Sunday, March 23, 2014

Geek Highways, Day 6: Our Lady of Spiders


Am I the only person to take vacations midway through a trip?  After running ourselves ragged the first few days, Marianne and I needed a rest.  So for the second day running, we took it easy.

On this day, taking it easy meant going to Dia: Beacon, which is a museum of Large and Difficult Art.  How large?  The building used to be a factory and the walk from one end of a piece to the other can be exhausting.  How difficult?  Every time I've visited D:B, I've seen numerous young and seriously artistic people (you can tell them by their leather jackets, black lipstick, berets, etc., etc., etc.) standing staring and staring and staring at a particular work of art, trying to get it with all of their might.  I do not sneer at them.  I spend a significant portion of my time there doing exactly the same thing.

People who have devoted their lives to this stuff believe these works to be important.  I am not going to assume that I know better without at least making the attempt.

A good example of what passes here for an easily accessible work might be Robert Smithson's (he's the guy who made Spiral Jetty) piece, Map of Broken Glass (Atlantis).  Which is a big pile of shards of broken glass in the middle of the floor.  I look at it and I imagine a story titled "The Crystal Continent."  I think that maybe some day I'll write a story merging its high-art qualities with pulp-art plotting. 

There's also a Joseph Beuys piece called Aus Berlin: Neues vom Kojoten which I hope someday to turn into a Mongolian Wizard story.  (Yes, yes, I know.)  Every time I see it, I fill several pages of my notebook with scribbled observations.  There's really something there.

But there's also Agnes Martin (who was the Google Doodle lady yesterday) whose works remain more subtle than me, or Dan Flavin's arrangements of fluorescent tubes, which to this day, I swear, look to me like they'd make nice commercial lighting fixtures in nondescript corporate settings.  I remind myself that if their art were easy to get they wouldn't be in Dia: Beacon.

But, as always, the highlight of this museum is Louise Bourgeois's oeuvre.  Her early works are drenched in sex, body-awarness, and gender issues.  Tough-minded, fearless, abstract gender issues.  I've spent many hours looking at her work and not a minute of that time was wasted.

Bourgeois has an entire floor to herself and deserves it.  Her stuff makes the rest of the museum look not quite second-rate but almost not-first-rate. 

And when you follow her galleries to their logical end, you'll find . . .Crouching Spider.

Late in life, Bourgeois made a series of enormous metal spiders -- things so large you could walk under them, with needle-tipped legs.  Mythic, Jungian objects.  Sculptures that were simultaneously instantly accessible, terrifying creatures from the id, and enormously desirable.  A perfect capstone to a great career.

They were, she explained, an homage to her mother.

Crouching Spider fills a factory room.  You have to duck under her legs to see her properly.  And Marianne did so, standing back to the brick factory wall with all of the spider before her and said, "Mother will protect me."

High art.  Instantly accessible.  Spend a day in Dia: Beacon and you'll come to the same conclusion I have:  Out of all these major artists, Louise Bourgeois wins hands down.

No competition.

No kidding.

But don't take my word for it.  Go see for yourself.


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