Monday, November 9, 2009

One of the hardest things to do is to explain visual art with mere words

This fall I had the pleasure of visiting the Institute of Contemporary Art. I wasn't quite sure what to expect, and when I arrived I certainly was not fully prepared for what I was about to experience, which was one of the best museum visits I have ever made. Now, I may be only sixteen, but I have had my fair share of visits to museums, and I know when something is truly unique.
The first exhibit I encountered was called "Dance with Camera." It consisted of film, video and still photography of different dances. Dance, in video and film, is a more regular occurrence, but still photography is not. Dance focuses on timing, and changing the timing of similar movements of the same dance, can completely change the mood the dance creates. In still photography, those motions are shown without any timing at all. The dances are permanently held in place and it makes you wonder what emotion you are "supposed" to get from the dance. It can be completely different experiencing a dance in person.

After the still shots, there is a large room filled with various types of video screens and projectors with an eclectic selection of dance films and videos being played. Some have sound, and others do not, but all the sounds mesh together and somehow seem to work. You might think it would be overwhelming, but the elements seem to compliment each other even though each dance and soundtrack is vastly different. There is some nudity in this exhibit, and you may choose to accept that, or you can even ignore that part of the exhibit if you may feel offended by it. It is worthwhile to just ignore it and be able to appreciate the rest of the exhibits in the Institute.

To make your way to the next exhibit from "Dance with Camera," you must make your way up the ramp towards the second floor. But, it's not just an ordinary ramp. This ramp is the centerpiece of an ongoing exhibit at the Institute appropriately named the "Ramp Project." Each changing of the exhibits also includes a re-vamping of the ramp. As of now, its name is "Third Space" and is a collage of geometric patterns made of stiff lines and bold colors and worth taking the time to admire before continuing to the second floor.

Following the ramp is a screening room and a film is playing with dialogue that doesn't quite seem to match. Only after leaving the museum and reading the pamphlet did I understand this exhibit and now I am sorry that I didn't take more time to recognize the true value of it. I won't tell you what the secret is, that would just ruin it and you'll have to find out for yourself, but I'd advise that you go in and take a look and listen to the video for a few minutes then read the information about it in the pamphlet. After you've done that you should go back and watch a little more, I promise, you'll be able to appreciate it much more.

After the video exhibit ("Video Art: Replay Part 1. Asking Not Telling"), you enter a white room filled with many paintings, drawings and "sculptures." It may seem unoriginal now, but upon closer examination, you'll realize that each of these works of art is created over top of a canvas layered with pages of a book, newspaper, comic, or music sheet. Some of these books you may know, and some you may not but you'll still discover that the tales depicted in those stories are enhanced by the artwork that uses each book as a base. Not just a theoretical base, but also a physical one. I'm sure you'll be amazed, just as I was by the astounding layers of meaning in each of these works of art.

As you (probably reluctantly) begin to exit this final exhibit, you'll see the information about it posted on the wall. This summary explains that everything in those two rooms you were just exploring was created by collaboration between a former art teacher in the Bronx named Tim Rollins and his former students, now called the K.O.S. (Kids of Survival). This group work has taken up a special place in my heart, and I really hope you'll take the chance to see if it can do the same for you.

I've come to realize that one of the hardest things to do is to explain visual art with mere words. You will never be able to truly do the piece justice. All I know is that there will never be enough positive adjectives in the dictionary for me to accurately describe my visit to the Institute of Contemporary Art, and especially The Tim Rollins and the K.O.S. exhibit.

To arrange a visit to the Institute of Contemporary Art contact the Programming Department of Art-Reach at 215-568-2115.

-Mary Altamuro

Mary is currently an Art-Reach Ambassador serving an Independent Study with Art-Reach via the ILP Program at Science Leadership Academy.  All photos in this post were taken from the ICA website.

1 comment:

  1. Mary, thanks for putting into words what I could not. I recently visited ICA for the very first time because of the Tim Rollins exhibit. His Scarlet Letter canvas stood out when I took a group of students to visit PaFA years ago. Your review helped me to extend my experience at ICA just a little longer. Keep up the good work doing your Independent Study with Art-Reach. They are lucky to have you, as you are to have them!