Modern Art at Nasher Sculpture Center

Modern art continues to be a controversial subject, since it continually dashes expectations and pushes the envelope, forcing viewers to ask, “Is this really art?”

My answer to that is “of course.”  But not all of it is good nor is all of it lasting.  Some of it is fantastic, creative, and absurdly beautiful.  Some modern art makes statements, or forces us to look at objects and issues in new ways. Some of it is just a cheap shot at novelty but does not really say or do anything important, and because we are so close in time to its creation, we don’t know for sure what modern art is lasting and what art will fall by the wayside.

Whatever you think of modern art, at the very least it is thought-provoking.  And at the Nasher Sculpture Center in Dallas, TX, there is a plethora of modern art styles to choose from, as it houses one of the most impressive modern sculpture collections in the United States.

I love exposing my children to modern art.  I find that children have fewer expectations of art and because of that, are more open-minded.  If you expose them to modern art from a young age, they will grow up with a very broad definition of what art is and what it can be.  Representational, traditional art becomes just one facet of artistic expression, not the end all or standard by which all other art is compared.  Why does art always have to represent that which we can already see?  Can’t it sometimes represent what we can’t see, such as another’s imagination and creativity?  Can’t it make us giggle, take our breath away, or cause us to cringe a bit?  I think we sometimes think that all art has to line up with our personal idea of aesthetics, but I for one, do not agree with this.  I think art has a variety of functions, and forcing viewers to re-think their definitions of what art should be is one of those functions.

All right then, off my soapbox I go.  Can you tell I think modern art is really exciting?  I love it.  That does not mean I love every single piece of modern art I see.  But I do try to contemplate it and reserve judgment.  I seek to understand before I dismiss.  In the end, I do dismiss some of it, just as I dismiss a great deal of art from other time periods.  In the end, we cannot expect all art to speak to everyone equally.  If that were the case, wouldn’t life be dull?

The Nasher Sculpture Center is comprised of open, stark galleries with only a few pieces spaced widely apart in each room.  I liked it because all of the focus was on the piece of art itself.  Outside is an exquisite sculpture garden, where flora and fauna, dappled light, water features, and atmosphere just add to the artistic experience.  Here you can see works by many famous 20th Century artists such as Alexander Calder, de Kooning, Jean Arp, Jasper Johns, Rodin, Picasso, Miro, Matisse, and Hepworth, as well as many lesser known albeit interesting artists.  Jean Arp is a very interesting early 20th Century experimenter.

Jean Arp, Torso with Buds, 1961, Bronze

Jean Arp, Torso with Buds, 1961, Bronze

de Kooning is known for his Interesting depictions of women and this sculpture does not disappoint.

de Kooning, Seated Woman, 1969, Bronze

de Kooning, Seated Woman, 1969, Bronze

This one made me laugh.  It was one of those instances where something so mundane was blown up to massive proportions, making the effect comical and somewhat shocking.


Oldenburg, Typewriter Eraser

This work took up an entire half gallery.  It is massive, colorful, and full of movement.


Outside is a series of bronze sculptures I simply fell in love with. They are the work of Nathan Mabry, and this is a visiting exhibit.  I like them because they are whimsical, macabre, imaginative, and just a little bizarre.  The placement on a descending outdoor staircase only enhances the effect. He calls his approach “process art” because each piece is an experimental process, working first with some readymade ideas and then “discovering” the art within, similar to an emotive, instinctual approach common with surrealists and dadaists.* This particular collection of sculptures is called Process Art (B-E-A-G-G-R-E-S-S-I-V-E).  


Here is a close up of one of the statues.  I call him the Big Chin man.  It was my favorite.


On the bottom floor was an installation piece, also a visiting exhibit.  It was a room full of dirt and debris that had been arranged and given color.  There is a pathway in the exhibit, and if you take your shoes off and don little blue booties, patrons are allowed to walk through the piece.  I found it quite invigorating!


Katharina Grosse, Wunderblock

I found the Nasher Sculpture Center a very peaceful, fun, and interesting place.  From giant red spatulas, to “mood” sculpture, and dirt installations, the Museum displays sculptures that will keep you thinking.

The gardens and outdoor sculptures. See Rodin's Eve off to the left?

The gardens and outdoor sculptures. See Rodin’s Eve off to the left?

*Summarized from the Nasher Sculpture Center Special Exhibit Guide

Any thoughts on these pieces?  Or modern art?


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