I like entering by the grand staircase of what appears to be a thousand steps: one should sweat a little for prizes like these. Into the immense white hall, with its sprays of fresh flowers the size of a football player. (They are replaced once a week, year round, under the terms of an endowment to the museum expressly for this purpose.) The Great Hall functions as a mountain: reminding us how small we are.
This day, we let the two boys, clutching their drawing pads, rush ahead into the Greek wing. They hunkered down on the floor, blending into yet another group of art students, clustered at the feet of ancient heroes, with their offerings of sketchpad and charcoal. I was drawn, not to the heroic, but to the impossible: a small case containing glass. From Rome. Whole, unchipped. It spoke of miracles. Maybe they were small ones, but those are the ones we can grasp.
After the sculpture, the boys intended to visit (of course) the swords. Then the samurai armor; it always frightens me. But them--it makes them dream. Of being frightening. That which the male of our species hopes for, while the female yearns to attract the warrior so he will take off the frightening armor, frightened of her. We wear it in different places, that's all.
The ladies decamped to the more intimate spaces upstairs, to see some photography. I wasn't much interested in the show of Steiglitz, Steichen, Strand--it is hard to see these grandaddies with a fresh eye, just as it is hard to look at the Mona Lisa and see anything but a thousand parodies--but I was interested in a show titled "Our Future Is in the Air: Photographs from the 1910s." It got me thinking of the photographs I love, that always look new to me, and I felt like mounting my own exhibition, an intimate chronology of the art, starting with two from the aforementioned show.
Robert Frank, Charleston, South Carolina
Garry Winogrand, New Mexico
John Pfahl, Trojan Nuclear Power Plant
Lewis Baltz, from Park City
Richard Misrach, Desert Fire #249
I tried to figure out what linked these images, and for a long time I could not--apart from the fact that I love them especially, for they each appear to me nearly perfect. They are from different traditions and visions: futurist, formalist, snapshot, the "ruined landscape," the age of Manifest Destiny. Then I realized: they are all linked by their dedication to surprise, to opening the eye to what has been unseen in what is always seen. They are new, even if they are old.