Richard Hamilton’s “Just What is It That Makes Today’s Homes so Different, so Appealing?”

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This piece of pop art was one of my favorite works that we discussed. I can remember the day we went to the Tate Britain. I was exhausted, filled with pent up frustration at how long the tube ride was and how long I stood outside the museum waiting for the stragglers of our group. I loved the work of the Romantics, but when the group tour was over, I wanted to get out of there.

However, on my obligatory walk through, I couldn’t help but stop in front of Hamilton’s work. I was fascinated with how he used found images to imitate a 3-dimensional space. I loved how busy and chaotic the room was; that too seemed to reflect materialist social practices. Using found images was meant to “objectify” the piece, a reaction to the surrealism of the early 19th century. I was certainly more drawn into an examination of this picture than I am of Synthetic Cubism.

The man and woman in this piece are meant to draw attention to our society’s obsession with physical perfection. The beauty of these people, unlike the beauty of Roman sculptural figures, is debased by the lollipop and the lurid, unnatural pose of the woman. The amalgam of images reveals the unnatural environment in which they live. Because these pieces come from images prevalent in the culture, we can understand that the people of that era also lived in an unnatural environment. Even though the found images aren’t what appears in current visual advertising, the fact that such images continue to surround and invade our everyday lives shows that Hamilton’s work still has relevance today.

The Art Museum and its Public

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I think that art museums should each work to fulfill its own choice of function. There should be museums that protect and preserve, museums that educate, museums that exist as a social space or as a space for reflection. Working toward a particular function helps a museum have success, but for museums as a whole to resonate with the people, they should come in the wide variety that they do in the U.K.

For museums to survive in our economic age, they will need to work with the education system. It’s important that children learn at a young age to appreciate museums. Ideally, this would become more than mass outings to museums. There needs to be smaller groups of kids interacting with the art. There needs to be adults trained to work with kids who can work with small groups at a time. It would be great if parents could be encouraged through the school system to take their kids to museums. I think that schools should help kids find an appreciation for art. If its done at an early age, then kids will be less resistant than they would be in high school.

Something else that would be fantastic would be travelling art shows. If there was a way to safely (and inexpensively) take over an elementary school’s gym and fill it with works from a museum, then kids would have an opportunity to create an emotional connection to art. I can remember being awed at the transformation of our plain white gym for parties, bowling days, and gymnastic days. I think minimally supervised museum visits, and the current method of introducing great art in high school don’t do enough to teach kids how to appreciate art.

Glasgow School of Art

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Mackintosh utilized lighting in both form and function for the Glasgow School of Art. The big windows on the north side of the school are ideal for art students to work in; they get excellent natural light throughout the day through these windows. These windows, with their iron decorations on the outside, are both beautiful and practical, just like the glass room on the top level on the west section. This room, with its one open window framing a statue on the roof, gives an excellent view of the city. Giving an excellent view does more than offer a stunning landscape for the eyes. With the cross hatched windows and desk spaces, it also offers a space for artists to practice sketching the landscape. The design of the windows offers artists segmented portions of the city to choose to work on.

The space within the GSA was much more arresting than the space within the Tate Modern. I loved every moment of being within the GSA, it offered many beautiful techniques and artistic designs to admire as I wandered through this space that students use on a daily basis. The Tate Modern, on the other hand, was designed to house pieces designed for museum spaces, and it felt more like a space where two worlds were feeding off each other to their mutual benefit. In the GSA, their was something to admire everywhere. In the Tate Modern, I happened upon a few pieces I liked, but I hated the escalators and lack of natural lighting within the building. I believe that Mackintosh successfully used the ideas of the Art Nouveau and Arts and Crafts movements. The space deserves admiration by the public as much as an piece in a museum, and it creates an excellent environment for artists to create and display their work.

Salisbury Cathedral

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One of the most striking characteristics of the English gothic style within Salisbury was the use of stained glass. The vivid blues of the stained glass behind the alter drew the eye more than anything else (except for the old people you had to constantly watch out for). The stained glass in the entire building was lovely, but it seemed that the best was reserved for the space behind the alter, which fits what we talked about in class.

The stained glass gave the light within the cathedral an otherworldly quality. I thought that the second tier of windows made the room seem bigger, but didn’t draw the eye upward. The eye is instead drawn toward the alter, which the English believed to be the most important space within the cathedral. The stained glass draws attention to the light and gives it a religious meaning, with its depictions of Biblical moments. This is characteristic of the Gothic movement.

I thought that the use of a double transept added to the feeling of vast space within the cathedral, which also seemed to fit with the class lecture. I remember that English gothic was less concerned with height than the other types. The vast space within the cathedral was another way to strengthen the majestic feel of the building.

Tate Modern

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The agenda between Tate Modern and the Museum of London were very different. The Tate had different galleries on themes relevant to today’s society, while the London Museum painted a picture of the lifetime of London. The London Museum worked to recreate the past, while the Tate acted as a new way of looking, particularly toward the future. The Tate wasn’t particularly era-centered, while the London Museum categorized all its pieces by eras.

The London Museum began with the area around the Thames 800,000 years ago and moved through time to today. The Tate’s galleries weren’t meant to be moved through as a timeline. Within the Tate there was a series of escalators between floors. The escalators were placed in open rooms, with sitting spaces and spaces with interactive media. Any entrance to any exhibit was a conscious choice, usually informed by the description of the exhibit outside the door.

Also, the exhibits within the Tate seemed less permanent, more fluid and alive. I don’t know if I understood this correctly, but it seemed like a lot of the galleries were for traveling exhibits. The London Museum on the other hand, looked like it had a fairly permanent set. The final room in this museum, with the photographs, looked like a changing exhibit. However, this gallery was set apart from the main exhibit, and took a bit of wandering to get to. With the Tate, the traveling exhibits, particularly the ones expected to be more popular, are on the lower floors. The Tate seems to be more alive than the Museum of London, however fascinating the exhibits in both are.

Tate Water Color Exhibition

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When I first entered the exhibition, I desperately needed to find a bathroom. Kelly, based on misinformation from one of the museum employees thought there was restroom access from within the exhibition. Following her through a closed door led us to the end, with no bathroom in sight. So my journey through the Water Color Exhibit did not follow the guidelines.

Overall, I thought the exhibit was fantastic, I enjoyed how they juxtaposed such contrasting methods for using water colors within the space of the exhibit. It was interesting to see watercolor miniatures and maps alongside more typical uses of the medium. However, I want to use the space of this essay to discuss what didn’t work.

The room that went through the centuries’ variety of techniques did not seem successful. The display cases offered a much narrower view of the display than paintings on a wall do. The room was crowded and I felt the effort this room took to get near the displays detracted from the exhibit overall. One of my favorite aspects of museums is that you can view pieces from a variety of distances, in this area of the exhibit, that wasn’t possible.

I also thought that the abstract art room wasn’t as successful. The main blurb declared that abstract art had been happening for 3 centuries, but the pieces they had were mostly recent. I also don’t think this should have been the final exhibit, because it seemed the least powerful and interesting of the rooms. The war section would’ve worked much better as the final exhibit.

British Museum

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The Elgin Marbles should remain in Britain. While much of the debate on repatriation is very complex, in my opinion, the fact that these pieces were legally purchased simplifies the matter.

Also, I disagree with the argument that the pieces would be better comprehended in their original environment. Their “original” environment is a place in time that happened far in the past. The context includes the ancient Greek culture’s affect on western civilizations. We experience this Greek culture throughout school and in a variety of contexts, so I don’t see why artifacts are better experienced in attempts to recreate the past than in museums. The Greek Museum. The Greek culture of today is  too different  from Pericles’ Athens for the argument to hold much water with me.

Finally, the fact that London, and the British Museum receive so many visitors makes me want valuable pieces to be there, so that they will be better appreciated. If only there was some museum body that could safely rotate pieces between countries, but since there’s not, it makes little sense to take the Elgin Marbles through advantageous journey to a city that can’t afford to take care of them so that less people can appreciate them. And who can claim that the quality of the appreciation would be so much better that it’d be worth the risk?

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