Friday, August 31, 2007

De Young

I too the day off work and went to the de Young museum today. It is a little embarassing that this is my first visit since its new facilities opened almost two years ago, the more so because I deeply admire the architecture. But such is the life of the incipiently agoraphobic downfall of a man who spends too much time working and not enought time pleasuring.

I had breakfast at some place in the Haight ... even at 10 a.m., the famous Pork Store Café had a line-up for their infamously greasy but still finger-lickin-good offerings. Still ploughing through that work on Albert the Great. Ended up at the museum around 11:30.

The architecture of the place absolutely dazzles, and I determined to focus the bulk of this first visit on experiencing the angles and textures and idiocyncracies of this edifice. I monkeyed around the vast lobby, and then headed upstairs to the American art galleries, and later to the Papuan art galleries.

The stuff is pretty impressive, but the gallery makes you want to lie on your back and view the place as you push yourself along with your feet. I tried to take a gallery-wide photo, but it was too motion-blurred to permit of uploading.

I love museum stores, even if I am loathe to part with my money. I almost bought the catalog to the evocative retrospective on Peter Max's graphic work that represented the Summer of Love, but thought better of it. I was 15 that summer, and my consciousness was much more involved with the events in Paris and Prague than San Francisco. Poster art is cool, but you always feel like you should have it for free, so I let the volume lie, and thought only once about whether I should come back for tonight's advertising book signing by the now 70-year old artist.

I had a beer in the courtyard ... strange for me to drink with the sun up, but perhpas I am entering my happy dotage ... and had a lovely long read about Albert. And I was ready to leave when I glanced down a long staircase and caught a view of a mysterious black and white photograph.

And so I stumbled on the transfixing work of Hiroshi Sugimoto, a still active and iconic Japanese photographer who works in huge formats, typically black and white, and specializes in, using my own words, changing the vision conceits of his viewers. The series of a dozen or so seascapes, dedicated to the notion that we might try to see things as are ancient, per-historic ancestors might have viewed them, are still and silent and they take your breath away nont by reason of exhilaration but by reason of their ability to encapsulate in one moment millennia of time. His series of movie screens, in which he opened the shutter at the beginning of the movie and closed it at the end, have the same stillness in the face of motion, even if the time frame is considerably more restricted. Click on either photo to go to his site ... buy the book. I did, and I hope to write some more about it in the future.

Museums are temples for me. I am never so calm or so complete as when I am padding around one. I believe in moving slowly, picking the pieces you examine and looking at them long ... up close and far away, front and back, right and left. Every museum I have ever been in is a representation of the oneness and the totality of the human experience. Any object which ends up in a museum has been liberated from the particularity of its creation. It is free now to belong to all of us, and each of us, one and the same.

Photos by Arod, except, of course, for the two Hiroshi Sugimoto images. Click on either of my photos for more photos of the de Young.

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