Arts of Privacy – Check The Stacks

While attending an event at a local museum, The Hammer, we made sure to get there early to wander around and catch up on the exhibits that we had missed.
One in particular struck us, not as much for the art itself, but for the concept.

To wit:

The Darker Side of Light: Arts of Privacy, 1850-1900 draws the visitor into the intimate alcoves of Paris, London, and Berlin — a private world characterized by contemplative and melancholy subjects. The Darker Side of Light presents work one imagines being unveiled in the confines of the smoky interiors of a collector’s home or an artist’s studio. This was art for those who kept their prints and drawings under wraps, compiled in albums and portfolios; who stored bronze medals in cabinets, set a statuette on a table in a corner, or mounted it above the shelves in the stillness of the library. Such works of art were not an evident part of one’s day-to-day environment, like a picture on the parlor wall. Rather, they were subject to more purposeful study on chosen occasions, much like taking a book down from the shelf for quiet enjoyment. ”

Albert Besnard
Morphine Addicts
1887 Etching. Sheet 32.6 x 43.6 cm. Courtesy National Gallery of Art.

Yeah, morphine addicts. Not the art displayed in the general gentile collectors home.

Now we’re sure that many us have a similar situation in our own homes. There is art on our walls, all through the house.
Yes, even in the bathroom, although you have to be pretty careful on what goes in there and how it is presented.
We even have finished easels throughout the place to allow the shifting up of the visuals. Always good to move the art around. You see things a little different when it is in a new locations, as will your guests.

But this is about the art that is not seen. The special books placed on the shelf, or the prints held lightly in flat files or archival boxes, away from the light. And as the exhibit description reveals, these are the works that come out when you are ready for a quite contemplation. Or relaxation. Or emotional journey.

There is a book of Joel Peter-Witkin, beautifully published by 21st editions, that, quite honestly, only gets opened perhaps once a year. The images are so intense that a visual sorbet of Cowboy Kate, is needed to shift the mind. Or a single malt. Then Mr. Peter-Witkin goes back on the shelf

Yes, there is nothing like pulling down a volume of great photography, well presented, from the stacked storage of the shelving to change the mood.
Imagine that instead of watching 30 min. of a tired TV show, you spent it looking at an artists work. There is the opportunity to be moved, angered, melancholy, inspired, and perhaps uplifted at your own pace, in the quiet of your own head and environment.
Pretty darn good returns.
Now the imagery that is presented in the museum exhibit had a bit more controversial flair for the time period, whether it was sex, violence, death, or simply bizarre subject matter. Maybe that’s why it was not in plain sight.
But for the most part, any art hung on our walls for general consumption, may not be as “out there” as is contained in your collection, be they prints or books. You can’t show it all and there is gold in there.

Don’t get us wrong. This is not about hiding away the perverse photographs, only to to view them in a discreet manner.
It’s about rediscovering the richness of a book of photographs nestled safely on a shelf surrounded by their companions, that daily consumption has not made into the familiar. You may have even forgotten you had it.
Yep, we’ve done that.

In the multi-platform, perpetual engagement of our electronica, there is still a time to focus and quietly contemplate.
It can be that deep breath, that rejuvenates you. And proves once again the power of the still image.

Of course, when we look at images online, such as a slide show of Wyatt Neumanns work, Elephants and Boa Constrictors, we can get to that same place, but the risk of a “bloop” from an iChat buddy, or an email alert is pretty darn good.
(Heck, we’re listening to the Decemberists, while writing this.)
So in the art of privacy, you should gift yourself some of that time with art. Just for you.
Trying to decide which book to sit with right now.
A small part of the obsessive photo book collection.

Suggestions? What is your favorite book in your art of privacy?
And Happy Sunday!

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