August 14, 2008

Pleasure and pain

I went to a dinner party a couple of nights ago. It was a sixtieth birthday celebration for my friend Suzanne. There were seven of us sitting around the table, all people in the arts. So the conversation was mostly about art, of course.

I mentioned that I had seen the Louise Bourgeois exhibit at the Guggenheim a couple of weeks ago and was very inspired. Suzanne had seen it at the Pompidou Centre in Paris in May and hadn’t liked it at all. She thought there was too much talk about pain. Too much focus on her childhood, her parents. Enough, thought Suzanne, get on with it. Have a life, as they say today. I agree, artwork is better when it transcends the personal, is not a diary, can be interpreted, and felt, on many levels. But I thought Bourgeois' work successfully transformed the original impetus, the pain, into something universally beautiful and expressive. And I was so inspired that Bourgeos said she was glad the art world had overlooked her until she was in her seventies because she was able to do her own work all those years without any outside pressures.

Suzanne had read the blurbs about the artwork posted on the walls. I hadn’t and perhaps that is why I was able to enjoy the exhibit so much more than she did. So much can be said about artwork that then destroys the pleasure of experiencing it in its purity, as art, not idea. I much prefer looking at the art to reading about it (especially if I have to stand up to do the reading). Although, I must say, because I liked the exhibit so much, I’ve been eager to learn more about it. So it goes both ways it seems. Seeing and understanding, knowing and seeing.

Posted by leya at August 14, 2008 07:53 PM | TrackBack

Funny. I too saw the show at the Pompidou and like Suzanne I read almost all of the "wall blurbs", but my response to the text was closer to your experience. I think it helped me enjoy her work on a different level. It just added another layer of understanding.

Reading about the history behind Picasso's Guernica doesn't hinder me from enjoying the work on its own formal merits.

Posted by: Kesha Bruce at August 15, 2008 06:11 AM
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