The Blog

Soundscapes in a Exhibition

5:31 PM, Jul 28, 2009 • By KATHERINE EASTLAND
Widget tooltip
Single Page Print Larger Text Smaller Text Alerts

On Sunday I popped out of the heat and into the cool of the National Gallery to see two exhibitions on Spanish art: "Luis Melendez, Master of the Spanish Still Life" (warmly reviewed for TWS here) and "The Art of Power: Royal Armor and Portraits from Imperial Spain." In the latter I found one of those habits of curators that's in vogue now: the pairing of paintings with the very artifacts rendered in those paintings. For instance, there was a full suit of armor-Charles V's (which had room for a smallish paunch)-placed to the side and slightly in front of a full-length portrait of him, decked out in that very suit.

I'm not sure to what to make of this yet, but I know I spent a lot more time inspecting the armor than the painting, and then I felt bad that the painting wasn't getting its due attention. The same image in its 2-D and 3-D varieties shouldn't have to compete for our gaze. But I'm guessing this is being done in an attempt to enrich our viewing of the painting and of the statue.

And now I just read that the Dallas Museum of the Art has found a new way to make viewers "interact more deeply" with art: adding music to paintings! People can access the music files via iPhones and Blackberries. The music-cum-paintings have been christened "soundscapes." Pollock, for instance, is coupled with a jazz track, because he often listened to jazz when making those famous drip paintings.

This "soundscape" project is certainly a step beyond pairing paintings with matching sculptures.

Maybe I sound too old-fashioned, but there's a lot to be said for looking at one thing closely at a time and with no distractions. That's far more stimulating than overstimulation. And anyway, the more iPhones etc. we keep out of the galleries, the fewer people you'll bump into as you shoulder your way toward Charles V's resplendent fitted gown of armor.