Thursday, March 29, 2012
Going Native, etc
Yup, I'm taking notes on the semester readings-
Going Native- Abigail Solomon-Godeau, Art in America, July, 1989
Matisse in Morocco: A Colonizing Esthetic? Roger Benjamin, Art in America, 1990
Critical Reflections- Johnathon Crary, Art forum International, Feb. 1994
Resonance and Wonder- Stephen Greenblatt, 1990
So, these are the articles (plus a little bit of one other) that my mother managed to read aloud on the 10 hour road trip we just took together. Now, some of that was because of snow (where I, as the driver, had to not be rolling my eyes), but a lot of it was because of moaning (on both our parts.) Now, my mother is one of the smartest people I know, and she has seen most of the works in question. She has visited the Musee D'Orsay approximately twice as many times as I have. She reads the New York Times Arts section nearly weekly, gets the New Yorker even though we live on the other side of the country, and, above all, she cares. She likes Matisse, she just visited Turkey,and she has an avid interest in artifacts. And the readings, even the ones that sound "fun" were mostly a bit of an outdated drag. (Oh, and ironically she had to read to me on approximately the same stretch of road 6 years ago for undergrad, in a class on, apparently, exactly the same topic). Did I mention she's a Literature and French Language teacher? She knows big words in 2 different languages.
Anyway, these are listed in descending order thus far.
Going Native: I have no idea why it's supposed to be relevant for me to be reading about an exhibit, let alone an exhibition catalog, I wouldn't have been able to see 23 years ago, of an artist I have never been able to relate to, who was active over 100 years ago. Is anyone else nostalgic for world's fairs it could be assumed we were all influenced by because we lived in the same proximity? In an era where we were informed in Stuart Steck's class that prostitutes and mixed-age sexual relations were commonplace, are we really supposed to be shocked by Gauguin's behavior? Yes, people were lewd. People are always lewd. What I think is considered especially interesting about this piece was that anyone ever took Gauguin's writings about anything seriously. He was a washed up painter speculating on a quickly atrophying island culture, and anyone paying attention in anthropological circles at the time would have known that. Shame on the people who bought his paintings, but I find it hard to shame him for having flooded the market with piffle. (Actually- there's an exhibit of his works up in Seattle, which I have been wanting to see. I have no problem enjoying sexy native chicks in muumuus. And that it's showing to great fan fair in Seattle, a city which has a significant Pacific Islander population, (Washington being in the top 5 states for Pacific Islander populations) is particularly interesting)
Matisse in Morocco- So, leaving aside my general annoyance (from 1990? Painter active in 19tweens?), I think the author's desire to have Matisse be the exploiter is a little harsh. If I go to Greece in search of Greek subjects how is that different from me going to my back yard and painting back yard subjects? Clearly Matisse had reasons to be interested in Morocco, and who could blame him? Morocco is and was interesting. Exploring is fun. Showing people new ideas from foreign lands has always been a way to make money, and continues to be today. Call it "cultural awareness," if ya like. Getting Islamic women to take of their Moorish attire is something we almost consider heroic today (think of how we were "liberating" women from their burkas in Afghanistan at the beginning of our most recent conflict). How is he being exploitative here, and not later when he makes his chapel? Hogwash!
Ok, I liked the Resonance and Wonder chapters. If you were going to skip stuff in the readings this semester, this would not be one to skip, because it is truly lovely writing. Very few tropes eschewing discoursive blahdeblah- real words, well placed. But then I found it more fascinating to see Bukowski's typewriter, wine glass and eyeglasses and to remember the impact of his poems on me, than to actually stand and reread the hand-printed impressions that lined the walls of the Huntington. Anyway, especially liked the anecdotes about the Coke stand and also the Marcel Proust vase. See, now you have to read the article, with those tantalizing leaders...
And lastly, Critical Reflections, a lovely speculative work about the internet. It's good to be reminded that we really couldn't have predicted Facebook or the Arab Spring. I really do think cell-phones have made the world a better place, even if i still have my doubts about virtual reality being virtuous reality. Thank goodness Steve Jobs had a lot more impact on reality than this guy.
What a productive vacation I had!