Month: September 2009

Neon & The Downtown LA Art Scene

Glad to hear that the downtown LA art scene hasn’t been impacted severely by the recession. But one other trend might be troubling: the Museum of Neon Art is moving out of its cozy enclave (yet crowded space), and into the burbs. Will the artsy neighborhood that it used to cozy up to now have a gaping hole? Will this sense of loss affect the whole arts atmosphere? Will now others start to leave, leaving art admirers bereft? Or will the art admirers be the first to sense the loss and stop attending the art walks and such? Physical location is key in attracting and maintaining a following.

But I’d attend anywhere, just on the concept alone!

At its current location on 4th Street in the Old Bank district, visitors to the museum have a tendency to look befuddled after viewing the 20 pieces of neon and wonder where some of the more iconic pieces are located. The Grauman’s Chinese Theatre dragon? The old Union 76 ball? “People ask, ‘Where’s the Brown Derby?’ ” said Kim Koga, the museum’s director, referring to the neon sign that once stood atop one of the city’s most famous dining establishments and is now in the museum’s permanent collection. “We couldn’t get it in the door here.”

Spanish Artists (and others) Referenced in Degrees of Freedom

The narrative of my novella Degrees of Freedom references several Spanish artists/works in the Museo de Bellas Artes, Sevilla, and other works around the world. Some readers have asked for a listing of all of these. Brilliant idea! I should have thought of this very thing months ago.
But first, check out the trailer here on YouTube: http://bit.ly/2AMIxJ
Secondly, here’s the synopsis:
A work of literary fiction that touches on themes of art history, food, and geography, Degrees of Freedom is set in Seville, Spain, and more specifically the city’s Museo de Bellas Artes gallery. The novella chronicles one man’s search to mend the unraveling seams of his life — a rocky relationship with a temperamental daughter, and a failing epistolary (and achingly platonic) friendship with an art critic for the Rome Times – using art as his therapy. As he immerses himself in the vibrancy of the Sevillan streets, the food, the people, and most compellingly, the portraiture housed in the maze of tiny galleries at the Museo, he is shaken into a surreal sense of consciousness by the profound impact that art, place, and history can stamp – sometimes favorably, and sometimes mercilessly — on life.
 
So, finally, here it is! A guide of all the works referenced — in the order in which they appear — in Degrees of Freedom.
The Apotheosis of St. Thomas Aquinas, 1631, Franscisco de Zurbaran

The Apotheosis of St. Thomas Aquinas, 1631, Franscisco de Zurbaran

Virgin and Child (La Servietta), 1670, Bartolomé Murillo

Virgin and Child (La Servietta), 1670, Bartolomé Murillo

Immaculate Conception (La Colosa), 1650, Bartolomé Murillo

Immaculate Conception (La Colosa), 1650, Bartolomé Murillo

Marriage of St. Catherine, 1682, Bartolomé Murillo

Marriage of St. Catherine, 1682, Bartolomé Murillo

Lamentation Over The Dead Christ, 1490, Pedro Millan

Lamentation Over The Dead Christ, 1490, Pedro Millan

St Hugo in the Refectory, 1655, Francisco de Zurbaran

St Hugo in the Refectory, 1655, Francisco de Zurbaran

Crucifixion, 1640, Francisco de Zurbaran

Crucifixion, 1640, Francisco de Zurbaran

Santa Teresa, Jusepe de Ribera

Santa Teresa, Jusepe de Ribera

Last Supper, 1603, Alonso Vazquez

Last Supper, 1603, Alonso Vazquez

Last Supper, 1635, Rembrandt

Last Supper, 1635, Rembrandt

Last Supper, 1467, Dieric Bouts

Last Supper, 1467, Dieric Bouts

Last Supper, 1568, El Greco

Last Supper, 1568, El Greco

Last Supper, 1498, Leonardo da Vinci

Last Supper, 1498, Leonardo da Vinci

Vision of Saint Francis of Paola, 1670, Bartolomé Murillo

Vision of Saint Francis of Paola, 1670, Bartolomé Murillo

Copycats, Copycats

Helvoetsluys (1832) by JMW Turner, at Tate Britain

Helvoetsluys (1832), to which Turner added a red daub at the last minute, rivalling the vibrancy of Constable’s nextdoor painting. Photograph: Tokyo Fuji Art Museum Collection

Yesterday on Nathan Branford’s blog (written by an agent, this is a wildly popular blog for writers — struggling ones, mostly, and of which I share a very common bond) he asked the question “Should writers read? and if so, how much?” This led one blogger to write in “I don’t read much, because it gives me fodder for copying everyone else’s ideas.”

Interesting. I’ve thought about this before. Though an argument could be made that if you read Keats, Bronte, and Dan Brown that you’ll know your competition and you will be able to steer clear of it.

Not so with the wild landscape artist Turner, according to the UK’s Guardian:

Turner copied landscapes by Claude Lorrain, stealing his veiled Italian suns and bleached Italian light – even when he transposed them to a view of Devon. He borrowed a road from Poussin, took windmills and the glow of nocturnal fires from Rembrandt; he mirrored a whole seascape by Willem Van de Velde the Younger, shared storms at sea with Jacob van Ruisdael (though they lived almost a century apart), and painted bigger natural catastrophes in the Alps than Philip James de Loutherbourg. Turner was fearless, even when he failed in his emulations of Titian.

Did he think no one would notice? Or perhaps only the “experts” would? I surely didn’t know this until I was cruising through the Tate’s online blog this morning. Because of his brilliance and the fact that he was a better painter than those he imitated, does this mean we can just divert our glance?

This reminds me of a “Project Runway” show where one of the top three was accused by the editor at Elle for ripping off designs from famous designers. Ultimately, she didn’t win. But maybe that’s because she wasn’t famous yet.

Food As Art

The Washington Post has an article today on the world-renowned elBulli restaurant, located two hours north of Barcelona. The chef is amazing gastronomically, but the way the food lands on the plate is equally amazing.

The artworks to be found there one evening this summer included a pair of fried rabbit ears, a plate of embryonic pine nuts and a Styrofoam box filled with “Parmesan air,” a frozen foam so light you could barely feel it on your tongue. In a more rococo mode, there were also translucent Parmesan pouches filled with squirmy, briny sea anemones, which sat alongside cubes of oyster, which lay beside a fresh, very bitter kumquat, which was set between several tiny rabbit brains, more like custard than meat.

Two years ago, organizers of the ultra-prestigious Documenta art festival in Kassel, Germany, declared one two-person table at elBulli to be an off-site exhibition venue, with Ferran Adria’s food as its art and free trips there for a lucky handful of art lovers.

Museums are recognizing his brilliance. And we all know that restaurants in America are on the bandwagon as well. One of Adria’s former employees  has opened a restaurant in DC which touts the “Philly cheesesteak” and a radical “guacamole” — avocado wrapped around a tomato-cilantro sorbet — which are more like pop art than real street foods. “We don’t want to feed people,” explains Adria, “we only want to have a conversation.”

A conversation. Yes, art is conversation. And emotion:

Adria says he likes it when raw, creative gestures pile up and even clash in his cuisine, so that each one provokes an instant, very different “animal reaction.”

Isn’t this exactly the gutteral element that Damien Hirsch is looking for?

Embassy Tour of Art

Private residence on the DC Embassy Tour

Private residence on the DC Embassy Tour

 

 

On Sunday I walked around upper northwest DC along Massachusetts Avenue and around the Kalorama area which borders Dupont Circle to the west to trot through some pretty amazing ambassadorial residences and  embassies. Each year different countries are featured. This year we saw the French Ambassador’s Residence (1910, beaux-arts mansion), Residence of the Ambassador of the Netherlands (old master paintings, tapestries), Embassy of Portugal, Residence of the Ambassador of Venezuela (classicist and abstract paintings), and the home of the Ethiopian ambassador.

I ogled at a Bonard in the French Embassy (what I would do to throw a party on the sweeping back terrace overlooking a leafy forest in the heart of DC). The Venezuelan residence had an impressive collection as well of contemporary Venezuelan artists. The Ethiopian ambassador had probably the most unique conversation piece I’ve seen – a gigantic  hollowed-out jug (size of a small cow) that stored wine. The wine is served using a ladle. Very cool presentation, though there’s no way to temperature control the liquid. (But that’s just a small detail at happy hour anyway.)

But most fascinating, I’ll have to admit, were the two private, non-ambassadorial residences on the tour. One was the home of a former State Department curator; the other was the home of a graphic designer.

Perhaps the ultimate job would be state department curator – jetting all over the world to place art in the U.S. embassies. What a unique foreign collection you could amass. And that she did. Ranging from Turkish tapestries to a sarcophagus of an Egyptian king, her treasures were spread all over the first floor of the massive rowhouse.

The graphic designer’s rowhouse was equally impressive, with a Buddha wading pool that he installed on his small terrace complete with silk waterlilies the color of the rainbow, to a genuine Miro in his bedroom (yep, he allowed all of DC to traipse through his entire home), to two huge pink poodles flanking the living room fireplace.

Next year, I think I’m going to be equally excited to see the bling in the private homes of “average” Americans.

En Plein Air: Italian Chalk Festival

Still Life

Still Life

Works in chalk are fascinating. It’s relatively rare that you see an artist work in this medium en plein air. Also, it seems juvenile (after all, didn’t we all spend hours on the driveway baking in the heat, making fantastic creations at age 5?) and so mysterious — exhibit A: the sponge that people use to great effect, smoothing out rough edges, marrying hues. How can it  have such power to change a piece of work?

I’m still reeling from the experience of watching professional artists work wonders on the slates in front of the drop-dead gorgeous 1916 Beaux-Arts facade of the Cleveland Museum of Art last weekend. Below are some pictures that I hope capture the moment.

First, here’s a description of the event:

Madonnari Chalk Tradition
In 16th-century Italy, beggars, using chalk on the plazas outside cathedrals, copied paintings of the Madonna by Raphael and his contemporaries. With these street painters, called I Madonnari (painters of the Madonna), an artistic tradition was born. Today I Madonnari festivals are held annually in Europe, Africa, and the United States. In 1990 the festival brought this Renaissance tradition to Cleveland.

Modigliani et al

Modigliani et al

 

Here are a few other great chalk artists and their works on the web. Julian Beever, the British artist, is probably the most renowned:

http://users.skynet.be/J.Beever/pave.htm

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hfn8Dz_13Ms

http://www.tracyleestum.com/

http://www.moillusions.com/2009/02/ice-age-sidewalk-by-edgar-muller.html

Now I’m off a few days to the beach and a romp in DC! Until Monday!