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Matrix and Monet

Kerri Provost

February 17, 2011

The click of heels against the floors has normally been the only sound during my sporadic weekday visits to the Wadsworth Atheneum. This afternoon’s visit had the sounds of life.

After the rare experience of taking the last available locker — usually I would have my choice of dozens — I explored Monet’s Water Lilies: An Artist’s Obsession. Another rare experience was that of having to wait to view a painting. Outside of the Brooklyn Museum or MoMA, I have never really needed to do this anywhere in Hartford, except for on free Saturdays. Today was the opening of this exhibit, which includes the 20×7 Water Lilies on loan from the Museum of Modern Art. The artist produced upwards of 250 water lily paintings — most of which are not at this exhibit — during his life. The lounge area is a nice addition, allowing viewers to relax and absorb the art in a less harried manner. Also pleasing is the soft music playing, which makes the museum seem less empty.

Beyond the exhibit itself, there are a number of Monet-themed programs slated, including music, lectures, film, and evening of French wine, and a pricey event at Billings Forge called “Monet’s Table.” This exhibit runs through June 12, 2011.

From here, I wandered to where I was expecting to find the MATRIX exhibit (I never take the maps they offer, preferring to meander instead). On my way, I saw what in video game parlance is referred to as an easter egg. If you visit, make it a point to walk through Avery Court to find the Monet-themed thing I am referring to.

Before actually locating the MATRIX 161 (it’s on the third floor this time, not the first), I caught a great display of contemporary art including a Jenny Holzer piece that really spoke to my own mindset today.

The current MATRIX exhibit opened in early February and is running through the beginning of May. Rashaad Newsome, a New York artist, creates interesting juxtapositions of “high art” and hip-hop culture. When I was walking through, a group of schoolchildren were being asked to compare Newsome’s Venus de Video to the Venus they had viewed elsewhere in the museum. Newsome’s rendition features a woman, surrounded by bling, emerging from an expensive car. The museum’s brochure explains:

High society and street culture join forces [...] beginning with fantasy coats of arms created for today’s hip-hop royalty. Borrowing from traditional design elements of medieval heraldry–initially developed to identify knights’ alliances when covered in full-body armor on the battlefield–Newsome updates the ancient lexicon with the contemporary status symbols of black urban youth and its tastemakers.

The phrase “over the top” comes to mind when viewing these works: faux fur, leather, and jewelry.

In one room, Newsome’s The Conductor, a two-part music video, mixes Carmina Burana with hip-hop to the images taken from various rap videos. Another video room shows Screen Tests for the Shade Compositions.

Viewing Monet and Newsome minutes apart is not as strange as it sounds. Monet’s works are larger than life and truly demonstrate a kind of obsession with one motif; Newsome’s work shows a cultural obsession with all that glitters.

Reprinted with permission of Kerri Provost, author of the blog RealHartford. To view other stories on this topic, search RealHartford at http://www.realhartford.org/.
| Last update: September 25, 2012 |
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