Tuesday, May 23, 2006


complicated smiles

I'm unguarded and uninhibited in my response to works of arts--at a concert, or art museum, or literary reading, you might well see me beaming, smiling, tensing up. But on occasion you might see a look of delight on my face that would be somewhat deceiving. For sometimes I find myself smiling fairly broadly at a Work's inventiveness and vibrancy at the same time that I feel rather distanced (alienated) from that work--as I tell myself that I could, or that I would much rather, live without experiencing this artist's work (or a particular subset of the artist's work, this sort of thing) any time soon.

Last week I went to the "Klee & America" show (now closed) at the Neue Galerie in NYC, and was surprised not to be particularly enthused (I felt rather differently at the previous Klee exhibit I had gone to, I think in the 80s). Probably no one who observed me had an inkling of my dismay. For it would be noticed that my gaze was intent, that I was spending a fairly long time with each painting or drawing, and that I was trying not to skip very many of them (my slow progress through museums has become maybe too habitual). And that I was breaking out into smiles every once in while. I seemed interested enough that a woman, evidently an artist, alongside me looking at a drawing, exclaimed to me that she finally understood how he did it, got that ragged line in such works, something about sending his drawing through a press--she went on at some length about it.

But is enthusiasm for Klee forever lost to me? I can't even fathom what the problem is. Something about him being so so European? (The show was about American enthusiasm for Klee's art, but it was indicated that he had very little interest in us)--one sign is that he never visited).

Recent and no problem, just terrific: the David Smith sculpture show at the Guggenheim, Munch at MoMA, Agnes Martin paintings at a midtown gallery.

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