The field trip to LACMA left me more or less unsatisfied, if I am going to be completely honest. Though the collection covers a wide breadth of works and boasts a fabulous campus, I found that much of what I wanted to see was either unavailable or required an upgrade payment. Fortunately I was able to visit the Guillermo del Toro exhibit, even if it required a little bit of lying. After becoming a “NEXGEN” member of the museum, I was granted free access to this exhibit, which was truly unique. The del Toro exhibit is intriguing because it allows patrons to see not only del Toro’s work, but his inspiration and roots. However, other than this exhibit, I felt a little let down. Nonetheless, I made the most of the time and enjoyed the visit itself, as Museum Row is quite gorgeous and the weather was flawless.
For this post, I chose to focus on the painting Bathers (1913) by German artist Karl Schmidt-Rottluff. This work, which is a moderately sized oil canvas (34 1/2 x 39 5/16 in.), can be found on the second floor of the Ahmanson Building. Though I saw many works that exuded modernism, I chose this painting because I felt as though it pertained to some of the recent class discussions on Primitivism and Exoticism. Bathers was hung in a part of the gallery that had other similar works, ranging from Cubism to Expressionism to Abstraction. Because most of these movements unfurled in similar eras, this painting fit right in. Aspects of this painting—such as the colors, the harsh outlines, and sparse background—remind me of Picasso’s Les Demoiselles d’Avignon, a work that seems to border Cubism and Primitivism. The bathers themselves, who are nude and assumably in the wild, evoke a sense of primal life, as there is no indication of modern lifestyle within the canvas. It was actually pretty special to be able to view works in this gallery that we have studied in this class, as well as works that I had viewed in my two art courses over the course of this semester.
The LACMA experience was unexpectedly amazing. After almost two months of classes, I know how to apply the abstract ideas and descriptions we learned in class to the actual appreciation. I never had so much fun in any art museum before and never had I paid such attention to each artist’s brush stroke. LACMA did well on making people to experience and interact with art without having a solid background in art history.
One of the art piece that I was especially intrigued by is White Center, created by Mark Rothko in 1957. It is partially related to Expressionism that we talked about on class, however not exactly the same. This painting is under the category of Abstract Expressionism. The two “isms” shared some common ideologies, for instance both Expressionists and Abstract Expressionists believed that art could express the truth of the human condition.(Phillips p34) However, Abstract Expressionism is less objective and figurative. White Center only has two colors on the canvas, and the color pattern is similar to the stop sign which metaphorically made me stop in front of it. From my perspective, the two shades of red imply the chaos and disorder in the outside world that surrounds us everyday, whereas the center’s whiteness imply the calmness inside the painter’s mind.
The redness gets more intense in the center which seems to me that is pressuring the whiteness in the middle. Mark Rothko blurred the edges of each shade of red to make it looks less aggressive. This painting perfectly conveys the original feeling and mood of Mark Rothko as if the viewers could read his mind through only two colors.
This painting also related to my experience in Breathing Lights, which is a huge surprise of this trip. Both of them can help me meditate and think more deeply about what art is in real life.
I loved going to LACMA. It was a great opportunity to finally see some of the art or art similar to what we have talked about and viewed in the classroom. The first impression after viewing the art in person is that the artists we have talked about in class are even more impressive than I initially thought. My favorite area was the new artist gift section. I really enjoyed seeing George Braque’s painting first hand. I was enamored by “Boats on the Beach.” This painting is definitely more on the surrealist end of Braque and displays more colors than most of his paintings. I expected the colors on a lot of the paintings to be more washed out than they are on the computer, because photoshop allows for color enhancement, but I was proven wrong. If anything the colors are more vibrant! Additionally being able to see each individual brush strokes adds depth and intrigue to this painting. The painting is also quite large and it was framed in a beautifully white wood carved frame. I think going to LACMA made the whole class a lot more purposeful, because I got to apply the knowledge gained from the course to the paintings I looked at. I think I will go back to LACMA because I only got to go through one building really thoroughly. Great Experience!
This piece by Kandinsky perfectly shows many of the aspects of his painting we discussed in class. He focuses on shapes and colors for total abstraction, which he believed to be superior to representational art because of the stand alone nature of abstraction. Kandinsky thought that art could show a person’s soul through its unique qualities. This work shows many geometric shapes and lines, over a background of largely cream color, with sections of red and grey at the bottom and top to anchor the composition. The shapes are reminiscent of something musical, and the painting is both pleasing to the eye and detailed enough for lots of study. Seeing it in person was interesting, and while it did not change what I thought about the piece, it did show some colors in the painting I had not previously noticed.
I found my visit to the LACMA to be really fun and interesting to see different art pieces. My friends and I spent our time in the Ahmanson building in the Modern and Expressionist art exhibits. I saw a lot of Picassos and Pissarros, and I think the museum had a good diversity of artwork that I have never seen before. The work I saw that I felt connected with what we have learned in class was “Men and Women” (1969) by Pablo Picasso. Even though this work was done in a later period than what we’ve talked about in class this art piece still stays true to the Cubist principles we’ve talked about. The painting depicts a man and woman contrasted in white and black, and the painting semi-overtly shows the man penetrating the woman. Besides the sexual subject matter, the figures are still distorted as if seen from multiple perspectives. However, Picasso uses a lot of color in this painting opposed to earlier Cubist painting in which expression though color was avoided. The painting style looks more abstract than Cubist, but the underlying techniques still remain, as the painting is still ambiguously fragmented and over exaggerated. The LACMA had the biggest collection of Picasso paintings I’ve ever seen before, so it was interesting to see his creative process and how his art changed over time, especially after learning about him in class. “Men and Women” was displayed alongside the rest of the Picasso paintings, and the me that highlighted its difference in style compared to the other pieces due to his use of color and the way it was painted with heavy brushstrokes. This painting was also much larger than the other Cubist paintings so the eye was immediately drawn to it. Although this painting shows clearly a difference in Picasso’s painting style, the sexual subject matter and fragmented perspectives are very much in the conventional Picasso style. Going to the LACMA was a great experience in relation to the class because it allowed me to visualize the art we talk about in person, and having learned about the kinds of artwork I was looking at made it all the more interesting.
Schoenberg’s Pierrot Lunaire: 18, composed in 1912, reflects many of the avant-garde tenets of the Abstractionist and Expressionist movements flourishing simultaneously. Pierrot Lunaire operated around Schoenberg’s Sprechstimme, a method in which lyrics were not intended to be sung but through different pitches assume a speech-melody. This approach was inspired by Schoenberg’s dedication to defying conventional norms around the art world (such as melody, tonality, etc.) that he posited disguised an essential truth through surface-level representation. In considering the visual works of Kandinsky or poetic works by Gertrude Steins, we can see similar strains of prioritizing the raw art-form, whether through language or paint, rather than the mediums representative potential. Kandinsky explicates this intention with the belief that “every work comes into being in the same way as the cosmos-by means of catastrophes, which ultimately create out of the cacophony of the various instruments that symphony we call the music spheres.” While Kandinsky was figuratively applying a musical vocabulary to art in the aggregate, Schoenberg’s atonal works that deliberately defied all orthodox standards in order to depict a reality that transcended the material world.
In considering the relationship between Schoenberg’s composition and Giraud’s poetry from which it was inspired, there initially seems to be very little in common. Whereas Giraud’s Moonfleck and Serenade both maintain a somewhat absurdist comical timbre as they tell stories of fumbling men, when set to Schoenberg’s score these works postured towards a more somber and dramatic story. In part, this may be that without speaking German I was more engaged with Schoenberg’s music than the Sprechstimme lyrics. Nevertheless, I believe this disconnect is consistent with the tenets of expressionism that relies on a notion of raw communication independent from the material boundaries of language and representational structures. As such, it stands to reason that Schoenberg is classified within the Expressionist movements given that no historical classification enjoys perfect consistency. Schoenberg’s rigid series of irregular rules used to shatter the popular music principles perhaps makes him hypocritical for denouncing tonal and melodic rules. Why is that his set of rules were more conducive to communicating divine psychic states than those which he replaced? His challenging of the popular music world expressed a desire to transform the status quo however the outlandish and difficult experience of hearing his works coupled with its exclusive accessibility poses questions regarding Schoenberg’s ultimate agenda as well as what drove his followers’ support.
 Wasily Kandinsky quoted in Daniel Albright, “Abstractionism,” in Putting Modernism Together: Literature, Music, and Painting 1872-1927, 130.
Schoenberg’s work relates (in my opinion) closely to many of the other movements around the same time. Schoenberg’s use of only dissonance and breaking free from the traditional styles of composing reminds me greatly of both Impressionism and Surrealism. It was his way of breaking free of the confines of the musical world, and using atonality to create something unique, powerful, and profoundly unsettling. To me it makes sense to call Schoenberg an impressionist composer, because his music borders on bizarre, but still manages to convey the story and meaning that inspired the piece. The discordant instruments and almost-singing manifest as something slightly out of place. This is the same impression I got from reading the poems by Giraud.
Schoenberg’s music relates to a lot of other artistic works around the same time period. His music could be compared to Dada art, where the artist would try and break the common norms of art. The music of his did exactly this, it went against what was commonly known as music. It pushed the idea of music just like expressionists pushed the idea of art. It seems a little disconnected from the article just because his music differed from the normal music of the time. He wasn’t doing it just to mess with people though, he was pushing boundaries and defining his own style of music. I think it makes a lot of sense to call Schoenberg an expressionist composer in many ways. Expressionists challenged the time periods art and pushed what was commonly excepted, which is what Schoenberg did. Both were also heavily criticized for their knowledge of their art because of how different it was. I feel like expressionist would be a perfect way to label him as a composer. I think what was so appealing about music without a key center to Schoenberg is that he had no walls holding him back. He had no box that he had to think in, he could do anything he wanted with his music and not have society based boundaries like normal composers had.
After hearing this unique music piece for some time, it is hard not to notice that every single musical note was highly thought of. Though not a pleasant or easy-to-listen to composition, it will certainly make most people react in some way or another. What really made me react to these piece though was the score. It is a piece written on no apparent key, with extremely complex note inflections that seem not to resolve unto anything. This leaves me anxious, waiting for the piece to resolve, but yet it never does. As a musician I try to resolve this music in my head, but yet I find it extremely difficult. It is something that my traditional musical education does not allow me to comprehend, but that is the whole purpose of this. This strenuous musical composition is written in such a way that it does not allow anyone to resolve this in anyway. Moreover, this is what has lead Arnold Schoenberg to be identified as an “Expressionist”. The main reason for this is the fact that most of his musical compositions abruptly refuse to adhere to the implicitly pre-imposed traditional music norms. It is Schoenberg’s heart and intellect in its purest form, presented and transmitted by music. Strongly dissonant and yet beautiful in its own way. One of many “acquired tastes” people can get in life. Paradoxically, what makes this music “ugly” is also what makes it beautiful, and worthy of attention.
All in all, I can say that Albright was right. This is indeed as complicated as Einstein’s equation E = mc^2 or his relativity theory. Something so complex that could only be proved 100 years after its prediction. But yet this music piece is still a puzzle for most people that could perhaps be deciphered (or accepted) in the future?
Arnold Schoenberg’s Pierrot Lunaire looked to explorer the relationship between various tones. Schoenberg loves the blatant, almost brutal dissonance his song produces because it explorers a part of music not previously seen before. A member of the audience described the performance as “enharmonies that almost made the ears bleed, the eyes water, the scalp to freeze.” The audience as a whole disapproved this work. The atonality of this work leads to the general distain of this work by the Berlin public. This exploration of sound is similar to the art of Kazimir Malevich and various abstract painters. Kazimir Malevich’s White on White is a painting that is two white squares; the purpose of this painting is to explore how different colors interact with each other. While Malevich explores the way that different colors affect each other, Schoenberg explorers the way that different tones sound when put together. Schoenberg and composers who also explored with this dissonant music seemed to be searching for “the borderland between pain and pleasure,” which had not previously been explored. Although sporadically dissonant, Schoenberg looked to expand the way people listened to and created music. And although Schoenberg’s music is not what the future held as was believed by many critics. His music had a profound impact on music.