Friday, May 8, 2009

culture wins out over nature, in an occasional round or two

Having done my best-case defense of "Moore in America" at the Atlanta Botanical Garden (where it is exceptionally well situated, given the challenges of fitting a touring exhibition into a space not previously designed to accommodate it), I must say that for me, full-scale or no, Henry Moore comes with too much 20th-century cultural baggage to suit me. The catalogue from the New York Botanical Garden points out why and how British sculptors rebelled against and/or lampooned Moore as an excessively revered icon; I find myself disturbed by how much my genuine aesthetic delight depends on my focusing on small sculptural details standing out against sharply contrasting background elements, the trees sometimes playing Giacometti to the foreground's Moore. The sculptures themselves carry the weight of too many prior contexts.

But that's just me. The substantive arguments pro and con can now begin, with a full range of the real stuff there to be looked at. I'm sure there is ample prior critique online from "Moore in America" as it was installed in New York.

And I bet there are two if not three generations for whom Henry Moore is not associated with all the cultural weight and freight to which I allude. They get the chance to start fresh, and that is distinctly good.

No comments: