Monday, August 27, 2007

San Francisco's Art Museums

So I've been to 3 art museums in San Francisco in the last 3 days (or rather 2 days, since we didn't spend yesterday at any art museums). I'm getting kind of sick of them and I'm constantly reminded why I'm not an art history major (no offense to art history majors, I'm sure it's fascinating . . . to someone). The 3 we went to were the Asian Art Museum, the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA), and the Legion of Honor museum.
Asian Art Museum: I actually really liked this museum on the whole. It exhibited pieces of art spanning several thousand years from several Asian countries such as China, Korea, Japan, Indonesia, and India. It's interesting to see how all the oriental art looked a little similar to each other (evidence of heavy cross-cultural sharing) and yet at the same time, quite distinct. I'm glad I took a course on Chinese culture, history, and art last semester. I just really liked the diversity of the art displayed.

Then we got to the section on Buddhist and Hindu art. They were mostly sculptures. It was cool at first, but it was evidently religious art, and not very creative and original after a certain point. After a while, all Buddhas looked similar, all Brahma's, Vishnu's, and Shiva's looked similar. Although, I must admit I really liked the sculptures of Ganesha (my favorite Hindu god), even if they got a bit repetitive. Ganesha's just really awesome, I mean he's a happy-go-lucky god who frolics around with his favorite bowl of sweets. He's also the Hindu god of wisdom and knowledge or something.

SFMOMA: Okay, I really don't like most of what's considered "modern art." I just find it hard to understand, much less care about. I can, however, appreciate it for what it is. Even if an artist just has a painting of pure white paint and nothing else, it can be appreciated because while anyone else "can" do it, only that artist actually "did" it. That's what one of my 9th grade English teachers emphasized to us: that we shouldn't criticize something because we think it's simple and something that anyone can do, because while that may be the case, only that artist actually did it. And that says something.

Legion of Honor: This was mostly Renaissance art. Hence, 90% of it was religious (Christian) art. Like all religious art, it's cool at first. Then it seems to get repetitive and rather uncreative really fast. I mean, all nativity scenes look similar. All paintings of Christ being impaled on the cross look rather similar. Even the non-religious art, such as a still-life of a bowl of fruit, looks the same after a while. This isn't to say, however, that I didn't find works of art that I really liked.
All in all, I found things that weren't religious to be more original and (to me) better. Religious art just seems like the same things over and over again, regardless of religion. I also began to notice how violent and militaristic a lot of Renaissance art was. Angels and armies wielding swords, demons devouring people, Christ bleeding from multiple wounds, it gets vicious. I think sometimes these works of art may inadvertently send a wrong message to "non-believers."

It was also interesting how peaceful and calm Buddhist art was. All the sculptures were unarmed, holding mostly bells, drums, flowers, and sitting on lotuses. It's rather laid back, as far as religious art goes. Only thing is, a lot of them also had more than 2 arms.

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