The Joy of Slowing Down and Really Looking….

This weekend I went to see the Willem de Kooning retrospective at MOMA  for the second time and stopped in the third to last room to just watch people look at the paintings.

de Kooning, Collage

I watched and watched and watched and watched.  What I didn’t see very much of was people SEEING the paintings.  They acknowledged there were paintings there, but they stopped nervously staring for a few seconds, then looking at the placard for some help and a possible rescue.  When no one and nothing came to relieve the feeling of helplessness, they moved on to the next painting and went through the whole thing again.

I saw one man look at a charcoal drawing for a second or two and then give a condescending laugh under his breath before moving on.  This made me really sad.  So, the only option, if one doesn’t understand what one is looking at, is to assume that we know more than the master who created it (not to mention all of the art world)?

I am frightened for this country if a) we are too busy and our attention spans are too shot, that we can’t focus on something that can teach us something about the world and perception and b) we are so frightened of being wrong or not being in control that we can’t humble ourselves for a moment and ask what it is we don’t know.  I’m afraid this is the product of too little arts education in people’s lives.  It leaves us with little intellectual cravings and even less imagination.

You don’t have to take my word for it.  The de Kooning show is a stunning progression of an amazing talent absorbing and imitating the masters around him, to some of the most brilliant breakthroughs in art history.  A tireless mind experimenting in an inexhaustible way.  Regarding his experiments he said, “I have an image in mind, but the results surprise me.”  This is what I strive for and, therefore, he must be counted as an influence.  See it for yourself.  It’s up until January 9th.

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