On Wednesday, December 17 2014, I visited The Brooklyn Museum located at 200 Eastern Parkway in the borough of Brooklyn. The Brooklyn Museum is one of the largest and most comprehensive art museum in the nation and among the great cultural treasures of New York. The Brooklyn Museum’s vast collection, representing almost every culture, is displayed in galleries on five floors. Despite the fact that I have been living in Brooklyn for more than 3 years, it was my first visit to the museum and I was very impressed by the diversity of the artworks presented in the building. My visit was an opportunity to discover different types of artworks ranging from contemporary art to artifacts from Ancient Egypt.
The foremost artwork, which impressed me, is Stubborn (Hartnäckig) of Wassily Kandinsky, presented in the European Paintings section located on the third floor of the museum.
Stubborn (Hartnäckig), an abstract artwork, was painted in 1929 by the Russian artist Wassily Kandinsky (1866-1944), using oil on paperboard. The dimensions of the artwork are: 27 3/4 x 19 1/8in. (70.5 x 48.6cm). The dimensions of the frame are: 37 1/4 x 28 3/4 in. (94.6 x 73 cm). This artwork represents glowing lines and colorful geometric shapes, mainly triangles. These shapes are connected and form a figure standing amid the sun and the moon. Even if, I was not able to figure out the meaning behind this artwork, I was impressed by the absolute and relative positions of the geometric shapes on the canvas. I found a certain harmony in the position of the shapes. The colors present in the geometrical shapes are mostly warm colors, which make the central figure overpower visually the rest of the artwork.
From my research, I discovered that Kandinsky painted the artwork in Germany, after he joined the experimental Bauhaus school of art and design. The Bauhaus school analyzed form in terms of basic geometric elements.
As a coincidence, I want to mention that the day before my visit to the museum was the celebration of the birthday of Wassily Kandinsky, and was celebrated with a Google Doodle. The Russian artist would be blowing the candles out on his 148th year if he were still alive.
The second artwork, I have decided to write about is a Baule Pendant Mask located in the collection Arts of Africa on the first floor of the building. I was more than surprised to find such a mask at The Brooklyn Museum. This mask is from the Baule , the ethnic group I belong to. I have chosen to present this mask in my essay, mainly because my grandfather was a Baule sculptor. The Baule Pendant Mask is made in gold cast by the lost wax process, dated in the 19th or 20th century and created in Lacs, N’zi Comoe , the county in which I was born. The dimensions of the mask are: 2 3/8 x 1 3/4 x 1 in. (6 x 4.5 x 2.5 cm). The mask represents a human face.
The Baule ethnic group currently lives in central and eastern Côte d’Ivoire (Ivory Coast). The Baule arrived from Ghana in the first third of the eighteenth century. In Ghana, they had learned to master the handling of the metal, and in their new location they had to learn woodworking from other ethnic groups. The combination of their old skills with new learning has resulted in a technically superior art, and a balanced aesthetic. This artwork is a typical example of the Baule art. This pendant is in gold and Baule, as other Akan group people, give an extreme importance to gold. According to Baule mythology, the Supreme god Nyamen created gold as a gift to human beings. In every Baule household, having a pendant, a statue or any jewelry in gold is regarded as the mark of importance in the society. Unlike European sculptors, Baule sculptors do not focus on giving details when representing a human face. However, Baule art gives an abstract meaning the to the human face. The face itself could symbolize the Sun and lines on the face of the mask represent sunbeams.
The third artwork, which attracts my attention, is Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man by American artist Deborah Kass. The artwork is located in the Contemporary Art collection of the museum, on the fourth floor and it was made in 1994, using silkscreen ink and acrylic on canvas. The artwork is composed of 24 panels; each panel has a dimension of 22 x 22 in. (55.9 x 55.9 cm).
On each panel is represented a self-portrait of Andy Warhol in which he partially covers his face with his fingers. The portrait on each panel differs in the color used. The Variation within Deborah Kass’ composition helps create interest and dominance. Through the sequencing of the twenty-four panels arranged on a grid, Kass uses evocative, over-the-top color runs to encourage the viewer’s eye to carefully scan the entire piece. In fact, after some research, I discovered that Kass wasn’t painting Andy Warhol. Instead, she painted herself by appropriating Andy Warhol’s self-portrait format and adding more color, more ink and also more gender ambiguity.
My visit to the Brooklyn Museum was a very enriching experience. I was very impressed by the variety of artworks displayed in the museum. It was a very difficult exercise to choose only the three artworks I reviewed in my essay. Despite being less famous, I appreciated more my visit to the Brooklyn Museum to my visit to The Guggenheim Museum of New York.