The Museum Art Gallery in Rochester has always fascinate me. It does what Rochester as a whole seems to do well, look towards the future while taking a hold of the past. The MAG has such a variation of old and contemporary that meshes so well, as if the museum goer is traveling through time. The lobby is modern, and streamlined but the architecture of the building holds details that ornate the building with a hand of the past. MAG does an extremely good job with presentation, not only modern American art, but also displays of art from cultures of various time periods. One of the first exhibits we saw entering was a room filled with ancient artifacts from the Middle East. We passed through different rooms, seeing art from the 1900’s, sculptures and painting, as well as a number of modern pieces.
In one room filled with smaller paintings and ancient Chinese artifacts stands this enormous painting. Three Chinese concubines of an emperor staring stoically at the viewer. It’s almost displayed on it’s own stage. It’s the only painting dominating the wall with a raised floor beneath it. In front of it sits a long bench for viewers to sit and take in this enormous piece. The women in the painting showed but how beautiful, yet ultimately trapped these women were as three actual bird cages were hung for each woman. Created in 1990, this piece holds both a strong hold of the past and a modern hand with contemporary painting techniques and textures.
I felt a connection immediately that no piece of art has made me feel before. Of a culture, a heritage, and a connection I didn’t realize i had. My mother immigrated from China 25 years ago, this is her culture and to an extent mine. However, I honestly never think about the culture or heritage my mother came from. When I read the description I learned that the artist, Hung Liu, was just 10 years older than my mother, and she, like my mother grew up under the Maoist Regime, but immigrated to the US to pursue college, both eventually becoming citizens. Looking into this painting while surrounded by hundreds of artifacts really immersed me into this world.
This reminded me Micheal Kimmelman’s article about Auschwitz. About how the presentation of a history of a people or event must be reshaped to gain the attention of the newest generations. This exhibit was a fairly traditional approach to museum displays, but included more modern art about an older subject, in a way, creates a bridge that newer generations will want to explore.