Monday, November 14, 2016

The Art is the Deal

I bought these beautiful mugs at my brother's art show Saturday. Dude throws pots, not shade. He's been at it for about 25 years, and just keeps getting better. By day, he teaches art to middle schoolers, a noble endeavor indeed. I guess all the stress that provides fuels his creative energy in his ceramics studio.

Now, myself, I am more verbal than visual. I'd rather read the transcript than watch the video. When it comes to movies, I'll take the snappy dialogue (Mamet, Sorkin, Coen) over the langorous pastoral pastiche. but, nevetheless, I can hold these mugs in my hand and appreciate their energy and vitality, even in a static form. And coffee was meant to be drunk from a mugs like these, its full bouquet greeting you as you sip. So much better than sucking it through a tiny hole in a plastic lid, so you can burn your lips and the tip of your tongue.

But, anyway, art. My appreciation of art falls mostly in the "I know what I like" basket, but upon reflection, I realize that I have always enjoyed the rare visits I have made to museums and exhibits. I specifically recall visits to the Baltimore Museum of Art and the Museum of Modern Art in New York, and while, I couldn't tell you exactly what did it, I remember stopping at length several times to consider the work before me. I know, that's the whole point. But we live in a world of constant distraction, a world that seeks to offer so much distraction in so many formats that we sometimes feel lost without it, and we seek it at every pause. So here, for a moment, a thought about the value of the pause and thought, not the interruption of the next.

One of my favorite exhibits was called Word Play, Contemporary Art by Xu Bing at the Arthur Sackler Gallery in Washington, D.C.  I saw it about 15 years ago for reasons that I cannot remember. Xu Bing is a Chinese artist who manipulates forms and language in order to radically change their meaning and he does this in visually stunning fashion in large and small scale. There are lengthy academic treatments of his work, but for me that day, he had created magnificent visual oxymorons, like square pegs that fit round holes or giant birds that soared despite appearing too heavy to move let alone fly.

He was born in China in 1955 and suffered government oppression for his work before fleeing to the United States after the Tiananmen Square Protests. He returned to his native China in 2008 as the Vice President of Central Academy of Fine Arts.

So, now what? Well, I need to get to museums more often, for one thing. Because art is really important. And I don't think it's coincidence that this week I am thinking about an artist born in a totalitarian state who was criticized for his perceived antigovernment works. You figure out the rest, you know, the eye of the beholder and all that.

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