Thursday, April 30, 2015

The Plains Indians: artists of earth and sky at The Met through may 10th

a heartbreaking exhibition of staggering beauty

  I finally made it up to the Met today to see this amazing show rich with the remnants of a once flourishing culture that was pretty much wiped out by this country of ours. That’s the heartbreaking part, the staggering beauty part is everywhere to be found in this lavish and beautifully installed show. There are wonderful examples of dresses, shirts, shoes and ceremonial wear and all are beautiful with wonderful drawings and paintings done directly on the skins and embellished with beads, (beads are everywhere in this show) and some have actual human and animal hair along with other bits and pieces of  what was basically found material of and from their natural world. I’ve always loved their ledger drawings that were done on bits and pages from ledgers and were enthusiastically collected by traders who bought them up by the bushel for pennies, and there are some examples (not enough for me, a whole show of them would be more than welcomed) with many of them accessible by touch screens.
             Also great of course are the many examples of animals especially horses and buffalo which are represented in wonderful drawings and on clothing and some small sculptures, a small leaping carved horse from 1880 especially knocked me out. Also notable and known is the strong feeling for design and abstraction that the Plains Indians possessed and without any art school training. There is enough inspiration in this show to keep artists happy, inspired and fulfilled for a long time to come.
              The exhibition closes with examples of contemporary works by Native American artists from the early part of the 20th century to present day, but these works although pretty enough did little for me and they really fade in comparison with rest of the exhibition.  Be warned that this great show will be closing soon and it seems to me that it was a short run for such an important exhibition. The show was crowded but manageable.
           I did a short take on the other show that I was interested in Sultans of Deccan India Opulence and Fantasy but there is only so much ravishing beauty I can take in one day, and hopefully I’ll go back for a longer deeper look. I did wander into a small handsome and compelling show of Hans Hoffman paintings that I liked very much, and I wandered in and quickly out of the Wolfgang Tillman’s slide show “Book For Architects” which takes place in a dark room. Ira Joel Haber does not go into dark rooms. I also took a very quick hop skip and jump look at the photographs of Piotr Uklanski which is titled “Fatal Attraction” and fatal they are. I don’t understand what this somewhat clever but mediocre artist is doing at the Met, he must have some great connections to warrant a show here.     


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