Sunday, 11 October 2009

New York day 5: The Metropolitan Museum of Art

After the brief interlude in Central Park I made my way over to The Metropolitan Museum of Art.  I’d tried to go through there on the Monday but it had been closed.

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When I first got into “The Met”, I was quite overwhelmed and didn’t know what to do with myself.  There was just so much to see and so many iconic and important pieces of art and I must have flitted about aimlessly for at least half and hour.  I wafted through The Pictures Generation (1974 - 1984) exhibit and an area with Rodin sculptures before doing a u-turn and briefly looking at an exhibition of art from Afghanistan.  I just couldn’t settle down though.

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Rodin's Adam, The Thinker, Eve and The Martyr

Model as MuseI then wondered into the stunning exhibition The Model as Muse: Embodying Fashion.  This was a fabulous tour through fashion photography and the modelling world since the 1960’s. 

The exhibit featured photographs, magazine covers and stories of the designers and the models and was complete with actual dresses starting with the geometric shapes of the 60’s mini dresses right up to the fashions of the last couple of years.

It was fascinating to walk through the exhibit and see the iconic rise of the mass fashion and supermodels.  It was quite sad that no photography was permitted.

The last stop in my tour of The Metropolitan Museum of Art was the phenomenal exhibit Francis Bacon: A Centenary Retrospective.  I wasn’t really familiar with Francis Bacon before I went into this exhibit and it made such a great impression on me.  Once again, we weren’t allowed to take photographs but I wrote pages and pages in my notebook about what I saw.  I’ll try my best to describe my experience with images of my favourite pieces of his work taken from the internet. 

Francis Bacon was born in 1909  and hence the centenary retrospective.  His first major piece was the 1944 triptych Three Studies for Figures at the Base of a Crucifixion. 

Head VI
Head VI, 1949 [source]

Study after Vélázquez's Portrait of Pope Innocent X
Study after Vélázquez's Portrait of Pope Innocent X, 1953 [source]

He had several images that appeared to be caged and apparently he was trying to portray the corrupting influence of power. 

Man in Blue IV
Man in Blue IV, 1954 [source]

He did a series of “Man in Blue” painting which were quite impressive in their message and the feeling of dread that they conveyed.  They represented the cold war anxiety and the threat that Bacon experienced at a personal level due to his affair with Peter Lacy. 

Three studies for a crucifixion
Three Studies for a Crucifixion, 1962 [source]

This piece made me stop in my tracks and stare for quite a while.

“Absolutely disturbing and essentially powerful.  Reminds me of the imagery of [the film] The Cell.  It was no doubt influenced by Francis Bacon. 

I wonder if he saw death?  Because he imagines it close to photos I’ve seen of gunshot victims.  I could never have imagined the actual damage of those – what an imagination!” (from my notebook)

Triptych 1976
Triptych, 1976 [source]

His paintings following the suicide of his lover George Dyer in 1971 were really powerful.  In these paintings, he exorcised his grief and guilt.  His guilt was evident in the holes and the emptiness.  He was painting a man that was withering and destroying himself. 

The central figure is surrounded by vultures and alludes to the Ancient Greek legend of Prometheus, a figure whose liver was perpetually plucked out each day by an eagle only to have it grow back again. 

Having dealt with the suicide of a friends some years back,  identified so strongly with these paintings and with his process.  The idea of Prometheus was especially disturbing as I remembered waking up each day only to live through what had happened again until I finally came to accept it. Such is the power of this art that it took me right back to that time.

Studio
Francis Bacon's studio [source]

Towards the end of the exhibit there was an entire wall imprinted with a photograph of Francis Bacon’s studio.  My poor, ordered, near-obsessive mind struggled for ages to comprehend such absolute mayhem and then I remembered my rather peculiar method of writing essays at university! I used to do all my reading and then write random, inspired paragraphs on little scraps of paper.  Then I’d sit in the middle of my bedroom floor and arrange the scraps of paper in a circle around me in a structured order.  I would then type out the essay, write an introduction and conclusion and finally, I’d consult my reading material and randomly slot in the required two references per paragraph.  This crazy performance was unfortunately perpetuated by really high marks and praise from my lecturers.

Jet of Water
Jet of Water, 1988 [source]

After the oppression of the previous section relating to George Dyer’s suicide, I found the final part of the exhibit to be surprisingly open and liberated even though a lot of his work was motivated by the death of those around him.  This was the section on Francis Bacon’s final decade from 1981 to 1991. 

It is a pity that it took me so long to post about this (bad blogger!) because both the “Model as Muse” and the Francis bacon exhibits ended in August.  They were excellent exhibits though and as you can see, they left a lasting impression on me!  Perhaps next time I undertake a big tour, I will post about the temporary exhibits first.

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7 comments

  1. Very interesting descriptions of these exhibitions. I have a lot of trouble describing my reactions to art and thus am quite impressed with yours. I also love your essay-writing style! I always had to have outlines and plenty of structure--substitutes for true creative juices, I suspect 8-).

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  2. Dearest Emm, if Bacon's studio gives you the heebie-jeebies, you'd best not come into mine! LOL

    Actually, my studio is quite orderly right now, but when I get going...

    Thanks for the museum tour. I've been so museum deprived lately. XO

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  3. Bacon seems to have lived in a world of darkness and shadows, despair upon despair. I sympathise with his pain, but would have no wish to live that way or to dwell upon that pain overmuch - there has to be a light at the end of the tunnel.

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  4. I would have loved to see the fashion photography exhibit...

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  5. Great post. Bacon is definitely a fascinating person as well as artist. I've never been in the Met... bad NYer...(though, I suppose I'm an upstate NYer so that must give me a little excuse!)

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  6. You're making us want to go to New York... How did the move go?

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  7. @ Kathy: I never thought of it as creative but it probably was right-brain driven! Perhaps your approach to art would be to make more art? I have a need to translate everything into words, figures and pictures!

    @ JaPRA: Awww, your photos of your art and art supplies always look so creative and pretty! I love that.

    @ Gaelikaa: I agree. I do think that he did emerge towards the end of his life though and that is what is important. Darkness in one's life can be incredibly liberating if you can emerge at the other end as a more integrated person.

    @ Julia: It was great! I would certainly try to blog sooner next time so that people can attend the same exhibits. I'm afraid I left it too long this time.

    @ Little London: I never realised you were from New York!! I thought you were a Londoner!! I have absolutely realised the error of my ways though and have visited your website! You have an impressive resume!

    @ Prodigal Tourist: Hiya! Go to New York!! (Am I evil?) The move itself was great and the cats are totally happy now. Unfortunately, the old landlords are not great and that may have been the reason behind me feeling poorly / sorry for myself / sick lately. I should blog about it!

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