What We Feel and What We Mean
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Dia: Beacon, a Medley of Contemporary Art

The Dia: Beacon museum was like no other museum I have been to before. Even before arriving at the museum, I admired the art I saw. On the Amtrak, I looked over the beautiful Hudson River, and the colorful trees responding to the changing season. As we headed closer to Beacon, the environment became more spacious and open, and I only imagined how the museum would be like- vast and roomy enough to let endless types of art take life in the exhibits. When looking at the museum from the outside, its size may not seem that impressive, but when I walked inside, boy, did I feel small, as if I were a little child again, fascinated by pieces of art that enveloped my being.  There were so many different exhibits of contemporary art, but I will only talk about a few of them here.

One of the first exhibits I saw was Blinky Palermo’s ‘Retrospective’. It was very unique of him to choose basic colors such as black, red, yellow and green in all his pieces, and create a myriad of works by just arranging and grouping those colors differently, in colors and shapes. None of the designing was elaborate at all, and perhaps that is why he called this particular exhibition ‘retrospective.’ As we look backwards in life, things gradually get simpler, eventually reduced to our simple mentality during our early childhood years. The medium of all his works at the museum was acrylic paint on aluminum or steel, some kind of canvas. Palermo displayed unconventional painting as a vanguard art form.

Another interesting exhibit was the Sol LeWitt Drawing Series. It was almost purely mathematical when I saw the brief calculations for every line design. The monumental wall drawings were so precise. There were patterns of lines in all four directions (vertical, horizontal, left and right diagonal), straight and not straight, touching and not touching, solid and broken, gridded and arced, as well as those most basic of geometric figures, the circle, square, and triangle. LeWitt stated, “In conceptual art the idea or concept is the most important aspect of the work” and “All decisions are made beforehand, so execution becomes a perfunctory affair.” He really brought out the meaning of Conceptualism, focusing on a different kind of aesthetic that we don’t normally think of as art.

The interactive exhibit in Dia: Beacon was Franz Erhard Walther’s ‘Work as Action’. It was fun to be able to participate in making the art that Walther wanted us to see by taking fabric materials such as cloth to replicate what he had in mind. I was with a few of our colleagues to follow the instructions listed for every different activity. I did not quite understand Walther’s message of having the viewers act to the art until I learned that he said, “I kept trying to show that what I was offering was not real action relationships but rather demonstration situations. Practice situations.”

Last but not least, the creepiest part of the entire museum was definitely the basement. The atmosphere to begin with was dark and eerie. One of the first things I came upon was something I still have with me right now- Bruce Nauman’s giant long pink sheet of paper titled “Body Pressure” that gives step-by-step instruction on what to do. It reminded me of the Walther ‘Work as Action’ exhibit, but this was definitely on a more intimate level. The first step is “Press as much of the front surface of your body (palms in or out, left or right cheek) against the wall as possible,” while the last step is “Concentrate on tension in the muscles, pain where bones meet, fleshy deformations that occur under pressure; consider body hair, perspiration, odors (smells).” The last sentence at the very bottom is “This may become very exotic exercise.” Till this day, I still haven’t tried it because I’m honestly a bit freaked out at what this exercise would do to me. As for the rest of the basement, I was so glad to have Joey and Adrian with me because everywhere, you see spooky broadcastings of different sorts, as if you were in a scary movie or haunted house. Yet it was so fantastic to feel this way in a museum.


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