Wednesday, June 11, 2014
being academic in the accademia
Peggy Guggenheim did her best to leave us a legacy of contemporary art. But the Venetians were a giant step ahead of her with the Gallerie dell'Accademia.
The Academy was initiated in the 1700s as an art restoration center. In the course of two centuries, it became a prime repository for Venetian art from the middle ages through the high renaissance.
Just like the Guggenheim collection, this gallery allows a viewer to walk from room to room as if walking through an art time capsule. Even though art evolves in its representations, it is easy to see how each era of artists attempted to convey their messages to their viewers -- viewers that arose out of a very specific milieu.
When most of us think about art from the middle ages, we think of religious art. There is a reason for that. It was a religious era, and most art was created to convey theological lessons.
This 15th century Maddona is a good example of the genre.
The Madonna is the central figure. We know that by the fact that she is in the middle of the piece. But she appears to be a giant to those who need perspective in their art. Look at the worshipul adorers in the folds of her cloak. They are social midgets.
But there is also something very modern about the piece. The baby Jesus is still in her womb. But his status is not bound by mere Thomas Kincade realism. We instinctively understand del Fioro's message.
Or how about this anonymous 14th century Byzantine piece?
In attempt to show us an inner spirit, the painter disregards the rules of representational painting in favor of a more abstract feel. And that is a reminder to us that art is not linear. Creative artists often rob the tombs of their predecessors. This face could just as easily have appeared on a Picasso canvas with its cubist elements.
But the Renaissance was to soon follow with its emphasis on humanism. Instead of being mere religious icons, figures would start conveying human feelings.
Even though this 16th century Tintoretto is about a religious subject (God -- about as big as you can get in the theological world), he is conveyed in a human form that is immediately accessible. This is the God who you can easily imagine responding to Job's challenges.
Then there is the creative order out of chaos. It is not hard to see early elements of surrealism. But what can be more surreal than God's creative power?
The renaissance, of course, was to move on to a more mannered style of painting is its high era. This Carlo Saracemi is an example.
It is tempting to see the painting as very realistic. That is, until you take a close look at folds in garments or expressions on faces. They are all stylized to convey a mood -- just as contemporary art attempts to do.
The Accademia is is another of those museums that cannot be consumed in one visit. I found myself being overwhelmed about two-thirds of the way through my sojourn. But not so overwhelmed that I could not notice this painting tucked away to the side.
You know a museum has a lot of masterpieces when a Titian can be shown as if it were an afterthought.
But not all of Venice's art is in museums. There is street theater everywhere.
When he saw the price of some of the women's shoes in Venice, he asked: "What type of people can afford to buy them?" And because God answers many questions, the answer appeared as if by magic.
I will leave it to you to title this piece. "Woman Shopping For Shoes" seems a bit mundane.
By the time you read this, I will have taken a water taxi from my hotel to the Venice airport. If all goes well, I may even be in Mexico City before you have dinner.
And then your regularly scheduled program will return -- as Steve, once again, lives his life as a Mexpatriate.