Amidst the somewhat bland and drab streets of San Francisco lies the monumental San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA), bursting in innovation, inspiration, ingenuity, and color. The museum covering 170,000 square feet displays a renowned collection of contemporary photography, portrait, sculpture, and painting, making it one of the largest museums existing in the United States.
|[Spectrum I by Ellsworth Kelly. Photo by Joanne Yang]
The architectural and aesthetic design of the building itself is one of astounding art. The third floor has a colossal garden, one of the biggest living walls of native plants in California where tourists can take photographs and admire the lush vegetation. An aesthetically pleasing sculpture towers near the plants: the Big Crinkly. The Big Crinkly, concocted by Alexander Calder, is an abstract sculpture painted with the contrasting primary colors of red, blue, yellow, black, and white. Designed with cranks and pulleys, the sculpture reveals its mechanical aspects like the visible bolts at the center and also boasts its mobility in the wind.
|[Big Crinkly I by Alexander Calder. Photo by Joanne Yang]
The building has a hovering skywalk surrounded by bright walls and windows reflecting scintillating light, leading way in which tourists can view the intimidating yet compelling sculptures: the Louise Bourgeois Spiders. These spiders are portrayed as fierce and daunting predators, but the purpose of the art is also to represent these spiders as fragile protectors, a contradictory characteristic highlighting their complexity. The seventh floor explores a whole new dimension of art: the modern art of film. Many small theaters are dispersed throughout the building, inviting tourists to explore the history of art as well as emphasizing work of famous video artists.
Other notable features of the museum include the famous “Sightglass Coffee”, a highly rated cafe in the United States which provides the optimal platform to rest, interact, discuss, and casually evaluate the artworks with informative videos and slides. Near the cafe stands an intriguing sculpture, the Couch For a Long Time, which invites viewers to question and comprehend the profound connection news have in shaping our daily perceptions as well as the very speed in which they circulate. An artwork created by Jessica Jackson Hutchins, she expresses the timeliness and temporal nature of news with the New York Times newspapers plastered all over the couch as well as the contrastingly permanent ceramic pots on the couch alluding to humans and their somewhat idle forms.
|[The Figures with Sunset 1978 by Roy Lichtenstein, Photo by Joanne Yang]
As a participant of a summer program overseas, I visited the museum with a group of other students eager and thrilled to find one of the most groundbreaking and professional art pieces of all time: the Duchamp’s Fountain. The Duchamp’s Fountain may be at first glance a peculiar and inconsequential exhibit delicately and majestically propped on a white block surrounded by swooning terrorists. Its meaning, however, has shaped our conceptualization of art beyond our imagination.
The instructor explained the history behind the art, how Duchamp had submitted an upside-down urinal titled the Fountain to the Society of Independent Artists’ Salon in New York and was rejected as an absurd joke. However, the fact that Duchamp took an ordinary aspect of our monotonous lives and designated it to be something else, creates an entirely different point of view and raises contentious questions in the artistic arena about the purpose and definition of art.
Unanswered questions surround the urinal. Is the work of art defined and decided by the artist himself or by the viewers and the audience? Does an artwork need to have been manufactured by the hands of the artist himself or could an abstract idea or concept be considered art as well? The venues of the SFMOMA museum provide an opportunity for us to mull over the evolution of art as well as redefine its meaning to us. It is the perfect place to seek, explore, and learn the cultural beauties in our lives we tend to ignore.
Seoul International School
Joanne Yang firstname.lastname@example.org
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