Frye Art Museum

On Saturday I went to the Frye Art Museum and was impressed by what I saw.

Frye Art Museum
Frye Art Museum

The temporary exhibition, which takes up most of the floorspace, currently features Chinese calligraphy-influenced art. The exhibition featured three Asian artists and one Western artist. Prior to the exhibition, I did not hold ink paintings in high esteem. They were something cheap and lacking in any specialness, like American Chinese food. I remember in China, ink paintings were hawked on the sides of dusty roads for less than a dollar a piece. Even though their subjects were different (here a crayfish, there a bird, there a frog), the paintings felt generic and uninspired, lifeless black ink on parchment that failed to evoke any emotion in me. The exhibit broadened my ideas of what Chinese ink painting could be. In the paintings, I saw how expertly the width of the strokes were modulated. And the traditional Chinese calligraphy brushes hold a lot more ink in them and can create longer strokes than traditional European brushes. But unlike the soulless paintings sold by the street hawkers, these paintings elicited a feeling in me, despite also being solely black ink on parchment. I could see the different strokes used to outline figures, medium strokes to give shading, and broad strokes that did not even correspond to some equivalent seen in the natural world, but gave a perception of form and movement.

Postcard. Isamu Noguchi. Peking Drawing (man sitting)
Postcard. Isamu Noguchi. Peking Drawing (man sitting)

The Frye Art Museum also had an impressive permanent collection of European art. The permanent collection is one room, its four walls covered in paintings from top to bottom. I was kind of annoyed by this arrangement. I thought the paintings could use some spacing so that each painting could get the attention that it deserved. And also since the paintings were so crammed, the lighting was such that one could not simply scan the wall up and down, side to side, because of the glare. To see each painting clearly, I had to constantly move towards or away from the wall. I was impressed by the technical skill and detail of each painting, whether the painting was a portrait of a girl or a bucolic landscape full of cows.

 

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