Spontaneous or same-day diary blogging captures the moment but my recent post on visiting the High Museum only covered the surface of things. It is a virtue that self-reflection can hold a special moment with you rippling through time and deepen your appreciation of its significance. Here is how that serendipity moment of my discovery of Gerhard Richter happened at the High. As my daughter would say, "this is how it all went down."
I walked out of the main exhibition area and upstairs with Jennifer. It was four flights of very wide but austere, concrete steps and we went up one level. The ceilings, obviously, are high at the High. Upon entering the new exhibit level, I immediately appreciated that there were far fewer visitors up there. It was a bit quieter in that instead of a steady roar of voices you could hear specific voices and they echoed.
I was first attracted to a very interesting contemporary painting-sculpture by Anish Kapoor, Marsupial, 2006. After viewing it for a few moments a small group of school children came through the floor's entryway and were immediately drawn to and enamored by a mirror installation that also played with the sound of your voice. I by-passed all that ruckus and went immediately into the room on my right. Jennifer had returned to find her parents. So I entered the room alone.
Only I wasn't alone. There was a small group of either late high school or early college students. They weren't art students. They weren't being serious. They were gathered around an installation of window panes held by pristine steel tubes and wire in a rectangle about ten feet long by four feet wide. On each of the two longer sides one section of pane was missing. The late teens were standing around talking quietly, snickering, and a couple of them were chopping their arms into the installation's open inner space. They thought it was weird and funny.
I turned around to a wall that was hidden from my view when I first entered the room. There in front of me, all alone on the entire length of the white wall of the room, was Richter's 1988 Blau. I immediately recognized it was a Richter even though I had never seen it before in my life. It was an educated guess but it was also an inspired one. I was excited. Richter is the man. I appreciate great Art. The moment was filled with it, all fresh and new and alive with the power of human creativity.
I charged the wall and hastily looked at the small transparent information sign about the piece. It was a Richter alright. I wanted to shout but, of course, I didn't. This wasn't a baseball game. But I felt so invigorated and happy in that moment. It is that moment that I remember later and connect with other similar moments in my memory and character. These are the moments that make life real for me. And oh so totally worth it!
Besides the installation and Blau there was a second abstract that did not impress me as much though it was an excellent example of Richter's more recent technique of scrapping paint off the canvas to create effect. Another installation featured several large panes of layered and leaning glass held in a simple wooden frame against the wall. I struggle with installation art sometimes. The final work in the room was The Reader, which is not easy to make out initially from a distance of about two or three feet.
The room was a standard size for a major art museum. That is, tall ceilings and white walls roughly square and maybe 40 by 40 feet. To have this entire room devoted to five works of art by one artist, one work on each wall with an installation off-centered in the middle, gave Richter a wealth of space that only enhanced the richness of experiencing him first-hand for the first time. My fondness for Richter has grown over the last decade or so through my exposure to his art purely through books and articles. I did not discover him that day at the High, but I did discover the experience of him live rather than in a book. It is the "live" experience of Art that teaches us non-rational things. A few days later, Jennifer confirmed that what we saw was part of the High's premanent collection - Richter's the museum owns.
Jennifer made it back with her parents from downstairs. For awhile we had the room to ourselves. Such luxury.
Thus it went down.