet I do, and at 78 hers have seen a good deal more wear and tear. So I was happy we could check out a wheelchair from the coat-check, and quite able to provide the motive force. I doubt she'd have been able to take in much of the exhibit without it, even if her hip wasn't sore from her taking a header a day or so prior. Ack. I am thankful she hasn't broken anything yet - praise the carpets in her new apartment.

Back to the art, and the collection. It was very interesting to see the pieces up close enough to see the brush strokes and the paint thickness, that sort of thing. You can see brush strokes in reproductions of Van Gogh, but it's different (for me at least) in person. The work involved becomes much more apparent - when I see reproductions of paintings, it is sometimes as though the works simply sprang into being a finished whole, like a photograph. Looking at the actual canvas gives me a much stronger sense of the time and effort it took the artist to construct the work.

The exhibit is titled Van Gogh to Mondrian, and those two artists are definitely the pillars of the show. We were fortunate to be able to attach ourselves to a docent tour at one point, and it really made my experience.

I'm fond of tossing the phrase "context is everything" around, and it is terribly apt concerning myself and the works of Mondrian. I have never cared for reproductions of his work, not at all. But I was surprised to find the Mondrian I saw in person at the Hirschorn Museum in DC rather appealing, and I still couldn't entirely tell you why. Perhaps because again, the original carries a sense of being made in a way the repros don't. Be whatever the case, I was curious how I would find the Mondrian works in this show.

And here is the fascinating thing - to me at least. Just looking at them, intially, I found them fairly cold and lifeless. But as the docent explained some about Mondrian's motives and philosophy, and especially in two cases showed the far more realistic preliminary sketches/paintings the final pieces were abstracted from, I found myself liking them more. Having some background gave them additional life, somehow. Learning that he was trying to express ideals of human equality, and felt that art could influence people to treat each other better made the impulse behind the abstraction more clear, and that understanding freed me up from my "they're just squares, damn it" fixation.

I think the most impressive to me was a piece that came from a landscape painting of fairly standard subject, trees reflected in water of some type. I really didn't particularly care for it until I had seen where it came from. Sort of casts an interesting side light on the ideas of art and essentialism, and whether "art for art's sake" alone, completely divorced from anything else, can be truly effective. I don't know if it can, for me. Luckily for the furniture, I'm content to theorize about myself without the requirement generalize.

Afterward, I came home to briefly nap, play some Nordock NWN, and then later play a couple of rounds of Apples to Apples with amnotsurly, cjo, and uly. Oh, and try and kill myself with sugar, but that's a lament for another journal.

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