Friday, August 27, 2010

New Wine, New Bottles, Old Memories

They say the unconscious is timeless. That's for sure. When I walked into the old Pennsylvania Academy building I expected to see the same room filled with white plaster casts of isolated body parts where I used to take drawing classes as a college student. Something was very different. Like paying admission to the galleries now - and at the senior rate. I didn't even know that a whole new building, with wonderful museum galleries and upstairs classrooms is now next door, and that the two buildings are soon to be connected by a sophisticated urban plaza.

The mystery of time and memory hit me hard. The painting that touched me most deeply was a portrait of a young girl by Robert Henri, done in 1926. Next to his name it said "student 1886 - 1894". Just knowing he had once been a student at The Pennsylvania Academy, in between going back and forth to Paris and before becoming a renowned teacher in New York City, a force behind alternative exhibition spaces, and a key player in the avante-garde of his day, was somehow comforting. The brush strokes in this painting could never be captured in a plate or on a monitor. Their lush and sensuous texture was practically edible. I had to restrain myself from touching. The colors vibrated. I was more familiar with The Art Spirit, the book of Robert Henri's philosophy of art, than with his painting. Here was The Art Spirit embodied.

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