Art That Infuriates People

I went to the Philadelphia Museum of Art recently with my friend Christa. I like to look at art with Christa because she knows so much and has such an interesting perspective (the same reason I like to watch movies, which can be anything from Mad Max to Macbeth, with my husband.)

I’d heard of Cy Twombly, but didn’t know much about him. I still don’t know a whole lot, but I learned that the Philadelphia Museum of Art is home to one of Twombly’s major works. Fifty Days at Illiam. We saw the series of ten paintings after seeing the fifty-year retrospective of Sean Scully. Scully’s work was technically and artistically brilliant, but I found it lacking in emotion. Perhaps this is just me because apparently, Scully “sees art devoid of emotion as dishonest.” But what is art supposed to mean anyway?

When we entered the room that houses Fifty Days at Illiam, I saw nothing but emotion. We all know the story of the Trojan war and the story of Achilles who was so incensed when Trojan Prince Hector killed his besty Patroclus that he lost all control. Fifty Days at Illiam captures frenzy that led to a chain reaction of violence that ended with eternal night.

Shield of Achilles
Achilles wants vengeance

How’s that for emotion? Red and black and images that could pass for male genitalia or cannons depending on your point of view. Probably the former since this was the Trojan War and not the War of 1812.

Compare this battle scene with this one. Achilles kills Hector, Paris kills Achilles and havoc is unleashed.

Like a Fire that Consumes All Before It.

You can see all the paintings here, and learn more about Cy Twombly here.

Now I have heard that a lot of people don’t get Cy Twombly. Maybe because some of his materials included crayons, glue, and house paint, and he scribbled across his canvas. People probably say, “I could do that.” Maybe. But they didn’t. Or if they tried, their work didn’t have the color, the emotion, the audacity. John Waters said, “Cy Twombly is my hero because in the beginning his work so infuriated people.” Twombly’s work doesn’t infuriate me. It moves me.

A Day at the Franklin Institute

 

Outside

Most people who grew up in the Philadelphia area went to the Franklin Institute as kids. Guess what?  It’s still as much fun now as it was them.  Maybe even more so because there aren’t any field trip monitors or other well-intentioned adults to boss you around.  The Step Potato and his little brother the Step Banana were in town with their parents last weekend so a trip to the Franklin Institute was in order.  Much of the museum was as I remember it.

Heart

The Heart

Frabklin

 

Ben

FoucaultsPend

 

Foucault’s Pendulum

But much had changed.  For one, it was Minecraft Day. And the special exhibit was Game Masters which took me on a video game trip down memory lane as I revisited old favorites and tried some new games.   The exhibit I enjoyed the most, however, was Your Brain. Not only was it interesting, it was visually absorbing.

Brain2

The kids had a marvelous time crawling around the neurons of a huge model brain.  It was the cerebral version of a hopping discotheque which I suppose is an apt description of what your brain is up to 24/7.

Brain

By the time we got out of the brain, I was ready for the Fels Planetarium where I learned about the danger of asteroids hurling themselves at the earth.  Not on my watch, I hope.

Winding down

Outsidemirrors

Outside mirrors moving in the wind,

while the brain boogies on.

 

 

 

Return to Rothko’s Rooms

I plan to return to London soon and one of the items on my list of things to see is the Mark Rothko exhibit at the Tate Modern Gallery.  I had heard about the paintings Seagrams commissioned from Rothko to hang on the walls of their new Four Seasons Restaurant in New York City.  I know that the paintings never made it to the restaurant and  wondered what happened to them.

 

 

 

Well, on my last visit to London, I learned that they are in a room at the Tate Modern Gallery.  The pictures you see here are not meant to be accurate representations of the paintings, but rather, to give you an idea of their scale.

A placard accompanying the exhibit stated:  “ROTHKO was influenced by Michelangelo’s Laurentian Library in Florence with its blind windows and deliberately oppressive atmosphere.  Rothko reportedly commented that Michelangelo ‘achieved just the kind of feeling I’m after – he makes the viewers feel that they are trapped in a room where all the doors and windows are bricked up, so that all they can do is butt their heads forever against the wall’.

Wall Text Accompanying, In The Studio Exhibit, Tate Modern Gallery, London, England.

 

 

I am not sure how these paintings would have looked in an upscale restaurant, but I did not feel trapped in the room where they are displayed at the Tate.  In fact, I found it hard to leave.  The paintings have a singular calming effect.   Viewers can get close to them or sit across from them and look as long as they want.

If you want to learn more about Mark Rothko and these outstanding paintings, watch film documentary Rothko’s Rooms.  The film charts his life, artistic development and includes commentary from his family and friends.   Rothko’s Rooms used to be available on YouTube.  You can order it from Amazon.  Just click on the graphic below.

 

 

For additional information on Mark Rothko, go to artsy.net’s  Rothko page here.

The Katten Kabinet

A charming side trip in Amsterdam is a visit to De Katten Kabinet, a museum set up in an old mansion that is devoted to displaying art depicting cats.  You’ll see everything here: paintings, prints, sculpture, movie posters-even a mummified pussy cat.  The Egyptians loved their cats, too.

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The story is that a rich Dutch banker wanted to do something to commemorate his beloved orange tabby John Pierpont Morgan (Tom for short).  So he turned his house into a museum and put J.P.’s image on a fake dollar bill.   This seems strangely appropriate cine De Katten Kabinet is located on Herengracht, a street in  Amsterdam that is home to numerous banks and investment firms.  On the other hand,  I have yet to meet a cat who gives a fig about money.

After we went through the museum, we went into a back garden area where two kittens were engaged in some serious play.  

And then out sauntered three chickens who were more concerned with sunning themselves than worrying about the kittens!

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Cat who Walked by Himself

The Cat Who Walked By Himself

If you are a cat lover, De Katten Kabinet is worth a visit your next time in Amsterdam.

Herengracht 497 – 1017 BT Amsterdam