Old Man's Cloth, El Anatsui, Ghanaian, born 1944
Old Man's Cloth, designed by African artist El Anatsui, is an artistic tapestry that is composed of multiple discarded wrappers and bottle tops. When viewing this artwork online, one cannot truly appreciate the material of it since, in pictures, it seems like a plethora of golden and red metal ribbons. However, upon seeing it in person at the Harn, I could truly appreciate the meaning behind it by seeing what exactly comprises it to begin with. This artwork is situated at the entrance of the museum, and is one of the first museum goers will view upon arrival. As I viewed the piece upon entering the Harn, the first thing that got my attention was the size and color. It is a huge cloak, and it encompassed the whole wall it is placed upon. It is also bright and shiny, and the colors are what most would consider airy and happy colors. I read that El Anatsui made this piece to replicate kente cloth, which is the royal and ceremonial cloth used by the Asante and Ewe people where El Anatsui is from, Ghana. The history behind it is important, because as you read the artist's intentions, you realize how misleading the first impression could be. The cloak is meant to draw illusions to the colonial period of Ghana as well as people's habits of consumption and waste. It is a cloak that while symbolizing a royal cloth is composed of disposable bottle tops. As I viewed the piece, I thought about how what first drew me in was the brightness of the metal. However, not all that shines is gold. It made me think about my own patterns of recycling, or lack there of. I think it is curious that it is titled "Old Man's Cloak," almost like saying humans bare their negative habits on their backs throughout their whole life, like a cloak. It is a cloak that at first seems shiny and prestigious, but upon closer inspection incites a feeling of guilt. It almost made me feel like I was carrying this cloak on my back, even if it was hanging on the wall. It was massive, which shows how the destruction of our environment is a giant responsibility we all share as we all contribute to these wasteful patterns. The colonization angle was interesting as well, because while at first I didn't catch that meaning, I thought that perhaps it shows how colonizers brought all this waste to the people and forced them to adopt it and carry it on their backs as well. The Old Man in this is all the people forced to carry this treacherous cloak, which depending on the meaning, is all of us. I thought his choices in material were effective as they open up a discussion on multiple meanings. I also thought the piece is best conveyed through a tapestry as it truly resembles an actual cloak. I also appreciated how the artist added levels to the cloak and did not leave it flattened because I thought this added realism of the piece. This also makes it seem as if it is in the process of being scrunched up and disposed as well like the material it is made of.
Asian Art Wing, Harn Museum
I thoroughly enjoyed the design of this portion of the museum. I liked how it was very spacious, so you do not feel claustrophobic or congested walking and can truly appreciate the art. Leaving the two largest pieces in the middle of the floor without any art in front or behind or even in too close proximity was a smart decision. This allows the observer to view those two as the centerpieces, and to draw the observer in. Then, it allows the observer to freely roam to the adjacent other artworks and admire those as well. I thought the design of the room had a nice feel to it as well. The dark wooden columns also accentuated the art and gave it a sort of meditative feel. The exhibit also had multiple pockets that had various different artworks, which allows the observer to discover new artworks with similar compositions. The garden at the end of the room provided a nice exterior view, and I thought it was nice that the room's primary lighting came from the outside garden. I felt calm and wanted to further explore the garden. This allows museum goers to experience both the inner artworks but also then the outside gardens which is artwork in and of itself. I thought the whole exhibit was relaxing, spacious, and the garden at the edge was a great feature that enhanced the exhibit.
Rider of the Apocalypse, Rufin Tamayo, Mexican, 1899-1991
This artwork, entitled Rider of the Apocalypse, and painted by Rufin Tamayo, represents life and death to me. The "Grim Reaper" is breaking apart some curtain, which I see as the realm that separates life and death, and enters with a disturbing smile and a horse with his hairs raised. As I viewed the piece, this art reminded me about my own mortality and how, though I do not necessarily believe an actual "Grim Reaper" will come when death rears its ugly head, death is unavoidable, terrifying, but necessary. I started to think about how if immortality was a real thing, would people truly take advantage of their lives? It is like when you visit a new city with a famous landmark, the Eiffel Tower for example, and ask a resident if they have ever gone and they say no. When you become comfortable somewhere and are stuck in a routine, you sometimes never appreciate your surroundings, especially when you think you will be there for your whole life. You keep thinking you have an unlimited number of days to do something, and I wonder what would happen if people actually had an unlimited number of days. Would they live those days to the fullest or keep pushing back all the extraordinary parts of living because they think they will never run out of time? It evoked a feeling of fear but also renewed desire to truly live life. Ironically, a painting about death evoked a love for life. I felt scared, but then appreciative. You never really know when the Grim Reaper will come with a horse and tore off that invisible curtain. It heightened all my values as it reminded me of how finite life is, and how much I have to love, care, work, and live infinitely to truly take advantage. I thought it was clever the painting only includes a few colors. The red portion reminded me of a fire, like the curtain was being put in flames. The blackness of the background made me think of the uncertainty and the unknown aspect of death and what comes after. The skeleton was a clever way to depict the Grim Reaper. I also liked how the skeleton's arm was sort of blending into the curtain as if the skeleton is a part of this invisible fence separating the two. I did find it curious as to why the horse was not skeletal as well. Overall, I thought the artwork was a clever way of putting death and at least for me it made me think more about my own life.
Mujeres descansando (Women Resting), Francisco Zuniga, Mexican, 1912-1998
This artwork is entitled Mujeres Descansando, and painted by Francisco Zuniga. I thought this artwork conveys the idea of how the Good Life is unique to the individual. For example, the old woman seems content in her place. Her face is at peace, and she seems to be in relaxation. Her daughter, or friend, has a face of worry as she looks at her. She is resting her head on her hand, but seems more alert than her older counterpart. She is watching the old lady with a scolding worried expression. This reminds me of how sometimes our Good Life may not be someone else's Good Life. I don't know the history behind these women, but I find it curious how the artist chose distinct expressions for their faces. It reminds me of how for some the Good Life is just sitting next to an umbrella looking contraption relaxing under a shawl. Perhaps the other woman is not happy in her situation, and she cannot understand how the old woman is content where she is. For me, it reminded me of how the Good Life changes per person, and how our seeking of the Good Life may lead us to where we already are. And for others, they may not understand how we can be happy where we are. It is also important to note that the older woman is the one who seems to be content in her situation, which correlates with the older and wiser trope. Perhaps the younger woman wants to leave and seek her own Good Life, and she cannot tell her mother, and so she is in conflict. Maybe she feels her mother needs her and so she is worried as to who will care for her before she embarks on her path. I think this painting has so many different meanings behind it, and so many backstories, and so many future scenes, and I think that is just how the Good Life is.