Tuesday, July 13, 2010

The Metropolitan Museum of Art Experience

After a slow start, we finally made it to the Metropolitan Museum of Arts. I had piled my children and wife in the car and took the drive to the city. It was a very hot Fourth of July and we thought, “What better way to spend it then inside an air-conditioned museum?” We figured most people would be at the beach and we were right. The ride was great as there was no traffic. We found the parking garage easily and parked very close to the entrance. We entered the museum from the garage and we were on our way to exploring the museum.
The Metropolitan Museum of Art was founded in 1870. The museum is located in Central park along Fifth Avenue in New York City. There are around two million works of art in the museum covering five thousand years. The building is a quarter of a mile long. The museum started with the design by architect Calvert Vaux with his collaborator Jacob Wrey Mould. Critics believed the structure would be out of style by the time they finished building it. The style was High Victorian Gothic and 20 years later it was redone in the Beaux-arts on the façade by Richard Morris Hunt. Hunt never saw the completion of his work, but his son Richard Howland Hunt oversaw the completion. The museum was completed in 1902 and has continued to expand.
We started in the Greek and Roman Art section. There we saw many statues laid out in the hall. My children decided that we were following Percy’s adventure, from the movie The Lighting Thief. We saw every god and goddess that was in the books and movie made of marble. The children marveled at the details and how smooth they were. We discussed how long it must have taken someone to create such a wonder. It was an awesome site to stand in the middle of the room and look around at all the statues as if you were right there in ancient times. The next pieces of art we admired were the Roman Funerary Art. There were urns and sarcophaguses made of marble, limestone and terracotta. One such piece was a marble sarcophagus with garland. The reason this piece stood out for us is because it was never finished. The piece was never completed because no one purchased it so the final details were never finished. My wife and daughter were interested in all of the exquisite jewelry. I guess some things never change. My son and I particularly enjoyed the chariot and all of the weapons. It is hard to believe that Roman soldiers could fit in such small chariots. There was so much to see. We could have spent hours looking at the pottery collections alone. It was amazing to look out over the great hall and took in the overall scene. We had some lunch in the café before continuing our journey. We thoroughly enjoyed the special exhibits including the Robert Lehman collection, the Picasso exhibit, the American Woman: Fashioning a National Identity and the Tutankhamen’s Funeral collection. The Tutankhamen exhibit is the one we were most excited to see as we are interested in mummies and the pyramids.
The one piece that stood out for me was a painting from the Peter Paul Rubens Workshop. It was oil on canvas painting that was the size of a picture window. The name of the painting is “Wolf and Fox Hunt” ca. 1615-21. Peter Paul Rubens was born into the family of a Calvinist. He was brought up and educated in the Catholic faith. At the age of fourteen (1591) he entered the household of a Flemish princess as a page, and began to study painting first under Tobias Verhaecht and then under Adam van Noort. Finally he studied under Otho Venius. In 1598, he was accepted as master in the Lukas Guild. He continued, however to work in Venius’s workshop until 1600. Rubens went to Italy in 1600 and by 1603 he was sent to Spain on a diplomatic mission. Ruben produced a series of hunting scenes from 1615 through 1621. "Peter Paul Rubens and Workshop: Wolf and Fox Hunt (10.73)". In Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2000–. http://www.metmuseum.org/toah/works-of-art/10.73 (October 2006). Ruben was a prolific Flemish Baroque painter. He emphasized movement, color and sensuality.

Between the size and the exquisite detail, this painting makes you feel that you are right in the middle of the hunt. The wolf’s baring their teeth trying to defend themselves from the attacking dogs evokes emotion in the viewer. You are almost not sure who to root for. The plaque stated that Ruben may have only painted a portion of the painting. Some critics go so far as to say that he may not have had a hand in the painting at all. I looked at the sections supposedly painted by Ruben but could not make any determination as to whether he painted it or not.
Ruben’s large studio produced paintings which were popular with nobility and art collectors throughout Europe. This is probably why he painted such a scene. The reason was never made clear in any of the places where I researched. Perhaps it is because this painting was done by the studio and is not considered Ruben’s own work. It may be that Ruben was such a great teacher that even the experts couldn’t tell the difference between the work of the teacher and the students.
We had a wonderful outing and my children are even developing an appreciation for art. I am very glad to be taking this class.
Source: Peter Paul Rubens and Workshop: Wolf and Fox Hunt (10.73) | Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History | The Metropolitan Museum of Art

Monday, July 12, 2010

New Britain Museum Experience

This was the museum trip where I discovered that my children have grown to appreciate art. They loved the New Britain Museum of Art. They were excited when they entered and engaged throughout the visit. The vast mural made of cups grabbed their attention from the beginning. We all thought it was terrific. My son was so proud of himself that he was the first to discover that the mural was made of cups. It has become a bit of a competition between my kids to see who can uncover something extraordinary in the art that we view.

The museum has their new acquisitions right when you first come in to the gallery. My daughter was sure she picked her favorite picture as soon as we got there and it turns out she was right. She loved the picture by Tom Yost "Summer View from Pointer Hill Road". She said she loved it because she could picture herself sitting there drawing or thinking. I thought that was pretty insightful for an 8 year old. She loved other paintings in the museum but none as much as that one.

The collection of benches were terrific for the kids as well. They enjoyed trying each one out. Their favorite was the bear bench. They really wished they could take it home with them. We all liked the statues of the horses on the first floor. There was also this awesome sculpture hanging over the first floor that the kids thought looked like a sea creature. It was made of beautiful glass and was just magnificent.

We were also intrigued by the art done from the cover of children's books. My son's favorite was the Tarzan piece. It was thrilling to see the children get excited by their discovery of the pieces. I never thought I'd see the day my son would be excited at an art museum.

My son pointed out the Rockwell Kent painting "Toilers of the Sea". We spent some time trying to decide what the phrase "tautly painted" meant in the description of the painting. We googled it but were unable to satisfy my daughter's request for the meaning. We loved the painting but disagreed about what we thought was actually happening in the picture.

Peter Blume's painting "Boulders of Avila, 1976" caught our attention with it's texture. We had a hard time with our son at this museum as so many paintings appeared or actually did have texture and our son (who is very tactile) had a hard time controlling his impulse to touch the art.

My daughter is crazy about horses and riding. She was thrilled to find John Stuart Curry's "The Stallion". She is now interested in reading the book "The Black Stallion". She thought the horse was gorgeous.

None of us actually understood or appreciated the room with the fabric lines. It seemed pointless to us and the explanation was evasive. The adjoining cotton fiber paper pieces were neat.

My daughter amazed us when she connected the Denys Wortman and Thomas Hart Benton paintings. She recognized that the two artists were painting each other. She thought it was cool that in Wortman's painting, the artist in the painting was painting an artist drawing the painter. It took a bit to get her brother (who is 10) on the same page so she was pretty proud of herself.

The pencil art was very cool. The kids loved every one of them. My son noticed the alphabet letters in "The Alphabet, 2005" first so that was another point for him (If you are keeping score.) The kids had a great time making themselves art in Dan Flavin's "Untitled, 1970". These will make some great photos for their memory books.

We all thought the Graydo Parrish's September 11th tribute was disturbing. My wife needed to explain the whole 9/11 incident to our children because they were so curious about why the children in the painting were holding air planes.

We ended up doing the first floor rooms of paintings last as the cup mural drew us right past them and up the stairs. The children still enjoyed the somewhat ordinary paintings asking us to take photos of several of them.

It was our most enjoyable trip of all the museums and we are recommending a visit to all of our friends.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Old Lyme Florence Griswold Museum Visit

Hi all,
It was a rainy day and the end of the course is getting close to being done,or is it just the beginning for new experiences to start. I went to The Florence Griswold Museum in Old Lyme. It was not what I was expecting, as usual. The House and all it's surroundings were a country retreat for artist. The museum is considered "The Home of American Impressionism". The museum itself is in 4 sections of rooms, you cannot take pictures. What I did notice is that the paintings were more about Connecticut which was good.Plus the paintings are what I thought oil painting would look like. Most were painted thick with color. Some say it is the Munich style of painting. Most were impressionist style. After the museum visit I walked about the grounds. I saw this art work above, the Rambles sculpture. The artist only created things with natural materials and they usually only last up to a year or so. The material is then scattered back into nature.
The little building above was a place for American Impressionist William Chadwick (1879-1962)a studio. See Painting of his above Front Parlor, Florence Griswold House, c. 1905-08
Oil on canvas Gift of Elisabeth Chadwick O'Connell. This is a painting of Florence Griswold in the house I visited, part of the museum. The other painting was of one other person, maybe another artist, sitting on the porch of the house. "On the Piazza", c. 1908 Oil on canvas Gift of Mrs Elizabeth Chadwick O'Connell
Chadwick painted and made frames in the other section of the studio. That was certainly a nice extra, to see where an artist did his or her work while vacationing there.
Artist stayed in the house for $7 dollars a week and $5 dollars extra for a studio. This may not have been a great place to get pictures but it did have something else. I recommend a visit just to get to see the surroundings. This was definitely a different museum experience.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Aldrich Contemporary Art Museum Experience

The Meeting of the KAWS
I finally took my children to the museum today. My wife stayed home recovering from the bug that I was ill with the day before. We didn’t want to go to the planned museum since my wife was ill, so I chose an alternative that was close by. It was a sunny day and the kids had their swim, so I decided to go to the museum. I wanted to go to one that no one else in the class had had blogged about. My children and I took a trip to The Aldrich Contemporary Art Museum located in Ridgefield, Connecticut. The kids were happy that it was close by, they said they were tired. When we got to the museum they were starting to get more into exploring. That’s the thing with my kids you have to get them going and then they enjoy themselves. We were to only take pictures if one of us was in it. They did not want us to sell any copies of our photos, so one or all of us had to be in the picture. The one with my daughter next to the red picture is the one where she wanted herself in it. She said “I can do better than that; I should have my pictures in a museum”. I think she will some day. Well now you met the kids and me.
The Aldrich Contemporary Art Museum is on Main Street in Ridgefield Connecticut. The building was constructed in 1783 by Joshua King and James Dole, two lieutenants in the Revolutionary War, and was nicknamed "Old Hundred" because it served as a grocery and hardware store from 1783 to 1883 and as Ridgefield's first post office. Grace King Ingersoll remodeled the building in 1883 and used it as her home. From 1929 to 1964, it served as Ridgefield's First Church of Christ, Scientist. Larry Aldrich purchased the historic "Old Hundred" building. He wanted a place to contain his growing collection of art. So The Larry Aldrich Museum began in 1964. In 2001 were to renovate the Museum, the architects were presented with the challenge of expanding a contemporary art museum located in an historic district with colonial roots. Architect Charles Mark Hay, design principal at Tappé Associates, Boston, based the new Aldrich on an abstraction of traditional New England architecture. Today The Aldrich's 25,000 square feet of new and redesigned space accommodates twelve galleries, including: a screening room, a sound gallery, a 22-foot-high project space, a 100-seat performance area, an Education Center, Museum store and, the Cornish Family Sculpture Garden, a two-acre outdoor exhibition space.
There were seven different special collections showing at the museum. We started with the John Shearer: America collection. There were collections of his documentary photograph work. Most photographs were of images of people in their natural surroundings. Some black and white, some with color added on certain objects or the person themselves. We saw sketches, paintings and the journals from Rackstraw Downes.. He documented every day in his journals, which were on display, of is working process and creation of the paintings. The paintings on display were Under the Westside Highway at 145th Street and The North River Water Pollution Control Plant. I told the kids that when we finally get to the MET we can see this area; they thought that it would be cool to see where the painting was done. They had Screen-printing from Gary Litchtenstein. They showed each section as a new color was added. They even had a video showing the process on how screen-printing was done.
The one thing that stood out for all of us was the KAWS. This is a figure created by a Brooklyn-based artist and designer named Brain Donnelly, a.k.a. KAWS. KAWS was born in 1974, attended the School of Visual Arts (SVA) in Manhattan in 1993. KAWS started out skateboarding around Jersey City going into Manhattan to Brooklyn Banks. Then he started doing graffiti on buildings in New York, from there he’s has incorporated his signature image into posters and billboards. The character is an inflated skull with crossed bones and X-ed-out eyes. He started to incorporate this idea or “signature intervention” on as much billboard advertisement as he could. He considered the image to be limitless in terms of translation, anywhere, in any country it will always be just a skull. The KAWS would be recognizable no matter where he went
The figures we seen were from 2 inches to 10 feet tall. Most figures were made of plastic, because the artist wanted to make his artwork more accessible to a broader audience. He believed that the mini-sculptures, made from plastic, would be easier to purchase then a sculpture made of expensive material. He has incorporated his image in almost anything that is well known. KAWS has put his image on almost anything known from Mickey Mouse, the Simpsons, SpongeBob, Pinocchio and Jimmy Cricket and the Michelin Man. See photos. It was hard to see the cross bones because it looked more like ears. After knowing what it really was you could see the true form. I must say they did get the attention from my kids. We were all fascinated in all the pieces there. This was the first time seeing these but I bet it will not be the last.