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Monday, August 31, 2009

Dixieland in Georgetown

I know you wouldn't believe, but it's true: there is a Dixieland in Georgetown. On the M Street, just in front of Key Bridge. Life is fine there, folks come and go, and look careless: the rhythms of the South. It's Dixie Liquor store, a small room full of wines, and beer, and enjoyment.

Last Saturday I stepped by there: they had some kind of Jeremiah Weed festival, no more, no less; all you had to do was to enter inside, taste a small drink of any liquor mixed with sweet tea, then you got a hamburger or a hot dog for free.

(Stories from Key Bridge)

Kayaks on the Potomac near Key Bridge

I walked over Key Bridge last Saturday and I took these photos: some of them with flash, some without. Click on the images to have a better view.

We had been announced in the morning that there was a flood watch till evening, but weather was fine all day long

(Stories from Key Bridge)

Friday, August 28, 2009

Alice Neel - Randall in Extremis

Alice Neel - Randall in Extremis, 1960
oil on canvas

One of the important American portraitists of the twentieth century, Alice Neel painted friends, family, lovers, artists, political activists, and failed people, folks excluded from the mainstream, living on the edge. She approached them with an uncanny blend of lucidity and sympathy and knew how to discover their inner landscape and how to render it on their faces.

This Randall is fully clothed while we have the sensation of seeing him naked (or rather he seems to fear that we see him naked). Is he horrified by us? Or rather by some interior demon who shatters him and brings the guy to the level of insanity? Trying to control this demon, to keep it hidden from us, and realizing that he just cannot, any more?

(Paint Made Flesh)

Julian Schnabel - Corine Near Armenia

Julian Schnabel - Corine Near Armenia, 1984
oil, plates, and auto-body filler on wood

The vertically fractured image of a naked woman surrounded by pieces of broken crockery: the woman seems to stay confused between worlds of past and worlds of present, between a new beginning of the Universe and a cataclysm that just destroyed the Universe, between ambiguous signs of technology and ambiguous remnants of ancient history. Corine is near Armenia, the place where the horrible massacre shattered history and future for ever.

(Paint Made Flesh)


Francesco Clemente

Francesco Clemente - Self-Portrait with Two Heads, 2002
oil on canvas

The Self Portrait with Two Heads that I have seen at the Paint Made Flesh exhibition looks undoubtedly provocative (and ambiguous, playing on a subtle confusion sexual identity), but it is good to compare it with another self portrait that I have found on a web site of Gagosian (Self Portrait with and without the Mask): we'll have a better understanding of Francesco Clemente's art. He takes the whole, decomposes it in parts and rearranges them to propose us some kind of unexpected statements. In this sense we could think at him as a Conceptualist. But it is more here.

Francesco Clemente - Self Portrait with and without the Mask, 2005
oil on linen
Says Rainer Crone, Clemente exploits figurative images for non-narrative purposes... (He) has something original to contribute: figure-words, as Novalis would call it, pictorial discoveries from a pre-conscious, pre-linguistic world, releasing associations in the observer through the power of their expressiveness. This pictorial means is one we are most familiar with through fairy tales, myths and dreams - meanings of possible, conceivable worlds. His pictures question a reality that only exists by approximation, and whose existence we intimate through the power of our own desires.

(Paint Made Flesh)

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Sunday, August 23, 2009

Background as Battleground

Arnaldo Roche-Rabell - We Have to Eat, 1986
oil on canvas

A racially indeterminate face (with traits denoting an African descent, while the light-blue eyes send to North American Caucasians) surrounded by a tangled web of some kind of Carribean foliage: it is in such details that the social message is wrapped in. It is about bicultural conflicting identities (the artist is born in Puerto-Rico and lives in Chicago). For Arnaldo Roche-Rabell background equals battleground.

Wangechi Mutu (born in Kenya in 1972, living in New York since early nineties) is also preoccupied by multiple distant identities, leading to strong internal interactions between what are essentially globalism and tribalism. She creates collages that combine fragments of photographs, spots of blood, hair, African fetiches, along with mechanical parts: the resulting hybrids speak about female identities as confused, layered, mutable; her works can be seen as poetic embodiments of modern-day transformative forces, but also as aenigmas - monsters formed by conjoining nameable parts taken from nameable creatures (Mark W. Scala) - after all, with all advances in bio-technology and all that stuff, are we still humans?

Wangechi Mutu - Squiggly Wiggly Demon Hair, 2004
paint, ink, collage, mixed media on Mylar

Here are some close-ups:

(Paint Made Flesh)


Saturday, August 22, 2009

If Life Were Life There Would Be No Death

Ivan Albright - The Vermonter
(If Life Were Life There Would Be No Death)
at Dartmouth College
oil on masonite

Ivan Le Lorraine Albright (1897 - 1983) liked to give to his works long and enigmatic titles. Does this Vermonter know some secret that we don't, of life forever; or is he rather well prepared for what will come?

Ivan Albright is considered to belong to Magical Realism (which should bring him near the Latino-American writers: his works, rigorously real in their appearance, contain something strange, difficult to describe, that bring them suddenly in the realm of imaginary).

Ivan Albright, Self-Portrait in Georgia, 1967-1968
oil on panel

Erich Fischl (born in 1948) takes another view on the end of life. It is no more magic in his work, just an account of the way we regress. A naked old man, whose skin has the translucence of an old parchment, advancing with fear along a Roman hallway: a mixed meditation about aging and eroticism. Sexual desire within the context of decay and of death approaching: we are defined by the erotic dimension and our life has a terminus. Is it really toward the end our desire balanced by self-reflection?

It is a tribute for the father of the artist, who had died one year before Eric Fischl made the portrait.

Eric Fischl - Frailty Is a Moment of Self-Reflection, 1996
oil on linen

(Paint Made Flesh)


Friday, August 21, 2009

Daniel Richter: Duisen

Daniel Richter - Duisen, 2004
oil on canvas

The personages seem unreal, you don't know why, there is something: it's like a choir in an opera, they try to convince you that it's about real time and space, but you know that's just opera. This is not reality, while it is carrying a powerful message about reality.

From a cycle of four works, titled in anagrams indicating the cardinal direction, Duisen is a scrambled version for Süden: the reference relates to the influx of immigrants coming from Islamic countries (thus, from South) to Germany, leading to new political realities, igniting conflicting social issues.

To understand him better, here is an interview given by Daniel Richter.

(Paint Made Flesh)


A.R. Penk : Skizze

A R Penck - Sketch (Skizze), 1983
acrylic on canvas

It is one of the works that impressed me the most at the Paint Made Flesh exhibition from Phillips. I thought immediately at The Seer of Gottlieb (viewed also at Phillips, some time ago): a imilar pictorial alphabet of Primitive ideograms, the same bi-dimensional space, in quest for the purity of the Primitive Art.

A. R. Penk could be revendicated by two contemporary art directions: Neo-Primitivism and Neo-Expressionism. If you agree, his Neo-Primitivist approach is a way of expressing his Neo-Expressionsit feelings: witnessing as a child the bombardment of Dresden, leaving then in East Germany under the constant pressures of the Communist regime, surveyed by the political police, he expressed by his art (painting, sculpture, along with jazz) his dissident attitude. And Expressionism is a propper way to speak about your disdain for the ugly realities of the universe you are constrained to live.

(Paint Made Flesh)


Thursday, August 20, 2009

Paint Made Flesh

An exhibition at Phillips Collection: it's not about human flesh used as raw material by some quirky artists of today, or some crazy form of performance art. No, it is about the effort to show the human flesh in all its frailty and thus to make the image in likeness with what it is essential in human nature: desire and failure, illusion and despair.

Art was always marked by the tension between image and reality, and long time it was considered that the solution was to follow strictly the canons of beauty. Well, Rembrandt discovered that people are not always young and gorgeous, and Goya found out that behind grandeur there was silly ridicule. And then, little by little, artists took the courage to depart from canons. They discovered that perspective was just a convention and that colors did not match always one another. And they went further, giving up completely the representation of reality and looking for their own universes of lines and circles.

Only it happened that these lines and circles started to claim their own stories, their own plots, and thus became again images; and the tension came back.

Pop Art tried to bring the real objects into the work art: only it happened that these real objects lost their quality of being real objects and became images. Photorealism tried to follow consciously the reality by examining carefully the objective image given by a photo, finding this way those elements in the reality that human eye does not perceive: only the reality carefully reconstructed by Photorealists was not ours; it was their own.

Hyperrealism took another way: to look for what are essentially our weaknesses and to speak honestly about them: ugliness, ridicule, suffering, and so on.

Now, coming back to the exhibition at Phillips, not all artists there belong to Hyperrealism, of course; some were active long time before this term was coined; some Germans belong rather to Neo-Expressionism; some artists (like Francis Bacon) are too much their own guys to be possibly framed.

There is a video (authored by PhillipsArtMuseum) that will give you an idea about the exhibition. Unfortunately its width does not fit with the size of the blog page.

It was not allowed to take pictures inside, of course, but I will show you in some future posts images that I found in the album of the exhibition:

(Phillips Collection)
(Contemporary Art)


Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Mondrian: Selfportrait

Piet Mondrian - Selfportrait, c 1900
oil on canvas mounted on masonite

Can you believe?

(Phillips Collection)


Still Music

Ben Shahn - Still Music, 1948

Musical notes and musical instruments taking their rest, after they were played, the whole universe of sounds is now resting, sounds of music and colors of music, what we hear are just reverberations.

(Phillips Collection)

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Yasuo Kuniyoshi - Thinking Ahead

Yasuo Kuniyoshi - Thinking Ahead, 1943
oil on canvas

Born in Japan in 1893, Yasuo Kuniyoshi came to US in 1906 and studied art while supporting himself by picking fruiit in the summer and working in hotels during winter. He became a well-known artist at the beginning of the 1930's. He died in 1953.

(Phillips Collection)

Jorge Pardo and Kenneth Noland

Kenneth Noland, In the Garden

Jorge Pardo is dedicated to creating installations that pose the question of where does the work end and real life begin (askArt). As for Kenneth Noland, his In the Garden is one of my big favorites.

Musical background: Marcello Tonolo, Jazz Piece on a Mozartian Theme

(Phillips Collection)

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Monday, August 17, 2009

Lake Needwood - August 15

Lake Needwood in Rockville, Maryland. I 'm going by metro to Rockville, then there's a bus (48 or 49) that leaves me at Bauer Drive; then there is about one hour through the woods, following the Rock Creek Trail.

- Arriving at Lake Needwood -

- With Captain Jim over Lake Needwood -

Captain Jim is the commander of Queen. He is a great guy, full of humor and kindness.

The cruise is going on and Captain Jim is giving us all kind of explanations related to the lake and its surroundings. It seems that no pirates have ever threatened the places.

Now Captain Jim made up his mind to show us a beaver. It was very much fun on the boat. The voice of Captain Jim reminds me of Vasile Axente, an old friend from Bucharest. I looked for him when I was in Romania last time, without success. I will try again next time.

- Over the Dam -

This video is not a great one (to put it mildly), but the place offers a unique view. On one side, the lake, on the other side, the forest. All colored by the light of sun.

- Deers at Lake Needwood -

Actually a young deer and a doe, on the Westside Trail of Lake Needwood.

- Leaving Lake Needwood -

Back on the Rock Creek Trail, after a day spent at Lake Needwood.

- Rock Creek, with and without flash -

- And two photos as a tribute to Pan's Labyrinth of Guillermo del Toro -



The New York of Helen Levitt

Helen Levitt
There is a Whitmanesque generosity, an unqualified love, coming through her pictures
(NY Times)

(Capturing the City)

NY, 1973: Sonny and Cher

(Capturing the City)

Friday, August 14, 2009

Newman's Stravinski

(Capturing the City)

Two Neighbors: a Photo from 1940

(Capturing the City)

West Side Piers in the Late 70's

Alvin Baltrop
distant shot of anonymous having intercourse on West Side Piers in the late 70's
(NY Times)

(Capturing the City)

The Country of Windmills

Bruce Davidson: photograph from 1959
(NY Times)

America, the big country of windmills for crazy dreamers. The Statue of Liberty is somewhere in distance: Fata Morgana.

(Actually these are rooftop aerials; does it make a difference?)

There is an Italian immigrant story: we were told that in America all roads were paved with gold; we came here to discover three things: that the roads were not paved with gold, that they were not paved at all, and that we were expected to pave them.

(Capturing the City)

Psychedelic Times Square

Andrew Moore: Time Square, 2002
(NY Times)

(Capturing the City)

Ted Croner: Times Square

Ted Croner: Time Square Montage, 1947-48
Ted Croner's rigorously blurry photographs of NY at night in the 1940's epitomized the film noir energy of a city that never sleeps.
(NY Times)

(Capturing the City)

The Waste Land

1997 photograph by Philip-Lorca diCorcia
pedestrians like zombies
(NY Times)

(Capturing the City)

Sex and the City, Inedit

(Capturing the City)

1930 Photograph by Margaret Bourke-White

1930 photograph by Margaret Bourke-White
(NY Times)

(Capturing the City)

Capturing a City - Photographs of NY

Today's NY Times published an article related to NY photographs. I will post some of the images. Here's the first one. Some others will follow. Enjoy!

(New York, New York)

(America viewed by Americans)

Hans Richter - Filmstudie, 1926

Filmstudie (Film Study), by Hans Richter: entertaining Dadaist experimental short, similar to Man Ray's work, full of shifting geometric shapes, stock footage of seagulls, flying eyeballs, and glaring floating heads (IMDB).

(Filmele Avangardei)


Thursday, August 13, 2009


Marcy Avenue Station

I arrived at Brooklyn late in the evening. The train left me at Marcy Avenue. I went down the stairs and I looked around. The street was animated, lots of folks going in and out small stores, and a very loud music. It was coming from across the street: the second floor of a rather new building, I thought it was a dance school there or something. Actually it was a church, just that, a church at the second floor, in a huge room looking like a school dance, and the music was kind of Latino gospel. A McDonald was at the first floor.

I took a left on the 8th Street toward Kent Avenue and I found myself suddenly in an ultra-Orthodox Jewish neighborhood. It was Friday night and the men were hurrying up, dressed very traditionally: you would have said time went back and you were some place in medieval Prague or Vienna. After a couple of blocks the Jewish got mixed with a bit of Latino, as some new immigrants had recently moved in the neighborhood. I started to realize that Brooklyn was a place to offer you constantly the unexpected.

Next morning I took the way back and I passed Marcy Avenue, toward Grand Street. I had to meet there with some friends and have breakfast together.

I met with them, only the thing was that each one had totally different ideas what restaurant to choose.

We tried Santorini Grill; it would have been fine for me, as they had taramasalata and the divine Greek coffee. One of my friends proposed the Leon's Burger Hut on Bedford Avenue. It had a great look, with the lion drawn on the window and the colored strips and we could have had there some omelette. Another of us proposed La Villita Bakery, to have there a cake. I didn't like the idea. So after that we separated, having in mind to meet again for lunch (believe it or not).

Well, Bedford Avenue is a dream: the Axis Mundi for a neighborhood of hipsters, full of picturesque small stores and small bars, and the folks on the street looking great.

And it was there that my sister gave me a totally unexpected gift: The Wild Party, with illustrations made by Art Spiegelman. I will come later on this book, it deserves much attention.

(New York, New York)


Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Mario Bellatin: Beauty Salon

Just like the first time I bought fish, I chose one male and two females. One of them even turned out to be pregnant. As I said, unlike those first fish these turned out to be survivors. They withstand the lack of care in a very reasonable manner. The oxygen pumps are broken except for one that works in fits and starts. At times, the water seems to purify itself and I almost never have time to clean it.

Salón de Belleza (Beauty Salon): a city we don't know the name is ravaged by an epidemic we are not told the title either; a transvestite is indifferently caring for the victims of the disease. Does it make sense? Maybe, if you have the taste for Camus, Saramago, and Frida Kahlo, like I do.

NY Times published the first chapter. Enjoy!

(Mario Bellatin)