On Sunday I went, with M and a friend whom I’d not seen in years, to an exhibition of Picasso’s work. I’d known very little about Picasso prior, perhaps little more than anyone else with a passing interest in art, but came away amazed.
The show spanned nearly an entire floor, and must have included well over one hundred works; visiting was like entering another world, or a different realm of human possibility. I am not sure whether it was the sheer generativity evidenced in those works, or the unbridled, almost terrifying, creativity, or the raw particularity of self that seemed to thrust forth no matter the subject or form, or some other panoply of reasons, but it made me marvel that such artists as him exist on the same plane as others. It make me feel crippled in comparison, and at the same time grateful that such beings exist.
There was something additionally surreal about the visit, too, in the fullness and diversity of the crowd and their strange procession through the show. The art museum had put together an audio tour, packaged on those perhaps-not-uncommon around-the-neck players, with information about select pieces and commentary about the works. I have an embarrassing appetite for facts and informational tidbits, and ordinarily would have leapt at the program. However, I’ve found that I’ll too-often dive into those to escape the deeper challenge of experience and reflection, and so declined the proffered audio wand. Instead I got to watch the museum-goers stand in front of each piece, heads cocked against the telephone-like devices, looking for all the world as though the art was, quite literally, speaking to them.
I felt a curious tension in this witnessing, as despite the shared story being broadcast through those devices, the experiences of the audiences seemed so isolated.
Perhaps it was I, watching without sound, who felt so. The isolation, after all, was only an illusion, as something had called each of those visitors–from so many paths and so many different mornings– there to meet at that same hour, in the same chamber, to take in something great. And this too was wonderful, and rare.