I was having a rough day, so I gave myself an afternoon of ‘art therapy’ in the form of a visit to the Neue Galerie* uptown. I was headed to the Kandinsky show. Perhaps it was the perfect match between mood and artist, but Kandinsky got my head spinning is great directions.erie
Operating on the theory that art speaks for itself — or at least it should — I’ve found that it’s best for me to avoid audio tours and sometimes I don’t even read the titles until I’ve already spent some serious time just looking. That’s what I did on Friday.
I was enchanted and inspired by a series of 12 prints (some lithographs, some woodcuts) filled with geometric shapes, whirling motion and a wild mix of images suggestive of sailing ships, archeological digs, fish, mountains, radio antennae… Each one immediately struck me as a specific time and place, the setting of some kind of story.
Is the ship sailing off the edge of the world?
What’s in that box?
What signals are being sent or received? And to/from whom?
Where do those steps lead?
I laughed when I finally read that the 12 prints were in a portfolio entitled “Kleine Welten” (Small Worlds) from 1922.
It’s human to see patterns and to seek meaning and messages. Ancient people looked up at the clouds and saw flowers and sheep. They connected the dots/stars in the night sky into images. When I look at abstract or expressionist art, I can’t help it. My mind immediately creates narratives.
By the time I’d seen the Kandinsky show and moved on to the early 20th century German posters (fabulous) and the permanent collection (Klimt, Schiele, Bauhaus coffee sets, etc.) I felt so much better and my story-generating engine was back in gear.
*The Neue Galerie is a small museum in New York focusing on early 20th century German and Austrian art and design. It’s located in a beautiful Beaux-Arts building on Fifth Avenue and is most famous for the Klimt portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer, purchased for the museum by Ronald Lauder after a protracted battle with the Austrian government to return it to the American relatives of Bloch-Bauer, as the painting was illegally seized by the Nazis. Many people go to the Neue simply for the Viennese pastries in the café, but I often go for both the special exhibits and regular collections.