Blood, Babel, and Bridget Riley

May 30, 2016

For many, modern art seems to be nonsensical, even pointless, but there is true meaning and emotion behind these works.  Many pieces require more than just a first glance. Going to the Tate Museum of Modern Art is a lesson in the importance of getting to know the context of a piece—or person—before passing judgement. Whenever I glanced a piece that made me feel any type of emotion, most of the time, confusion, I made a practice of reading the name plate to discover its unique history.  There were many many powerful pieces of art that I would have misunderstood or passed over completely had I not taken the time to get to know them.

The Tate Modern is organized by thematic galleries rather than chronology like the National Gallery and the National Portrait Gallery.  I liked this layout.  I felt that it allowed me to explore the museum with more freedom.  Seeing art presented in chronological order makes me feel as if I have to follow it in order.  But just like much of the art housed within it, the Tate is abstract.

There are so many pieces that impacted me deeply that I don’t have time to write about all of them, but here are some of the highlights.

Bridget Riley was by far my favorite artist on display at the Tate.  Her works are each colorful, bright, and lively, and showcase her influences from many international cultures.

Briget Riley 2Briget Riley 1Briget Riley 3

The third portrait above is entitled “To A Summer’s Day.” riley took influence for this piece from Shakespeare’s sonnet, “Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day…”

Other favorites included Gerhard Richter’s set of six painting entitled “Cage 1-6.” All six pieces are named after the composer John Cage whose music Richter listened to while working.  These paintings are each made by dragging a squeegee across each new layer of wet paint so that the colors of past layers are allowed to shine through.


Babel was a large tower constructed of radios all playing different things simultaneously to portray ideas of information overload.


I particularly enjoyed seeing the work of Louise Nevelson, whose work was first introduced to me last year by my wonderful boyfriend, Kyle, as he studied one of her pieces during his first semester of architecture school.  I love the way that her work is so simple in color, but is so intricate and detailed upon closer inspection. The individual trinkets found in her pieces were found on the streets of New York city. Her two pieces at the Tate are “Black Wall” and “An American Tribute to the British People.”


The Tate contained numerous other fascinating works, including many optical illusions and kinetic art. The most impactful pieces I found were those in the “Demolition” and “Citizens” themed galleries. “Citizens displayed several works having to do with civil protests throughout the 20th century, including the marches for Civil Rights in Birmingham, Alabama.  The piece that influenced me the most all day was actually the very first one I saw this afternoon.

monument for the living

This is “Monument for the Living” by Marwan Rechmaoui.  It is a scale model of the Burj El Murr building in Lebannon.  It was not completed before the civil war broke out, so it was only ever used as a sniper outpost.  Too tall to knock down and too dense to implode, it remains standing today as a monument to unrest and lives lost.

Overall, I loved the museum.  It was great to learn and respond to so many powerful pieces.  Today’s experience differed from yesterday in that it felt much more casual.  Everyone talks a little louder and mills about with less reverence or formality than in the National Galleries.  I think if I had to choose, I enjoyed the National Galleries slightly better, simply because there is something about standing so close to paintings that are 600 years older than you that evokes an awe of the human experience.

I returned to the hotel for about an hour before it was time to depart for dinner and a show.  A group of use had Chinese at a noodle bar in Leicester Square.  The performance tonight was Doctor Faustus, which was originally written in the early 1600s.  This version was extremely modernized and there was never a dull moment. It was interesting to say the least. It had lots of blood and gore and the stage was trashed by the end of the show. I feel so sorry for the deck crew…the show also starred Kit Harrington, who is apparently in Game of Thrones.  His performance was very well done, and now I can say I’ve seen a famous person in London.  The show got out around 9:45 and it was still light outside! I guess this is the first night I’ve been out of a show that early to see it.  A short tube ride later, we are all back at the hotel and writing our blogs.  I am happy to be bonding with these people, even if I am introverted and slow at it.

Tomorrow we are going to see a matinee performance of The Taming of the Shrew at the Globe.  I hope this performance is better than the last. The morning and evening is free, so I might do some shopping and see an evening show as well. Not sure what yet, but I’m rolling with the punches.



2 thoughts on “Blood, Babel, and Bridget Riley

  1. Your descriptions are so good it’s almost like being with you. Seems like you are taking full advantage of your opportunity.


  2. Sounds like a fascinating day and evening for you. Judging from your pictures, I really liked the works of Louise Nevelson. They are so original. At least I assume they are pretty original. I haven’t really been to that many art museums in the same caliber as the ones you were in today. I appreciate all your indepth descriptions. You’re so good at that! XXOO


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