Dueling Pac-Men

In conjunction with recently opened Karel Appel: A Gesture of Color, Marketing and Communications Intern Olivia Bensimon responds to one of the works of art featured in the exhibition.

Appel_Floating Like the Wind

Karel Appel, Floating like the Wind, 1975. Oil on canvas, 78 3/4 x 102 3/4 in. Private Collection

What struck me first when I saw this painting was how much it reminded me of two people bickering. The yellow Pac-Man-like shape on the right has its mouth open, as if it was yelling, whereas the red Pac-Man-like shape on the left seems scared or disgruntled. The surrounding shapes might be identified as legs and arms, but I see these “faces” as the focal point. Letting my mind wander, I begin to imagine a more full story for these two characters: the red shape has been taking a nap in some sort of suit, with a blue shirt, white pants, and black shoes. The yellow shape walks in to see the the other lounging around and begins to yell and shake its arms above its head. That’s when the red shape wakes up, confused and also very sleepy.

The title of this painting, Floating like the Wind, could be interpreted in many different ways, but what comes to my mind is that the emotions articulated in the painting are floating like the wind—the dark blue representing sleepiness, the black and red pouring out of the yellow shape’s mouth representing anger and frustration.

Olivia Bensimon, Marketing & Communications Intern

Interpreting Per Kirkeby

Per Kirkeby_Untitled

Per Kirkeby, Untitled, 1991

My initial response to Per Kirkeby‘s Untitled, on view in Postwar Germanic Expressions, is that it reminds me of the type of painting (if you can call it that) that I used to love doing as a child—remember these? They started out as heavy sheets of paper coated in black paint, but underneath was a hidden rainbow of colors. With a coin or a pencil, you could scratch off the black coat, allowing the colors to show.

When looking more closely at this painting, what comes to mind is that this is some sort of interpretation of one’s feelings. A pathetic fallacy, but in art. The dominance of the dark colors and the black in parallel to the small quantities of colorful ones taps into my emotions. I interpret the emotions behind this work as either depression or some sort of rebirth after tremendous pain. On the one hand, the dark colors closing in with only faint glimmers of light impart a certain sadness. On the other hand, the yellow paint and colors shining through cracks in the black background might signify a new beginning.

In the yellow splashes of paint, I see the outline of a paper plane; perhaps a tool planted here by the artist to let go and fly away from these emotions.

Olivia Bensimon, Marketing & Communications Intern

Creative Looking with Henri le Sidaner

Sidaner_the serenade venice

Installation view: Henri Le Sidaner, The Serenade, Venice, 1907. Oil on canvas, 53 x 72 1/4 in. Paul G. Allen Family Collection

Marketing Intern Olivia Bensimon spent some time with Henri Le Sidaner’s The Serenade, Venice (1907), on view in Seeing Nature, recording her thoughts and reactions:

We left the banks along with the others. Each of us climbed, one by one, onto the gondolas and followed the lights. Although it was early summer, the nights were still cold. From the boats we could still see the banks of the Great Canal, the streets lit up with gas lights. Silence reigned; the only sound was the water gently beating against the hulls of the boats. We stopped and waited. Was it finally time?

Across from us, in front of the Basilica, stood a group men holding onto objects. We waited. Time seemed slow. Eternity passed before we heard a faint echo of sounds, the vibration of the strings into the body of the violin. The rest of the orchestra followed, and Venice came alive with the sound of music.

The landscapes on view in Seeing Nature can inspire any number of different emotions and reactions. Does one of the works from the exhibition stand out to you? Take a stab at your own freewriting exercise in response! Let your pen take the lead and send us the result at contest@phillipscollection.org for a chance to win a Phillips gift bag. We’ll feature our favorite submissions here on the blog. Here’s a previous example in response to Milton Avery‘s Dancing Trees.

Olivia Bensimon, Marketing & Communications Intern