05 May 2010

My Love Tate Relationship

Even the building is amazing! A converted power station.

Admittedly, I know little about art. Sure I know about the main movements, the big artists, some symbolism, but I can't tell you that "mmm, Oh, yes, well it is apparent in Krasner's work the pain over losing her husband, Jackson Pollock. oh, mmm. Yes. This squiggle here is, rawther indicative." Like, I'm not an asshole about it.

That said, I can immerse myself in (late) nineteenth and twentieth century art for hours. Even days.... S and I visited one of the world's greatest modern art temples, the hallowed (yet accessible - in Britain museums are free, and man - there were a lot of strollers and wee ones!) halls of the Tate Modern on the Southbank of London. After a morning at St Paul's Cathedral, a short walk across the Millenium footbridge, we arrived at 2 pm thinking that 4 hours would be enough. It was - barely.

With my new boyfriend, the Tate Modern Audioguide (it's like an ipod Touch! With extra pictures! And videos of interviews with the artists! And you can listen to commentary on almost all of the works in the museum! AMAZING!) I could have spent 4 more hours inside. Easily.

Now, I don't have the space to show you all of my favourite highlights (I took 100 photos. That'd be a loooooong blog) in my own words - no fancy schmancy art-critic talk! I will show you a few of my faves:

Venus of the Rags
Michaelangelo Pistoletto

Something so mundane as these rags coupled with the divinity of ancient Roman sculpture? From my photo it is hard to tell, but this statue is not made of marble or stone - it is a plastic garden version. Now, I have an affinity for Venus as I am a Taurus (my birthday was yesterday, matter o fact) and because she represents love and passion - does this common material cheapen her, and love itself? With her back turned to us, is she ashamed to be surrounded with something so mundane as what is essentially dirty laundry? This artist is from a school called Arte Povera (literally "Poverty Art") in which the artists use mundane materials to make their statements. I just love the colours and the questions it raises.


Glenn Ligon

As a self-professed Neon Sign historian (like really. I am obsessed lately. Ask my pals - they'll roll their eyes.) I have always liked neon artists (Keith Sonnier is another fave) and I love that this piece breaks convention by depicting the word "America" - a word that invokes so much imagery, good and bad - in black rather than the fruit-punchy colours that we expect. I want to see this lit up. Badly.

Andy Warhol

Oh Warhol, you will forever be linked to my teenaged coming-of-age, mixed in with memories of Candy Darling, Kenneth Anger, Jon Moritsugu, Robert Mapplethorpe and John Waters. How I love thee, and yet how cliched it can easily become to admit it.... Oh, screw it - despite your fame, you introuced the world to "pop-art" and for that I am thankful.

I love this photo, because there are actually two pieces of art in it. One is simply the wallpaper - Warhole designed this when a pal lamented that "no one paints farm landscapes anymore" and the other is the painting of 6 skulls. On its own, without context, this would be a bit of a boring piece, I mean, even then skulls had been done. But when I think of the other subjects that Warhol painted in this repetitive tile pattern (Marliyn Monroe, Elvis, the glitterati of Studio 54 and Max's Kansas City) it takes on a darker, more genuinely sinister meaning. Once celebrity has been done - what is left?

The Music From the Balconies
Edward Ruscha

Sometimes you don't have to get it. You just love it. This is a quote from a JG Ballard novel, he of sexual violence and depravity (don't worry, we'll get to Francis Bacon soon) and it is like a line of poetry, which is art itself, and so why not?

Nude Woman Reclining in a Red Armchair
Pablo Picasso
She's so chubby and sweet and a lot less "cube-y" than his earlier work! I'm actually a bigger fan of Georges Braque than of Picasso, but I really am drawn to this painting. I think all of her femininity and naked sexuality has been rendered non-threatening by this somewhat over-cutesy depiction - especially when I remember that Picasso used a lot of prostitutes as models and that this may have been his way of disarming their power over him.

The Carnival
Max Beckman

This was painted in 1920 and I think that it shows current artists such as Mark Ryden to be the self-indulgent, overly-derivative posers that they are *smiles sweetly*

Bacchus, Psilax, Mainomenos
Cy Twombly

Walking into this room (there is a third monolithic piece on another wall) was like wading into a warm bowl of pent up lust and rage and something I couldn't quite put my finger on. Despite these very serious emotions, there was also something homey and comforting about the way that the red and pink and orange blended together and it was kind of reflected on people's skin tones as they walked through and it was magic.

Study For a Portrait on A Folding Bed
Francis Bacon

Last but not least - my favourite: Francis Bacon. No other twentieth century artist depicted such chaotic, deeply layered and passionate emotions, all with an undercurrent of death, rot and metamorphosis. His artworks remind me of the body-horror of Bunuel, Dali and even Cronenberg - of things slightly not as they should be, askew in a way that recalls war and change and even sex. While this is simply a study, it evokes such strong emotions that I can't even imagine it completed. Bacon's personal life was just as facinating as his art. Oh you crazy thing!


Stephanie said...

Never been into modern art myself, but it would be cool to go nonetheless. All I cared about was you're wearing the boots I bought you and they look so cute!

Lux Opus said...

amazing tour of the tate!

Tonia said...

Excellent choices and not so-up-it's-own-arts-it-can't-see!
Francis Bacon In Film exhibition on very near me at the moment: plans to go in place but people willing to go are in short supply - he tends to frighten a lot of them away.

Cw said...

Hey J,

Great blog post. I don't know what to say, I'm feeling like a non-academic idiot lately. My opinions are non-existent. I love Bacon. He's one of my all time favorite artists. You write passionately about art and that's all that matters. Meaning is intrinsic to visual culture but it's also subjective, intent gets left by the wayside. I wish I could be travelling now and I'd love to go see the Tate one day.

kanmuri said...

I liked all the painting except for the CY Twombly. I just can't call this art. It looks like it was done in five seconds. I feel like anyone with a brush could reproduce that. I just don't get those modern paintings.