Left alone in the Museum of Modern Art

This entry is part 8 of 23 in the series The Fred Barzyk Collection
Fred Barzyk (2007)

Pete Hoving (camera) and I traveled to New York to work on a documentary about a Boston still photographer, Marie Cosindas. We had received a grant from Polaroid to help defray the cost of doing this “Creative Person” 1/2-hour show for NET.

Peter and I both had experience at the MFA in Boston, where they would never let us roam free without someone from the museum staff being with us. (Probably those restrictions happened after one of our lights melted a painting on exhibit. It was a scoop light that was a little too close to the painting that caused the disaster. Fortunately, the museum experts where able to retouch it and it looked pretty much the same. The MFA kept on doing Museum Open House and WGBH employees knew the rules of engagement.)

But here at the MOMA, we were shocked at what happened to us … free and alone in a gallery with some of the worlds most noted modern masterpieces. Here is a little poem recalling the event.

Guernica, from Wikipedia

Museum of Modern Art, 1962

I couldn’t believe it —
We had been left alone —
The top floor of the MOMA
Just me and my cameraman
Left alone by a busy curator
Before any security guards appeared
In the middle of a deserted gallery
We waited, quiet, uncertain
Left alone in the Museum of Modern Art

Pollock, Klee, Kandinsky and all the others
Colors, shapes, demanding us to pay attention
Visual challenges screaming out from the shadows
Paintings, barely lit by the early morning light
We tried to comprehend their messages
but the images just stared back,
providing no other clues
We waited, quiet, uncertain
Left alone in the Museum of Modern Art

Around a corner is where it was hung
Twenty five feet long
Eleven feet high
Black and white,
A screaming woman,
A limp baby
A severed arm clutching a sword
Pablo Picasso’s scream against war and carnage
“Guernica”
We looked, quiet, uncertain
Alone in the Museum of Modern Art

Then the Silence stopped
Now an ugly sound filled the space,
a sound so loud and awful
a horrible sound heard only by our eyes
emanating from the massive, black and white canvas:
red, hideous yellow fire bombings,
pink flesh gnashing against brittle bones
hot blood flowing dark purple, crimson;
black explosions,
white screams;
until nothing but
Death
Horrified, we listened with our eyes
Alone in the Museum of Modern Art

Then it stopped. Gone.
The sound of high heels on cold tile
The gallery lights sputtering on.
The curator returned and the carnage vanished
Replaced by distant city traffic down below
by a car horn, a police siren
by the heaviness of our breathing.
Time now to film our documentary
Time to turn our attention to another artist
We set up our tripod and loaded our camera
Point and shoot, focus and zoom
We try to forget the cries of anguish we saw
While we were alone in the Museum of Modern Art.

But we can’t.
Never will.
Never.

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