starlady: The Welcome to Night Vale Logo, with clouds over the moon (welcome to night vale)
[personal profile] starlady
I tried to write this last night, and then I fell asleep at 10:30 with the lights on. 

I went to DC for Con.Txt and to see some people last week, and it was a lot of fun. I hadn't been back to the National Gallery of Art in about fifteen years, so last Thursday I headed down that way. It turns out that there are some pretty good exhibitions on right now! The first one, Degas and Cassat, was really good--apparently the artists were friends for more than 40 years, and worked together very closely for 10. I've never seen so many of Mary Cassat's works in one place, and the exhibition also put Degas in a new perspective. 

There was also an Andrew Wyeth retrospective focused around his paintings of windows--many of the paintings are hung next to their preliminary studies, so you can see the process of abstraction he went through in all his works. I'd never really considered Andrew Wyeth before, but I really liked his stuff from what I saw. It was also kind of a kick to be able to recognize, despite the abstraction, the countryside of Pennsylvania in many of his works. 

There was also an impromptu Van Gogh exhibition--the museum has recently acquired two new Van Goghs, and has the loan of one of his portraits of the postmaster from Rotterdam, and as far as I'm concerned the painting of the wheat fields should be understood as the daytime counterpart to Starry Night. It's easily now my second-favorite Van Gogh after that one, and it repays standing and staring at it from multiple angles. It's--enchanting. And the National Gallery owns not one but four Vermeers, which I'd totally forgotten about since I hadn't been there in fifteen years. I'm definitely considering going back again when I'm there in October. 

I also went to the Folger Shakespeare Library, which was cool, though sadly their board was meeting in the Founders' Room, with the result that we couldn't see the whole thing. My friend M and I also went to the National Geographic Society After Dark, which was cool--they have an exhibition of Peruvian artifacts on display right now, and the gold headdress that's one of the standouts is actually a piece I had seen a replica of at its home museum in Lima in April, so it was doubly cool to get to see the real thing in person. I also had gelato at Dolcezza twice and it may well be the second-best gelato I've had in North America. 

(no subject)

Date: 2014-06-20 15:41 (UTC)
ellen_fremedon: overlapping pages from Beowulf manuscript, one with a large rubric, on a maroon ground (Default)
From: [personal profile] ellen_fremedon
The VK and I went to see the Wyeths on Wednesday. They were amazing on so many levels. There's the technical mastery, not just in his sketching but in the way he uses the grain and the irregularities of the paper-- all those louring skies and warping planks, full of arrested motion, that are just expanses of unpainted paper. The flat sheet is very much a 3-d medium for him.

And there's the slight surrealism in the way he builds these photo-realistic images around out-of-frame sources of light and shadow. They have an almost holographic depth from the implied shape of the room and the landscape. In the most emotionally arresting ones, there was almost always something off about the shadows-- a few were actually impossible, like in the one where he'd painted the farmer out of the corner of the upstairs room.

But more often, they were technically possible, but in highly specific ways that pull the viewer into the implied space and moment. In Out at Sea, the light patches on the bench look like they're coming through the window in the painting, but the sky outside is too dark for that to be the light source. But if the light is coming from behind and above the viewer, which the shadows behind the bench suggest, then the painting captures the one instant in the day where the sunlight is aligned with both windows, and we expect to see those patches of light start to slant. The longer you look at the painting, the more the moment stretches out.

In The Pikes, one of two of the sides of old mills, and with Weatherside one of the two I found most arresting, the light is clearly that low-angle, saturated winter light, and it has to be coming from behind the viewer. Which means whatever it is that's casting the buckets and rakes into shadow also has to be behind the viewer, and either quite close or quite large, and entirely subsuming the viewer's shadow.

(And that was long. But, Wyeth! Christina's World was probably the single most surprising thing I saw at MoMA last year--photographs do not come close to doing it justice--and I've been on a bit of a Wyeth kick since.)

(no subject)

Date: 2014-06-20 21:47 (UTC)
serene: mailbox (Default)
From: [personal profile] serene
I didn't know that about Degas and Cassat. I like their work. Thanks for the trip report.


starlady: Raven on a MacBook (Default)

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