Last week I traveled to NYC to visit my youngest daughter and we visited Storm King Art Center and the Guggenheim. I’ll write about Storm King another day but today I am going to gush about the exhibition we saw at the Guggenheim. My daughter is an art student at Pratt, so we always go to see art which is really wonderful! We both agreed that Hilma af Klint: Paintings for the Future was easily one of the most satisfying exhibits we had seen in a long time.
Af Klint was a swedish artist who began creating abstract art in 1907, well before anyone else. Her work has rarely been shown and she was relatively unknown up until now. The Guggenheim has mounted a retrospective of her artwork and it is nothing short of spectacular.
We were excited to see the exhibition just a couple of days after it opened. It was empowering to see this visionary work and to know that it was who a woman created it. Take a look at this video created for the show…Click here to see the video.
Not only was the work visionary, but it is genuinely beautiful. Hilma af Klint had a deep understanding of color and how it worked. Many of her paintings were so luminous, I wondered if they were backlit. The ten monumental paintings that begin the exhibition chronicle a human life from birth through death. They are painted with tempra on paper. The colors, the shapes, the composition and the manipulation of paint is incredible. The entire body of work is awe inspiring and made me want to paint again. My daughter, a sculpture major, felt the same way.
I told you I was going to gush!
Halfway through the exhibit, I vowed to buy the exhibition book…damn the cost! I was not disappointed because the entire exhibition is beautifully duplicated in the book so now I have reference material to look at when I want to be inspired.
However, there is nothing like seeing artwork in person. I envy my daughter who has so much available to her while she is attending art school in New York. She has a free pass with her Pratt ID to go to virtually any art museum in New York City for free. She is not limited to looking at art in books or peering at tiny little slides as I had to do back in the day at the University of Illinois. She has The Whitney, the Guggenheim, the MET and MET Bruer, MoMA and PS1, The Frick, the Brooklyn Museum, The Museum of Art and Design, Cooper Hewitt, all of the galleries in New York City and so much more! She doesn’t have to study the work in a book, she can actually go to see it and study it in person.
I’ll never forget writing a paper in college on Caravaggio’s Deposition from the Cross. I had a slide and a black and white image from a book as visual references for writing my paper. I spent several hours in a darkened hallway with my nose pressed up against the slide case to study that tiny slide and write my paper.
That next summer, I went to see the Vatican Collections at the Art Institute of Chicago. I’ll never forget rounding a corner and coming face to face with the Deposition from the Cross.
IT WAS ENORMOUS! It was at least 10’ tall and 7’ wide with the frame. I was stunned. It stopped me in my tracks and literally took my breath away. I remember tears pricking at my eyes because I felt cheated. Even though I had studied that nasty slide for hours, I had no real connection to the artwork. It was just an art history paper that had to be written. I had not experienced the art in the way it was meant to be experienced. Face to face. Eye to eye. Soul to soul. It was a true revelation.
That lesson was not lost on me. Ever since then, I’ve made it a point to go and see art as much as I can, whenever I can. I have hauled my family to countless museums, exhibitions and galleries. I make art trips with friends. When I visit new places, I search out the art and go see it first. I make pilgrimages to remote places to see special exhibits.
One day, I might not be able to travel to see art. That that is when books, magazines and the internet will have to suffice. However, seeing art is part of the fabric of my life and it’s such a joy that I can share it with my daughter!