September 7, 2008

Explain Please…

On Friday I traveled with my friend, painter Omel Masalunga, to the Albright-Knox Art Gallery in Buffalo NY. The Albright has one of the best collections of impressionist and modern art in North America. You’ll find almost every influential name between 1850 and 1950 represented there, with a number of well-known works to accompany them. Deservedly, it’s considered a treasure.

So what was that gathering outside the gallery on its back steps this Friday afternoon? There were a number of musicians, many of them drummers, as well as a bassist and a bagpiper. The music was a funky fusion of new and old world sounds that rose to an almost deafening roar while an upright piano was hoisted by crane over a baby grand. The crowd grew agitated as the upright was suspended for several suspenseful minutes.

Since this is America, I told myself, people will clap and cheer at the destruction. Sure enough, when the upright crashed onto the grand, the crowd roared with something like approval. Had it occurred in Canada, we would have laughed nervously to make sure we were seen getting the joke and then turned away with a sense of guilt at participating in something obscene and possibly even anti-art.

What made it all the more obscene, and personal—at least to me—is that the upright was a Kimbal spinet—my piano. Looking around, I spotted one other person who seemed to be experiencing the same moral conundrum I felt on being there. A three-year-old boy, perched on his father’s shoulders, had his fingers resolutely plugged into his ears for the entire event, removing them only after the destruction was largely over (apart from two demolitions experts further taking apart the pianos with sledgehammer and axe.)

I grew up in the ’60s, and understood—or at least felt I understood—the urge behind such anti-corporate, pro-environment acts as the destruction of cars by groups like The Who. Maybe it’s a generational thing, but attacking that specific aesthetic made sense to me, while this failed to register as a statement of anything worthwhile or even comprehensible. Explain?


Mary of the Lofti said...

Destruction at the Art Gallery? Oh Jeffrey, that is only illustrative of what is going on inside the Gallery. The work of idiots "full of sound and fury,
signifying" ..that "modern art" now consists of series of canvases roller-painted with two contrasting colors, two rusted pieces of metal resting upon each other, carnival displays of huge tables and chairs, boxes of flashing lights.
Understand that I love Kandinsky, Daumier, Picasso - but they are people who actually wanted to present us with interpretive art.
When I realize that the magnificent Egyptian grave painting, too small to take up much room, with eyes that centuries later still burned into a brain was sold to bring in garbage; that Michaelangelo had to spend four years painting a hand before he was allowed a full canvass to work on..... I have given up on the Albright.
No, Jeffrey..the destruction outside the Gallery only mirrors the destruction inside. I'd like to think that those two idiots with sledgehammers were trying to tell us that.
Anyway, Jeffrey, thank you for being a discerning person.

Posted by: Mary of the Lofti | September 08, 2008 at 07:23 PM

Howard Goldman said...


Rest assured, those you witnessed were not behaving as Americans.


All materials on this website copyright 2007 Design by Transform Interactive .\\edia