Post Election Blues? Could Art Be An Answer?

Okay, I admit, I am obsessed by the current political situation as, I imagine, many of you are. Some friends have expressed concern that I am taking the election results way too seriously. Just because Trump has chosen a Neo Nazi sympathizer as his chief strategist, a racist (or at least strongly anti civil rights)  as his attorney general, an Islam hater as his national security adviser, a fanatical doctor, obsessed with killing Obama Care, to head up Health and Human Services, and a climate change denier as the head of EPA does not necessarily mean that terrible things are going to happen. Look on the bright side. Chill out, as they say.

Good advice. On Saturday of last week when in NYC—where we attended the infamous, imaginary Trump press conference—we decided we did need a break; so Embry and I went to the Museum of Modern Art, with children and grandchildren in tow, before boarding our bus home. Think about it: The Museum of Modern Art, or MoMA as it is called by New Yorkers, is the greatest contemporary art museum in the world. You can imagine our excitement. At last a breather from the dismal headlines and ominous signals coming from Trump Tower.

The museum was packed as you might expect on Thanksgiving weekend. Due to the large crowds we decided to visit Floor 4 after breezing through the museum’s main, permanent collection on Floor 5,which was jammed , and where you find all the famous Impressionists, Post Impressionists, and abstract painters.

We had never been to Floor 4, which this day was devoted exclusively to the 1960s, the decade when we came of age, the decade of civil rights, and the Peace Movement. What would we find that would give us a better perspective on what is going on now in our country, which would provide a lift, hope, and a chance to recharge our worn out batteries?

The first work of art was a pile of sand by the entry door that partly resembled a sand dune. Who would ever have thought to create such a thing? Interesting, I thought. Then there were the glass wastebaskets, maybe about 15, all clustered together. We could not get too close to see if they contained trash because so many people were gaping. Near it were three clusters of building blocks like you find at a day care center. Across from it was an old sports car and to the side in the hallway a real helicopter hanging from the ceiling. Then a Warhol painting of Marilyn Monroe–at last something we recognized– and in the next room three, large, white, blank canvasses in a row. In the room after that was another blank canvass. Then a large sculpture consisting of a mound of white male body parts made out of alabaster (I think) and in another room a large mat on the floor with metal pipes and construction equipment scattered all around it. The room next to it contained bright red, yellow and blue plastic chairs and tables, which could have fitted in nicely at any McDonald’s play station. The exhibit was crowded with people mulling around, some appearing puzzled. I asked Embry where the fake dog poop in the corner might be, and she insisted it was in another modern art museum we went to once, maybe the one in Chicago.

There were a few highlights—a few photos by Cartier-Bresson, my idol, and Gordon Parks and some others, but I could not help asking myself, what am I missing here. What happened in the 1960s that produced this outrageous stuff that has found its way into the greatest modern art museum in the world? Who convinced the curators that these objects belong here, only a floor below Picasso, Renoir, Gauguin, Calder, and Van Gogh?

Mercifully on this day there was no exhibit at MoMA on any decade beyond the 1960s. God only knows what those galleries would have had in store for us. There is great art being produced in the United States like that of Mike Martin, my brother-in-law, who has been unable to get the attention of any art gallery or museum. I also think of my friend, Dickson Carroll. His sculptures surely belong in MoMA. Bill Christenberry, another artist friend, who just passed away at age 80, has gotten his share of recognition; but his art is not in MoMA. Great contemporary art exists, but most of it has not made it to MoMA or, for that matter, to other museums of modern art. I know, anyone who is an expert in such things will label me a hopeless Philistine, who does not have a clue, and they may be right though it is a remote possibility that the emperor has no clothes.

So much for art as an answer for the Trump blues. I guess I have to admit that it depends on what art you are talking about. Sadly art on Floor 3 of MoMA is no cure. On the other hand perhaps it provides some clues as to why we elected Trump in the first place.


6 thoughts on “Post Election Blues? Could Art Be An Answer?

  1. Next time try the Frick and bask in the Vermeers…. Your observations and insights are all so apt and true!

  2. Interesting final sentence. Could you tell us exactly what those clues might be and what they tell us about Trump’s election?

    1. Very good question. I did not elaborate for fear of biasing people’s reactions and imagination. I further admit that I do not know the answer myself. But I say this: even though the 60s happened a generation ago, the artists at the time were hinting that something in society was fundamentally wrong, out of balance, unsettling. I would argue that the trends then have only strengthened but still remain under the radar for ordinary folks like me. They are not pretty, and if there is anything that people viewing Floor 3 MoMA can agree on it is this: it is not pretty.

  3. I was there. I think it was the absurdity of the1960’s art, which unfortunately which has become the REALITY of life in 2016, that we found distressing. We were looking for the redemptive power of art, and found the opposite.

  4. I agree with your assessment of MOMA, for me a once and done. Add to that that they have assiduously snubbed Guthrie’s art, never once calling to inquire about possibly putting something of hers on display. Personally, I count that as being among her greatest accolades,possibly THE greatest accolade. How could such a place lure in so many unsuspecting people? I thought Pheneas T. Barnum was long ago dead.–JGK

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