Saturday, May 13, 2006

Art Official

I greeted the rainy Saturday morning here in Detroit with the knowledge that my time here has been given a solid ending point. Tuesday. I'm out of here Tuesday. Will I miss it? No, are you fucking kidding? If I had survived a brutal eye socket rape, I'd miss that more than living here for two weeks. It's a pity, because I'm beginning to think part of me grew up here.

I wanted to make sure that I checked out the Detroit Institute of Art before I left. You know how most of New York's art museums are surrounded by pretty affluent neighborhoods? Detroit doesn't enjoy such distractions. As soon as you get out of the car, you get this urge to run to the cluster of museums or run the risk of being mugged by the most art-conscious criminals on the planet. Still, the DIA was charming and diverse and I enjoyed myself immensely.

I live near the Cloisters in Manhattan, a collection of medieval art and structures that flank the very northern tip of the island. If you've ever visited, you know it's an extremely calming and meditative environment. I was happy to find a similar set up in Detroit's art collection.

If there is a single idea, a solitary zeitgeist that permeates practically all of Detroit life, it is the automobile industry. One can see it in the city's subtle apprehension of Asians, its blue collar taste in food and drink, and, of course, in its art. In the Grand Hall of the DIA, there stood two murals on opposing walls depicting an elaborate car manufacturing scene, replete with conveyor belts, engine parts, employees, and employers. A mere camera phone can't capture the overwhelming movement in this piece, but you might be able to see a person enjoying the mural in this next picture to give you an idea of just how big this thing is.

In a lot of ways, the murals are perfect images of the soul of the Motor City. Busy, dynamic, confusing, difficult, bold, cheerful, sinister, and beautiful. And all tied together with cars.

I was happy to discover that I can still recognize specific artists by style alone. There was a nude study by Francis Bacon, one of my favorites, an Alberto Giacometti sculpture, and an amazing portrait study also by Giacometti of his wife Annette. This is one of many iterations of this pose and I don't believe it's the final version, but I think it's something special (it's also sharp and almost violent, a bit like Bacon).

I sometimes think of my old high school art teacher from Britain and wonder if he knows how influential he was and probably still is. How many of his students still go to see art? If they're like me, if they "got it," chances are a lot.

I also couldn't help but realize how much art comes out of love. Not just romantic love, but all love. Love of nature, humanity, machines. And not just love in practice, but love in absence. And it's that eternal pulsating of the human heart, whether it's beating with elation or remorse, that fuels everything worth seeing. It's not what it's beating for, but the simple fact that it's beating at all.

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