Friday, March 30, 2012

Little escap(ad)e: Georgia O’Keeffe in Munich

At the end of February, my son and I took an outing to Munich together. The Art Museum of the HypoCultural Foundation is currently showing a Georgia O’Keeffe retrospectiveand I had discovered in a flyer that they sometimes offer children’s programmes accompanying the exhibitions. Which would give me time to look at the exhibition myself. 

We were lucky, although I tried to sign him up only one week in advance (thinking that we had probably missed it because too many other kids would have been signed up), we got a space for him in the two-hour-children’s programme.
I had not really known much about Georgia O’Keeffe  before I went to this exhibit, although I had seen some reproductions of her paintings on greeting cards or posters. Or on the cover of the catalogue:

So I was full of curiosity.
What struck me right at the entrance was the arrangement of photographs of the desert in New Mexico where O’Keeffe lived after 1949.

When I was a child, my parents took us to the United States, including a lot of traveling, and the southwestern deserts have stuck with me as some of the most wonderful types of landscape I have ever seen or been to. So the connection with Georgia O’Keeffe that I felt upon entering this exhibit was immediate, and very strong.

The exhibition extends through the entire Kunsthalle, and one is well advised to come with a sufficient amount of time. I was rather disappointed with the quality of the audio-guide (which cost an extra €5 on top of the admission), but if one doesn’t know a whole lot about the artist beforehand it is certainly better to have such an additional medium besides the panels of documentation spread through the exhibit.
It felt very good to learn about a woman who had been a very successful artist over many years, even if some of the early fame was based on the myth of the sexualized woman that had been created by her husband and galerist Alfred Stieglitz. You could really feel her presence when seeing some of the photographs of her that her husband had taken, her character seemed to jump from those sharp and focussed eyes looking out at you. Can’t help but starting to phantasize about how it would have been to meet and get to know her...

I was very impressed with the range of topics that Georgia O’Keeffe painted over the years: the abstractions of flowers, streets and houses in New York, the Southwest...
And with the sincerity with which she settled on the Southwest as her place to be after her husband had died.
My favorite picture is “My Last Door”, an abstraction of that patio door which had been her most important reason to buy her house in Abiquiu.

What most impressed me, though, if there really is a ‘most’ in this experience, was the quality and impact of her few sculptures. 

Too few, for my taste. But one can't do everything...

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