Lame Adventure 369: What a Scream

Last week, I suggested to Milton that after work on Friday might be a good time for us to visit the Museum of Modern Art. Every Friday between the hours of 4 and 8 p.m., admission is free — our second favorite four-letter f-word.

Nice price.

Nice price.

Milton’s favorite four-letter f-word is:

Milton: Food.

Time was running out for us to catch Edvard Munch’s The Scream for it is on display only until April 29. Last May, a private collector who is believed to be a businessman named Leon Black, purchased this iconic artwork to the tune of $119.9 million. Black’s net worth as of September 2012 is $3.5 billion, so he’s still living well within his means.  Visitors are permitted to photograph it provided they turn off their camera’s flash. Museum-goers that fail to play by the rules are hauled off by security to the fourth floor where they’re forced to stare at this oil on canvas painting by Brice Marden for an hour as punishment.

Return I

Return I. 1964-65

When Milton viewed at it he declared:

Milton: I’d get more turned on looking at a piece of sheet rock.

MoMA is always crowded after 4 pm on Fridays. Many of the visitors are tourists as well as locals eager to pass on paying the $26 admission fee. We knew that The Scream was on exhibit on the fifth floor so we headed there first. We checked out a few seminal paintings in MoMA’s collection.  Milton particularly loved this one by Modigliani.

Anna Zborowska. 1917

Anna Zborowska. 1917

I photographed the one next to it to placate my readers who are always salivating for some nudity. You know who you are.

Reclining Nude. 1919

Reclining Nude. 1919

A guard told us to cut through the gallery showing Monet’s water lilies to reach The Scream.

Water Lilies. 1914-1926

Water Lilies. 1914-1926

Then, head for the clusterfuck. She did not use the word ‘clusterfuck’, but she told us what we anticipated: that it would be crowded.

Scream mania.

Scream mania.

When we found it we first saw the throng standing before it, some as if they were in a trance.

The Scream. 1895

The Scream. 1895

When we finally reached it Milton was clearly unimpressed and was not shy about declaring that, but he kept his voice low so we were not beaten with an easel. We moved onto another Munch called The Storm.

The Storm. 1893

The Storm. 1893

This one rated Milton’s seal of approval. Besides creating four versions of The Scream, Munch also made 30 lithographs of it. Here’s one.

The Scream. Lithograph. 1895. Signed in 1896 (Guess Munch had higher priorities before he got around to signing.)

The Scream. Lithograph. 1895. Signed in 1896 (Guess Munch had higher priorities before he got around to signing it.)

There was no crowd around it, so clearly the crowds are drawn to colorized terror. Before ducking out of the Munch exhibit, we also saw this self-portrait he painted in 1895, the year he made The Scream.

Self portait of Munch at age 31. 1895. Signed 1896.

Self portrait of Munch at age 31. 1895. Signed 1896.

Next, we glimpsed a Van Gogh.

The Starry Night. 1889

The Starry Night. 1889

We caught some Brancusi sculptures that irritated Milton. He particularly hated a piece in wood.

Milton: What’s this called?

I relished my response.

Me: Cock.

The Cock. Paris 1924

The Cock. Paris 1924

Milton gave me the hairy eyeball.  I added:

Me: It does look kinda chicken-y.

When we entered the gallery displaying Mondrian, Milton groaned.

Composition in Red, Blue, and Yellow. 1937-42

Composition in Red, Blue, and Yellow. 1937-42

Milton hates minimalism.  When he saw an oil on canvas by Patrick Henry Bruce that took Bruce two years to paint that he called Painting, Milton said that the only thing he liked about it was the box frame.

Painting. 1929-30

Painting. 1929-30

We savored one of Milton’s all-time favorite paintings, Picasso’s Les Demoiselles d’Avignon.

Les Demoiselles d'Avignon. 1907

Les Demoiselles d’Avignon. 1907

Then, we headed down to the fourth floor, the floor Milton refers to as:

Milton: The Joke Floor.

We took the stairs.  Under the staircase, we saw this sculpture called Untitled by Robert Morris. 

Untitled. 1968 What Becomes of Sweaters. 2013

Untitled. 1968

It’s made from felt, copper tubing, asphalt, steel cable, lead and double-sided mirrors. The architect Philip Johnson donated it in 1984, possibly after he did some major spring-cleaning. Milton came up with his own name for the piece:

Milton: What Becomes of Sweaters.

The Joke Floor pieces that have convinced Milton that he and I are in the wrong line of work, or we must be sleeping with the wrong people, include this oil on cotton by Robert Ryman called Twin.

Twin. 1966 (Or, Why Didn't We Think of This 1? 2013)

Twin. 1966

This ten-foot-tall plywood plank by John McCracken called The Absolutely Naked Fragrance.

The Absolutely Naked Fragrance. 1967 (Or, Why Didn't We Think of This 2? 2013)

The Absolutely Naked Fragrance. 1967

And Milton’s personal most-favorite-piece-to-hate, Primary Light Group: Red, Green, Blue by Jo Baer.  Fortunately he did not read the description for these three panels actually belong in a series of twelve.

Primary Light Group: Red, Green, Blue. 1964-65

Primary Light Group: Red, Green, Blue. 1964-65

As we walked past a Frank Stella painting, Milton asked:

Milton: What is this, an airline logo?

Me: It’s called Empress of India. That’s apparent.

Empress of India. 1965

Empress of India. 1965

As I was photographing the Stella piece, I heard convulsions — coming from Milton. He was overcome with laughter when he saw a new museum purchase, Richard Serra’s Delineator

Delineator. 1974-75

Delineator. 1974-75

This massive sculpture is comprised of two sheets of hot rolled steel. One laid out on the gallery floor and the other, overhangs the floor piece. What reduced Milton and then me, to two laughing fools, was the little origami sculpture lying in the center of it. It was hard to zoom in to get a focused shot.

Delineator origami a.k.a. "What the hell is that?"

Delineator origami a.k.a. “What the hell is that?”

We nearly missed seeing the piece suspended from the ceiling. Fortunately, Milton noticed it and he asked:

Milton: What is that, mold?

Delineator ceiling sculpture.

Delineator ceiling sculpture.

Later, I learned that the biggest joke had been on our fellow museum-goers and us. I had photographed the sign describing the piece, but didn’t read it. I’ll admit it, I was laughing hysterically as I snapped this shot.

We should have read this.

Milton and I missed our opportunity to Riverdance on a MoMA installation!

Someone not only walked on it, but they placed that little sculpture on it that the museum janitor probably trashed later. It’s not part of the exhibit even though everyone viewing it with us assumed that it was, and of course, everyone played by the rules and we thought that included not walking on art. Now that’s a scream.

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75 responses to “Lame Adventure 369: What a Scream

  1. Okay, this is very good, my friend. We love FREE, as well. But the best line here, I’m afraid, goes to Milton–“What Becomes of Sweaters!” Now that’s a scream!!!! See ya in a few days. Can you believe Sara and I are getting hitched?
    Hugs,
    Kathy

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    • When Milton said that sweater line, I was howling. It was a home run with me, too, Kathy. My bud is the Frank Aaron of one liners.

      I better believe that you guys are getting hitched since I’m going to be there witnessing this historical event!

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  2. So the floor component is basically “floor?” I think Milton should provide audio commentary for all museum visits.

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  3. Do you think a ‘Tour by Milton” audio guide would be good for tourists? After all, given NYC offerings, it could be a huge series.

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  4. Where to begin? A wise person once said that it’s always a good thing to start at the beginning. However, over the past 10 years or so many movie directors have eschewed that advice for a contrary device (see Pulp Fiction). But that’s the topic for a whole different rant.

    I think the MoMA’s 4th floor may be akin to Dante Alighieri’s 4th circle of hell (Greed). But I wouldn’t know because I’ve never read his seminal work The Divine Comedy nor have I been to the 4th floor of that museum (at least not on person, but thanks to this post I can now say I’ve seen it).

    I guess I’m emblematic of the anti-art snob who belittles that which he doesn’t understand. Guilty. I possess a modicum of self-awareness so I do know that nearly all of those “artists” have more artistic talent than I do. They have the “vision” thing that has no doubt escaped me. Much like my mother and a sense of humor. (Another topic for another day.). But honestly what is going on with this shit? It’s like the ironic hipster. It’s Brooklyn. It’s Hoboken. Glad you got in for free, at least with respect to that floor.

    I saw Monet’s Water Lilies in Paris last summer. It was nearly free. Once you subtract the airfare and hotel accommodations. That was cool. Saw some Van Gogh at another museum but that also cost a few euros.

    I appreciate your introduction of “clusterfuck” into LA land. Working for your federal gov’t I have witnessed more thani for share of them in the past 26 plus years.

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    • Well, you’ve gotten a lot out of this post. Finally, you’ve been able to work the 4th circle of hell into LA. Excellent! We’re not exactly anti-art snobs, for we loved so much of what we saw on the fifth floor, but the fourth floor can practically make a lowly paid common working stiff (or two) hostile. There’s an old Yiddish saying I’m very fond of: “Don’t piss up my back and tell me it’s rain.” Our backs were feeling very peed on, but we did have a lot of fun while we were there. MoMA is a blast to visit.

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  5. Thanks for the great field trip. You crack me up, as usual. And I’m just glad you got some nudity in there. Sidenote: clusterfuck is my favorite word. So thanks for getting that in there too. That’s what happened here when Van Gogh came to town and everyone was looking for his most famous self-portrait.

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    • Glad you enjoyed the visit and my use of your favorite word. The crowds do gather for the masters, don’t they? Some people I think put on an act when they’re observing. Or, maybe it’s just not in my DNA to look like I’ve just seen God or at least the second coming of Marilyn Monroe … Well, if I did see her, I probably would look more than a bit ecstatic.

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  6. Great tour of MOMA, V. It’s interesting, after the Denver Museum of Art hosted “Becoming Van Gogh,” recently, I was wondering where “Starry Night” lived. Now I know! And I think you should rent Milton out as a tour guide at MOMA – be his pimp, so to speak. You could make a lot of money doing that on the side.

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    • Ohhhhhhhhhhhh, wow, me as Milton’s pimp! That’s a thought, Cathy, but between you and me and my following of eleven, I am kind of doing that already in the Manhattan Project. Milton has a big foot (not to be mistaken for Big Foot) on that. It’s our Lamest Adventure thus far. All will be revealed VERY soon. Stay tuned!

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  7. Hubby was peering over my shoulder as I read this because I was laughing so much. This is so freaking funny. You and Milton — what a team. I would love it if you would, and only if you have the time, mind you, V — would you find out the purchase price for the origami thingey and the riveting putty-colored canvas. It speaks to me. The sculpture by Morris might get mixed up with the dust on my floors although it too is obviously a stellar piece of crap, uh, I mean art.

    P.S. (a friend of mine said the Museum of Sex was cool — have you and Milton been there?)

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    • The priceless “origami thingey” now in residence in a landfill, Brig? Looking back, it’s even more hilarious how all of us goers just assumed it was art of that exhibit, not left behind by a prankster! We got punked!

      Milton and I have never visited MoSEX. I’m sure we’d have to pay dearly for that! But … maybe we’ll find a discount code or pass. We’re intrepid that way.

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  8. My fave art critic is now MIlton! Tell him to get to the Asbury Lanes and see some real funky art work! The only piece of art work I own is from down there and the work is by the artist Porkchop!

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    • Hey Arbuckle, and don’t call you Fatty, I guarantee you that Milton would be bursting with comment if he ever sees your Porkchop still life! That’s an artwork that’s begging for a Miltonian observation, Max, I mean, Arbuckle.

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  9. Pretty funny! The Delineator and origami was “priceless!!” Maybe the artist thought it would cast a shadow…. 🙂
    I am amazed they let everyone take pictures. We are not allowed to at the Denver museums.

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    • I was amazed that they let us snap away, too, Susie. Just as long as you didn’t let fly with the flash, they were cool about visitors taking pictures. That said, they have had no photography allowed for other recent exhibits, such as the Cindy Sherman that I attended last year with my bud, Albee. She is a photographer, so that was their way of getting you to buy the catalogue. I bought two postcards. What I can afford. As I told Brigitte, we got punked with that origami on the Delineator! I love that!

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  10. I visited a MoMA in Chicago once. That was all it took. They had some weird exhibits that some may call art. One was several pieces of six-inch stove pipe stuck together in a twisting maze in an attempt to resemble a contortionist on meth. Next we got to see a group of 55 gallon drums with water on their lids, which I suppose was to represent a homeless man’s reflecting pool. All the while I kept having flashbacks of the story, The Emperor’s New Clothes.

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    • Had same feeling during the last Bush administration and their execution of foreign policy.

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    • Russell, I think you’d give Milton a run for his pesos with your observations of these more esoteric examples of minimalist art if you ever visit MoMA’s fourth floor. The next time I see a stove pipe or 55 gallon drum, especially on with water on the lid, I promise that I will think of you and maybe Hans Christian Anderson.

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  11. I have to say, it’s gratifying to see that art lovers such as yourself can eyeroll at some of the MoMa exhibits. When we walked in there in October (we thought) the fire alarm was going off but no one registered any kind of panic so we weren’t really sure what was going on. Then suddenly the alarm stopped and everyone was clapping and we realized that the noise was some kind of performance piece. I felt terribly small town at that moment because there is virtually nothing that could make me think that a fire alarm was art.
    And if I saw Tilda Swinton napping, I’d be tempted to just go curl up with her and ask her how I get paid to have a nap in public too. If it meant I had to make movies with George Clooney first, I guess I’d take that hit.

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  12. OMG! i damn near spit my coffee out, sweet pea! you and Milton have got to organize museum tours! i swear i will never, ever be able to visit an art museum again without thinking of you two! xoxoxo

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  13. I think it’s a good thing to see/watch/read things that are “great” and then decide for yourself. I would love to see “The Scream” and “Starry Night” although like Milton, I think I would be disappointed by the former. I saw the Mona Lisa years ago, and wondered what all the fuss was about.

    Some of those “works of art” reminded me of the emperor’s new clothes. “The Return” speaks to me of the individual’s powerful isolation within society, and the rigid conformity which we adopt in an effort to assuage our profound loneliness.

    Thank you for including Reclining Nude. It’s nice to know that I can still be moved by art.

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    • The “good stuff” like Modigliani’s Reclining Nude, Smak, is impressive, and even more so when you see a ten-foot-tall pink plank that makes you want to scream, “WTF?” If Milton were the violent type, he probably would have wanted to hit the artist on the head with that or saw it in two and rename it, “Book Shelf”.

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  14. You are a scream. Thanks for sharing your travels. Your eye for detail is art!

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  15. I love Milton’s observations! I agree with him about the Patrick Henry Bruce painting. Two years? What did he paint it with—an eyelash? And Robert Morris’ “Untitled” looks like a year’s worth of lint from my dryer. I think someone should come up with a cereal called “Clusterfucks.” I’d buy it. Thanks for the fun trip, V!

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    • Did PHB paint that with an eyelash and RM’s Untitled looks like a year’s worth of lint from your dryer! Absolutely hilarious observations! You would fit in VERY well with Milton on a museum tour with us!

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  16. I guess everybody would agree with having a Milton’s Fan Club.

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  17. Snoring Dog Studio

    I adored this visit to the MOMA. You and Milton are the docents that every museum ought to have. And how I love the pompousness of “installations.” Installations are code for “we have this enormous building, so we need some big, honking crap to fill it up with.” It all reminds me of a favorite cartoon in which two museum visitors, who resembled Picasso’s subjects (eyes on both sides of their heads) remarked at a painting of a normal human, “Even I could do that!”

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    • “we have this enormous building, so we need some big, honking crap to fill it up with.” That’s great, Jean! MoMA is so terrific because it has fantastic art like Modigliani, Van Gogh, Monet, Picasso, etc. as well as the joke floor silliness and then, just wild stuff in-between like the helicopter suspended from the ceiling over the first floor and I know they now have a classic Ferrari race car someplace. We would need a full day to see everything on all the floors, it’s just so overflowing with culture both superb and ridiculous.

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  18. Thank you for my free ride!!!

    R.

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  19. Love Milton’s comments. And, your story and the Magnificent Seven’s comments make better art than some of what we saw, through the eyes of your camera, on The Joke Floor. But, then, often I am ignorant of what is considered good art. I only know what I like.

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  20. I’d love to read a long essay of Milton reviewing Thomas Kinkade’s “art”.

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  21. Love Milton’s commentary.

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  22. I’d say the joke is on anybody who actually pays good money for any of the “art” on the joke floor. If somebody knocked over a trash can in passing they could have a masterpiece as brilliant as Untitled!

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    • “Untitled” seems to be the go-to name for many of these Emperor’s New Clothes-style artworks, although I suppose calling that pink plank, “The Absolutely Naked Fragrance”, was the most inspired aspect of that sculpture.

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  23. I am SO late to this party but SO glad I didn’t miss it! I don’t think I have ever had as much fun at an Art Gallery! Your comment about photographing the electrical closet made me laugh even louder as I recalled some friends insisting we take a photo of them studying the fire extinguisher at the eleventy-hundredth Picasso gallery we were at in the south of France. If Milton has a day job he needs to quit immediately and do gallery audio guides worldwide. You two are ‘da bomb’. I loved Tilda’s dance number too. We should get a conga line going at Susie’s next bash.

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    • Patricia, glad you enjoyed this visit! Milton is never shy when it comes to giving an honest opinion, but try to photograph him, then he’s Mr. Shy. Yes, Milton has a day job. He’d quit it in a heartbeat if he could make a living at giving his opinion. I think that occupation is actually called “critic”. A virtual conga line at Susie’s with Roxie at the end sounds possible — actually it sounds a lot like a Little Caesar’s commercial from Way Back When.

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