The Guggenheim: Calder, Brancusi, and Three Little Munchkins

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Currently on view at the Guggenheim in New York is show “Visionaries,” featuring works by Kandinsky, Picasso, and more. Perhaps my favorite was a Calder called Arc of Petals (1941). It was like a 3D Miro. It was like standing in a windstorm among blossoms – as the title suggests. The piece was more than the scupture itself – it was also its shadow. Peter Pan would have loved it, the way the metal pieces and their dark counterparts were free to move, but never to move alone.

While that was the show I came for, it was another unexpected encounter that won the day.

Off the rotunda, a sampling of Brncusi sculptures are being shown. The centerpiece(s) of the collection are three wooden creations: not-quite-totem-poles, not-quite-figures, not-quite-recognizable… Adam and Eve, The Sorceress, and King of Kings.

Next to these three sculptures were three other things: little girls. Sitting in front of the pieces – smaller than them already, but even more so when hunched over their notebooks – were three girls probably between the ages of 3 and 7. Each of them was intently focused on their work. Their heads went up and down as they looked and drew and looked again. The littlest one was initially drawing a face, but eventually switched to match the older two, recreating King of Kings on the page in front of her. She kept stealing glances at the drawings of her companions. They shaded and lined and compared. Repeat.

As I stepped closer and watched for a moment, I thought of myself. My first museum memory is of sitting in front of a huge totem pole at the Denver Art Museum, drawing and looking and occupying the dim room with the dark carpet and just being there.

There must be something about kids and big sculptures. If you let them, they really want to look.

 

“Visionaries” is on view until September 6, 2017

“Brancusi” is on view until January 3, 2018

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