Wading into Contemporary Art

The artist Ender Martos and an assistant installing Graceful Kaleidoscope Gateway at Camiba Art Gallery at Flatbed Press, Austin, Texas.
The artist Ender Martos and an assistant installing Graceful Kaleidoscope Gateway at Camiba Art Gallery, Austin, Texas.

I had a neat experience earlier tonight. I attended a reception that included a preview of a new art exhibit where we got to see the artist finishing the installation of his pieces. The exhibit is called Luz y Movimiento (light and motion), and it’s by a Venezuelan artist named Ender Martos.

I liked his pieces a lot. They are made up of mono-filament wire (fishing line), strung in different ways, and sometimes woven into concentric patterns. The pieces are bright and symmetrical, playful and sophisticated all at once. They seemed to defy categories; that is, some looked like textiles, others like shadow-box arrangements, and the one pictured at left reminded me of a Sol Le Witt wall drawing blown up into 3D.

What struck me most about tonight’s experience was not really the pieces themselves, but what they represented to me once I really thought about it: There is contemporary art that I like.

Centrifugal Force of Geometry by Ender Martos, 2015. Photographed at Camiba Art Gallery.
Centrifugal Force of Geometry by Ender Martos, 2015. Photographed at Camiba Art Gallery.

It’s funny, for years now I’ve been saying that I don’t care for contemporary art — even though generally speaking, I enjoy art more than almost anything. But seeing this show has reminded me that there is contemporary art that I like, and maybe even love — it’s just harder to find.

Of course, that’s because contemporary art has not been sifted through art’s (and society’s) greatest editor and arbiter: Time. That is, all of contemporary art is, by definition, still around. Whereas with art of the past, the longer it has survived, the more likely it’s one of the better (hopefully best) examples from its age. That’s a guess, of course, and not a scholarly one. It doesn’t account for wars and disasters that can destroy great art, nor I’m sure does it account for a whole passel of other important factors, but I’m willing to be unscientific and say that it sounds logical to me.

So I declare tonight’s experiment a success, and I’ll keep going to these events hoping to find more contemporary art I like. This one was sponsored by Art Alliance Austin, which I just recently joined. I’m told these events sometimes take the group into artists’ studios. I look forward to that opportunity.

Who knows, maybe I’ll even start reading that book I bought several months ago, How to Write About Contemporary Art.

Seeing Miró in San Antonio

Joan Miró, Woman, Bird and Star (Homage to Picasso), 1966/1973. Oil on canvas. Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía. © Sucessió Miró / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / ADAGP, Paris 2015.
Joan Miró, Woman, Bird and Star (Homage to Picasso), 1966/1973. Oil on canvas. Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía. © Sucessió Miró / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / ADAGP, Paris 2015.

Last Sunday I was down in San Antonio, having spent the weekend with a friend. Before I headed back up the dreaded I-35 for home, I decided to take some time to drop by the McNay Art Museum to check out their show Miró: The Experience of Seeing.

Miró has never really been a favorite of mine, but I’ve come to appreciate him more, recently. I learned a bit more about him from an online class I took from MoMA, as well as a documentary I dug up on YouTube about him. He became more real to me, instead of (I shudder to admit) a less-important Spanish contemporary of Picasso.

So I went into the McNay exhibit full of curiosity, and with an open mind. I did enjoy it. One thing about this particular show — it emphasized Miró’s sculpture as much as his paintings. I thought the sculptures were okay. I’ll admit, they didn’t really speak to me.

But the paintings did. I found myself looking at them with a sort-of childlike glee. Especially the ones with bright, primary colors. They made me think that perhaps what Miró was trying to say was that it was okay for grown-ups to feel and express uncomplicated happiness in the way that kids do.

And in knowing that these were Miró’s late works, coming at end of a six-decade career after living through the Spanish civil war as well as the Depression and two world wars, that’s saying quite a lot.