27 November 2009

make that the caixaforum by herzog + de meuron

If you were thinking of following me to the Palladio show at the Prado that I mentioned a few days ago, change your plans. Go a bit further North, up the Paseo del Prado. The Palladio show is at the CaixaForum Madrid, designed by Herzog + de Meuron. On another side of the plaza between the CaixaForum and the Paseo is a vertical landscape by Patrick Blanc. The link under the museum name above has more information about the museum and the landscape.

I had seen press about the vertical landscape a few years ago but had totally forgotten that the CaixaForum was a Herzog + de Meuron building. My last European trip also included a building by the firm: the Schaulager in Basel. The show there was the Robert Gober retrospective which was pretty wonderful, as was the building.

26 November 2009

shiny richard serra

Sometimes you take a picture and it comes out unlike what you expected. This Richard Serra is one of three or four at Storm King Art Center near Newburgh, New York. I stopped on the way back from another week of backlog cataloging at the Center for Curatorial Studies at Bard College. I wanted to see the Maya Lin "Wavefield" which is out beyond Andy Goldsworthy's wall. The "Wavefield" was pretty interesting. From the front side, it looked about like pictures I'd seen, but on the back side, it's wonderfully rustic this time of year, in the dried grass stage of autumn when they've started the reseeding for next year. It was drizzly as I walked around the grounds; not quite enough to get you soaked or to force you to get the umbrella out, but drippy. The Serras were slick wet and I liked the way the surface reflected the crest of the hill into which the slabs are inserted. The reflection turned out making the piece looking like the "start" arrow of a YouTube video.

My stop at Storm King was after I'd visited the campus of SUNY New Paltz, my alma mater. In 1967-1968, my senior year, the Wooster Science Building was being built. Designed by Davis Brody, it reminded me of Le Corbusier's La Tourette. We're talking high new brutalism. I thought it was just wonderful: the concrete, the pour forms, the staircases. When Daniel Starr and I visited the campus a decade or so ago, again on a drippy day as I remember, Daniel thought it was the ugliest campus he'd ever seen. Well, I couldn't really argue; it's the state college stuff from the 1960s SUNY boom. Thanks, Nelson Rockefeller. There are now a good number of post-1960s buildings around the edges but it's still a SUNY campus. And I love the Wooster Science Building.

18 November 2009

the cabbage fairy & Getty surrogacy

Who could resist a woman whose first film was entitled "Le fée aux choux" (The cabbage fairy, 1896)? I'm reading the new Artforum which includes an article on Alice Guy Blaché by Alison McMahan, entitled "The most famous woman you've never heard of" (November issue, p. 81-82). Guy was the secretary at a camera and optics company in Paris in the 1890s. Her boss was developing the Biographe 60-mm motion-picture camera and she persuaded him to let her use it. The result was the one-minute "Cabbage fairy" in 1896, one of the first films and she is credited with developing the art of cinematic narrative. The Whitney has a new show about her work but I'm not likely to get there. BUT, on Netflix, I found "Gaumont treasures: the films of Alice Guy" and moved it to the top of my queue. Gaumont is the film company for which she worked as head of film production.

Rather than mope that I'm not likely to get to the Whitney show (I might have missed it, even if I was living downtown), I will just enjoy whatever is included on "Gaumont treasures." And while looking at the Artforum, I also noticed two shows in Boston that I might be able to get to on Thanksgiving weekend or thereabouts. I'm going to Boston in preparation for my trip to Madrid with Bill Connor. The impetus for the trip was the Palladio show which is at the Prado. One always goes to Madrid for Palladio, right? It won't hurt that one can also see the great Spanish and Flemish paintings there, the great works at the Thyssen-Bornemisza and the Reina Sofia. And I want to get back to the Lazaro Galdiano which is rather like the Gardner in that domestic way.

The Boston shows are both at 460 Harrison Street: John O'Reilly at Howard Yezerski and Liz Glynn at Anthony Greaney. The title of Glynn's show is "California surrogates for the Getty." Sounds fun, no? Glynn is the progenitor of the "Build Rome in a day" project which she did at the New Museum in April and which I helped on. The whole idea of Getty surrogates sounds pretty intriguing. The John O'Reilly show is curated by Trevor Fairbrother and says it includes works by Rembrandt and Joseph Cornell; since O'Reilly includes other works, usually in bits and pieces, it could be interesting. And Fairbrother has written a lot about Sargent so there's just layers of possibilities.

When I wrote "Build Rome in a day" above, I first typed "Roma" for Rome. I just finished reading Steven Saylor's 555-page novel Roma. The book started slowly but grew on me ... I guess. Not the best writing style so I just let the sentences flow past me. The centerpiece is the fascinum, a totem/necklace which is worn through the centuries and passed down from father or grandfather to son or daughter, crossing family lines a time or two, becoming so worn and legendary that the last wearers don't know who the god was. "Fascinum" is from the same route as fascination. The telling of the Ides of March assassination of Julius Caesar was rather coyly amusing as Caesar's nephew visits Cleopatra in Trastavere and then stumbles upon the plotting and into the hall where the assassination happens.

03 November 2009

twice fanciful

I love it when an amusing word appears before me more than once in a short time. In an email exchange with Nancy Norris today, she quoted an LC Rule Interpretation:

For books, generally restrict the making of the note about the nature, scope, or artistic form of the item to the situations covered below. For books that are belles lettres, record in a note the term for the literary form only when the title is misleading. Do not consider titles of literary works misleading simply because they are fanciful.

And then as I was eating my supper, I was reading the New York Times for October 7th (not quite a month behind there):

In defending the 1999 law, Neal K. Katyal, a deputy solicitor general, cautioned the justices against pursuing an “endless stream of fanciful hypotheticals.”

The whole article.

thinking about upstate cities

Ithaca has changed a lot since I moved from there to Providence in 1989. When I left, there were way fewer stores on Route 13 as you came into town. Several car dealers, a big grocery store, Manos Diner. There are now oodles and oodles of big box stores, a couple multi-floor hotels, just lots more buildings. Meanwhile, the Commons seems to be looking shabbier and shabbier. Even the Rosebud (diner) is gone, replaced by, what was it, a sushi place. I'm not sure I like these transitions but at least, overall, Ithaca seems to be thriving.

Arnot Art Museum

On the way home from a recent weekend trip to Ithaca to have supper with Margaret, Jim and Jo, I drove home through Elmira to stop at the Arnot Art Museum. The museum is a lovely Greek Revival building but, alas, wasn't open on Sundays. But it is surrounded by several lovely buildings: the county courthouse in a mix of Gothic and Greek, a church in castellated Gothic, and a Beaux Arts city hall. I know I should give you the fuller information but I haven't looked it up. It wasn't an especially inspiring day but the area looked pretty bleak. How can we have done such a nasty job on our cities?

Chemung County Court House, Elmira, NY

And these thoughts are coming on top of a fire in Alfred last week that destroyed one of the five buildings in the main business block. In addition to the businesses and apartments that were obliterated, it means that about 10% of our business spaces are gone. Hopefully, the gap will be filled in with a decent looking building. The wine store was one of the businesses burned out. The Collegiate Restaurant, aka The Jet, is currently closed because of smoke and fire damage but there was a professional cleaner van out front this afternoon as I walked home from the library. That's promising. Alfred without the Jet is a very different place.