Light & Art

I went to the Colorado Springs Fine Art Center yesterday to see the “Impressionist and Modern Masters” exhibit. It’s the first time I’ve been back since they remodeled. Wow. It’s big. Wow. I forgot you have to be careful not to lock your knees when you’re in a museum. I was there for about three hours.

They bought several Chihuly pieces. Three of the chandeliers — one in the lobby, one in the bar, and one in the Hispanimerica exhibit — along with a bunch of the oversized coral polyp ones, which they placed on the hallway into the permanent collection rooms, mostly in shadow, so you felt like you were walking into an undersea grotto.

Another highlight (for me) in the permanent collection: Robert Motherwell. Like Japanese calligraphy art in an alien language that you can still understand.

The impressionist and modern masters exhibit led me to the following conclusion about art: people have been abusing the concept of light for political/philosophical reasons for a long time. The exhibit was split into three or four main areas: 1650-1790ish, 1790ish-1870, 1870-1914 (and possibly 1914-1950).

1650-1790: The Spotlight of God shines forth, as if to say, “Hey, dumbass! I’m the KING!!!” (When you look at the paintings, there are bright spots of paint over dark shapes.) (Subjects were famous, wealthy, or both. Didn’t see any landscapes. Lots of still lifes.)

1790-1870: The Ideal comes from within (a la Enlightenment). Glowglowglowglowglow! (The light areas of the painting are layers of light colors. This picture was from the permanent collection, not the exhibit, but I couldn’t find the Teresa of Avila I wanted.) (Subjects were symbolic, either of pagan or Chrisitian icons. Landscapes showed the sun just beyond the horizon.)

1870-1914: Light shines on stuff. Get over it! By the way, this is what I saw… (The paintings aren’t so much tricky layers of paint as they are oddly-shaped slabs, streaks, or pixels of paint. Like a predecessor of TVs.) (This would be the same time as the industrial revolution. Subjects were just people; landscapes started to get sunny.)

1914-1950ish: First, light goes into your eye. Then your brain. So what is it we’re seeing anyway? Brains. We’re seeing brains. (When I have a sinus headache, this is how it starts to look. Another picture not at the exhibit.) (Subjects were a combination of the ordinary and the myffick — the painters all had personal mythologies, which one may or may not relate to.)

Special case: Jackson Pollock. Something that doesn’t really come through in the pictures of his paintings is that he doesn’t wait for the paint to dry. The colors, still wet, swirl together. It’s like looking at a fractal — each level of investigation is just as messy as the one above it.

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