This is my review of the day and of the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art.

On October 18th, 2011 I was able to take part in a trip to see San Francisco’s Museum of Modern Art, or MOMA for short. For me this day felt like an extra special treat for two reasons: first as a working parent and partner I haven’t had the time I would like for such outings; secondly I had been extremely stressed out the day before handling a crisis income tax situation. Our bus arrived about thirty minutes before the MOMA was scheduled to open, which left me with some time to burn.

Across from the entrance to the MOMA are the grounds of the Yerba Buena Gardens. I chose to explore the gardens, and was not disappointed with what I found. I found in the midst of a large city, surrounded on all sides by concrete and steel, a lush and varied landscape to ease the weary soul. As I wandered through and around the park my eyes were constantly met with the beauty of the vibrant plant life. My ears were caressed by the sounds of hushed conversations, children laughing and birds chirping. To my perception the focal point of the gardens is a beautiful two to three story tall waterfall that has walkways around and over it. At the uppermost level of the waterfall is a series of water ways and a smaller waterfall and pool that many birds were drinking from and bathing in. Upon finding that my path of travel had brought me back to where I had started from I found myself in a very relaxed and calmed state of mind. The garden had been the very balm for my soul that I was unaware of needing. The state of relaxation I was then in was as near a perfect state of calm that anyone could hope for and felt to me the perfect state to enter the MOMA in, thus I crossed the street and got my ticket.

Upon entering the MOMA, I was greeted by a vast cavernous space. Within the center of that space is a stair way of striped tile and wood that beckons you to climb, whilst at the same time hiding from sight the treasures to be found on the upper levels. As this was my first trip to the MOMA I chose to let the stairs guide me all the way to the upper most reaches of the building, knowing that I would have to follow the stairs again to the ground floor later. For several flights the stairs continued to be the same cool tile and wood stripes and at points creating an Escher like illusion where the ceiling of the upper stairs meets the tile stripes of the wall. The last set of stairs up were an austere white spiral that felt as if they had been pulled from an old church.

At the very upper reaches I discovered many things to hold my attention and interest. Beautiful sculptures of steel, nylon, wood, and many other pieces of art in a wide variety of mediums on display. Perhaps the quirkiest of all the sculptures that I saw on the upper level was not in the MOMA itself, but viewable from the walkway and rooftop garden. They were two statues of the story book character Waldo. While finding Waldo at the MOMA made me laugh, they reminded me of the hours with the ‘Where’s Waldo’ books and our eldest daughter.  The fascination with the ‘Waldo’ images wore off fast, compared to other pieces of art that drew me back for repeated viewings. There were two pieces in particular that I did go back to view again before leaving the upper floor. The first being ‘A Sac of Rooms All Day Long’ By Alex Schweden, composed of vinyl and electrical components. The second piece that held me in such thrall, with such intensity, that I pushed myself to cross an open expanse in spite of my intense fear of heights, was ‘Sonic Shadows’ by Bill Fontana.

‘A Sac of Rooms All Day Long’ is a fluid sculpture, because the electrical components are constantly changing the shape and dimensions of the sculpture. The main structure is composed of sealed clear vinyl, within the structure is a series of air pumps that rotate to inflate or deflate various parts of the sculpture. When I first stumbled upon this piece it made me think of Do-Ho Suh’s work because the simple outline and suggestion of a home or rooms was being created with minimal detail. As I watched the sculpture deflate and inflate it made me think of the housing crisis and the bubble that has cost many people their homes. Watching longer my thoughts began to turn, and reflect on how fluid time is and how we never truly stay in any place for a long period of time, and how even a room we know intimately will change as time wears on. If a person is willing to spend a fair amount of time, perhaps at least 10 to 15 minutes, to watch this piece it can spark a lot of surreal and deep thoughts, perhaps even some self insights they had not previously consciously thought of.

‘Sonic Shadows’ Is a grated bridge equipped with a network of high-tech vibration sensors, microphones, and speakers that bring all of the hidden sounds a steel bridge across an empty expanse creates into the hearing range of a person. The sound of the bridge as it echoed through the space was not all that held me in utter fascination to the point where I crossed the bridge not once but twice. From the center of the bridge sound is not the only thing that assails the senses. The other stimulus that assails the senses is the visual of the shadows as they transcend their way across a curved, pristine, white wall. As the day progresses the shadows created both by the bridge itself and by the varied steel tubes cutting across the elliptical window above the bridge, in a style reminiscent of the cellular structure of a leaf when viewing the sun through it, create their own shadow paintings on the wall. While the bridge and the steel tubes above the bridge are all man made, it brought to me the same sense of calm as I had encountered earlier in the gardens.

Window above Sonic Shadow

It takes a lot for me to push myself onto a bridge, and yet, with a few sparse pieces of metal, Bill Fontana got me to not only walk out onto a bridge, but to pause on it long enough to take pictures of the upper elements. For this piece that is transcending multiple senses on several levels of awareness I would push myself out onto it yet again should the opportunity arise.

All in all, the trip to San Francisco and the MOMA was wonderful and deeply relaxing. While I enjoyed all aspects of the MOMA, if pressed to say what makes it great, I would have to say the interior architecture of the building itself, with all of the play of straight lines and angles. I would also recommend the wide variety of works on the uppermost floor. My favorite display is ‘Sonic Shadows’, and I would strongly recommend a trip to the MOMA for that interactive piece if for nothing else at all. Perhaps the next viewer will find something different from what I found to spark their soul into a transcended state of calm, relaxation, and a renewed vigor for life.

 

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