“Sunday in the Gallery”
Here a group of art enthusiasts has spontaneously arranged itself into a spherical shape. It reminds us of an ouroboros—the eternal cycle of life and death. But how easily this cycle could be broken if, for instance, subject A were to place his hand on subject B. Subject B would undoubtedly be startled by a strange man’s hand suddenly massaging his shoulder and abruptly flee into the Expressionists gallery. Meanwhile, a group of art students dutifully pauses to scrutinize a painting. Brochures are briefly consulted then used as fans. The room is muggy and the students have, once again, picked up the wrong language.
A single bench dominates the middle of the canvas. People frantically jam onto it while others hover nearby, praying for an opening. A lifeboat motif develops as a slender woman, clinging to one end, is ruthlessly shoved off to make way for a large man squeezing himself in at the other end. If there is a deeper harmony at work, we’re not sure what it is, other than to either stay away from museums on weekends or start lifting weights.
Finally, a young couple wanders off to investigate that perennial symbol of youth, the water fountain. There, they discover a fresh wad of gum wedged in the drain. One youth is repulsed, the other blasé, as if to say, “Relax. It’s Paris, for God’s sake. They wear the same underpants here for a week.”
A group of Japanese tourists dominates the canvas, fanning out on either side and filling nearly every inch of the frame. Milling behind them is a group of annoyed Swedes. They resent having to stand in the back just because they are tall and can easily see over the shorter Japanese. The Japanese, meanwhile, are oblivious to the seething group of Paul Bunyan-sized blondes behind them. One of the Swedes suddenly clutches his socked and sandaled foot. Has it been trod on by one of the Japanese or has his foot just fallen asleep as frequently happens to Scandinavians when they visit foreign countries? His grimacing face is an enigma, but we suddenly develop a strange urge for a smorgasbord.
Here we have a near perfect example of shade and shadow. The light source comes from the left due to the blown ceiling fixture on the right, which a maintenance man has finally come to repair. Like many Frenchmen he’s been on strike for the last three months over the government’s refusal to allow him to retire at 41 with a full pension, a jet ski and a condo in Monte Carlo.
Even the greatest artists had trouble telling shade and shadow apart. For years, Rembrandt thought “chiaroscuro” was a luncheon meat. This would explain the peals of laughter coming from restaurant kitchens all over Amsterdam every time he ordered, and why one should use the word “genius” sparingly. Caravaggio, on the other hand, gained mastery over light by painting blindfolded, which set his career back about ten years.
A trained art-eye will see thousands of tones; the layman only a handful. It is why the amateur frequently grows bored and restless and longs for lunch or gives up completely and lies down on the floor.
In this nighttime work, the near absence of light evokes an eeriness relieved only by museum workers relocating an Impressionist painting to another gallery. We know it’s an Impressionist work because of the bright, monochromatic colors and how the subjects are having much more fun than, say, those in a work by Munch or Klimt. However, the red glow of the SORTIE sign signals that the pleasures of life are fleeting, and how grateful we should be we’ve been painted in oil on poplar and housed in a climate-controlled environment.
Our subject stands close and stares intently at us. We’re a little nervous and wonder where the security guards are. Notice how the human body is almost devoid of concavity—especially this porcine example. He also sweats a lot and could use a shave and some corrective dental surgery. The curl of the lip seems to indicate menace, and it’s times like this we wish we’d been painted packing heat. However, there are three of us and only one of him, and even though we’re a pristine example of 17th century Flemish pastoralism, we think we could take him. We’ve been painted at twilight, which gives us the element of surprise, plus, we’ve been threshing hay for three centuries, so we’re in pretty good shape. If we’d been painted without shirts you’d see our ripped abs and biceps like small, pink hams.
Our subject finally leaves, but notice that wherever he moves, his eyes stay on us. This is, perhaps, why we are relieved to be viewing the work from behind the safety of bulletproof glass.
Masked men move swiftly through the gallery. We’re excited. They seem to be headed right for us. This could be our big break. But, no, they want the semi-clad Aphrodite next to us. As they abscond with her, she winks and throws us a thumbs up. Suddenly, alarms go off, guards fill the gallery, the police are called, but we are strangely unmoved by the work. In fact, we’re a little depressed. We were hoping we’d be stolen and hung over a Russian oligarch’s hot tub teeming with naked women and caviar. This is the third time we’ve experienced this kind of rejection and we think the artist may be deliberately messing with our heads. This, of course, is the sign of real talent.
When you look at a work of art, ask yourself the following questions: What is the artist trying to achieve? Is there an overall symbolism? For instance, the sprinkler system and the man staring at it, does he think it’s art? If he stares long enough does it become art? Maybe he’s just thinking about his hotel room and how sparks fly from the strange European outlet every time he shaves. Is the artist successful in conveying the idea? What are your thoughts?