Art of the ancient Americas and paintings from China open at the Met
Nov 3, 2015
Another week, another round of galleries from the Metropolitan Museum of Art. The Met features an early model from the ancient Americas with “Design for Eternity” and a collection of great works over the centuries with “Masterpieces of Chinese Painting.” One visit to the Met allows visitors to sample a wide range of art and design in the two new collection arrangements. The Met’s opening of two exhibits succeeds in creating a dynamic gallery on one side and an obscure collection on the other.
“Design for Eternity” is a strikingly unique collection that features the quotidian craftswork of Aztecs, the Incas and their predecessors. The gallery contains a series of building models, including temples, sporting arenas and homes from the first millennium B.C. up through the 16th century. “Design for Eternity” serves to show both the artistic skill of early Americans while demonstrating buildings and structures they believed were worth preserving for future generations. The highlight of the gallery is the collection of vases and vessels structured to look like buildings, transforming the objects from their traditional, practical uses into something more artistic. The gallery is a strange collection that both serves as history and as stylish works in their own right, something that you can’t see anywhere else in the city.
The unique “Design for Eternity” gallery is matched by the Met’s other, equally remarkable collection of Chinese paintings. Much like last week’s Japanese art gallery, “Masterpieces of Chinese Painting” captures centuries of stunning artistic skill, displaying a staggering amount of incredible works. While most paintings try to hide their creation, every brush stroke in these works are apparent. This gives the gallery a unique style, as it balances the recreation of life with a personal, artistic touch.
Moreover, it is very common for writing to accompany the works, effectively creating two exhibits for each work. It’s not until you see such a massive amount of calligraphy that you realize how distinct every artist’s penmanship is. It’s also fascinating how minimalist so many of the paintings are. The black ink creates massive backgrounds as a handful of muted colors are allowed to pop in the foreground. Blank space is highly utilized to highlight the action, which is almost always intense and detailed (look for the piece of a man hunting a deer).
The depiction of nature through mountains, rivers and trees is strikingly simple and beautiful, creating hazy, dreamlike landscapes. The scope once again remains overwhelming. Works from as far as the 12th century and works as recent as the 18th century are on display, truly highlighting how unique the evolving style is. Comparing the latest works to those done by the American colonies and Europe during the time, it is clear that these paintings are a definite must see.
“Design for Eternity” and “Masterpieces of Chinese Painting” opened at the Metropolitan Museum of Art on Oct. 26 and 31, respectively.
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