Being able to stand and examine works of art from multiple distances and angles really helps me appreciate the whole being greater than the sum of the parts.
I recently had the chance to visit the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMoMA). Seven floors of thought-provoking and to be honest, meh (for me at least) moments. I did not give myself anywhere near the time needed to really get the most out of the exhibits and would love to return one day to spend a whole day contemplating and questioning. Having said that, I enjoyed the chance to be inspired.
It turned out that I spent far too long watching a video installation of Irish documentary photographer, Richard Mosse. His ‘Incoming’ project documented the migration of people across the Middle East and North Africa from 2014 - 2016. Video was shot using heat vision cameras which present footage in ghostly greyscale. The result is to dehumanise subjects which hammer home the point of the exhibit. I was transfixed, it was as gut-wrenching as voyeuristic and surely sometimes that’s the aim of art; to make one stop and question the world and one’s own understanding and values. With time quickly disappearing, I couldn’t watch Incoming all the way through, however, I’m not even sure I could have managed the full 52 minutes. It’s an epic three-screen installation and I’d challenge anyone not to have an emotional reaction.
I needed a complete change of scene and pace after ‘Incoming’ and that change was provided by hitting the Pop, Minimal and Figurative Art on another floor. Here, I was among the Masters. I’d only ever seen Warhols and Lichtensteins in books and now, here they were. Immense. Imposing. Frivolous. Fun. Confrontational. Conversational.
Viewing these works prompted me to reflect and think more about what has inspired and influenced me. It could be the use of colour, a certain angle or crop, or the actual subject. Whatever it is, being able to stand and examine works of art from multiple distances and angles really helps me appreciate the whole being greater than the sum of the parts.
Lichtenstein’s coloured dots are a good example of transforming something so basic into a complete image.
This was a real whistle-stop visit and I’m kicking myself for not being prepared for a full day at SFMoMA. If you find yourself in San Francisco, visit the MoMA. If you enjoy viewing art, you’ll love it. If art isn’t your thing, go there and challenge yourself to see the world through others' eyes.