Everyone is familiar with the old saw “traveling broadens one’s horizons”. Consider for a moment what its like to spend a day visiting art museums with two artists: individuals with keen eyes and seasoned perspectives.
Ah-ha moments washed over me like a torrential flood. Feigning interest isn’t an option no lack of focus is allowed. I’m learning, but I’m still an artistic neophyte. Appreciation does not equate to understanding — one learns this through exposure and thoughtful conversation.
Ft Worth is blessed to have several important art venues. Nestled on a campus overlooking downtown Ft Worth are the Kimbell Art Museum and the Amon Carter Museum of American Art. These beautiful buildings were designed by world class architects: the former originally designed by Louis Kahn with a recently completed addition designed by Renzo Piano; and the latter designed by Philip Johnson (IDS Center fame).
A terrific Samurai armor exhibit filled with hundreds of artifacts including many suits of armor has been wowing attendees at the Kimbell. The 900-year story of the rise of the Samurai provides the framework for the exhibition. Unlike the heavy and clunky European armor the Japanese elegantly weaved metals (iron, copper, etc.) with textiles like silk and cotton. Great care was given to an artistic image that showed the wealth and taste of Japanese gentry. The graceful nature of Japanese culture was distilled into a bold statement of power as the Samurai transformed from warriors into social icons within Japanese society.
Since this is a private collection photos were not allowed in the galleries. For those who are curious go to this site for a peek at history: http://samurai.kimbellart.org.
The Amon Carter focuses on American Art. The permanent collection is memorable. You know how certain smells, sights or sounds jell memories? This museum flipped my memory machine into overdrive. Why? Because it owns an large collection of “old west” art. I’m not referring to the atmospheric landscapes of Thomas Cole, although there are some in another gallery of the museum.
Nope, I’m referring to some serious cowboy art. Visions of “Duke” Wayne, Gary Cooper, Roy Rodgers and Ward Bond nestled in my brain as I meandered through an entrancing collection of Remington and Russell paintings and sculptures — the best I’ve ever seen in one location:
The Cowboy art depicted many rustic scenes, animals and landscapes. The power of activity enlivens the works. Subjects are colliding in a forbidding and primitive world. The two artists have used the tools of painting and sculpture to bring order into this chaos.
The juxtaposition of the two “warrior” groups and the cultures that sprung from each was interesting to see. Samurai evolved into status driven cultural icons focused on the elites. Pageantry was embraced and the Samurai armor (costumes) became statements about the power of form and substance.
The Cowboy was also cultural icon. Elites were disdained in this world. Cowboys embodied the celebration of power of individuality — the independent streak that Americans worshiped and honor through all levels of society. For them substance was values over form.
In end, Japanese valued culture’s collective ties; while Americans valued the the individual and personal self-reliance. Perhaps this explains the inevitable collision between the value systems of the East and West. Each puts a premium on honor — this will eventually evolve into hubris…
Please excuse me it’s time to go. I need to saddle up and ride to Ft Worth’s stockyards. It’s time for the daily cattle drive down Exchange Street.
Get along little doggies, Yee Haw!