Dr. César A. Cruz, educator and activist, is credited with the statement “Art should comfort the disturbed and disturb the comfortable.”
It’s safe to conclude that I have almost exclusively appreciated art from the position of comfort, and paid little heed to what I might experience if art disturbed that comfort.
Then along came a 2016 visit to The Broad.
The Broad, which opened in late 2015, is named for philanthropist Eli Broad, who financed the $140 million building and houses the extensive Broad contemporary art collection. Admission is free to the public, but requires an online ticket.
Curiosity got me there. I didn’t expect to be “knocked out” by the art itself. To be truthful, I was reasonably certain I wouldn’t understand most of it.
I walked around admiring colors and shapes, paintings, drawings, collages stitched together with bits and pieces of “found” objects, a familiar Warhol or Lichtenstein here and there, some photography–all a very pleasant experience. There were some disturbing images and I wasn’t sure how I felt about them. Maybe at best I’d say I was ambivalent.
And then I saw it.
At first it was just impressive in size. I responded to the visual impact, but didn’t know what I was seeing. I stared for quite a while. letting it speak to me, although I didn’t know what it was saying.
Then I read the accompanying signage.
Artist Mark Bradford’s Corner of Desire and Piety
“…deflects viewers from its impenetrable field; the text, however, creates an opening that reveals the work’s true magnitude. Each of the seventy-two panels announces the delivery of propane intended for FEMA trailers in New Orleans. The work reflects the conundrum many residents faced after Hurricane Katrina when such deliveries were often exploited for profit. They had to make a choice: fulfill their own needs while making some extra cash or patiently suffer along with everyone else. Though the actual streets named Desire and Piety run parallel through the Lower Ninth Ward, the predominantly black neighborhood devastated by the flooding, Bradford forges a metaphorical intersection — a painful choice — stoked by the tragedy of Katrina.”
To read more about the artist, click HERE.
I haven’t shared from the Broad before although I’ve been back since that first visit and have tickets to return again next month. Many of the artists display their work on-line via the broad.org but any photos I would share won’t deliver the impact they create in their lovely new home. I feel protective of the artists’ work.
But I thought of this particular piece and the impact it made on me when I viewed footage last week of containers full of goods sitting undistributed at the ports in Puerto Rico.
I hear a lot of words, absent of solace and relief. And the death toll continues to rise.
I wonder what the artists, with NO words, will say about this period in our history.
If you’re in town…I recommend a visit to The Broad.
Prepare to be disturbed.