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Sunday, March 08, 2009

Nelson Schmelson

As we approached Heineken by Idelle Weber, I said 'I wonder if it says something about me, that my favorite piece at the Nelson even way back when I was a little kid, is a picture of garbage?'

'Uhhhgh! You always say that, Dad!' was Em's response. About the most pleasant thing she'd said the entire time we were out. She had tried whining, refusing, lashing out at her sister, arguing, and when all that failed, even asking nicely to just go home and not do the Nelson.

At one point, I said 'The more you bitch about it, the longer I'll draw it out.'

'Language, Dad.' At which I informed her gently that my language paled next to her attitude.

In fairness, once we were in the gallery, she perked up a bit. She may be hormonally wired to hate anything I suggest doing, but the kid still digs art. And warbly, wavy floors, apparently, having as much fun as Mo with the Michael Cross installation piece, Resting Places, Living Things, that has the hardwood floors undulating like ocean waves and light bulbs floating in water.

I hadn't noticed, for some reason, until now that Heinekin has it's date as 1976. Meaning the paint was scarcely dry when I first saw it on display in the smallish modern art area of the original Nelson. They had it off display for a lot of years before the Bloch addition opened for lack of space, and I had missed it.

Central Savings, was newer than I'd realized, too. 1975. I always think of things in museums, especially a museum such as the Nelson, as being old. Works of art that had to stand the test of time before being acquired. I don't know why I tend to think that when we're talking contemporary art. One of my favorites, Willem de Kooning, only died in 1997. And Idelle Weber is still alive, though she seems to have tired of painting trash after 1980 or so (with a couple of exceptions).

I'm a fan of contemporary art, it's true. Not an authority, by any stretch, I probably don't know enough about it to be dangerous. I know what I like, and all that, but there does seem to be some hubris to proclaiming a piece painted in 1975 worthy of display in a major museum within a matter of a few years (I don't know when it was given to the Nelson by Mr. and Mrs. Adam Aronson, but I remember it from my earliest visits to the Nelson, which would have been in the late 1970s).

David Sedaris writes of the psychic turbulence he experienced at finding out, in junior high, that the popular kids at his school were not nationally well-known. Musing, what if we were worried about the opinions of people who didn't really matter? So, much as I adore Heineken (the painting, not the beer, the beer is insipid Euro-Miller), I have to wonder if I adore an utterly insignificant work here.

Because there's so much in the museum that had to survive, say, 1000 years in a tropical climate before anyone bothered to think of it as a museum piece. And artists of a hundred years ago who were unknown in their own lifetimes, dying penniless. I suppose with modern communications it would be harder to have a truly great artist be a total unknown, but I can see one being wildly under-appreciated.

Luckily, even if Heineken is insignificant, it's there on the wall for me to enjoy when I visit the Bloch addition. If the curators have their heads up their asses, I hope they never figure it out.

I think that's what I like about Warhol, he was completely open about the shuck & jive aspects of the art world. Threw it in their faces and still got his stuff on museum walls (despite the protests of the stuffier types). I happen to enjoy Warhol, too, and I actually hope he is insignificant. His wrongly being placed in museums around the world only makes his work more perfect.

I'll bet you could find comic book artists, for instance, worthy of similar exhibit. And, no doubt, aficionados of the graphic novel (read: nerds) who could argue the case. See also commercial art, see also animation cells, see also various 'folk artists.' No doubt these battles are already being fought and sooner or later the Watchmen (first well-done comic book to come to mind) or something like that will find its way to the walls of marble buildings.

I didn't feel like we'd done all that much walking when we got back to the car. Em said we had walked too far, but I didn't feel it until I went to get up this morning, and my right knee found both movement and staying still disagreeable. My hams were feeling it, too. Meaning I need to get my ass in shape: I can remember when I could walk 20-30 miles in a day and not be anything but tired.

Oh, and of course we had to do the Buddha shot. And on the way out the door, I even got this picture. You'd swear they were sisters, not mortal enemies, looking at this.

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