I'm finally back home after a 2 week trip to New York and the Illustration Master Class (IMC) in Amherst, Mass. This was my first time at both places, and I had a good experience and would attend both again.
New York was definitely a spectacle. It was massive but also friendlier and easier to visit than I anticipated. The cab drivers are nuts. I get the feeling that Manhattan property prices and 911 has served to blunt the city`s edginess... It wasn't the stereotypical New York from the movies. My perspective from rural Canada is that NYC is likely unsustainable as it currently functions; no one I asked knew where all the garbrage went to. Innovation and change will spring from cities like New York first... it simply has to.
Times square in the rain...
Our first major museum to visit was the Metropolitan. Compared to the other great museums I have visited in the world, it doesn't have many A++ attraction pieces like the Mona Lisa, but it had a bit of everything for a satisfying museum experience. Unlike Paris where the Louvre, Orsay and Pompidou divide the wealth of artworks into relatively clean divisions of classical and modern, you will go from rooms of classical sculpture directly into rooms of totem poles and then on to modern furniture design.
A nice Andromeda sculpture... proving again that monsters and babes have always been cool. There is alot of fantasy art in museums; just dont let the snobs know. :)
Visits to great museums are a rarity for my Western Canadian eyes. Optimally, I get the chance to thoroughly study the works, make some notes, and do some sketching. My observation about the paintings which I respect and prefer the most were noted in my sketchbook:
Common attributes of great paintings:
- breadth of tonal areas- resting space
- focus of rendering and detail- both tight and simple
- low chroma and high chroma balance
- soft edges
- use of accurate and pure value or color to describe... not line.
I feel modern classical realist art suffers from this lack of focus. Much of the modern realist work that attempts to emulate masters from the past lacks this artistic balancing. The reasons are likely that the revival of this type of art is still a new trend... the practitioners haven`t strayed too much from the uniform surface finish of learning studies to discover the benefits of a varied approach. Below is a nice example of a painting that balances the demands of the model with the benefits of being selective to surface quality.
A close up...
Also showing variety of rendering and finish...
The Met is an exhausting experience best served up in smaller portions. I cruised speedily through most of it to allow myself time to digest the paintings. It would probably take me about a week to get through the whole collection with a semblance of thoroughness. An interesting offshoot of the museum`s variety is that there is a distribution of visitors across the various collections which is telling of the depth, interest and merit of works...
Without examples (and the implied respectability) of pop-culture, name-brand artists like Warhol or Pollock, the galleries of modern art are largely a wasteland. The irony of this large-scale modern art is that when grouped together in a gallery, the scale of the pieces cancels each other out, and the art loses its ability to impress us with size or simple graphic qualities. Why would viewers want to waste valuable museum time and torture their aching feet to look at 20 modern paintings when other parts of the museum offer so much more depth and satisfaction in a smaller space? Their graphic simplicity allows me the option to glance at the work from across the room and decide that its not work trekking 100 feet to take a closer look.
Another empty room of modern work. I wonder how much great art and artifacts are in storage to make room for this simple spectacle?
Anyhow, the Met was great. The variety was perfect for visiting with non-artists who could go their own way. The entrance fee was by suggested donation, which might come in handy if you just wanted to slip in for free and do some drawing for an hour or two.