LJWorld.com weblogs Notes from John
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.