A couple of years ago I happened upon a documentary by Simon Schama about Mark Rothko. Some of the images presented made me a bit teary. I decided that this was ultimately a good thing. I thereupon stopped thinking about it and went on with my life.
Last week, after making a visit to the local museum for an exhibit of artifacts from the Forbidden City, I decided to also plan a visit to the art gallery. Being a cheap, lazy bastard, much of this planning was based around when it would be the least expensive and the most convenient. Meandering through the gallery’s website, I noticed a reference to Rothko and lo and behold! they had one in their collection. If I got teary from a representation of a painting on my computer monitor, how much more enthralling would it be to see one in its full glory: big, bold, glare-free. I would be able to put my nose right up to it, view it from the other end of the hall, peek at it from around a corner, even. How exciting!
On the day, I felt crappy, it was hot, my bus was late, my date insisted upon having dinner first. Boo-hoo. However, the rest of the journey was speedy, the dinner was fantastic, and the restaurant was two blocks from the gallery. At the door I felt some mixture of sly and guilty about going on the “free” night. I’m a pleb and think an awful lot of artists are full of crap but I am capable of weeping at a representation of a painting as pixelated on my monitor so…. So I see value there. Something worthwhile. Inside, I stood in front of a map and felt completely blank, unable to orient myself. My date was not feeling particularly directional either so we wandered around in a daze, not lingering anywhere and not speaking. Eventually, I became annoyed by the nothingness of blah-di-blah 18th century paintings and said, “Dammit, let’s go upstairs to the modern stuff”. We spent another 20 minutes trying to find a staircase or elevator that would allow us to ascend to the 4th and 5th floors until I found a doorway leading to a sort of enclosed spiral wooden staircase. Up we went. We kept climbing and after a million years we had seen only one doorway and it was (b)locked. I was beginning to have doubts about this staircase actually leading us to another floor. Up ahead a woman was resting. She assured us that this was not a sucker exhibit and there was an open-able door a bit further on.
There’s something about putting an experience in writing that allows me to see it better. I was totally intimidated by the gallery and practically everything in it.
There was some really awful contemporary art. I found it very difficult to connect to the video segments. There were some particularly dull paintings and kind of appalling installations. There was one installation that was weird and slightly disturbing and way over the top that bent my brain. For the most part though, it was all either brutal (I shrank from it) or very distant (it shrank from me). We sat through a short film in a dark room. We went back downstairs. We left. Outside, I acceded to the request of two women to take their picture in front of a large sculpture.
Never did find the Rothko.