One of the first things people will tell you is a great benefit to living in a major metropolitan area is the access to arts & culture. As an arts & culture blogger, I'd be the first to agree. I'm also one of the few who will say it and regularly avail themselves of some of those great spaces have to offer.
But like many a poser, I hang my head in shame as one who has lived in close proximity to one of the most impressive juggernauts on the international arts scene, but have yet to cross its threshold. Yes, I'm talking about the Guggenheim.
Now, I'm no museum snob. Great art can be found all over the world, in spaces that are rarely visited by the masses. But I game recognizes game, I respect the legacy of an institution such as the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum even if I think their restroom placement strategy is both farcical and absurd. (More on that later.)
So what better way to put to bed this poser feeling than to make time to visit the esteemed institution while enjoy an exhibition of one of the greatest artists of the 20th century? Yes, I believe Wassily or Vasily Kandinsky (pick your preference) is one of the few great artists who actually deserve all the love and praise they receive in the history books. As a matter of fact, I would argue that Kandinsky, in many ways, deserves more.
But bias aside, I couldn't let this "Day at the Museum" go by without sharing as many photos and artsy love with you dear readers. And although my visit took place on the very rainy Monday of August 22nd, the humid, soggy day could not defer my joy of seeing one of my faves in the hallowed halls of the Guggenheim.
The vibes were very dark academia ... or art academia ... or ... um, well, it was one of the academias. But I should warn you that the lighting inside the museum is conducive to viewing art, not for photographing it. Especially if that photo is taken with an out-of-date OnePlus 7T smartphone.
So I apologize for the yellowish color correction on these images. It was difficult to capture the art well due to the crowds, lighting and my equipment. But that's all the more reason that should you ever have a chance to see these works in person, go as fast as you can.
Now, let's dive in ...
Introductory copy kicks off the walk through Kandinsky's greatest works in reverse.
"Around the Circle" - May-Aug 1940 by Kandinsky
"White Center" - 1921 by Kandinsky
"Light Picture" - 1913 by Kandinsky
"Levels" - March 1929 by Kandinsky
"Striped" - November 1934 by Kandinsky
"Picnic" - Jan 1916 by Kandinsky
"Blue World" - May 1934 by Kandinsky
"On the Spiritual in Art" was written by Kandinsky and published in 1912. As a souvenir, I purchased an English translation of this book in the gift shop before I left.
On that note, allow me to pause in my cavalcade of poor photography of great art to share why I have this unreasonable adoration of Kandinsky's work. Much like my love of Auguste Rodin or James Joyce, there's something about Kandinsky's work that speaks to me on a visceral level. I wish I could articulate it properly, but the best I can do is to say that he and I simply connect in our view of the world and what it can be.
Kandinsky grew up in a religious environment, but his work was more about connecting art and the expression of art to our unapologetic selves by tapping into the spiritual that defies definition. He took abstract art and made it speak to you regardless of your mood, temperament or personal beliefs. He believed in the best of us, and felt that through art -- whether that be in the form of music, painting, theater or books -- we could each find that best self and breathe life into every day, no matter how the world behaved around us.
One could argue he was an optimist living in the wrong era. As an adult, he was constantly surrounded by political upheavals, war, imperialism, oppression and a world constantly in flux. In the early 20th century, even the best of times was the worst of times. But despite all of this, he found a spark that fueled his passion for life and wanted others to know how to find that too.
I see this in his work, well before I ever read anything in his bio. His philosophy just lives on the canvas, without artifice and vanity, waiting for anyone eager to see themselves in its reflection. That is why I love Kandinsky's art.
Now, back to our regularly scheduled cavalcade ...
The Hidden Power of the Palette wall copy at the Kandinsky exhibition
"Blue Circle" - 1922 by Kandinsky
"Lion Hunt" - 1911 by Kandinsky (in especially poor lighting)
"Decisive Rose" - Mar 1932 by Kandinsky
"Several Circles" - Jan-Feb 1922 by Kandinsky. I sometimes call this one "Eyeballs" because I feel like the painting is looking back at you. 😆
Sketch for "Composition II" - 1909-1910 by Kandinsky
"Graceful Ascent" - Mar 1934 by Kandinsky (in especially poor lighting)
"Extended" - May-Jun 1926 by Kandinsky (One of my faves!)
"Small Pleasures" - 1913 by Kandinsky
"Blue Segment" - 1921 by Kandinsky. I sometimes call this one "Robot Pigeon" because that's what I see when I look at it. 🤣 (Again, sorry for the awful lighting.)
"Violet-Orange" - Oct 1935 by Kandinsky
"Der Blaue Reiter" was first written and published in 1912 by Kandinsky and Franz Marc. I would love to own an English translation of the original book some day.
The "Cosmic Realms" introductory wall copy at the Kandinsky exhibit. Again, sorry for the awful lighting, but this copy delves into how Kandinsky continued to incorporate his spiritual expression and intuition into his art even as his work took on more geometric style and vocabulary. All of this occurred against the backdrop of Russia's October Revolution of 1917, and stayed a part of his art for the rest of his career.
"Improvisation 28" - 1912 by Kandinsky
"Yellow Painting" - July 1938 by Kandinsky
"Group in Crinolines" - 1909 by Kandinsky
"Yellow Accompaniment" - Feb-Mar 1924 by Kandinsky
"White Figure" - Jan 1943 by Kandinsky
"Landscape with Factory Chimney" - 1910 by Kandinsky
"Pink Sweet" - Dec 1929 by Kandinsky
"Blue Painting" - Jan 1924 by Kandinsky
"Landscape with Rolling Hills" - 1910 by Kandinsky
And now, the piece de resistance ...
Composition 8 by Wassily Kandinsky
This work of art has the dubious honor of being a part of my first every museum selfie. (I'm not proud of it, but it serves as proof that I was there.)
And just how did I cap off this dark/light/chaotic/art academic day? I battled the rain once again to venture a few blocks aways (plus a short Metro ride) to the New York's Shakespeare & Co. bookstore. Not too be mistaken for or affiliated with the one in Paris, this pit stop offered me a chance to grab a snack and a hot drink, while reviewing my souvenirs and phone photos. It was lovely way to cap off the day before heading home ... that is until I learned they didn't have a public restroom either. 🙄