Music and theater and opera and art and the whole damn thing.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Kandinsky at the Guggenheim

Don't ask me why I bothered, but after a tedious soggy Saturday visiting the Mum in bleak Westchester (she claims she's been evicted, or possibly kidnapped by space aliens, but was looking forward to our theater date ... what theater date?), I got off the train at 125th Street and caught a bus down Fifth Avenue, reaching the Guggenheim Museum about 5:15. On Saturday nights from 5:45 to 7:45, entrance is pay-what-you-wish to this overpriced museum, and the Kandinsky retrospective runs only through January 13th. The line in the pouring rain was around the block and as far as Madison Avenue, and when I finally got in the door at six, the line behind me was still out of sight. As usual when I go to the Guggenheim, I took an elevator to the top and worked my way backwards, but this show foolishly (in my opinion) starts with his earliest work at the bottom of the spiral and his last works at the very top.

Would seeing it in proper sequence have made a difference? To my ankles perhaps.

I just don't get Kandinsky. He doesn't send me. I don't know what he's saying. His pictures are far more pleasing when viewed from very far away (across the museum, say, from the opposite gallery spiral), and I find him much inferior in coherence to his friend Joan Miro and hopelessly unappealing beside his pal and neighbor Paul Klee, and less decorative than, say, Jackson Pollock. Very few of the later oils delighted, and the earlier ones were simply messy. Compare them to, say, Odilon Redon - one artist is a visionary, the other seems to be a kid mucking about with fingerpaint. And Kandinsky is not the visionary.

However, one of the side galleries was full of works on paper, and these had all the coherence, the focus, the charm that the works on canvas conspicuously lacked. I would happily spend an hour wandering in that suite of rooms (two or three), and would love to have a small booklet of reproductions of these items in pencil or water color or gouache, but only five or six of the oils that filled the spiraling Guggenheim did I want to take home.

Perhaps I should have taken the headset (free!) for some pointers, but I detest these things; I'd rather be alone with the art and my own thoughts. As at the Barnes, to which I shall return January 3rd with Chris and Felicia.

You can't like them all. But you have to see them all to know who speaks to you.


Rabinovich said...

I take rather a different view of Kandinsky; perhaps the comments on my blog, linked to a larger article, would make him more accessible

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