I recently saw two great exhibitions at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. The first one was the presentation of the work by American photographer, Robert Frank, The Americans, an album in fact dating of 1959. Frank shows America the way he saw it by traveling across the country in 1955-1956. So many opposite images: political men, the desertness of the paysage, the new Hollywood stars, the diners, the poor, the left behind, the blues and the open horizon.
The second exhibition, American Stories looked at American painting of the everyday in the period 1765-1915 and spoke of the American society. The political was present everywhere: be it race discrimination, be it women disenfranchisement etc. What struck me is the way the two exhibitions could have been thought of together. Maybe because it was my first encounter with America, I saw these paintings also as historic snapshots, just as Frank’s photos. They spoke of the construction of a nation, of its different components, faces and perspectives. I particularly loved this one, by Winslow Homer (American, 1836–1910), Dressing for the Carnival (1877).
The third element to my American equation was the Kandinsky superb exhibition at the Guggenheim. I was not a particular fan of K (I loved the painting that opens the exhibition) but the expo greatly recaptures his evolution in parallel to politics. He is the artist that invokes the right to create “art for art”, not tainted or influenced by the politics of the time. In his search for the spiritual in art he leaves aside the political.
Still at the Guggenheim I saw the work of an English artist, Anish Kapoor entitled Memory that seems so right these days when all is talked about is the memory of 1989. His work has to be seen on site to feel its weight, to be confronted to the feeling of asphyxiation. I of course took the literal translation of the work and saw it as the unbearable weight of the past… (a link to a recent show by Kapoor in England)