Because I was unable to attend the trip to LACMA two Saturdays ago, I decided to write on my experience at the Broad Museum in Downtown Los Angles during my OxyEngage trip.
Dancing to Miles is one of the earliest works by George Condo, an oil painting measuring at about 110×137 inches. Looking back on my experience with the painting now, the first thing that pops in my head is Cubism. This is definitely more on the side of Analytic Cubism, as there is a presence of geometric fragments and a monochromatic color scheme, and not outside patterns or textures like Synthetic Cubism. Turns out, according to his bio on the Broad website, he was largely influenced by artists such as Picasso and Cezanne. This is supposed to represent the chaos that is a Miles Davis song, as he often performed pieces that “spiraled in and out of structure” (The Broad).
Going to the Broad was my first ever experience in an art museum, so I only knew about the worldwide famous pieces, by people like Van Gogh or O’Keefe, and sadly only saw them online. So, seeing all of these paintings and sculptures in person was truly an eye-opening experience for me, as you don’t really get to see all of the minute details such as size, or method, or material. When I first encountered this painting in the museum, I simply saw it as a slightly larger than average painting, but it was not until I saw its actual dimensions online that I realized how big it actually was.
Unlike any of the other pieces at the Broad, Dancing to Miles and other works by Condo were the only pieces that appeared to stem from some sort of modernist movement. The other works, in my opinion, were more “modern” than “modernist,” as the other works (except for the Andy Warhol pieces) just seemed to be taking advantage of the advancing pop culture and technology around them. As much as I did love this piece, that and other paintings were not what made my experience at the Broad the most memorable, but rather the sculptures.
Music, for the longest time, much like visual art, was determined on its quality by whether or not all of the imposed rules were followed. However, Arnold Schoenberg came along and completely ignored those rules, despite following them in the past. Even though there have been many artists before Schoenberg that have included dissonance (for example, between the strings and woodwinds in the development of Mozart’s Symphony No. 40 in G minor), Schoenberg created the ultimate amount of dissonance by creating notes that never seem to resolve. In fact, they almost seem as if the notes were simply strewn everywhere. He intentionally creates this constant dissonance in order to create a reaction from his audience. I would not necessarily go to say that he is an expressionist, as none of his work appears to portray his mood or inner voices.
As for Pierrot Lunaire, the text and the music do not truly connect. When reading the poems, a giggle is elicited, a feeling of amusement bubbling up. On the surface the text is about a silly clown, and that is all it may be. However, Schoenberg takes it a step further and composes pieces to accompany the text that make it sound like Pierrot is not all quite mentally there. It makes the audience feel a great amount of discomfort, not only with the music itself, but the disparity between the music and text.
A possible reason that people might have been behind Schoenberg is because, unlike other art forms, there does not have to be a meaning behind the composition. It is the purest form of art. Therefore, even if the music is very unpleasing to the ear, it is still music, and does not need an excuse for why it was written like that.
Gertrude Stein’s “A Long Dress,” from the “Objects” section of Tender Buttons. While reading any sort of poem written by Stein, I always finish confused and frustrated. While this selection from Tender Buttons does not make any more sense, there is one aspect of this particular poem that I am able to recognize–word play. It’s the kind of word play that makes you chuckle to yourself, as, compared to her other works, Stein usually does not use this kind of mechanism. There are two instances where she uses word play–one about “current” and one about “A line.” The poem starts with Stein asking “what is the current that…” in one clause after the other, until the actual sentence ends. She responds with “What is the wind,” connecting that wind can have current. The poem then ends with what “A line…” does. In this case, it is not what the line does, but rather what it connects to–the long dress. The final line, “A line just distinguishes it,” could be talking about two things: one being the hem of the dress written, or of the type of dress it is being distinguished as–an A-line dress. Although this is clever writing that I was able to grasp on a bit easier, it still leaves us questioning what the true meaning of this piece is, if there even is one.
Man Ray’s Indestructible Object is a classic example of one of the types of
DADA art forms, known as readymades. It is quite easy to tell that this is readymade, as it looks like someone just put a picture of an eye on a metronome. This does go along with the idea of the DADA manifesto in the idea that “Every pictorial or plastic work is unnecessary…”, as these pieces would be displayed, only for them to be later destroyed by the person who created them. It is just a piece of art–it has no meaning, therefore has no value, and can be destroyed without any consequences or lingering emotional attachment. However, creating these things suggests that the art does matter, or has some meaning–if people were saying that art is meaningless, they wouldn’t even create the art in the first place, because that is how meaningless it would be. Creating art that doesn’t have a meaning still suggests that the art has a meaning–the idea that art has no meaning. It is this endless circle of contradiction.
Still, it is understandable what the movement is trying to aim for. I see it as a statement of focusing less on the ideal, and more on reality. Perhaps they are full of disillusionment in the world, and wanted people to fix the world around them. But then again, that could just be me not understanding the complex yet simple concept of Dadaism, something that to this day people still do not understand.
Out of everything in Special Collections, there was nothing else that I was drawn to as much as these manuscripts by George Crumb. It is easy to tell from the manuscripts that his work was avant-garde, but you can also tell by listening to the pieces being played. The pieces that I looked at were Crumb’s Prophecies of Nostradamus and Agnus Dei.
What is quite intriguing about Prophecies of Nostradamus is unless you are some sort of musical genius, if you were to listen to the piece without looking at the sheet music, you would have absolutely no clue what the time signature is (13/4 then 11/4 in fact), and completely lose track of the idea of what constitutes one beat. I feel that this was one of Crumb’s main objectives–to confuse others and get them thinking about what music is supposed to sound like. I can see why he would call this the title that it is, as Nostradamus is most famous for prophecies about disaster, and this piece definitely sounds like the world is about to end, with his use of constant secondary dominants and forte dynamics.
Now every Agnus Dei that I have heard is different, but this is one extremely different format wise. The format is rightfully in the shape of a peace sign, as there is a part in piece saying “Dona nobis pacem,” which means “Give us peace” in latin. You also have to actively look for where this piece starts (it starts at the left diagonal line of the peace sign). This makes it difficult for the musician playing not only because of the format, but also because it requires vocalization from them. I would not go and say that this is the most creative version I have seen (go look at Agnus Dei by Leonard Bernstein), but it certainly is something else.
With both of these pieces, seeing them in person as opposed to online gives the person looking at it a greater sense of interaction. Not in the sense of just being able to touch it, but being able to read them easier, see all the small notes that you may not have seen on the screen, and you do not need to tilt your head in impossible angles.
Picasso’s Dance of the Veils (1907) is quite an intriguing painting, as this was in a period of time where Picasso was still trying to figure out his painting styles. It is noticeable that what Picasso works on at this time is any early form of Cubism, as everything within the painting is much more geometric that his previous works. What truly stands out in this compared to Picasso’s other paintings, is that there are parallel lines all over the place, most likely to indicate shading. On the woman, these are placed where there would be shadows, to create dimension for the body. There are also presences of African influences, as the woman’s face resembles an African mask, with the long face and long, geometric nose, very similar to the women in his Les Demoiselles d’Avignon (1907). Judging by the name, there is a possibility that Picasso was influenced by either Oscar Wilde’s Salome, or other artists’ interpretations of Salome’s famously vague, Dance of the Seven Veils, first illustrated by Aubrey Beardsley. Compared to the works of impressionists, Picasso work more with the dynamics of shading, rather than where light would hit. However, both Picasso and other impressionists experiment with various colors, although impressionists put colors on top of each other for a more vibrant effect, while Picasso throws color in different spaces, almost to highlight the main focus of the painting. Either way, this strayed far away from both Impressionism and academic painting.
Berthe Morisot was known for painting what she experienced on a day to day basis, usually on subjects about expectations of her class and gender in society. This piece, Hanging the Laundry Out to Dry, by Morisot is a classic demonstration of her life as a woman in the middle class. As a woman in the nineteenth century, women were still portrayed as the caregivers and housekeepers, not resorting to very much. This landscape painting of people hanging up their laundry gives us a glimpse into the daily life as a middle class woman. Morisot’s short, less defined brushstrokes really gives an impression that living in the type of environment she lives in can be quite boring and unclear, but because you can still make out the picture, it is a life that is livable and not worth complaining about. The colors are muted and inching toward neutral shades, nothing extremely exciting or bold about it, representing the typicality and repetition in a woman’s daily, blasé, life. The set place of the painting itself is not only more rural, but it is noticeably farther away from what appears to be a city. The city was more of a place for the proletariat, as that was where all the factory work was done. Because the residence in the painting is placed so far away from the city, this gives a strong implication that the house depicted in this painting is an affluent household, which further isolates the woman from every needing to leave the house. Overall, this painting describes how isolating it can be as a bourgeoisie woman.