The Arrow, Charles Clough, 1972
I used think I knew something about modern art. But when my daughter was in college studying art history, I found out that “modern” art was no longer synonymous with art of the present and that it had become just another era, like the Renaissance or the Pre-Columbian. Imagine that? “Modern” no longer meant modern.
Someone who fancied herself as a serious artiste later told me that appreciation of the Impressionists was a very bourgeois thing. I hadn’t known that, either. Imagine my disappointment at learning that I’d been wallowing in my oh, so middle class awe of Monet’s water lilies and Degas’s horses at Longchamps. Poor me.
To protect myself from further embarrassment, I haven’t told any serious artiste friends about my enjoyment of abstract expressionism. And to be honest, I haven’t shed my appreciation of art of the “Modern” age.
So it was a pleasure to spend an hour or so wandering around the lawn of the Albright Knox Gallery in Buffalo, New York. Despite its classical appearance—it’s an elegant building located atop a small hill at the edge of the Frederick Law Olmsted-designed Delaware Park—the Albright Knox Gallery is dedicated to modern and contemporary art. (I’m pretty sure “contemporary,” unlike “modern,” has not yet become an era, and is in fact still a reference to art of this time.)
I went in the Albright Knox some years ago. But on this occasion I was there early in the morning before the museum opened. Arriving that early at most museums would be a problem, seeing as how they keep the valuables locked up indoors. Most of the Albright Knox collection is protected that way, too. But they’ve installed an impressive array of durable art on the lawns surrounding the museum.
(I’m sure no respectable artist wants to hear his or her work as “durable.” By I say that only to indicate that the works of art in question are impervious to the weather and too heavy to be carried away without being noticed.)
Folded Circle T, Fletcher Benton, 1999
The classical design of the Albright Knox Gallery’s main building, with its massive white columns and wings flanked by caryatids is a wonderful juxtaposition to the colorful modern sculptures that dot the lawn. (A newer glass and steel addition to the museum is thoughtfully set apart from the main building.)
Karma, Do Ho Suh, 2010
As much as I like sculptures of this kind, after a while I’d seen enough cor-ten steel to last me a while. But something about Charles Clough’s whimsical arrow caught my fancy each time I’d round the corner and come upon it.
The Arrow (section), Charles Clough, 1972