…so we went back. “We” (now, in this case, meaning John) got the dates mixed up for the Brewry open-studio gig, so after spending about 1-1/2 hour commuting across town then backtracking to salvage our Saturday afternoon, we ended up at LACMA to pick up where we left off from the BCAM opening: the Ahmanson.
We already had that washed-out feeling: that feeling you get, that I’m sure most Angelenos know but haven’t yet found a term for, equivalent to that feeling you have after sitting in a darkened movie theatre for 1-1/2+ hours and walk into the day again (or the night) having absorbed too much of something; that psychic saturation or psychic “bloat” of having seen too many movie special effects or freeway green-and-white-letter signs and billboards – whichever the case, we had to shore up. We got our free tickets (members) and headed for the commissary. We split the grilled chicken-pizza-something and P.S.: no chicken on our pizza (should have shown our member card?), but I delighted in the abundance of artichoke hearts.
Shoring up was a GREAT strategy. I was overwhelmed. After the gift shop and the SoCal exhibit, we headed for the Ahmanson. I didn’t anticipate the scale. As I proceeded from one gallery to the next only to find another parallel series of galleries I had to backtrack and re-orient myself to make sense of the scale of this place relative to my initial understanding of the floor plan. I stopped my march of art ogling to remind myself of my entry. I must have looked out of place looking to distant rooms rather than the kaleidoscope of paintings immediately in front of me. A security guard leaned in as I looked further along at the floor to see where it changed from hardwood to carpet…”Can I help you?” I suddenly became conscious of the bewildered look I projected and laughed: “oh…no…I’m just trying to read the floor plan!” – then, realizing, that such a comment wasn’t helping my case at all. However I think my tone came off as relatively coherent enough. He nodded his head and went back to his post. Then after losing track of John [whom I rely upon to direct my museum-humor relief to: “I don’t see a price tag!” “…have the guard open up the case, I want to try them on first!” (the ancient Egyptian earrings)] I was sufficiently distracted enough to resign myself to making it an inventory-and-map visit as opposed to immerse-and-enjoy.
But something glimmered at me. After an eyeful of Mannerist paintings with their brilliant, jewel- tone colors, heroic proportions, and emotional exuberance (pathos in some, saucy grins in others) carrying a bristling secularist undercurrent, I forged ahead to a gallery of fin de siecle works where my eyes perched upon “Snowy Rooftops” by Peter Severin Kroyer and I was enamored. It whispers. It whispers with a controlled palette of sepia, snow, and dark, with the subtlest, even-more-quiet-than-subtle cast of rose; with its transcendent subject – framing the quiet rooftops of an architecture that suggests a density and industry and a “busy” below; and with the painting’s modest proportion of (8 x 10?). It’s a minimalist composition, which prefigures Diebenkorn’s Ocean Park works, and frames a meditative, atmospheric quality equal to a Rothko yet the Kroyer painting is representational. I risk the “tut-tut” of modernists when I dare say, that when I see this painting, I can’t help but think the “non-representational” of 20th c. art is a crutch. To be able to look at the real world and interpret it and render it – and capture the interpretation visually and successfully evoke something ‘other’ and even transcend, all within the confines of recognizing a subject and offering familiarity – is rather magical.
So I found this painting and I paused. I breathed. I went and found John – resting on a bench in the Mannerist gallery – to share it with him. He liked it too.