Thursday, September 21, 2023

Dawdling at the de Young

Since retiring from my job last month, there has been time to dawdle and to pop into local museums on near-empty weekdays.
Tuesday afternoon involved a walk through Golden Gate Park, and a close study of an 1878 bronze sculpture, Le Poème de la Vigne (The Vintage Vase) by the prolific French illustrator Gustave Doré. He created it for French winemakers at the Paris World's Fair, and in 1894 the foundry shipped a version to San Francisco for the California Midwinter Exposition.
The outdoor signage notes that the vase is decorated with cupids, satyrs, and bacchantes associated with Bacchus, the Roman god of wine.
This doesn't explain why so many of the cupids seem to be lewdly entangled with flies and beetles and snakes.
Inside the museum I climbed the treacherous staircase to the top floor to see the Kehinde Wiley: An Archaeology of Silence exhibit for the second time.
The show of huge paintings and sculptures premiered at the Venice Biennale last summer, and begins its tour of four American museums at the de Young. (Pictured above is Femme Piquée par un Serpent (Mamadou Gueye), 2022.)
The exhibit has been installed since March and is leaving October 15th so if you are interested, now is the time to check it out.
The museum website tries to explain the concept: "Kehinde Wiley’s new body of paintings and sculptures confronts the silence surrounding systemic violence against Black people through the visual language of the fallen figure. Wiley investigates the iconography of death and sacrifice in Western art, tracing it across religious, mythological, and historical subjects. In An Archaeology of Silence, the senseless deaths of men and women around the world are transformed into a powerful elegy of resistance. The resulting paintings of figures struck down, wounded, or dead, referencing iconic paintings of mythical heroes, martyrs, and saints, offer a haunting meditation on the legacies of colonialism and systemic racism."
That may all be so, but the visual effect of the installation is very pop, almost akin to Jeff Koons...
...especially the oversized riff on the famous Roman sculpture The Dying Gaul.
I intended to continue walking towards the ocean, but thought better of it after looking out from the de Young tower. It was obvious that the smoke-filled air from Northern California wildfires had only gotten worse as the day wore on.

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