Contemporaries and Art

Imbolc                                        Waxing Wild Moon

Into the Walker today to pick up doggie meds from Mark O. who brought them back from Mexico last week.  He’s a wounded traveler, struck down by a bug and a bum knee.

Mark went with us on the first round of our tour.  Grace Jiang-Goggins gave us a tour of the Walker’s new installation of its permanent collection.  Ginny Wheeler, Morry, Allison, Bill, Jane McKenzie and Merritt were along.

Grace has such a nice, unassuming way of treating the art, her knowledge and the participants in her tours.  We began with a multi-colored object that looked like wooden cylinders 4-5″ high strung on a long central shaft.  Which, it turns out, was essentially what they were.  What a great story Grace told about them.  This guy, I forget his name, couldn’t break into the art world.  He was self taught and made these walking sticks, working the patterns in permutation after permutation, always putting in a mistake, just like the ancient Greeks and their architecture.  Anyhow, he’d wander around with these sticks through various cities in Europe, go into museums and then leave one behind.  You gotta love this guy.

Next we saw a German artist who loved white and nails.  Loved them so much that he pounded many nails into a board and painted the board and the nails white.  Trust me it looks better than I’ve made it sound.  Somehow there are patterns, waves, fields of grain, motion in this mass of nails.

Onto Andy Warhol’s Jackie.  16 portraits of Jackie Kennedy, related either to the immediacy of the assassination or the funeral.  When I looked at them, I didn’t reference the whole grassy knoll death of camelot moment, but the Marilyn Monroe multiples or the Mao Tse Tung’s portraits brightly colored.  When we got into the specificity of it, there were those layers there, but I didn’t see it at first, nor did I feel it was the most important visual aspect of the piece.

A shattered mirror, a circular mirror divided into long thin slivers all broken and replaced.  Broken images, like pixels.  A play off a vanity mirror in which the reflections are more distorted fun house than Vogue.

A Fool’s House by jasper johns.  An old broom hung on a hook.  A cup from his studio.  A canvas stretcher marked stretcher.  A towel marked towel.  The broom.  The cup.  Words and references.  Playing with proverbs?  A new broom sweeps clean.  Merritt pointed out that the hook was not named.

A complex piece by a Thai artist who taught himself English by each morning taking a marker and blacking out the words he already knew.  Then he pasted strips from these newspapers on an old bed sheet and painted over all but the a’s and p’s with a blue field.  The a’s and p’s he filled in with an orange paint. A luminous work, like stars in the heavens or Australian aborigines.

We stopped, too, at a work by an Iranian artist who lives in the twin cities.  He wrote excerpts from Rumi and Hafiz all over a large canvas, at various angles and in various shapes.  A Prayer, he called it.

The tour ended in a room with about 75 paintings hung salon style, a large portion apparently of the Walker’s holdings.  Paintings make up 20% of the Walker’s collection.  This is a great collection of works from the well-known to the obscure:  Marsden Hartley, Georgia O’Keefe, Franz Marc, Max Beckmann, Morris Louis, Mark Rothko, DeKooning….and on and on and on.

Seeing art with friends is a rich experience.  A valuable experience.  Reminds me of my seminary years when I would come to the MIA every Sunday with my friend David Grotrian, himself an abstract expressionist and his wife, Carol, an art historian.  It was fun then and it’s fun now.