Modern Art

I've seen a lot of art in the last few weeks. Hours at the Portland Art Museum, and just this past weekend at the Crocker Art Museum in Sacramento. The Crocker beats the PAM by a long shot. It's bigger, cheaper, and has a better flow to it. And because, when it comes to modern art, at least the Crocker's got some interesting things to look at.

Orange on white canvas, though I'm sure having some historical significance, or whatever, just isn't all that interesting after the second look.

Sorry Rothko . . . I tried.

And you gotta feel a bit bad for modern artists because now . . . no matter what they do . . . or what medium they choose to work in . . . they're just lumped in with everything else deemed modern.

They can't be impressionists any longer.

They can't be romantic, rococo, or baroque.

They can't even be abstract.

Nope. They're all modern now.

Whatever that means.

It kinda reminds me of how everything post Nirvana at the record store got shipped off to the "Alternative" section.

There was a time when Blondie and The GoGo's were considered Punk. Now nothing is punk if it's not indicative of The Ramones.

Or The Sex Pistols

Or The Clash.

It's all pop/rock now.

Or Indie. Which is just a nice way of saying that it doesn't sell very well and is only recognizable to your younger sister's creepy boyfriend.

Though I guess a better example of lumping stuff together is the ubiquitous 'World' music. Simply anything that's not from America or Britain and sometimes Canada.

Imagine writing country songs in Lithuania and being told that the section of the record store your albums are to be placed in is the thin dusty "World Music" shelf, simply because you were born in the wrong hemisphere.

How do you get your albums in the country section?

Move to Nashville.


Back to modern art,

It helps sometimes to read the description of each painting because even if you don't get the artist's view, at least you can get the curator's conception of what the piece was/is about and you can feel a little less stupid.

Though . . . that's not always right.

Take the painting above.

It's called "The Vampire"

or is it?

I sure thought it was. My wife and I found this painting hiding in a corner of the Metropolitan Museum of Art back in the spring of 2001 while trying to use cocktail napkins to clean the dye that was running off my new leather jacket.

We immediately fell in love with the painting and I found a print of it later that year which is now hanging above our dining room table.

A friend asked about it and I love when that happens because I get to launch into a much more detailed version of that story than I just told.

Then a curious thing happened.

I mentioned that the red-head in the painting was the vampire, and my wife, who I've been virtually glued to for 15 years, corrected me.

No . . . it's the man who is the vampire. Look at his face, he's all pale.

That's because the vampire is sucking out all his blood.

Nope . . . you're wrong.

She's clearly the vampire.


This painting has been hanging in various places of our homes since before 9/11 and somehow we've never agreed as to who is who and what is what.

Modern indeed.

Turns out all three of us, me, my wife, the curator at the MET, were all wrong.

The painting is called "Love and Pain."

Edward Munch never explained. There was too much uncomfortable awe and shock at it's unveiling, so it was left to the curators to attempt some kind of story.

The red head in the painting has been variously described as a lover, a prostitute, Munch's sister, and of course (proving that I'm not right, but clearly less wrong than my wife) a vampire.

Clearly less wrong.

The man however, is just a man.

How boring.

How un-modern.

But here's the thing. We love this painting. Not just for it's beauty (and mild creepiness), but for that ability to launch into a good story that is more about US than the painting itself. Now . . . with all this new information . . . it doesn't diminish in flavor at all. Now we get to look at the painting with new eyes, and the story of US gets even richer.

Can't say the same thing about Orange on a White canvas no matter how hard you try.

Sorry Rothko.

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