Before We Get Started . . .
I went to see the Munch exhibit at the Museum of Modern Art last week--my third visit to a show I have mixed feelings about. While I was waiting for a friend, I sat down on a bench outside the entrance to the exhibit rooms and pulled out my drawing pad. Crazy Edvard (as they used to call him at the beach) was looking out at all of us from the echo of his photo and he don't care anymore, because he's dead now and he had his career; he did his paintings and he made his prints and he enjoyed the fruits of his number-one hit single and now, all the moments he lived are gone. But there's a bunch of art that stuck around.
And we pause here to reflect before entering.
This area is for the ones who need context. The ones who want to know what they're in for; what the art's about. What the journey will be and what it all means.
I have a love/hate relationship with this part of an exhibit, as I do with the individual placards explaining and contextualizing each work in the show. On the one hand, yeah, I want to know the title and I want to know when it was created and I want to know the significant details. Because an informed viewer is a . . . well . . . Informed Viewer.
But, I also really don't trust it.
Because the art's the art and the moment in which it was born is gone, gone, gone, missy. Each painting, sculpture and drawing is a bookmark floating free of the pages and you can try to tell me where it was placed in the novel, but sometimes I'd just rather look at the pretty bookmark and put it in the pages of my own story.
But still . . .
Isn't it interesting to know that Munch first felt the impulse that he turned into The Scream standing on a boardwalk, looking out at a crepuscular sky, stained red by the dust of Krakatoa? If you look at the painting that Munch identified as the first manifestation of an icon, you'd be hard-pressed to see the similarity to The Scream. But when you read about it and look closer at that painting . . . well, that's really pretty amazing.
So, yeah. I've got mixed feelings about explanations and explications when it comes to art. Sometimes I want to know and sometimes I want to look and feel and not be bothered with studying for the quiz.
But I was sitting, waiting on a friend and I was looking at Munch not looking at me and I drew in my book, because I really, really like to draw and I have to believe it leads somewhere, even if I have no idea where . . .