Contemporary City of Brea Gallery and Vintage Irvine Museum Exhibit
I wrote this about 4 months ago. I plan to get new aesthetic experiences once all my other holiday trips are experienced.
The exhibit of the City of Brea Gallery at the time of my visit was themed on contemporary plein-air paintings. Which means that all works found in the exhibit were painted in the open air, or outdoors, by artists who are still alive. Both of these qualities about the exhibit made it a special opportunity for me.
First understand. Two weeks previously, I had gone through the Irvine Museum exhibit. They specialize in California art that came out of the Impressionist Period (1890-1930). Now, "en plein-air" is very important to impressionists. It goes together well with the concept of impressionism. Do you understand now why the City of Brea Gallery presented a special opportunity for me?
Since the exhibit theme there is contemporary plein-air paintings, that meant many of the artwork on display would be in the impressionism style by artists of this time period. I had the opportunity to compare impressionism art of our time with those of a century ago.
Art changes in tune with the human condition. Art from one era is distinct from art of another era beyond the simple differences between artists. I wanted to see of I couldn't catch whiff of that difference.
Just to be clear, en plein-air does not equate to impressionism. So, the City of Brea Gallery will have art that isn't impressionism art. I have no hope of being able to meaningfully contrast the essence of art that is both of different eras and styles. So, I concentrated my attention on impressionism.
All the art of the first section of the exhibit I recognized for impressionism. Immediately obvious is that the paintings are on average much smaller than what I've seen in Irvine. I took a closer look. Is there something more? I could tell, yes, something about this art on some base level is different from those on Irvine. Hard for me to say what, exactly.
I move on through the exhibit. I examine one group of paintings by a particular artist. The whole range of them are even smaller than what I've just gone through. There's something about these, though. I get a very distinct impression from them. It's like I'm looking at the scenery the artist painted through the viewfinder of a camera. The scenery is cut off at the sides. All of what it "is" isn't encapsulated within the painting. It goes on, off the canvas. Just what the artist decided to take a "picture" of is seen.
Could I be on to something here? I take a look back on what I've already seen. Could I say the same thing for those paintings? Not... exactly. Rather than a distinct feeling of an incomplete view of the scenery, it's more like the artists spied something "nice" and took a picture of it. Only in their case their camera is their easel and paints.
That felt right. But, does it feel true? I toured the rest of the exhibit with these thoughts in mind. Does it feel like the artist is simply sight-seeing? Can I honestly say here that it seems like the artist took a "picture" of what he saw? What was it that I saw in Irvine? What am I looking at here, exactly? Can I identify something central about these paintings?
Exhausting work. By an hour and 10 minutes, I needed a break. By an hour and a half, my brother has already toured through the entire exhibit multiple times and was now shadowing me. By two hours, I've completed my first circuit around the exhibit, urged forward by my brother.
I wasn't done yet. I didn't yet find what I was looking for. I wasn't even sure if what little I had was truly of what the works of art are. But, oh boy was my brother done. What can I do? He's the one driving me around to these places. We left.
If it was within my capabilities, I would once again visit the Irvine Museum. Straight after, I would examine the pieces in the City of Brea Gallery. I would then stay longer than two hours. It's not within my capabilities, though. I'll just have to make due with what I can get, and wonder. Wonder if the progress I'm making at understanding art really is progress. Or am I just making my own narrative here?