Art appreciation for girls
The new MOMA in New York is an interesting place, although the building itself had less of a personality than I had anticipated, and I don’e2’80’99t know that the light is as perfect as I would ask for, were I one of the painters hung there. Monet’e2’80’99s lilies looked pretty muddy to me.
Still, one finds a collection of friends there as no place else, and the advantage of new surroundings is that even the familiar faces have a startlingly new look to them.
I learn things at MOMA. On one of my first trips there, I learned that, despite my longstanding mistrust of the purely abstract, Jackson Pollack was indeed an artist, that it is possible to create a complex emotional reality by dribbling and throwing paint at the canvas: these are not things your three-year old can do.
This visit added a dimension to my experience of the man Pollack, and it was, I am certain, due to a deliberate and subtle choice on the part of whoever was in charge of hanging those paintings.
The new building has a lot of ins and outs to it, including a bridge that induces severe dizziness in those of us who dislike heights. One crosses the bridge into the next section, and there are some Krasners.
Lee Krasner was a painter working the same time and methods as Pollack. If you’e2’80’99ve seen the movie, you’e2’80’99ll remember her as the woman to whom Pollack, by way of seduction, says something along the line of, You’e2’80’99re pretty good for a girl painter. This being the attitude of the era, of course, although my daughter bristled furiously at the movie’e2’80’99s attitudes, she herself being pretty good for a girl anything.
Krasner and Pollack were together for a long time, and she was always in his shadow. It was a big shadow, but had she been a man, she might have succeeded in making a bigger one of her own.
But here at MOMA, Krasner has a secret friend. Because as one wanders through the room in which her paintings hang, admiring the squiggles and splashes, one then walks into the bigger room containing (if containing is the word) the Pollacks. Big, grabby paintings, absolutely assured, and yes, damn it, masterpieces.
However, as one turns to head for the next room, the eyes might spare a brief glance through the wide doorway at the previous room. That room is bisected by a freestanding section of display wall, which fills the viewpoint from the Pollack room. On that display wall, facing the Pollack room, is a Krasner painting. On the wall of the Pollack room, to the left of the wide doorway and facing in the same direction, is a Pollack, nearly identical in size and style to the Krasner. The eyes flick from the nearer to the farther, from his to hers, and one begins to smile. Particularly if one is a woman.
Because Krasner’e2’80’99s is the better painting. And someone in the museum wanted us to see that.