Saturday, June 14, 2014

Art in Madrid - Museums & Galleries

Since I have lost a lot of sleep this week (for no good reason) and am feeling completely useless, I think I should do another random travel blog entry. If there are errors it is because I cannot focus either my brain or my eyes.

It is a given. You go to almost anywhere in a European city you will be hit over the head with art. And as an apparently art starved American I can't help but notice I am being smashed with the sight of beautiful things made by hands and by cunning and.. by magic.. (Thanks Tolkien for slipping in there.)

{ lighting  array - best installation art ever? }
I loved the Thyssen. As a person it felt good to be in there and I think if I were a painting I would be ecstatic to hang on those walls. It felt like there was a lot of love for art in that place.
And the walls were painted in peach tones! This, to me, was awesome. The whole place was a peach- with art!  Coming from the land of white boxes, white rooms, white galleries the colour really said HEY! but then it didn't over power your experience of the  any artwork. Everything that was on display look great against the colour. And there was a lot of different kinds of work.  I got a giggle when women and men (yes men too) would walk by wearing anything peachy. It made me think they were wearing Thyssen camouflage. The down side of us was that it does cost to enter. And it costs even more to see special exhibitions. Unfortunately, this limited our experience to the general collection. Though, we did go to see it twice because admission was free on International Museum Day- May 18th.

 { Doña Juana la Loca (1877) Francisco Pradilla y Ortiz. }

If Thyssen can be compared sweet treat to be had once in a while then the Prado would be a main staple. It is possible to go there almost everyday FOR FREE. This is where it became clear to me that the gallery attendants were pretty damn cool. They respected your respect for the art. I did not feel not swarmed or herded through the galleries by asshat guards. They would bark if someone was blatantly not following the rules, but other than that I felt at liberty to stand 6 inches away from a piece and not be glared at. Another thing I noticed: because they have free hours on more than one day of the week you can go and not be so drowned by the crowds that you can't see anything. I could look at the art. I could see it. Dare I say, I could contemplate it. I always felt rushed and awkward looking at art in the New York museums. I had a hard time making friends with the art there. After several visits to Prado, I was all but falling in love with  Doña Juana la Loca. You have to see this in person. You can practically walk into it! And the central character Juana, she just sucks you into her grief... You forget if you are reading words or looking at a movie or oils smeared on a flat surface. 

And ah Reina Sofia. For having such a cool name and so much potential, you made me sad, so sad.
This is because it is full of everything 'modern' and not really fine art. There was a bunch of picasso.. And some ok painting. But nothing else that really moved me for the skill of it.. or even the concept. If it were to burn, I don't think I would try to save much.
There was a whole gallery on the first floor that was full of trash... I thought I was back in NYC looking at some Bushwick kid's' attempt at art installation... I could not bear to look at it. I could not even enter the space. Why would anyone want to experience a room full of trash (even for the concept) when you could experience more subtle and cleverer things by looking at THIS PAINTING! It doesn't look like much online, but trust me, this painting will get a reaction out of you in person. I could not even begin to guess how much work went into that sweater- all those fine lines and pilling effect... I just don't know... It is so well done, you actually feel itchy and a bit stifled. You feel how the off centered subject is smirking at you because so many things about what you are seeing are making you uncomfortable. The artist challenging and mocking the viewer through his subject and flaunting his skill all up in your face like. And you take it because this is master work. This is not a room full of trash that any set designer could create.. any child could produce, if given the chance.
But just like in Chelsea, you could stroll through room after room in the Reina Sofia and feel your soul hollowing out. You just become empty and at the end of your tour you just drift out blankly.. you have become a stale wind... uninspired.

I was reluctant to go into the smaller galleries on the street. I did not want to be horrified, but we were able to visit a couple galleries and not feel chupa-ed.  In my memory, this happened only when I went to the chelsea galleries and found Sabhan Adam.

At Blokker Gallery we saw a few pieces from the artist Adolph Gil. His stuff worked with different pigments and how they react to different levels lights. Glow in the dark art anyone? He managed to get 5 distinct images on one canvas. This wins coolness points, even from me!  See videos here and images here (these are a different body of work).

{ architecture porn }
In another gallery (I haven't got the name it of at the moment) we watched a short art film that we already knew something about because we had seen a little behind the scenes artist talk thing on Mexican tv.. It looked stupid from what we saw, but the end result wasn't so bad after all. The video was an unbalanced piece in that the the male performer was almost too good. It was all him. He stole the whole show and the female performer was there for... what? To have tits on screen? She was not as strong a presence as the man, but that might have been the point.. What do I know about such things?

I was relieved that my ventures into these places left me feeling more inspired than disappointed. Even if I was let down, bouncing back isn't too hard in Madrid. Just walk into the 'local post office' (communications palace!) now, cultural center and you are renewed. This too contains crappy art at times but you can easily pretend it is not there and just look and look at what used to be a freakin' post office!