Thursday, June 17, 2004

Not Canada, Not Quebec, Not Montreal - but worthwhile none the less.


Although it has tons of problems, the New York Times is still a good read, and I especially like how they have figured out how to allow bloggers to use their articles without having them expire. So this post will be understandable for a long time.

Last Friday, Michael Kimmelman reviewed the "latest" and "greatest" at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, the Childe Hassam exhibit.

Now, normally I wouldn't bother commenting on this review, but it just so happens that I know someone who was intimately involved with the exhibition, so unlike a newspaper reporter, I can throw out all question of "integrity." Plus I haven't even seen the exhibit. Fun, eh?!

To start off, I gotta give it to the Times, unlike the newspapers on this side of the border where 700 words is a looooong review, this one clocks in at 1,512 words, although I am not certain they are a good use of newsprint (lucky me, I read it on a screen!).

Mr. Kimmelman states from the get go that he is not a fan of Mr. Hassam's paintings. Fair enough, but I would have liked to know in some more detail as to why. He uses lines like "he of the candied views of patriotic, flag-draped New York during World War 1." And "He stuck doggedly to other cheerful themes of Americana during his long, lucrative career...just as he stuck pretty much to the same ingratiating, occasionally cloying brand of Impressionism decades after Symbolism, Expressionism, Cubism, Surrealism and a slew of other new-isms had come and sometimes gone."

Umm, could this perhaps be jealousy? Just because someone is "popular" doesn't mean that they suck. Toss this sort of stuff into a different cultural medium, and Bruce Springsteen, Walt Disney, Sylvester Stallone, Margaret Mitchell, and Steven Spielberg would be the equivalents of lepers.

Then after bashing Hassam for doing the same type of painting for too long, he does a complete about face and writes "Constancy is usually admirable..." So which is it? Make up yer damn mind!

Mr. Kimmelman then continues (yeah, I sorta figure that this would be considered a "close read") about the prevalence of minor historical figures getting retrospectives. If he picked his nose up off of the keyboard long enough he might realize that "All Picasso! All the Time!!" would quickly get dull. When was the last time he went and reviewed the Met's permanent collection?

Mr. Kimmelman then goes on to talk out of both sides of his mouth, when he talks about how Barbara Weinberg deliberately left out "most of his dubious, stiff late pictures" but Hassam still sucks, and then a paragraph later quoting one of his predecessors at the Times "Hassam, as good an Impressionist as America ever produced... The sparkle of his early work dwindled..." Shouldn't he have gone and written something about how his predecessor was absolutely wrong? According to my way of reading "sparkle" is something good.

In the next paragraph, he figures that bullying on one person ain't enough, when he writes that "American Impressionism was never very good to begin with..." If I had the time I'd love to see what he has written about Mary Cassat. And his interpretation of something Hassam wrote is on a par with me attributing his tone in this article to not having enough time in the morning to have his second cup of coffee.

Mr. Kimmelman continually bashes Hassam for stuff that he did later in his life, but if the paintings that he did later in life aren't in the damn exhibition what does that have to do with the price of tea in China? He also subjects Hassam to the 21st century politically correct treatment implying that Hassam's stuff ain't worth the price of the frame using words like "cranky," "jingoistic," "reactionary and xenophobic" to back up his argument. How many nasty people can you name who did significant stuff? One, two, three, four.

Backing up slightly ('cuz I am writing this on the fly, and it ain't gonna see a second draft) at the beginning of the article, Mr. Kimmelman writes, "Retrospectives are supposed to change one's notion of an artist." Yes, that might be the case some of the time, but Museums shows no matter what or when are supposed to inform the public and if they are good make people realize new insights.

He mentions that the exhibit was originally supposed to take place "a few months ago" but was rescheduled so as to be able to coincide with the Republican National Convention that is happening in New York City this fall. Does he actually think that the people running the Met are that dense? Running a show by a racist artist, who according to Mr. Kimmelman was only interested in making money, while there are some influential right-wing people who also seem to be only interested in making money? Political commentary anyone?

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