Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Contemporary Art Rooted in Tradition

While in the Netherlands I visited the Zuiderzee Museum - an open-air village of fisherman's huts and other buildings from 19th century life in this area before it was cut off by dikes from the North Sea.

It's a charming, buccolic setting with fascinating historic artifacts, but the wonder, the thing that keeps the place from fossilizing, is that around any corner you're likely to run into contemporary art.  The place is a monument to a vanished past... but it's still alive and carrying on a lively conversation with today.

My favorite installation was a clever - brilliant, I think - room of graffiti art.  A little background: graffitti or "street art" is everywhere!  This tidy, perfectly up-kept country has, nevertheless, so much graffiti it astonishes the visitor.  But this graffiti is - as if by tacit agreement - only in certain places, like railway property or highway screen walls, and seldom where it will upset a private property owner.  I even saw a fully graffiti'd car... with its licenseplate and lights and glass carefully masked off to keep it legal and functional.  It's as if the society has decided this is an acceptable outlet for rebellion - within civilized limits.  Graffiti is a quasi-accepted art form.  (Go to any American modern art museum and see all the books on "street art.")  The second piece of background:  in historic Holland it was common to use huge quantities of Delft tile inside houses: at fireplaces and, if you could afford to, even for all the walls of a room.

The art room I liked?

A whole room of spray-paint graffiti Delft tile featuring, as such tiles do, both "art" scenes and scenes of daily life.  Daily life in the Netherlands has changed a bit since the 16th century century is all.

Sadly I haven't found the artist's name yet, though here's a link to an article about these installations.

Revision!  The artist's name is Hugo Kaagman.

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