Thursday, September 21, 2017

The Year Aftermath of My Year of Living Theatrically!

Theater season is in full swing and so far I have resisted the temptation, but the theatre's have me in their sights! About half of what I have received from them in the past two weeks!--and three came today.

What tempts me the most from these:

"In The Heights"
"The Wild Party"
"Death of Salesman"

Rosh Hashana Snap Shot

While I'm not Jewish, today is a blessing for me in that I have it off of work as a Holiday. To my dear Jewish friends, "G'mar Hatima Tova"! And know that you are sealed in the book of my heart, too.

Poor Romeo's been such a trooper with me in my present malaise. He can't possibly know that he's the vector of my distress--though I have taken to washing his paws! So we took a nice long walk today. The jingle of his harness makes him swoon. And in spite of his enthusiasm it would probably be easier to train a seal to leap through a hoop than get him to hold still while I slip the harness over his neck!

On the way down we ran into a fawn on the edge of the woods in the lot on the other side of my neighbor's house. It was covered in spots and seemed rather small to me for this late in the summer. There was no sign on a doe anywhere. Romeo finds these creatures uninteresting, but is patient while I stand a speak gently to it. The fawn looks up, flicks its tail, and returns to eating. Greets made, we continue on down the hill.

In the park I am amazed by the moisture in the ground. By this time of the year the creek is often a dribble, and the ground is parched and hard as slate. This year the soil remains dark and clearly moist--and it hasn't rained for about a week, which makes this even more unusual. It's owing to the constant rain we received throughout the end of July and especially into the latter weeks of August and early September. Another benefit is how lush and verdant the woods are. Trees that have normally started losing their foliage for want of water are still full. Notably the sycamores, which are always, a harbinger of early autumn stress.

Asiatic Daylily

The flowers are also in full glory like I've never remembered before. The Asiatic Daylilies and Knotweed are snaking there way up through the tall grass in a veritable battle for pathway supremacy. But the jewel of the trail is my favorite autumn wildflower, the Trefoil Tickseed. And all together the three make a lovely boarder to the path.

Trefoil Tickseed
On the way back we pass a neighbor working in the flowerbeds that frame the walk to her front door. She remembers my desire to start a patch of Cleomes in my own gardens and has shred the seeds of hers with me in the past. "Did they ever take?" she asks.

"No," I report.

"Would you like some more seeds?" she asks.

"If I thought they'd grow, I would. But I don't think I have the right conditions," I say.

"You might need a sunnier spot," she offers.

"That's true," I say, "So I think I'll just have to settle for enjoying yours."

She smiles and we leave it at that.

Back home I drop Romeo off and drive over to a nearby grocery for some odds and ends for super. When I drive back onto my street, I notice my neighbor standing in his front door, and I wave. 

Once I get out of my truck, I see what has captured his attention. The fawn is now grazing in our neighbor's yard across from us. With relief I see her mother is with her, but to my surprise, she is scarcely larger that her offspring--and this in a year of such abundance.

Monday, September 18, 2017

Another Look At The Denver Art Museum

 The large Oldenburg/van Bruggen sculpture outside the Hamilton Building.

 You can't fondle the broom, but the dust pan?  No holds barred, baby!

Summer Vacation Redux #30: Denver: Clyfford Still Museum

And the final stop in Denver--the final stop on my Summer Vacation of chasing the Total Eclipse of the Sun--was the Clyfford Still Museum. Clyfford Still was an American Artist of the 20th century. He was born in 1904 in Grandin, North Dakota and lived to the age of 75, dying in 1980 in Baltimore, Maryland. In between, his life and career as an artist spanned the nation and evolved from Realism to Abstract Expressionism along the way.

The list of places Still lived is not exhaustive, but it does read like a continental ping pong ball match.  Northern Maryland; Western Washington state; Southern Virginia; San Francisco, California; Manhattan, New York; Alberta, Canada....  And everywhere he lived as a young man and artist, he seemed to have found resonance in the bleak and the spare. 

These austere works morphed into nearly cartoonishly ghoulish images of people around the time of the Second World War and by 1942 his paintings had taken on a nearly perfect abstract identity.  After the war and throughout the rest of his career, the mature Abstract Expressionist style of creation became his signature.  He new and admired the work of Mark Rothko and Barnett Newman.  You can see in their friendships the cross pollination of ideas, particularly between Newman and Still.   And this is the heart of why I love Abstract Expressionism.

Trust me when I tell you that this son of an autoworker from Detroit didn't always think this sort of art was art.  My affinity for it came at a price.  The price of learning and being willing to image things beyond the concrete is worth the knowing.  Discovering a way to appreciate and enjoy Abstract Expressionism gave me the ability--nay, the freedom--to take an image and run with it without any fear of contradiction.  Whether I think of these works from some desire to find factual meaning; OR, I just let my emotions speak to me--doesn't matter.  The openness always shows me something worth spending time unraveling.  What I think is a psychological reflection of who I am.  As a rabid practitioner of the "examined life," exploring and appreciating Abstract Art (like ALL art) utilizes a skill set that helps me to see beyond the obvious in everything.

In the world of Abstract Expressionism my mind reels with connections--sees them, makes them, needs them, desires them, and almost always finds them.  It's an Artistic Safari in which no paintings are harmed along the path to conquest and discovery.  Enough of the conflated metaphors, just check out these examples of Still's paintings, and enjoy the meaning you discover in them.

 The architecture of the building harkens back to the minimalist aesthetic of Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, and a more post-industrial starkness.  And while this might speak to some dystopian sensibility, here is comes off more like the Rothko "Chapel" at the Tate Modern Museum in London, or the Newman "Stations of the Cross" instillation at the National Gallery of Art in Washington, DC (which I don't think exists any more...)  Yet the idea of the sacred is still present.

 On the ground floor is a series of displays of images and artifacts realted to Still's life and career.  The winter landscape is of his farm "home" in Westminster, Maryland early on in his career.
 You NEVER see his pre-Abstract work.  It is a gift and a window into his evolution.

 American Gothic....Still style?
 And the wheel turns......Although this painting also gave me an image of Picasso's "Three Musicians" as penguins!
 The majority of the museum looks like this.  Spare, open galleries with massive mature works of Abstract Expressionism by Still.

 At no point are the paintings "crowded".  Everything around them is very antiseptic, clinical, cool.

 A one point on the second floor, I discovered this open exterior "garden" patio/balcony.  It was open to the elements and yet confined by the ubiquitous lattice work that defines much of the building's non-concrete facades.

 Between the slats, you get a really lovely image of the front sculpture park and the North Building of the Denver Art Museum.

 Although an early work, I chose to end my sharing this.
I immediately saw within it more than a simple skull. I see Still's very contours and himself represented.  Look at the comparison with a photograph taken of him.  Don't you agree?

Sunday, September 17, 2017

Summer Vacation Redux #29: Denver Art Museum, part 1

In terms of square footage, the Denver Art Museum is immense.  The North Building, with its modernist take on the medieval castle, was designed by the renowned Italian architect, Gio Ponti (1891 - 1979).  The structure opened its 210,000 square feet of gallery space in 1971.  As fate would have it, though my visit there this August was quite fortuitous, it was also quite fortunate as the entire structure is on the verge of closing for a multi-year renovation and expansion.  I find the exterior design nothing short of ghastly, but appreciate that it is itself a massive work of art.  For all of the foreboding penitentiary vibe you get looking at if from without--the interior spaces couldn't possibly be more comfortable, spacious and inviting.  

With so much ground to cover and art to see the plan came into light.  Start in the older North Building and go to the top floor first.  Work my down to the ground, cross the covered walkway into the Hamilton building and repeat the process.  Toss in a lunch at some point, and save enough time to walk over to the Clyfford Still Museum.  I had just seven hours; it might be tight.  But immediately I received a minor disappointment that turned out to be a blessing in disguise.  The seventh (top) floor of the North Building was already closed.  Ergo, first stop was the sixth floor and the home of European & American Painting and Decorative Arts. 

Now, this is another real plus for the Denver Art Museum--it knows its niche.  And the art of both Europe and America from the Renaissance to the Post-Impressionists is not it.  Not that they don't have some beautiful works, even some iconic works, but their collection is thin in keeping with a museum that came along with fewer resources than the Big Boys on the East Coast and fewer opportunities to build their collection.  So you'll see some wonderful works, but they'll be just the tip of this museum's enormous iceberg of art.  Here are a few I especially liked.

 "Madonna and Child with Columbines" circa 1490 by Anonymous Follower of Leonardo da Vinci 

The very moment I saw this painting I immediately thought "Leonardo da Vinci!?"  But I know that the only da Vinci painting in North America is at the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C.  So when I say that it was attributed to one of his Followers, I was completely thrilled at my budding art instincts and what's more I also noticed that the Christ Child was reaching for Columbine flowers.  How utterly perfect--Columbine being the Colorado state flower.  On the way up in the elevator I had a brief conversation with one of the staff who alerted me to a recently discovered Canaletto that had been buried in their collections archive and forgotten for years before being rediscovered, fully conserved and just place back on view.  I ran into him again and told him about how delighted I was by this painting, of which he was unfamiliar, but excited to discover, too.  Seven hours might seem like a long time, but really--in the presence of art, what is the meaning of time?
 "The Family of Street Acrobats: The Injured Child (La Famille de Saltimbanque: L'Enfant Blessé)" 1873 by Gustave Doré, French
 "From My Studio Windows" circa 1890 by William Lamb Picknell, English
 "Fishing Boats" 1883 by Claude Monet, French
 "The Peaceable Kingdom" circa 1847 by Edward Hicks, American

This work certainly falls into the category of iconic; however, what many people don't know is that Hicks painted some version of this scene dozens and dozens of times!  There are at least 62 known copies all made by Hicks, himself.  It was his bread and butter.  You may have scene it in one museum and thought to yourself, "Didn't I see that at that other museum?" and the answer to your question is probably "Yes!" 
 "Arrangement in Blue" 1970 by Luigi Lucioni, Italian

One advantage to a thin collection, you often discover works by amazing artists who are completely unknown to you, like this one.
 "Contemplation" circa 1772 by George Romney, English
 There is a gallery dedicated to furniture and the decorative arts.
There is a "library" with lots of odd works, kind of like a Dutch Cabinet of Wonders.  This space also has book to peruse and interactive activities geared to children.

Summer Vacation Redux #29: Denver Art Museum, part 2

The Fifth Floor houses one of the finest collections of Asian Art I have ever seen.  The Freer and the Sackler Museums in DC come closest, but neither have the raw quality and scope of works as those housed here.  

Exiting the elevator, the first art is a special exhibition of contemporary Japanese ceramics called "From the -- Fire: Contemporary Japanese Ceramics from the Robert & Lisa Kessler Collection".
 Vase by Kohyama Yasuhisa (b. 1936)
 From "Struggling Form" series by Nakashima Harumi (b.1958)
 Jar by Kondo Yutaka (1932-1983)
 The special exhibition leads you into a large gallery full of Indian Sculptures--mostly of Hindu Deities.
 "Fire God Agni" 13th Century India
 "Goddess Durga with a Lion" circa 950 CE Uttar Pradesh, India
 "Four-faced God Vishnu (Valkuntha)" 9th-10th Century Jammu/Kashmir, India
 Entering into the gallery of the Chinese art.
 "Horse" from Eastern Han Dynasty (25-220) Gansu province, China
 An entire gallery is dedicated to Chinese & Japanese works made from bamboo.  Little sculptures like this "Snail" 19th century, Japanese.
 "Crab" 19th century, Japanese
 Here are a pair of bamboo sculptures from China.  (Left) "Two Men Smoking Pipes" 19th century China, and (Right) "Two Immortals with Bats" 19th century China.
 Made with a bamboo base, this folding-fan titled "White Roses" is Chinese circa 1900.
 Elsewhere in the Japanese Galleries you would also discover a wide range of works like this sculpture: "Haniwa Horse" circa 9th century from the Tumulus Period.
 Lots of lovely prints like this one.  "Tawara Toda Hidesato" 1880 by Tsukioka Toshitoshi, Meiji Period
 And not to leave Korean works out there were many amazing art pieces including this piece of furniture.  "Display Shelf" 19th century Korean