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A Modern Experience | The Guggenheim

Sometimes, it’s nice to do something a little different. As a CUNY student, I get free access to many museums free of charge, or basically free. I had never gone to the Guggenheim, and CUNY students could now enter for free, so today we’re off to the Guggenheim. I’ll save my overall thoughts for the end.

The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum is located at 1071 fifth avenue, right across the Central Park at the corner of 89th street. It has a continuously expanding collection of Modern art. Well actually, it includes Impressionist, Post-Impressionist, early Modern and Contemporary art, but a lot of what we saw was Modern Art. It seems we are really good at picking bad days to visit places, as the spiral staircase was closed for construction and some exhibits were not bailable for viewing.

We visited two floors. The first exhibit featured Robert Mapplethorpe’s art. He is one of the most critically acclaimed and controversial artists of the twentieth century, especially for his sexually explicit depictions, sparking censorship debates in his time. I didn’t like this exhibit very much, so I didn’t bother to photograph anything.

Loophole of Retreat | Panoptica
Loophole of Retreat | Panoptic
Stone Sculpture | Brancusi Collection
Stone Sculpture | Brancusi Collection

Next was Simone Leigh, Hugo Boss Prize 2018 Winner, and her Loophole of Retreat. The name comes from the writings of formerly-enslaved abolitionist writer Harriet Jacob’s Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl. It was the accounts of her life, which she pseudonymously published, of the seven years she spent hiding from her master in the crawl space beneath her grandmother’s house.

That defiance was her act of fortitude and, her Loophole of Retreat. From the exhibit, “Leigh merges the human body with domestic vessels or architectural elements that evoke unacknowledged acts of female labor and care. Many of the sculptures lack eyes, what Leigh says signifies a refusal of a reciprocal gaze, endowing each figure with a resolute autonomy, and ultimately their own Loophole of Retreat. I included a picture of a piece that was aesthetically pleasing to me. Many of the more impactful pieces should be seen in person.

We also stopped by the Constantin Brancusi exhibit. I did no homework on the sculptor, this none of his work resonated with me. I did find one of his sculptures interesting, so I include that piece here too.

Thoughts on this museum and thoughts on modern art in general:

Perhaps it’s unfair for me to critique this museum or its art. First, much of it was closed off, preventing us from looking at the art as a whole. Also, I’m not exactly an expert. I’ve taken art and art history classes, so while I have some knowledge, it’s not nearly enough to give this a fair critique. Still, my opinion as your average person may be of value to someone.

I appreciated Simone Leigh’s work and what it symbolized. I did not appreciate Mapplethorpe’s work, however. There’s a problem I have with Modern art. It’s a good thing that anything can be art: it gives artists many more ways to express themselves. However, just because anything can be art doesn’t mean anything should be art. The museum gift shop was selling a sticker that more or less read, “If even you can do it, why didn’t you.” That is to say if the art is so easy to make, why don’t you make it instead. This self-important attitude is what I dislike about modern artists. If you go, take a look at Leigh’s exhibit and the Thanhauser collection.

That’s it for my view and it for today’s post. After the museum, we walked over to the park for some air and some pictures. For your #onethingoneweek, it may be fun to grab friends and visit a museum too. Make sure it’s something you like, but try to give new things a chance.

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