November 9, 2009

At once Scathing & Complimentary

Alexander Calder: A Balacing Act
I managed to get downtown for First Thursday this past week to check out the Seattle Art Museum's new displays. I have a love/hate (mostly hate) relationship with SAM. As the largest art museum in Seattle, I always feel like I should keep up to date on what they are showing and take advantage of the chance to see fine art in person (one of my favorite things in the world!). In my opinion, however, SAM is really a rather terrible museum. The exhibits seem to be arranged in ways that never display the work to full advantage, and the write-ups accompanying the pieces are sometimes laughably bad. They also have a ridiculous marketing scheme: huge, catchy posters all over the city making their latest exhibits seem radical and exciting and enormous, and then you arrive at the museum and realize that the exhibit is actually comprised of six, negligible sketches, for example (as in the case of the Michelangelo exhibit currently on display. One of the pieces was a grocery list on which the great artist had doodled a teeny loaf of bread. Really, SAM?).
It's very frustrating.
The exhibit Alexander Calder: A Balancing Act, however, was really pretty fantastic. The exhibit was satisfyingly large, included a variety of different kinds of work, and was lit with harsh spotlighting (which would normally have been distracting) that dropped delicate patterns of shadows off each twirling mobile. In the end, I really fell in love with some of Calder's pieces, and I had a greater appreciation for the man as an artist: exactly what a good art museum display should facilitate.
See SAM? I just can't quit you.
The exhibit will be running until April 11, 2010. I'm definitely going to have to get back to see it again.

1 comment:

  1. As a fellow Seattle-dweller I just want to tell you how much I appreciate your comments on SAM. Everything you've said here is so accurate of the museum experience. Thank you!