Friday, September 23, 2005

Art Mobs

My parents bought me a membership to the Museum of Modern Art as a birthday gift, because... apparently I'm into art? I wasn't aware. I'd already seen pretty much all of the important pieces in the museum's collection many times over, and I've long since stopped getting anything out of the art. Mostly I use my membership if I'm in the area and need to go to a clean bathroom. The thing is that most of this modern art —— and I mean the good stuff, Picasso and Pollack and de Kooning and Rauschenberg —— completely stumps me. I have no idea why I should care, and I hate that ArtPhone personal-curator thing the museum rents out to you. I had a friend back in high school who thought those ArtPhones insulted her intelligence: "I have eyes, I have a brain, shut up." Not me. I'm all for the help. But if you're an art historian by trade then you're legally required to be a snooty bastard and talk in an affected British accent, and that just makes me want to clobber a docent with a Brancusi in frustration.

The worst offender, by FAR, are the dickweeds at the Frick Collection, who probably have wet dreams about Fragonard and Ingres. Example: On Fragonard's The Progress of Love, "Ze history of zis paintings is one of ze most powerful evocations of Love in ze history of art.... Together, zey illustrate a love story zuch as any of us, might have known." I wonder how hard the Frick curators looked for someone with the appropriate Rococo French accent for the role of "Fragonard Enthusiast." Nothing particularly substantive, just this ostentatious, effusive outpouring of love for what is admittedly some cheesy artwork.

They're a little better at the MoMA, but they could still turn the arrogance down a lot. "Here, the whole thing deconstructs as you look at it, and the spaces in which the figures are all formed, I think, contributes to that level of uncertainty." Whatever, dude. My brain shuts down whenever it hears the word "deconstructs." The MoMA also encourages its visitors to do something incredibly pointless: you can create your own audio tour of the museum. I don't know why. I guess if listening to people who know what they're talking about isn't good enough for you, you can listen to clueless morons with no idea what they're talking about. That'll be enlightening.

If you are going to the MoMA and you don't want to listen to the jerks who took your twenty dollar admission fee and another ten dollars for coffee on the fifth floor cafe, may I suggest trying Art Mobs from Marymount Manhattan College. They set a few of the paintings to music, which I thought was kind of a waste of time, but the commentary is, for once, honest and critical, passionate about art but not necessarily, instinctively about the art. One of the commentators blames Chagall for the schmaltzy, "reductivist" Fiddler On The Roof sentimentality that characterizes the nostalgia of Judiaca; another group of commentators have a "dramatic interpretation" of Pollock's Echo: Number 25, 1951 where they look for the largest phallus in the painting. It's actually more eye-opening than I've made it sound.

Also, can we stop bringing our goddamn little kids to art museums where sophisticated people like me are trying to become cultured and look at paintings of naked ladies? There were these fucking kids running around the sculpture garden because apparently it's a playground, and they weren't becoming cultured at all. I mean, for twenty bucks, the least they could do at the museum is provide some sort of child check, where you'd put your little brat in a cage with some food and water and then pick them up once you're done. Next stop is gonna be the Museum of Sex, where no one under eighteen's allowed in.