Wednesday, February 11, 2009

artwach begins


Tom Wachunas said...

Greetings readers. Welcome to Artwach, a way to first dispel the rumors of my demise as an arts journalist, and, more important, a forum for observation, commentary and intelligent critique regarding the visual and performing arts in the greater Canton, Ohio area and beyond. Stay tuned as I adjust my wings and start flying again. Write on.
Tom Wachunas

Tom Wachunas said...

Ok so I'm following myself, but we have to start somewhere, right? We live in a city where the local daily newspaper clearly rejects the need for arts critics of any kind...that is to say, writers who can offer real and substantial insight as to the significance and relevance of current doings in the arts. When I approached Repository editor Jeff Gauger recently about a commentary on Kimono, he wrote back, "...I'm not much interested in reviews or commentary about it, because, honestly, I don't think our public wants that from us." This to me is outrageously small, shallow thinking, and in fact does a great disservice to the paper's readership. More later.

Tom Wachunas said...

Kimono: A Feast Well Worth the Wait
By Tom Wachunas

Jesus’ parable of the prodigal son tells the story of an impetuous, irreverent youth who demands his inheritance and proceeds to leave home and squander it. He eventually returns, destitute and remorseful. Fortunately, his forgiving father makes the reunion an occasion for unfettered joy.
Looking at history - particularly 20th century history- I sometimes think art is a lot like that lost son, wasting a precious legacy in extravagant pursuit of other temporary, surely paltry rewards.
By the 1970s, Minimalists, in the name of purity and logic, insisted that art be a kind of clinical, experiential “space” between object and viewer, unencumbered by emotional or even historic associations. Throw out the baby, but save the bathwater. Better yet, just keep the tub.
But my museum viewing experiences during 14 years of living in New York City caused me to eventually reject such pontifications, and many of their exemplary works, as reductivist rubbish. I was blessed to see, up close and personal, among many others, Monet’s Reflections of Clouds on the Water-Lily Pond (a spectacular panorama of 3 adjoined oil canvases totaling roughly 42’x7’), and Picasso’s heroic Guernica. And then there were the van Goghs. Anything by van Gogh.
I remember thinking as I stood before such works, awestruck and slack-jawed silent, that here was the genuine stuff of the elusive “art space” experience. I remember thinking that the plethora of history book photos of masterworks I had studied for years never came close (and still can’t) to capturing the authentic, physical substance, and indeed the compelling urgency with which such works communicate the very essence of human spirit and along with it – dare I say it? – real beauty. I remember thinking that, as I stood before such works - living in this angst-riddled era of “post-modernism” and its ill-placed embrace of so much that is not noble, not edifying, not beautiful – I was home.
Since returning to Canton in 1991, I have always been hungry for similar local art experiences and, honestly, until recently, my voracious appetite seemed doomed to be forever insatiable, albeit occasionally teased by some very interesting hors d’oeuvres. The Canton Museum of Art has changed all that with the long awaited arrival of Kimono: The 20th Century Masterworks of Itchiku Kubota.
My aforementioned gushing about standing before unabashedly beautiful works of uncompromising power surely applies to this exhibit. For now, at the risk of being irreverent in referencing Scripture in this context, I nevertheless leave you with another piece of the parable (Luke 15:22-24): “But the father said to his servants, Quick! Bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let us have a feast and celebrate. For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found. So they began to celebrate.”
Ahhh, home again.

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BZTAT said...

You actually saw Guernica for real??? That is perhaps my most favorite artwork ever, and I have only seen photos of it.

I agree with your comments about minimalism--it was a nice experiment in showing how we can reduce ourselves to irrelevance, but it really is not the core of what humanity or the universe is about. Thank God we moved past it, or at least, most people moved past it.

I also agree with you in your comments about Kimono. It was well worth the wait, and deeply moving. Witnessing Kimono up close is a deeply spiritual experience. I encourage everyone who can to see it.

Glad you are writing again Tom!!!!!!


Em said...

Excellent commentary, Tom...wish I could've seen the Kimono show. Sounded wonderful. You have a very special voice for the artworld. Thanks! -Em