The eye of the beholder

There is only so much I can watch, even of the Olympics.  When I start to wonder about obscure and arcane rules of sports that I don’t understand or have any interest in, it’s time to get dressed and go to the SF Museum of Modern Art.

Cindy Sherman is both photographer and model exploring the lives and roles of women.

The big travelling exhibition this season is the work of photographer Cindy Sherman, a major star of post-modern, feminist photography.

Sherman, in a career of about 30 years, has explored what it means to be a woman in our society in a variety of modes, but always using herself as the photographer, make-up artist, costumer and model. Her work is often controversial, but always intriguing and thoughtful.  You won’t look at her photographs as pretty pictures, rather as opportunities to examine, study and think.  The very large prints are crammed full of detail, all of which you want to study and assimilate, looking for every hint of meaning Sherman has stuffed into the frame.

We saw this exhibition in New York a couple of months ago, but it was closing time and we only had 5 minutes–I was very glad to have an hour or more to savor all the photos and listen to the audio guide.  (Always take the audio guide, it will double your enjoyment and understanding.)

That was the good part of the day.


Lime Hills (Quarry Series)

The other large photo exhibition was the work of Japanese photographer Naoya Hatakeyama, whose work: known for austere and beautiful large-scale pictures that capture the extraordinary forces we deploy to shape nature to our will — and, in photographs made after the 2011 Tohoku earthquake and tsunami, the equally powerful impact of natural forces on human construction. Whether photographing factories, quarries, mines, or his tsunami-swept hometown in northeastern Japan, Hatakeyama is a keen observer of landscapes in transition, witnessing scenes of transformation with calm precision.

San Francisco Museum of Modern Art


Hatakeyama is interested in the earth, where and how materials come from it and where they go.  He’s got a big museum exhibition, I guess lots of important art people like his work.

I don’t.

Now maybe I’m just a Philistine, a rube, a hick from the ‘burbs. My opinion is no more valid than anyone else’s, I realize.  Nonetheless, it’s my blog so I get to give that opinion, and I think art is great only when it stirs your emotions and the photographs of Hatakeyama strike me as bloodless and cold.  My loins were not stirred, and what is art without stirring loins?

Your mileage may vary, of course.  Why not let the TV cool off for a couple of hours and head into the city to see for yourself?



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