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25 Years of the Getty

This year the Getty Center in Los Angeles is celebrating its silver anniversary. I took the MTA 761 bus to the museum (neatly avoiding the $20 parking fee) and spent several hours looking at the new exhibits and reacquainting myself with the Medieval, Renaissance, and 19th century artworks in the permanent collection.

The Cy Twombly (1928-2011) special exhibit left me speechless. Who slipped up? The man’s work left me shaking my head: Nothing in the gallery spoke to me except to say, “Just pass on through, Bud—the quicker the better.” There was another exhibit on “Conserving de Kooning,” but as I didn’t give a hang for Willem de Kooning’s work, I passed up on it.

Curiously, for the first time, I began to have my doubts about French Impressionism. There was a huge crowd around a Van Gogh still life which was nice, but not spectacular. I disliked some of the Claude Monets: There were some haystacks and a study of the Cathedral of Rouen, but I thought they were merely experiments in the quality of sunlight at different times of the day.

Claude Monet’s “Sunrise”

The Monet that grabbed my attention was a painting titled “Sunrise.” According to the Getty:

In the muted palette of the emerging dawn, Claude Monet portrayed the industrial port of Le Havre on the northern coast of France. The brilliant orange of the rising sun glimmers amid the damp air and dances on the gentle rippling water, lighting up its iridescent blues and greens. Barely discernible through a cool haze, pack boats on the left billow smoke from their stacks. Painted during the spring of 1873 as the country struggled to rebuild following the Franco-Prussian war, this Sunrise might also metaphorically suggest a new day dawning in France.

What struck me about the painting was its hovering on the edge of abstractness while still being clearly representational. I love the sun trying to break through the early morning fog and clouds.

In the days to come, I will discuss some other paintings and photographs that favorably impressed me. My visits to the Getty Center and the Getty Villa always energize me. I have long since given up regularly visiting the Los Angeles County Museum of Art as it is expensive ($16 for Seniors) and they are perennially suffering attacks of constructionitis. They are replacing their perfectly adequate main building with a more jazzy building with less exhibition space.

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