Monday, September 28, 2009

Kand at the Goog

I've never been a huge Kandinsky fan. I mean, he's no Max Beckmann, right? But I like him: Kandinsky possesses a (fairly dusty) shelf--along with Klee--in my mind's warehouse of influences. There was something comforting--even logical--in his move into abstraction--the way he flattened and folded recognizable elements onto a single plane, then finally did away with the recognizable features and worked with mosaics of color and line, and then began working with these little scarab-like glyphs and symbols that seemed to suggest a kind of narrative. Kandinsky's writings, his career at the Bauhaus, his whole music/painting connection. Like I said, I like him. So I was looking forward to the show.

Friday was the last Summer Friday and I struggled with going to see Kandinsky or settling down for a comfy nap on my turquoise couch. But I pushed myself out the door. Then I hit the platform just as the R pulled away. Twenty-five minutes and two V trains later, another R train came and dropped me at the 6 platform . . . just as that train pulled away from the platform. Then I got off the 6 a stop too early--I can never remember exactly where the Guggenheim is--and had to walk further than I remembered. None of this is terrible stuff, of course, but by the time I got into the museum proper ($15 with student discount using my faked up SVA ID--highway fucking robbery), a furzy scrim of distract and annoyance had settled over my brain. As a result (maybe?), I had a hard time with this show.

I started at the bottom and worked my way up. The show was presented chronologically as the spiral widened. I just could not penetrate any of the paintings. I switched music a few times to see if I couldn't get something that opened up the paintings--and settled on Thelonious Monk. I thought he might have the right about of structure and abstraction/dissonance to kick something loose but he didn't help either. The paintings were filled with static, there were too many tourists, and I hate the bathroom situation at the Guggenheim. A side room on the second floor (sort of) held thirty or forty of Kandinsky's drawings from throughout his career. These works were taut and neat and by far the material I related to the most. The painting in the museums's spiral had a lushness, a looseness that suggests improvisation; the drawings were more like movie storyboards or the demo tapes of the band Jellyfish--they demonstrate the amount of effort and planning that went into making the final product look so easy.

Also, there was a woman--lumpish, pink dress and pink too-tight shirt, filthy white athletic shoes--who was gesticulating wildly, mumbling to herself, and she reeked--and I mean reeked--of the unholy smell of stale, rotten piss. The Piss Mistress smelled like the entrance to a subway, and that smell punched me in the face from 30 feet away. She was wearing the free headset that came with admittance so she apparently was lucid enough to buy a ticket. On whiff of that nose pollution, I was out of there.

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