Sunday, November 2, 2014

Empty case


[A display case that ordinarily houses fragments of luxury vessels, 1st century BCE, 1st century CE. Art Institute of Chicago.]

Is it wrong to take pleasure in a musuem’s empty display cases? Of course not: if it were, I wouldn’t be posting this photograph. I was amused yesterday to see several other museum visitors admiring empty cases. That each of these visitors was perhaps a quarter of my age didn’t trouble me: art, or its absence, is an experience available to all.

This empty display reminded me of a blackboard of course. (See Friday’s post.) The white shapes, which look from a distance like rock shards, are the spaces where the vessel fragments have been removed. Light shines through from behind.

The great reason to visit the Art Institute right now is the exhibition Heaven and Earth: Art of Byzantium from Greek Collections. The exhibition begins with a Head of Aphrodite, its eyes gouged out, its forehead marred by a crude cross. Goodbye, old gods. I was moved by the anonymity of imagination and labor in the works on display: icons, manuscripts, mosaics, textiles. (Only two works, fifteenth-century icons, bear signatures.) My most exciting finds: a thirteenth-century Picasso-like Bowl with Dancer and a fifteenth-century interlinear Iliad.

[There’s no direct link to the Head of Aphrodite. It’s the third item of seven available from the link.]

comments: 3

Zhoen said...

At first glance, I thought they were state-shaped shards.

Art is as much about what isn't there as what is.

Diane Schirf said...

I haven't forgiven them for moving the armor out of Gunsaulus Hall.

Anonymous said...

Art is a word without any definition on which all can agree. If it is about what isn't there, then what isn't there is more numerous, kaleidoscopic and ultimately unknowable than whatever "is" there. Talk about an infinite jest! Words fail sometimes, and "art" is one such word. Or so it seems to this lone survivor....