España, Barcelona, Montjuic : Fundación Joan Miró (Photo credit: vincent ☆)
Over Memorial Day Weekend, I took the opportunity to visit the show of Juan Miro at the National Gallery's East Wing and took in 5 of the 8 floors at Artomatic in Crystal City. I'm happy to say that "art" is alive and well in the Capitol. While there was nothing particularly Jewish about any of the works, I found interesting the range of what art is expected to do for the artist and spectator as compared to the reactions is might actually elicit.
Miro painted during some very turbulant times (WWI, the Spanish Civil War, and WWII). As an ardant Catalan separtist, he used his art both to promote his politics and to escape to the imagination free from the realities around him but fraught with other (more poetic?) stresses of existence (e.g. male/female, sun/stars, bat spittle). He used the image of a ladder as the connection between earth and the sublime -- the link connecting. For one series of paintings, he unleashes the fury against the canvases themselves -- burning, stabbing, ripping -- as if art is not enough to depict the subjects he wrestles with. It's a great show and I highly recommend it as a well-curated show to understanding both this artist and the need for but limitations of art. Besides, hardly anyone was there (as compared to the Van Gogh show I went to see in Philly which was mobbed). Which goes to show you, if they don't charge and make you get tickets in advance, no one bothers to see it.
Yet art seems to be unstoppable as demonstrated by the return of Artomatic -- bigger than ever (not sure if it's better). It seems there must be 100's of wannabe artists who rush to show their works in this biannual event. So what is the motivation? Why are all these people making things they call art and eager to share their view of the world with the general public. So much was horrible -- pure schlock -- or trite or decorative or boring or ambitious in concept but terrible in execution. It did seem to be more art therapy (individuals expressing their inner selves) rather than the creation of images that engage the viewer and elicits an aesthetic or meditative reaction. To me it demonstrated that art is an important outlet of our culture and that lots of people put lots of time into producing it and using as a method to discover meaning (or maybe deny the possibility of meaning). In any case, it provides another context from which to ask the question "What is Jewish art?" Do Jewish artists have some different experience of the world which would somehow be expressed through their art? Go and see what you think!