Tuesday, November 10, 2015

The Intrinsic Value of Art

There is one thing that Vic Christopher once said to me that has really resonated. If you know, or have had any interaction with Vic - you know that he is a goldmine for wisdom - intentional or not. He often says things that are deeply reflective as part of every day pleasantries, and while sometimes these things can seem a little silly..this is one of my favorite things about his personality. 
Over the winter, Vic dined at Peck's Arcade with a friend. We knew he was in the dining room - as we can see every seat from the kitchen, but in an effort to give a real experience..we did not offer him any special treatment (at least no more than anyone else). 

After his meal we talked to him about it.. to see what he felt about everything. How comfortable was he. The music. The energy. The service. The food, and every aspect of it. The timing. Literally everything. He had some minor criticisms that we took and adjusted accordingly, but overall he was very impressed.  This was his first time in the restaurant as a guest, and he was shocked about how different everything felt - just by changing his role, and not being stuck behind the DJ Booth. One thing he said was he was in a seat facing the exterior wall (Franklin Alley side) and he noted that there wasn't much to look at and that it sort of robbed guests sitting in that orientation of some of the experience. They missed out on seeing the rhythm of the dining room and all the things that happen in it. We talked about it a little - mentioned seeing mirrors on walls like this in other restaurants. I recalled seeing lots of art hanging on walls of restaurants in the past, to which he said, 

'The wall is the art'. 

My gut reaction was, as it so often is, 'Thats ridiculous'. But you know what? He was right. So much thought, so much work, and effort, and Im sure anguish and emotion went into designing this room - every detail was worked out and redone and then redone again for good measure. When you start to expand what you think of as a canvas you realize that creating that wall is really no different than creating, say, a painting. Here I caught myself putting arbitrary limitations on what art can and cannot be. I began to think about various paintings I had seen hanging in galleries and museums that, frankly, reminded me of the wall at Peck's. 

Some google image search examples:
Ethan Harper, Mountain Mist II
Helena Hildur, Blue Painting #01
Helena Hildur, Grey Painting #2
Maeve Harris, Creme 2

It bothered me that intuitively I rejected the idea of the wall being art. I love going to museums and galleries but without fail, my favorite to visit are Contemporary Art Museums. I don't care how 'good' or 'bad' the exhibits are - what I love is how fun they always are. How freely people will discuss the art - rather than the annoyingly silent galleries you find at more traditional museums. I think that.. more or less...Contemporary Art is the goto 'this is bullshit' art that regular people are most critical of. I often hear people say something like 'I could make that' or 'Anyone could make that' as a criticism. All I can say to that is its unfortunate that the only value youre placing in a piece of art is how difficult it is for you to recreate it.

Before we went to Montreal this fall, we were out to dinner with another couple. One of them asked if we were going to Musee d'art contemporain de Montreal. We weren't sure at that point - but they strongly suggested that we avoid it because when they went it was the absolute worst museum they have ever been to. They described an exhibit in great detail - which I cannot remember, unfortunately,  and how much they hated it. 

I asked them when they visited. It turned out to be a decade ago. I then asked if they could describe any other exhibit they have seen at a museum that they loved. They could not. The point I was making is that their initial reaction was that this particular exhibit was terrible. But here they are ten years later, remembering specific details - more clearly than any other exhibit they had ever seen - yet they still think it was terrible art. I suggested that not all art is supposed to be beautiful or make you sit in awe about how wonderful it is - and maybe the point of this exhibit was to create visceral reactions. Im not sure if this got through to them, but it helped lay out my thoughts on art for me. 

'Good artists borrow. Great artists Steal'

For me - the best exhibit I have ever seen - that is to say the one that I had the strongest emotional reaction to - was the Picasso Looks at Degas exhibit that the Clark put together in 2010. I visited mostly because they were two artists that I was familiar with - but not ones that I had much of any opinion of. If you are not familiar with this exhibit - it basically spanned the career of the two artists and showed Picasso's admiration for Degas' work and how he often borrowed or copied ideas. What I remember most clearly was Picasso's, 'Nude Wringing Her Hair'. Looking at the texture of the brush strokes, and the movement from beads of paint running down the canvas... for reasons I don't necessarily understand, I found these things to be deeply moving - and I'll remember these details for the rest of my life

Pablo Picasso, Nude Wringing Her Hair

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