Adventures and inspiration (February roundup part 1)

I've been making an effort to get out and do and see interesting things this month, partly because of being temporarily solitary, partly in an effort to beat the winter blahs, and partly because I've been feeling a bit creatively depleted.  Here are some of my favorite sights/excursions/inspirations from February:

Philadelphia Museum of Art  

An erstwhile standby and always a good place to visit (that I visit far too infrequently despite having a membership!). There were several exhibits that I particularly wanted to see this time:

Old Masters Now: Celebrating the Johnson Collection  John G. Johnson was a famous Philadelphia lawyer and art collector (a bit similar to Barnes, but focusing less on Impressionists and more on Old Masters). This special exhibit included some of my favorite pieces from the regular PMA exhibits as well as some interesting items I hadn't seen before. Really I should look up the titles and artists, but I have a freaking migraine right now and it's a miracle I'm doing this post at all...anyway...I've always loved these two dramatic paintings: 

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A new favorite. There was signage describing how at some point in the past the skeleton had been painted out and replaced with a table. Which of course completely neuters the point of the painting and its macabre appeal! Thankfully conservators were able to remove the overpainting and restore the full creepy glory. 

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I liked something about the combination of this statue and the painting behind it. Hidden figures...

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And of course this whole wall of paintings that Johnson believed were authentic Bosch works when he purchased them. All but one have since been shown to be merely imitation Bosch. Bosch is one of my favorite artists, and this problem of attribution is an everlasting annoyance to me. There was a "Bosch" at the Barnes Foundation that I delighted in visiting, until I read the details on the info card in the room and learned that it has been downgraded to a not-Bosch. It's still a cool painting though. 

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Another exhibit I was interested in was Varujan Boghosian: Master Manipulator. Somehow I had never heard of this artist before, despite his work being in my favorite realms of collage and assemblage. I wasn't as enthralled by most of the pieces as I hoped I would be. I think there were a lot of interesting ideas but there wasn't any particular piece that I fell in love with. 

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The next room contained a series of Phillip Guston prints. Everyone in my undergrad painting program was very enamored by Guston's paintings, but I've always found them to be very unappealing. Gloopy and fleshy? I have the same visceral aversion reaction to many of Renoir's paintings even though they are very different. Maybe its that particular shade of fleshy pink. I found the prints slightly more appealing than his paintings, so maybe that's part of it. But there's still something that I just dislike here...weird wobbly lines? Intestinal? Those stupid shoe shapes? Blech. 

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 Lest anyone think I'm some sort of modern-art-hating philistine, be reassured that I have come to love and appreciate Cy Twombly's Fifty Days at Illium. This is the room in the PMA where I have heard the most visitors saying things like "oh it's just a bunch of scribbles!" But there is a kind of power and drama to those scribbles and it's an interesting illustration of a historical narrative. 

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Other favorites for this visit from the general collection included this Tibetan thangka (I always love these!) 

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And this engraving of St. Jerome pursued by demons. 

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Next it was over to the Perelman Building for special exhibit "Keith Smith At Home." Another case of being slightly underwhelmed. I was attracted by the description of the exhibition ("mixed-media photographs, books, and prints"), but again, nothing in particular drew me in or enchanted me. Some of the books seemed too tidy or something (but I do love a messy bursting book, so that's just me!). I did find this book-binding technique interesting (and I've used that same blue floral paper myself- I got it in Rome when I was a student there!).

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I did like the variety of techniques in all the work, particularly this series of self-portraits. 

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Last stop, "Design in Revolution: A 1960s Odyssey." I was surprised to find that this was my favorite of the three special exhibits that I saw. I wish it had happened while I was working on my Big Project, because it was relevant! Anyway, I especially loved the display of concert posters, which were just so crazy and innovative (in some cases to the point of being nearly unreadable!) but still quite beautiful:

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Also, this amazing space-travel inspired fabric! 

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