Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Discoveries at the Naples Art Museum

When I lived in New York, I would sometimes wander through the galleries at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, just taking it all in.  On occasion I would come upon a group of students on a field trip and think how lucky they were to live in place where they had the opportunity to grow up viewing the works of all those amazing artists.   (I felt pretty lucky to be able to do this as an adult!)

I was reminded of this last week when I made a visit to the Naples Art Museum.  The purpose of my visit was to see the American Modernism exhibit.  As I entered the Museum, a group of children surrounded a docent who was telling them about an outdoor sculpture.  I didn't pay much attention and marched into the Museum to find out where the modernism exhibit was located.  I was talking with the woman at the ticket counter when the kids entered the lobby and I heard some loud "oohs" and "ahs".  I turned around to see a little girl with one hand over her mouth and the other hand pointing at the Chihuly Icicle Sculpture that is the focal point of the lobby.    Despite the fact that it is approximately 20 feet tall and has around 1000 glass icicles, I hadn't even noticed it!

Rufino Tamayo's
Dos Mujeres en la Ventana (1925)
As I climbed the stairs, I realized that there were groups of children in all of the galleries.  It turns out that the local YMCA had organized a field trip to the Museum for its kids' camp.   It was fun to listen in on the back and forth between the docents and the kids.  In the exhibit on Modern Mexican Masters,  the conversation was about the stories the artists were trying to tell with their work.   The exhibit included art as varied as paintings on tin tiles to paintings done by an artist who was clearly influenced by Picasso.  I personally enjoyed learning a bit about the social realism of Rufino Tamayo, whose work I'd never seen before.  The composition and subject matter of this painting reminded me of Manet's The Balcony, although I haven't found anything to indicate that Manet's work was an influence.

Juan Genovese' Ruta (2010)
I was clearly functioning in a state of oblivion that day because I almost walked through a retrospective of Spanish artist Juan Genoves' work without even looking at it.  The Museum's website shows this Genoves painting, which frankly didn't strike me as interesting in the least.  I was walking through the gallery on to whatever was next when I noticed two women standing inches away from one of the paintings and talking about how amazing it was.  Huh???  

Detail from one of Genoves' works
As I got closer to the paintings, I realized that each of the "people" in the work is an individual glob (that's the technical term) of paint that has been carefully placed on the canvas.  Genoves sometimes adds little metallic accent pieces to the people or shadows to give them depth.   The canvases are quite large (Arcos is approximately 3 feet by 4 feet), and it's hard to imagine how he managed to "paint" the people with such precision.  One of the docents explained that Genoves lays his canvas on the floor and works on the piece from a scaffolding.   I know this picture doesn't really capture the three dimensionality of his work, but it is truly quite amazing. The theme of Genoves' current work is the individual versus the crowd.  Genoves came of age in the era of Franco's authoritarian regime, a time when cultural diversity was suppressed.  With this background, the individuality that his people are imbued with in the midst of the crowd takes on new meaning.

You might have noticed that I haven't said anything about the American Modernism exhibit that I was so keen to see.  It turns out that it wasn't that interesting.   Instead, once I got my blinders off, I was introduced to the work of an artist that was quite unique.  So it was an afternoon of discovery for me and the YMCA kids alike.

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