The exhibition Andrew Wyeth: Looking Out, Looking In, featured at the National Gallery of Arts (May 4 – November 30, 2014), is about providing people with the opportunity to observe the original paintings of Andrew Wyeth – an American artist, known for being able to ensure the unmistakably impressionist spirit of his formally realist (abstract) artworks.
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As it is being pointed out in the exhibition’s webpage: “(Wyeth’s) watercolor studies (are) quickly executed to capture a momentary impression” (‘Andrew Wyeth” par. 2). Even though throughout his life, Wyeth did enjoy considerable popularity, as an artist, it is only today that his paintings are beginning to be appreciated to the extent that they truly do deserve. After all, along with representing a high aesthetic value, Wyeth’s works can also be referred to as intellectually stimulating.
The reason for this is that the concerned paintings do imply that, contrary to what many art-lovers believe, it is indeed possible to incorporate two or more conceptually inconsistent artistic styles, within what happened to be the composition of a single painting. In its turn, this resulted in dividing art-lovers (at least in this country) on those who are being fascinated by Wyeth’s masterworks, on one hand, and those who cannot quite stand them, on the other.
This statement correlates well with Kennicott’s suggestion that: “Wyeth committed at least two unpardonable sins, hewing to a realist style during an age of abstraction and irony, and achieving extraordinary popular success” (par. 2). Thus, we can say the strongly defined aura of controversy, emanated by the art of Wyeth, can alone be considered as such that creates the objective preconditions for some of the artist’s most famous paintings to be exhibited at the National Gallery of Arts.
It appears that the exhibition’s curators did succeed in their intention to popularize the artistic works of Wyeth. The validity of this idea can be illustrated in regards to both: the spatial/representational aspects of the exhibition in question, and the discursive appropriateness of the actual selection of Wyeth’s paintings.
The first of the above-mentioned refers to the fact that, while observing Wyeth’s paintings, viewers do not seem to be getting distracted by whatever happened to be the particulars of the affiliated hall-settings.
In part, this can be explained by the curators’ decision to present the exhibited paintings in the spatially linear manner, consistent with the fact that most of them are in essence Wyeth’s artistic impressions of windows (this explains the exhibition’s actual name). What also contributed to the exhibition’s representational integrity, is that its curators were able to ensure the discursively appropriate color of the walls with Wyeth’s paintings on them.
Nevertheless, it is namely the fact that the selected paintings do help viewers to gain an in-depth insight into the very artistic philosophy of Wyeth, which in my opinion added to the exhibition’s popularity more than anything else did. Let us take a look at the painting Frostbitten (1962, watercolor on paper), for example.
What is especially notable about this masterwork is that, while exposed to it, one does not only get to appreciate the improvisational accuracy of how the featured objects are being presented, but also to realize that fact that Frostbitten is an emotionally-charged painting. After all, the painting’s composition does invoke the archetypal images of autumn – quiet despite the fact it happened to be rather sketchy.
Apparently, the same can be said just about every of Wyeth’s ‘windows’, seen at the exhibition. The reason for this is that they are somehow both: formalistic and yet mood-affecting. One may well speculate that this effect is best discussed, within the context of what accounts for the artist’s talent in matching the applied colors with what can be interpreted as the depicted objects’ discursive significance.
This thesis can be developed, in regards to Wyeth’s paintings 1 (which I like the best) and 2 (which I like the least):
As it can be well seen, the painting 1 presents viewers with the front view of a house, with both: the featured foreground and background implying that it is winter. What almost immediately comes in one’s sight, in respect to this particular painting, is that there is much of perspectival integrity to its imagery.
This, of course, adds to the spirit of a photographic-like realness, emanated by this painting. At the same time, however, those who gaze upon this particular Wyeth’s masterwork for a while, are also likely to recognize yet another sensation, on their part, induced by the painting in question – as if there was some kind of freeze coming out of it.
In its turn, this can be explained by the fact that, as it can be seen above, the combination of this painting’s colors/compositional elements creates the illusion of movement. This effectively refutes the argument that Wyeth’s artworks are spatially ‘static’.
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Although I somewhat dislike the painting 2 (because it features the stylistic elements of modernism), it nevertheless can be well referred to as yet another example of the artist’s genius in ensuring the perceptual dynamism of his formally static ‘windowed’ depictions of the surrounding reality.
The reason for this is that the way, in which the depicted chimney is being illuminated by the incoming (through the window) rays of the Sun, implies that there must have been some odd opening in the clouds, through which these rays were able to get through. This, of course, makes the concerned painting utterly dynamic – all due to its subliminal affiliation with the notion of ‘short-lastingness’.
What I like the best about the exhibition Andrew Wyeth: Looking Out, Looking In, is that it is concerned with promoting the ‘artful’ type of art. This type of art does not presuppose that, in order to be able to appreciate a particular work of art, people must be thoroughly knowledgeable of what happened to be the applicable (and highly abstract) ‘theory of art’.
After all, there indeed can be only a few doubts, as to what is being actually depicted in Wyeth’s paintings – regardless of what happened to the deployed stylistic approach, on the artist’s part, in every individual case. This, of course, cannot result in anything else but in promoting the would-be exposed spectators to consider the idea that true art is being enjoyed rather intuitively than rationally – something that correlates well with my own beliefs, in this respect.
Therefore, there is indeed a good rationale in recommending people to attend the discussed exhibition – Wyeth’s paintings represent the aesthetic value of a ‘thing in itself’. As such, they will be especially appreciated by those art-lovers, who understand that the word ‘art’ is synonymous with the word ‘genius.’
This exhibition can indeed be seen as such that indicates that, as time goes on, people will grow increasingly attracted to the specifically ‘classical’ methodology of an artistic expression, which in turn presupposes the eventual decline of the so-called ‘abstract art’.
Andrew Wyeth: Looking Out, Looking In 2014. Web. 07 Oct. 2014. <http://www.nga.gov/content/ngaweb/exhibitions/2014/andrew-wyeth.html>
Kennicott, Philip 2014. Andrew Wyeth Exhibit Leaves Viewers on the Outside Looking in at the National Gallery. Web. 07 Oct. 2014. <http://www.washingtonpost.com/entertainment/museums/andrew-wyeth-exhibit-leaves-viewers-on-the-outside-looking-in-at-the-national-gallery/2014/05/23/3956af9e-e2af-11e3-9743-bb9b59cde7b9_story.html>