Cars at MoMA
As you know, MoMA has one of the greatest and well-known collections of modern art in the world. Its recent exhibits include Hopper and O’Keefe’s best pieces. So we were surprised to learn that one of the pieces on exhibit was currently sitting at Lift Trucks. No, we didn’t find a Picasso on Ebay, but we do have a 1943 Ford truck before they were called “jeep”. MoMA has a military 1950’s Willys-Overland Jeep. Essentially the same vehicle.
Most people are pleasantly surprised to hear that the MoMA has cars on exhibit. They have so many fantastic and unique pieces, why include something that we see and use every day? Sure, there are gems like the 1963 Jaguar E-type and a stunning red 1946 Cisitalia, but these you would expect to see at a car show, not an art museum. Even more puzzling is the inclusion of a 2002 Smart Car and a VW Beetle. Also, compared to the thousands of paintings and drawings, they have 6 cars in total.
According to the curator, Peter Reed, “Automobiles are among the most significant inventions of industrial civilization. Each of the six cars in MoMA’s collection is an innovative, influential design. Historically, aesthetics and speed have been primary concerns. Today, we are no less concerned with aesthetics but recognize other compelling issues in personal transportation including affordability and efficiency.” Cars are a part of everyday life, but we can still find art in them. Even a simple Honda Civic has elements of design to it; otherwise we would all be driving the same box on wheels. It’s amazing how many different styles of vehicles are on the road at once.
The jeep is the most unique piece of the group though. The whole exhibit shows how a car is about more than just getting from point A to B, but this car is designed for just that. While the Jaguar might have sleek curves, and the beetle possesses an iconic design, the Jeep is built for pure efficiency. Here you see a car literally made for war, where every inch of the car is built for the most practical and tactical reasons. Those iconic headlights? Made that way so they could be flipped around to see the engine when you are fixing the car in combat. That cool looking grill that you still see today wasn’t an artist’s design, it was the result of hundreds of tests to get the most efficient airflow to the engine.
We also have the same Jeep sitting at Lift Trucks Project right now. We saw it driving around town for years, and finally got the retired fire chief to sell it. It was sitting in a dusty old garage, complete with the manuals, shovels, and a replica gun attatchment. Be sure to stop by and check it out.
As with most good exhibits it makes you think. It makes you think about what you are driving next time you’re on the freeway. In the family SUV.
What do we think of Sargent? A turn of the century court painter pandering to rich guys wives with languid eyes flopped out on sumptuous devons? Shall we toss Sargent in the art-closet with Bouguereau and Fragonard?
Well, yes and no. A tough call, as the stunning collection recently shown at the Brooklyn Museum, now traveling to Boston shows us. It just has very little to do with how we look at work now. There are little if any traces of modernism. Even though some of the Venetian buildings were scrappy, they are antique and from the old world. Milton Avery, Charles Sheeler and others were painting modern down trodden, industrial buildings, hard as nails railroad tracks that somehow look modern to us. Even if Sargent is more skilled with a brush, it’s the subjects that sometimes draw the life out of a room. One of his best is a simple portrait of a tramp.
A painting can be beautiful and well done, but it needs to make some sort of connection with the audience. Now, we aren’t saying that every piece of art has to be a working stiff in a garage. Take a look at Munch’s The Scream, from basically the same time period. It is a painting we can relate to in the modern day; the fear and raw emotion is something everybody experiences.
On the other hand, watercolor at this level is a lost art. Some of the duck stamp crowd or western nostalgia artists might come close. But now, for the most part, it’s a skill like making Meissen china. Gone. These almost seem like Ralph Lauren ads for the Victorian set.
The research is phenomenal. Our friend Toni Owen, Senior Paper Conservator, graciously led us through the show. There are many charts and photos showing color field x-ray analysis of what particular pignments went where. Cobalts here show as reds and the ultramarines come up as white. Tiny differences that make boats float in canals and rocks sizzle in the desert sun. Sargent is a master at this without parallel. All said, it’s a portrait of a time. A documentation of a way of life when people took steamers and the Orient Express. These pieces are almost like a medieval tapestry show; skills that are in a historic vein rather than modern art.
He’s a difficult guy as he made a ton of money. Museums bought entire watercolor shows out from the gallery. He did quite well, thank you. But you wish you could go back, grab him by the collar and say look, look at this Van Gogh!
Enough Arabs, society swells and Venetian scenes. Put your brush in your left hand, turn the canvas upside down and cut loose.
SOMEDAY MY PRINCE WILL COME & A WELL LIT GREYHOUND STATION
Paul McCarthy is just one twisted dude. Sorry. We all love Walt Disney and really do not have any problems with his vision of America and storytelling. How many Angelinos get teary eyed reminising about sneaking onto Disneyland’s Tom Sawyer Island and having a smoke back in the day? Rite of passage. Huck Finn would have been proud.
The sets are made up of huge colorful flowers, jungle overgrowth, redwood pathways and neat 50’s lighting on a random San Fernando Valley tract home. Absolutely georgeous. He took over the entire 67th St Armory on Park. Way to go, Paul McCarthy!
Now for Dullsville U.S.A. The Guggenheim take over by James Turrell is another grand idea. We all love James Turrell for the spiritual, time sensitive light shows. He has an amazing way with subtle light changes much like the aurora borealis. Mesmorizing really. The desert sky creeping over with rose to evening satin blue/purples.