Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Simplicity.




I really do get fascinated by the connections of life. Today, I went into the museum early and wandered through our galleries. I continue to stand in awe of the collection that the de Young has acquired. It is unique and diverse and yet the curators have been able to tie it together. At least, in the case of our new exhibition on Amish quilts and our new acquisitions. It was mentioned in the Amish exhibit that there is the simplicity of many modernists artists. Nancy Ewart of the SF Examiner wrote more about this connection noticed by the collectors of the quilts:

"On first encountering Amish quilts, the Browns recall, “We were amazed by the bold graphics and striking colors, the very opposite of what we had expected. And we couldn’t get over the way some quilts seemed to anticipate abstract artists such as Josef Albers, Victor Vasarely, Frank Stella, Mark Rothko, Sol LeWitt, and Ellsworth Kelly, among others.” Looking at modern art has prepared us to appreciate their bold designs yet we should not look upon the quilts as simply works of art. They were made to be both aesthetically pleasing and utilitarian and, yet, still had to adhere to the code of the Ordung, an oral tradition of religious rules governing Amish social customs and moral life."

I would argue the simplicity and color combinations are also used by Keith Haring (just not as noticed by American Museums). After I experienced the quilts, I went to our recent acquisitions gallery and I was faced with pieces from Donal Judd and Sol LeWitt. I am enthralled with the simplicity and bold combinations of color. There was a quote by Robert Shaw, a curator, that nailed the experience of the art. The Amish women came way before Le Witt, Albers or Rothko. They were not seeking anything, they didn't have to strip everything away from their lives. The quilts are a reflections of their community, their lifestyle and their quiet separation. As I continue to strip away the baggage I carry from growing up in Middle America, I was given a quiet reminder of what living simply is all about. Go and stare at a quilt for a while. It takes it away, even just for a moment.

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