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Nine seconds of art.


http://worldonline.media.clients.ellingtoncms.com/img/blogs/entry_img/2008/Mar/25/puryear_button.jpgSeveral years ago I read that visitors to art museums spend an average of nine seconds viewing any individual work. I can't give you a reference, so don't quote me. Does anyone out there know the study? As an avid museum visitor I was horrified by this finding. Then I started observing my behavior and those around me. Try counting 1001, 1002, 1003, :. 1009 in front of a work of art. It really has to be engaging to grab that much attention. Perhaps this is due to my lack of knowledge of how to view art or our attention span related to the constantly changing television images.Last week I spent more than my allotted nine seconds per item viewing the sculpture of Martin Puryear at the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth. This exhibit of 45 of his sculptures that span 30 years of work is remarkable. These works of Puryear are mainly in wood and are deceptively simple in design. There are circles or loops that look like he went to a forest and found some vines or supple branches that he simply twisted into a form that I would love on my living room wall. Spending more than nine seconds with these works reveals much more complexity. On the other end of the scale is a work entitled 'Desire' that fills an entire gallery and measures nearly 10' x 20' x 24'. It is a spoked wheel with an axle that rests on a pillar. This work requires much more than nine seconds to grasp. It is surprisingly beautiful. On http://www.pbs.org/art21/artists/puryear/index.html# Puryear says of this work that he is interested "in how things are made and how things are done." Me too. The skill required to use 5 different types of wood fully aware of their strengths and weaknesses is amazing. Standing in the gallery I could only imagine how it was designed and constructed. And time. This work was dated 1981. I imagine it took a good deal of that year to complete - perhaps millions of seconds.This exhibit goes through May 18 and is worth the drive to Fort Worth.


Jerry Elliott 9 years ago

john--i really appreciated this note...probably beacause it caught my frustrations at being inept at viewing art. and at not knowing the propear vocabulary in which to discuss the subject. thanks.jerry

Ronda Miller 9 years ago

Good post. I may not be in Fort Worth any time soon, but I will certainly pay more attention to how long I spend looking at a work of art.

I know from past experience I tend to wait too long to go to an exhibit (I don't go often enough) and I try to make up for limited time by trying to see "everything". It would be smarter on my part to spend a few hours - or an afternoon - at just one exhibit, or one artist's showing.

I would think the nine second rule would fail if people take the time to read about the art. Who knows?

Linda Hanney 9 years ago

We both enjoy wood art. I need to study a map and see if we might be able to loop down there on a road trip planned in early May. Thank you for your review.

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