The Short Image is where I’ll offer each Thursday a few words on art, culture, and elsewhere. This week, cool halls.
1. I went to the Kalamazoo Institute of Arts (KIA) with my sister one day. That’s my home town, Kalamazoo, and I was gratified, not to say surprised, by the small but awesome collection they had: Diebenkorn, Frankenthaler, a whole show of Lorna Simpson.
Feeling art-high, I found my sister in the modern/contemporary room where she was looking at a David Park painting. I love David Park and how much loveliness he can do in a human face. “Why’s it all so ugly?” she said, eyes indicating the room.
2. Around the same time, I went to the National Gallery in Washington DC. There was a big show on Dada that was packed to the gills.
In one gallery, recordings of Tristan Tzara reading his Dadaist poems played, long strings of nonsense and noise uttered in tedious and frightening rhythm. A boy of maybe 12 stood at the center of the small room for about 14 minutes, face unfixed and in some kind of awe.
3. A few years ago, I spent an hour in a gallery of the Baltimore Museum of Art (BMA). A couple dozen people came in over that time, circled the room, gazed at the paintings, some smiling, some stuck in ennui, some chatting with their friends. None of those 24 looked at the sculptures organized about the middle of the space.
4. A filmmaker had an exhibit at the BMA in which he arranged into a big grid a whole wall of stills from his movies. I told a bunch of people that the stills changed—slowly fading from one into another— until an artist I knew rolled her eyes at me and told me they didn’t.
5. I’ve seen a lot of people drag themselves up the steps of a museum, utterly enervated by the humidity and heat. Summers in DC, Chicago, Atlanta….
I’ve imagined that they get inside, the air soft and dry, the fountains running and the stone smooth. There’s the smell of old and of paint. They get inside, adjust their eyes, and their view on the day takes a small and astonishing shift.