quick road trip
I'm just back from a quick run to St. Louis to pick up some paintings. Too much driving for a rather short visit (it did not help that we inadvertently took a detour into the Chicago suburbs) but we had time to see some friends and to spend a few hours at the St. Louis Art Museum and the special exhibit Action/Abstraction: Pollock, deKooning, and American Art 1940-1976.
This is a major retrospective of the important early abstract expressionist artists (sculptors included) and a look at some of their influences on subsequent generations (this aspect of the show's premise seemed a bit weak/undeveloped--but the work of the ab-ex painters we know and love are wonderful.)
I went in armed with sketchbook and notebook, expecting--and indeed finding--a wealth of intriguing ideas and information. What I wasn't really anticipating was the emotional impact the work had upon me, from the first room (where several stunning Pollocks and deKoonings were hung) on to the end, I walked through the show initially just feeling and marveling--my left brain pretty much disengaged. It was enough to just take in the range of rich visual textures, stunning color juxtapositions, bold contrasts and incredible subtleties, and expressive lines from thin and sensuous to rough and fast.
The second time through, at my painter friend Mark's urging, I picked out some favorites, including a gorgeous work by Lee Krasner, and we discussed each other's top picks--engaging in one point in a rather heated discussion in front of Barnett Newman's canvas painted flat red with white edges showing. (I was quite drawn to this one, along with a few other extremely minimalist works...which I guess is not something a lot of people relate to. But it was just so powerfully RED--again not a particularly left brain reaction.) Ah, when was the last time I got really heated up in defense of an art idea?? It was wonderful, really. By the time we left, all aspects of the art brain had enjoyed a workout, and there was much to mull over.
This morning, however, my travel-weary brain is too stuck in sensory mode to write a more scholarly or thorough review of this exhibit... I'm sure there are plenty of those online already. For me the real joy in this exhibit was sensory and somehow primal, scratching all of my painterly itches in just the right way...validating many of the things that happen in my studio on a regular basis, and suggesting others that would be worth a try.