A profound day in the Seattle Art Museum
One day, Composer and Fluxus artist John Cage sat in front of Minimalist artist Robert Morris’ “Box with the Sound of Its Own Making” (1961), enamored by its pure genius.
The unadorned box features a three-and-a-half-hour loop of the sounds of the box’s construction. When I visited the Seattle Art Museum over February break, I took a page from Cage’s playbook, and the museum guards took notice. Today, the cassette tape has been replaced by a digital copy of the tapes.
However, the message still stands: ― Why do we only realize the image as the central focus of a piece? Why not consider the process by which we make it?
This borrows from the Dada Movement that prioritizes the process by which we create art over the finished piece. However, this piece alone was far from the shock I’d experience walking through SAM’s doors. It featured everything from Abstract Expressionist Mark Rothko to several Ghanaian artists. The scope of the museum spanned the world over.
A separate room housed a rare sculpture from Pop artist James Rosenquist, a departure from his well-known, room-spanning canvases. “Tumbleweed” (1963) is constructed from wood, barbed wire and and neon lights. The structure features an array of tangled barbed wire and patches of neon lights. In a way, the wires indicate a nonsensical spinning out of control.
A walk into another room left me awestruck. Whenever you walk into a room with a Mark Rothko, including his “#10” (1952), your eye is drawn into the canvas and an indescribable feeling envelops you. Rothko isn’t best explained by his color choice or the way he laid paint upon a canvas but rather by some sort of magic with which he perfectly conveys the human experience.
However, that still doesn’t fully explain it. When he truly honed in on his craft, Rothko stopped giving statements to the press. Rather, he said, “silence is so accurate.” I suppose that is the only way to explain the magnitude of Rothko’s works.
The museum did not fail to reel me in. It seemed as if everything fit into place and nothing was left out. Ghanaian artist El Anatsui’s “Takpekpe (Conference)” (2006) is a found art sculpture made from things in everyday life including metal tops of cans, bottles and copper wire. The piece comments on the African Diaspora and its “fragments.” The way it was placed on the wall made it seem like it was not a part of everyday products; rather, it rippled in a beautiful and perfectly-crafted way.
Another Ghanaian artist, Kane Quaye, began as a carpenter. Then, one day, he realized that a coffin could be more than a coffin. Coffins are, in and of themselves, devoid of the celebration of life. Therefore, he began sculpting customized coffins, celebrating the lives of those who had lived by creating a coffin as a representation of their profession. “Coffin” (1991) was a sculpture of a car.
This museum reinforced the idea that art is for everyone and everyone can be an artist. Let’s never try to put art into a box.