Wednesday, March 18, 2009


I need to have a mini rant. Yesterday was a beautiful day so I decided to walk over and view a Robert Mapplethorpe Polaroid exhibit. The actual gallery space that held the exhibition was quite intimate and went well with the scale of the Polaroid images. The problem with intimate spaces (especially when it comes to art exhibits) is the noise factor. In general, I prefer to have a rather quiet environment when I am viewing art. I guess that over the years I have become spoiled because I have often had the opportunity of being the only one in an exhibition space. This is a major perk to working in museums. The reason I rant is because I cannot stand people who insist on talking loudly about the artwork. I do not think it would be quite as annoying if they did not raise their voices in order to insure that everyone hear their "insight" into the importance of the work and its relation to art history. The majority of the time they are completely wrong. There always has to be one blowhard in the bunch, doesn't there? Can't we just appreciate the artwork? Or, can't we just use our "inside" voices? There were two different small groups that came through while I was there. (not part of a tour or anything) The first was a group of older men who started arguing about how "successful" Mapplethorpe's work was when placed next to the work of Avedon and others. How "forced" the poses were...the "tension" within the subject. Blah, blah, blah. The second group was just a random group of older, but not elderly people. They openly discussed the work, but one of them had a might high opinion of himself and started declaring facts that were untrue. Oh, how I held my tongue. "Oh, these have to be copies of the originals in order to be archival." WTF? Another asked him, "do you really think these are copies?" "They have to be. It says that they are Polaroids and Polaroids are in color." Really? Where do I begin? Even if you had very little knowledge of photography, did you not read the wall text? Oh, how the curators labor over that text. It stated that Mapplethorpe was given a Hasselblad as part of his grant. Nothing about the Polaroid film being shot with a Polaroid camera. OK, I will drop it. It just would not have been so bothersome if he was not so loud and pompous and if the others were not taking what he said as gospel. Here was something else that I noticed. I often like to observe how people react to pieces of art. I guess that I was expecting a different reaction since we are now in 2009 and because there was a "warning" sign on the door about the content of some of the work. "Some of the works in this exhibition may not be suitable for all audiences." Well, as I am walking around looking at the photos I notice that there is this guy who is looking at only certain works in the show. He is clearly skipping over every piece that includes homoerotic imagery. Especially the ones with two men in the act. It was as if he did not see them at all. They did not exist. I dunno. Seems to me that those images are of huge importance to anyone trying to understand the work of Mapplethorpe. That's just me. The one standing over here with her mouth shut.
Did I forget to mention that the exhibition is great and if you are able to see it m you should? I was lost in my rant.


ai said...

I think I have his documentary DVD somewhere in my living room, which I'm yet to watch. I'd love to check out the exhibition, too.

I remember when I went to this huge exhibition (Van Gogh and Gauguin) at the Art Institute of CHicago, it was packed and I had to wait for a few hours to get in only to find out one of the people who got in at the same time as us was completely sxxtfaced! It was kind of funny, though. What do you do? Your job sounds very interesting to me.

pupule said...

Hey Ai!
Actually, I have been unemployed for a couple of months. I have graduate degrees in photography and art history. In the past I worked at MOMA and the Art Institute of Chicago. I was a photo archivist at the AIC when you must have visited for the Van Gogh/Gauguin exhibit. Small world!