A Trip to the Dallas Museum of Art

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I never did report on the wonders of the Qing dynasty exhibition at the Dallas Museum of Art. And I'm not sure I will at this point, because first I must report on the final hall we looked at in the museum, an example of the "emperor's new clothes" school of art.

Walking down a series of steps we encounter a fluorescent light bulb stuck in a bale of hay, along with several other meaningful and profound statements. My companion's comment on the matter I thought apt (he could say it being a native son), "After all, we are in Texas."

Nothing could have prepared us for the walk through the door into the next gallery which was an exhibition by a single artist an "installation" called, I think, Stations of Dissolution. The first thing that greets you is a large black inset pool or black reflective box that looks like a pool. In this same room there is a kind of brick-lined hole in the wall.

Wandering down the connecting corridor and looking at photographs and sketches on the wall, you emerge into what seems to be a very minimalist living room scene complete with impaled dead stuff fox on the floor--transfixed by large quartz-shaped crystals with remnants of other crystals scattered around. There is a pot-bellied stove and the same brick-lined hole in the wall along with a rocking chair. I also seem to remember a shot-gun--but I wouldn't swear to that.

After the initial surprise of the thing, the only reaction one could muster up is amusement that the creative directors of a museum who would buy and display such rubbish and think it art. Modern art has abandoned all pretense at art. Much of it exists merely to shock a reaction out of an audience. Despite what they think, the primary purpose of art is not necessarily to inspire an emotion. While great art may well do so, it isn't the primary purpose of the endeavor. Nor is its primary purpose selfishly oriented. That is, it isn't about "expressing oneself," at least not exclusively. One must express oneself in a fashion intelligible to other or no expression has taken place. Your whole purpose is undermined. This little exhibition was an exercise in self-undermining. Will I remember it? Probably, but it will take an act of will to recall it so that I can hold it up as an example of what not to do as a creative artist. Just as with experimental novels delivered unbound so that the pages can be shuffled and read in any order, this is a kind of creation doomed to failure, and rightfully so. It was even more risible than the piles of brick and sand and the mirrors covered by pebbles.

(On the other hand, Dallas residents who can afford to do so should certainly hand over the money for the magnificent exhibition of Chinese Artifacts as well as some of the great antiquities available throughout the rest of the building. I'll try to write a bit about the Qing dynasty exhibition (From the Forbidden City) in a day or so.

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Yes, I am not very fond of all that stuff residing in our museum. However, I have been meaning for some time to get on over to the Chinese exhibit. Not only is Asian art my favorite kind, this is supposed to be unique ... and you confirmed that so I know it is true!



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This page contains a single entry by Steven Riddle published on April 13, 2005 7:23 AM.

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