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Saturday, March 15, 2008

Animal Estates and Demuth

Another museum last night - this time the Whitney. I had wanted to see the small show of paintings by Charles Demuth, from the twenties. These are, for the most part, paintings of industrial buildings in his native Lancaster, Pa. There are also some earlier works - watercolors of flowers, and one of acrobats. All lovely, and worth the trip.
The bulk of the museum (first four floors) is given over right now to the Biennial, a big every-other-year-show of the latest goings-on in the art world - the sort of things you see in Chelsea. More conceptual than beautiful, mostly huge, nothing you'd hang on the wall (exception: some interesting photo-realist paintings by California artist Robert Bechtle).
That's where the milling throngs were, and I breezed through it all fairly quickly, returning to the uncrowded fifth floor where a small groups of works from the permanent collection was on display, in addition to the Demuth exhibit and an exquisite small group of Calders.
But outside the museum, surrounding the sunken pool, there was an installation by Fritz Haeg called "Animal Estates". The artist has created homes for twelve "animal clients" who would have lived in the area over 400 years ago, before the European colonists arrived. So there's an enormous nest for a family of bald eagles, a burrow for an opossum, gourd-houses for purple martins, a sunningi platform for the eastern mud turtle, and so forth.
People who are waiting in line to enter the museum peer into this area over a railing, and are given little signs to read about the "clients", similar to what you'd encounter at a nature preserve.
While I was standing in the line (along with a bunch of twenty-somethings, as I now realize is the norm at museum "free nights") I didn't really know what I was looking at - I thought maybe it had always been there. I'm not sure what the plan is, but I hope it will stay!


Blogger sukipoet said...

I am drooling with envy that you live near enough to go to the Whitney. But I am happy to travel vicariously too. The "Animal Estates" exhibit sounds wonderful. And I love artists from the 20's. Have seen Demuth only in books.

7:00 PM  

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