Sunday, October 29, 2017

Spiders from Sand to Sea

At the Palm Springs Art Museum, there is a witty juxtaposition in the permanent collection gallery of Enrique Martin Celaya's 1996 painting Bird which consists of a blank canvas and a tiny bird in the center being flanked by one of sculptor Louise Bourgeois' spider sculptures.

At SFMOMA, on the fifth floor, there is currently an exhibit of close to a dozen of these simultaneously alluring and repelling objects.

The spider was not a figure of fear for the sculptor, but meant to represent her beloved French mother who sheltered her from an autocratic monster of a father.

Still, if you have any trace of arachnophobia, this is not the exhibit for you.

Like virtually every other woman artist in history, Bourgeois had a career that was mostly ignored, except for the fact that she outlived her relative obscurity by surviving so long. She died in 2010 in New York City at the age of 98, a few decades after she had become officially celebrated worldwide.

Part of that fame came from her instantly recognizable series of spider sculptures which she began creating in the 1990s, copies of which seem to exist in every modern art museum in the country if not the world.

While roaming the large gallery of arachnids, I marveled once again at how many people these days go to a museum and spend most of their time looking at their mobile phones. Why bother going to a museum in the first place if all you can focus on is a glowing little screen?

This was most painfully displayed by a young couple with a daughter in a princess costume on Saturday who plopped themselves on the floor in front of the large screen above at The Visitors, and proceeded to whip out their mobiles, making it impossible for people behind them to ignore. After about 10 minutes, I became irritated enough to tell them to shut off their damned devices, and the husband became very belligerent, shoving his face into mine and saying, "This exhibit is not just for YOU!" After telling him to fuck off, I went for a guard and the trio soon stomped out of the dark room noisily, allowing the rest of us to bliss out in peace.

6 comments:

Jim Meehan said...

I wonder whether they were part of the exhibit. If so, they fooled you!

Michael Strickland said...

Dear Jim: Nah, I've seen "The Visitors" a half dozen times, and there are plenty of people walking around taking photos and videos with their mobile devices around the room. At least they are interacting with the work, sort of, and many of them soon stop recording and join the entrancement with their fellow museumgoers. This couple took oblivious mobile rudeness to a new level, sitting in a darkened room right in front of a screen that is being communally watched while tapping out texts and checking email.

Rachel said...

Michael, I went to see The Visitors again today, and while there were a few phone users, the worst offender was a girl with her dog (?!) in the museum, and the dog was jumping all over the place.
I feel your pain.
(And I need to see The Visitors another million times before it closes...)

Michael Strickland said...

Dear Rachel: A girl with a dog? Oh, gosh, I would have pulled a full-on tilt tantrum over that one. And let's do join each other near the end of "The Visitors" for a watchathon/singalong.

Rachel said...

Michael - yep, not a service dog or anything, just a dog dog. I did almost go tell someone, but figured if they allowed it in to begin with, I probably wasn't going to find any sympathy.
I was actually going to suggest we meet up to see The Visitors, so yes, let's do that!

Patrick J. Vaz said...

There are lots of people who apparently now think SFMOMA is a dog park. I've actually been meaning to write to the museum and complain. These are not service dogs.