A Few Favorites From The Reopening of SFMoMA

I’ve recently discovered this fascination with modern art. Ever since visiting Murakami’s Superflat exhibit in Japan, I feel compelled to take what was previously an interest in art and elevate it into something I fully understand and appreciate.

So, I was super excited to have the opportunity to attend the new Museum of Modern Art in SF after its long renovation. I wanted to capture some of the thoughts and feelings I had while wandering around the exhibits in hopes of cultivating more of an opinion on art.

From the times I remember the SFMoMA before its remodel, a lot of its original structural integrity is still intact, namely the sky bridge on Floor 5 which was nice to see.

Pro-tip: use their guided tour app! Honestly this really made my experience at the MoMA. It provided so much more context for the art and lets you peer into the mind of the artist — often times interviews would feature the artist talking himself, relatives of the artists, or individuals who have studied the artist for a long time.

The app has guided walking tours and their ability to detect your location within the museum is super accurate, you should definitely walk and listen!

Onto some of the art…

Alexander Calder

Calder featured several delicate mobile structures on display — this one titled “Two Gongs”. Two things I liked about this exhibit: firstly, the shadows created by the mobiles (a theme in some of my favorites) and secondly, since the structures were located near the door, every time you turned around and looked at it, it looked a little different, whether that was due to a shift in position or if you stood in a new place.

There was just something so light and cheerful about walking into this room full of mobiles; they were so ethereal yet they had such a presence because of their bright colors.

Photographs from the “California and The West” exhibit

Ever since my trip to Japan and Monica Vathanavarin’s beautiful photos, I’ve been feeling really inspired to get into photography and this exhibit catalyzed that desire even more.

Particularly with the bottom two photos: a photographer went into an apartment complex (I believe) a few decades ago and took photos of its inhabitants and had them write something underneath their printed photo. A more analog Humans of New York if you will.

I got really emotional looking at these photos for some reason. There’s something very intimate about looking at a person you don’t know and in seeing their handwriting and own words, you feel connected to them in some way. It forces you think about your own experiences and what makes you original. Unique.

I also have a real appreciation for this kind of photography that focuses on capturing the essence of an individual. To be able to convey a stranger’s thoughts, emotions, and being with a single frame seems so difficult — really requires the talent from the photographer to make the subject feel comfortable (I’m assuming).

Brice Marden

Normally I’m not one to stare at abstract art for too long — I still need to learn how to appreciate it, but the app had some interesting descriptions for this artist’s work that kept me studying a bit longer.

This piece in particular was based off of a poem by a Chinese monk…something about a journey to enlightenment, I can’t really remember. The colors remind me of calligraphy and the black line certainly resembles a path or long and winding road.

The subtle light blue also creates this illusion of shadows for the commanding black lines. The pale forest green, on the other hand, shows up sparingly…I wonder why.

I really enjoyed getting up close to this art and studying the mistakes and smudges on the canvas — it was like you could really picture the artist with a brush painting over lines with either a new bold color or white to change course.

There’s something very interesting about the borders of this piece too. The artist seems to deliberately have some lines trail off into nothingness on the edge of the canvas, or chooses to have a line circle back and hug the borders.

Ruth Asawa

One of my favorite sculptures; these four structures are each made from a single piece of wire. I can imagine the sculptor crouched over these pieces just painstakingly working on its intricacies with her commitment to the craft.

An interview from the guided tour on this piece talked about how this piece is not so much about the structure themselves, but more about the shadows. If you look at them, they almost tell you more about the complexity of the piece and how it’s made — by viewing the holes the shadows make and looking at the shapes and shading — than from just looking at the piece itself.

Brief pause to talk about the layout of the building. I can’t remember if this was in the old MoMA, but throughout the museum, there were little view ports that would allow glimpses of the city in lovely ways. As if the beauty of San Francisco was also part of the art and experience.

Gerhard Richter (left)

Goodness, I just love cityscapes. This visit to the MoMA really solidified this love of mine (I think I’m going to write a separate post on it…). The painting on the left is a cityscape of Madrid; I stared at this one for a while just zooming in on the incredible amount of detail the Richter placed in the shadows and different colors, and then zooming out to take in the full city bustle.

The painting on the right reminded me of the blur of buildings as you’re on a subway or train — it took me back to riding the bullet train from Tokyo to Kyoto…how the buildings blend together and there’s this grim color scheme that makes you think about everything and nothing at the same time.

Super cool exhibit for anyone who’s ever liked fonts and design!!! Huge fan of the Beatles shirt and the poster on the bottom right (it says “Light Years” how cool). This exhibit also featured the iPhone as a revolutionary piece of technology that changed the way consumers digest information and changed the way designers think about technology. Very SF, indeed.

There were so many other pieces I loved at this museum that I didn’t take pictures of and didn’t realize until later. Bummer :(

As an aside, I enjoyed the exhibit I saw in Japan a little more than the collections on display at the SFMoMA. A majority of the pieces here were European and American art pieces that I feel focused a lot on the methods, techniques, and mediums of the art itself whereas the Asian art I saw in Japan seemed a lot more spiritual, emotional, and more about the feelings the artist was trying to convey as opposed to what the artist was trying to show. Honestly, I still have a lot of studying and reading to do on art before I can make that claim, that’s just based on my surface-level noob observations.

I’m excited to consume more and be back for new exhibits and feelings.