A Trip to the SF MOMA with Christina

I have been digesting the visual smorgasbord I saw last Sunday at the MOMA here in San Francisco,  So many ideas and questions arose as I wandered the now-seven floors that my friend Christina and I visited with much anticipation. We had joined up to see one of our photography icons, Diane Arbus. A friend at work had offered me member tickets, and we jumped at the chance to see the new MOMA.

We loved the new spaces, and both of us were blown away by the Diebenkorn and Matisse exhibit. I know I had my mind blown by Diebenkorn’s abstractions of landscapes and people, views from his studio windows,  and front porch views. I appreciate Matisse a lot more than I did before, but for me, the star of the show was Diebenkorn. We couldn’t take photos in this exhibit, or I would be writing a bunch more about how his perspective affected me, and his way of dividing the frame really resonated with my landscape photographer’s eye. In short, bravo!

Christina and I had lunch after seeing four floors of art-after the Matisse/Diebenkorn  show we went up to the new seventh floor and worked our way down-and then headed to “our” floor, the photography department. We were very pleased by what we saw of Diane Arbus’ early work, shot in 35 mm before her switch to medium format cameras, but there could have been a lot more of it. 

Our biggest disappointment was the photo exhibit space we remembered roaming before the remodel had been severely diminished by the addition of a hipster looking coffee bar. A loud coffee bar. Oh well. 

The second most exciting exhibit was the immersive video installation, William Kentridge’s The Refusal of Time. We entered a dark room and watched an ever-changing video-visual parade as rhythmic sounds and music loudly played. The message was hard to grasp, but had to do with the occupation of various African and South American nations by white men. The artist himself played a role in the video, and he is a white South African who does not approve of these past and present occupations.

There was a mysterious “breathing and moaning” wooden, moving machine in the center of the room that added to the atmosphere of oppression. We loved this exhibit! Above are two stills from the video, framed through the mysterious moaning machine.

The exhibit Cloud Cities,  by Tomas Saraceno, was a visual and spatial experience that had me feeling like I’d walked into a room in Willy Wonka’s factory. 

Self Portrait as a Puppet Master, with Christina as the Puppet

I took a lot of pictures of people looking at their phones during this exhibit, but I realized I was taking just as many pictures as they were. I tried all day to remember to directly experience the art, rather than looking at it through my lens. I get very into the visuals of the world around me sometimes, and I can forget where I am. The curse of being a visual artist, I guess.

We had fun in the various gift shops, and I bought a package of Diebernkorn landscape and portraits post cards for future study. I’ve lately been exploring interpreting my landscape photos in hand embroidery, and I’d like to try my hand at a Diebenkorn abstract in wools on linen. 

I had a laugh stumbling through the circular infinity maze by Richard Serra, Sequence,  pretending to be Jack Torrance in The Shining. As Christina wandered ahead of me, I drunkenly yelled “Wendy!!” and dragged my foot. The walls around us seemed to be made of rusted metal, and the light and shadow made great shapes, and, once again, I got caught up looking through the lens. 

That’s Christina’s shadow.

In short: I think you need to go see the new MOMA for yourself. And try to see the Diebenkorn paintings. There is nothing like standing in front of a huge canvas and feeling like you could walk right into the scene and you’d know where you are. It’s up until May 29th. 

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