Today we forced ourselves to take the train northwards, out of the gridlock reach of the city, to visit an acquaintance and a museum in a small town with one main street called Main St.
As we wandered the vast warehouse expanse of “modern” art, I reflected on how some pieces seemed calculated to create a sense of alienation, even disgust, in the viewer. What is the purpose of this sheet of metal laying in the middle of a room? What is the purpose of this room filled with paintings of stripes of off white colors? I don’t get works of art like this. There’s something infantile, inaccessible, or passive-agressive about them, in that whatever meaning meant to be constructed is either entirely within the mind of the artist, or peevishly left to be determined by the viewer. The intention of some of the pieces were interesting in a sort of anthropological way, in that they took ordinary objects or materials and attempted perhaps to heighten attention on what constitutes the ordinary, either by way of transplanting them into a gallery, or by way of transforming them into distorted mutant and hybrid objects.
Other pieces were more playful or contained elements of awe, beauty, or surprise that made them much more palatable to non-modern-artistic senses such as mine. Perhaps that means I am just not immersed enough in the lingo and arcana of the visual arts to truly appreciate the more challenging pieces. Maybe I should just stick to Monet and pieces of art appealing to the eye and easily digestible without much further thought.
It’s not that I shrink from intellectual challenge, but I suppose I have never been one to be engaged by cold puzzles of logic, either. I can’t tolerate Sudoku or riddles for this reason. If I’m not engaged by either some deeper purpose, beauty, a sense of connectivity, or at least by just plain old physical engagement (artwork that lets you walk around inside it or on it is always cool), I don’t see the point in it.
Ultimately, art must engage the viewer by telling a story. The artists whose pieces are displayed in this museum are fortunate in that even the most isolated, passive-aggressive, or alienating pieces are united by the encompassing and beautiful layout of the museum itself. The story that is created by the viewer comes from walking around the museum and enjoying its expansive spaces. In some cases, the design and placement of the pieces in the warehouse were more powerful than the actual pieces themselves.