Important Show Coming: The Armory Show at 100: Modern Art and Revolution

I’ve been talking a lot very recently about art being shown in context, and there is a very important upcoming show that takes this idea and expresses it –  so I want to make sure anyone in the NYC metro area is aware of The New York Historical Society’s “The Armory Show at 100” coming to the NY Historical Society Museum beginning October 11, 2013.

Unlike many shows that take significant effort like this to curate, the NY Historical Society has already decided this show WILL NOT TRAVEL. The show is ABOUT a landmark New York City event, and the show will take place IN New York City and nowhere else.

If you are lucky enough to live in the NYC metro area, I encourage you to order your tickets now. (And I get no kickbacks from the museum!)

TIP: The NY Historical Society offers free admission (with a pay-as-you-wish donation policy) from 6-8pm on Friday evenings.

Here is what the NY Historical Society says about the show:

The Armory Show at 100: Modern Art and Revolution, revisits the famous 1913 New York Armory Show on its 100th anniversary. In 1913, the International Exhibition of Modern Art came to New York. Organized by a small group of American artists and presented at the Lexington Avenue Armory (and thus nicknamed the Armory Show), it introduced the American public to European avant-garde painting and sculpture. This exhibition is an exploration of how the Armory Show inspired seismic shifts in American culture, politics, and society.

The New-York Historical Society’s exhibition reassesses the Armory Show with a carefully chosen group of approximately seventy-five works. The exhibition includes American and European paintings and sculpture that will represent the scandalous avant-garde and the range of early twentieth-century American art. It will also include historical works (dating through the nineteenth century) that the original organizers gathered in an effort to show the progression of modern art leading up to the controversial abstract works that have become the Armory Show’s hallmark.

The 2013 exhibition revisits the Armory Show from an art-historical point of view, shedding new light on the artists represented and how New Yorkers responded. It will also place this now-legendary event within the context of its historical moment in the United States and the milieu of New York City in ca. 1911–1913. To that end, music, literature and early film will be considered, as well as the political and economic climate.

The exhibition will not travel. It will be accompanied by a substantial catalogue with thirty-one essays by prominent scholars from a variety of fields to re-examine the 1913 exhibition and its historical and cultural context.

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I will definitely be going to this one!

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New Poem Live on Sassafras – She Took To Her Bed

My poem, She Took To Her Bed, is now live on Sassafras, Issue 2! Many thanks again to Miranda Holqvist, editor. Comments on this poem are welcome here on my blog .

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Please click here to read the piece:

http://sassafrasmag.wordpress.com/2013/09/16/carol-deminski-she-took-to-her-bed/

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The permanent link is available via the Published Stories page, here on the blog.

The Tate Modern – Rothko’s Seagrams Murals

I went to the Tate Modern over the weekend. From the outside, the building is a hulking concrete former power station on the south bank of the Thames.

Me watching tourists watching the north bank of the Thames from the Tate Modern cafe

Me watching tourists watching the north bank of the Thames from the Tate Modern cafe

Inside, the Tate Modern “reads” like the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) in New York City architecturally. Each floor is a series of plain white box galleries each leading to the other with some open communal space in the center of the museum for the escalators.

That’s where the similarity between the two institutions ends.

Inside the Tate Modern galleries, the walls are jumbled with a mix of paintings and works arranged all over the wall and floor (for sculpture). Many pieces are not at eye level, they are well above the heads of the viewers, and the glare from the lighting makes viewing a challenge. Moreover, the pieces are not arranged chronologically, or by artist or even in what seems to be a logical grouping of artists. Instead, each of the gallery areas are arranged by theme on each floor.

I didn’t like this way of viewing works. I found the gallery experience random and while the curators of these themes must have felt the pieces went together well, for many of the floors I didn’t find the pieces inter-related in a way that made me feel cohesion or integration in the viewing experience.

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And then, there’s Rothko.

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Rothko Seagram Mural (1 of 7) - black box on red background

Rothko Seagram Mural (1 of 7) – black box on red background

I’m sure I must be stealing lines from my favorite art series, Simon Schama’s Power of Art, on Rothko (Click Here for the episode: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rEIn1914XSM,) when I say that the experience of seeing these seven Rothko Seagram’s murals was intense.

Rothko’s works are shown together in one gallery, barely large enough to contain these huge canvases. And the effect is overpowering. The lighting in the room is dim, mausoleum-like. It’s a crypt.

Rothko Seagram Murals - purple background and black boxes

Rothko Seagram Murals – purple background and black boxes

There is one large wooden bench in the center of the room, from which you can contemplate the enormity of death crushing down on you from these works. And while I may be prone to exaggeration, I’m not exaggerating here.

Rothko detail

Rothko detail

The hazy transitions within the paint, the way you have to squint your eyes to view the canvases… And the questions – should you get close, or further away for viewing? It’s all a kind of torment to comprehend what’s being shown.

But Rothko wouldn’t have wanted you to process these works with your logical mind anyway. He would have wanted you to stand before these monuments to his genius (I say that full knowing Rothko’s hubris, and anti-hubris) and just feel them.

Rothko Seagrams Mural - Red Box Purple Background

Rothko Seagrams Mural – Red Box Purple Background

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Maybe because I saw Picasso’s Guernica on this trip at the Museo Reina Sofia in Madrid, which is the logical home of that piece of historically significant Spanish art in a Spanish art institution…

I could not help but think that Seagrams, a company with a landmark building located in New York City, commissioned Mark Rothko, a New York City based artist, to produce works to adorn the walls of the Four Seasons, a landmark New York City restaurant, meant that these iconically important New York City elements of the story of these paintings should mean that they should be on view and permanently exhibited at MoMA. Let’s face it – that’s where they belong.

Before Franco left power as the head of Spain, Guernica found a home for 30 some odd years at MoMA. So the irony of my comments is not lost on me. But I cannot understand how the Tate Modern, a British institution, gets to own these pieces.

Is it simply about who has the money to purchase them and a mad-dash to acquire important pieces, or should important works of art also be about the contextual relevance of their own history and therefore, where it is logical for certain works to be shown?

I’m sure arguments can be made on both sides (see my previous posts about the Cubist works of Picasso scattered to the winds across many different museums globally, and in general the repetition of certain artists works in many museums, securing their place in art history.)

But there is only ONE Guernica by Picasso. There is only ONE set of Seagram’s Murals by Mark Rothko. There is only ONE Garden of Earthly Delights by Hieronymous Bosch.

And it’s entirely possible I have reached my limit of “art first’s” on this particular journey to Europe.

In fact, the day after I visited the Tate Modern, I tried to go to the Saatchi Gallery – which would have taken me from a view of Modern Art in Britain to a view of what is happening in Contemporary Art.

Outside view of the Saatchi Gallery - King's Road - London

Outside view of the Saatchi Gallery – King’s Road – London

And perhaps this is a larger comment on all of my art experiences and ponderings over the last several posts… the Saatchi Gallery, a private art institution, was closed to the public on the one day I had to see it because they were hosting runway shows for London’s Fashion Week.

Yes, the best known contemporary art space in London was closed to host the fashion elite. So I was a poor pauper left gawking at the entrance, but turned away at the door.

Pondering Museum Visits – and Guernica

In a previous posting, I mentioned how moved I was by the tremendous trove of art at the Prado in Madrid. And indeed, the Prado is a location of global art treasure, just like the Metropolitan in NYC, The National Gallery in the UK, and the Hermitage in Russia, among other seriously notable museums.

However, as a tourist with limited time to see museums it’s important to spend time wisely when choosing which museums to visit when you land in your destination of choice.

And it’s not just about time, either. It’s about the human eye and brain getting overloaded with images. I’ve visited enough museums to recognize there is such a thing as over-stimulation and museum fatigue. After about 2-3 hours, I usually need a break, or possibly need to stop wandering through galleries to “process and absorb” the things I’ve seen.

With this in mind, I want to mention the Museo Reina Sofia in Madrid, which houses Guernica. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Guernica_(painting)

Guernica is housed deep within this relatively small museum of contemporary art, in a bunker-like gallery designed to display only this towering painting. And although the room is reasonably large, it still somehow isn’t large enough to contain the painting. I can’t describe it adequately, and unfortunately in keeping with the museum’s policy, photography is not allowed in this particular gallery.

And once you’ve seen Guernica, for your $8 euro ticket price, you can essentially leave the museum. I know I’m being harsh in my commentary, and it’s not that I don’t like seeing cubist paintings by Picasso and Braque, or seeing the many Miro on display in Spanish museums, but I must call the Museo Reina Sofia out on this – there is NOTHING in that museum that can come close to the experience of seeing Guernica. There is not even one other piece on display that had an impact that could even touch what it’s like to see Guernica in person. (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4ZCTrM3yfug)

Don’t get me wrong – I walked the entire museum. I saw the permanent Richard Serra installation on the first floor. I looked at the giant Calder sculpture in the courtyard. I walked by many Picasso, Braque, DuBuffet, Miro and other works on display. But… I’m sorry to say this because I sound like a total art brat and snob to make such a comment (apologies in advance) but I have seen these works before many times.

This brings me to the core of what I’m getting at with the museums we choose to visit and why.

At the Prado, I can see totally unique works by Bosch, Goya and many others that I cannot see anywhere else in the world. I got a bit of an “art high” walking around the Prado – an experience I remember having when first viewing The Temple of Dendur at the Met so many years ago. It’s just a brain-freezing, arresting, overwhelming moment when you see something that is a towering human achievement.

And Guernica delivers this experience, no doubt. I had seen reproductions of Guernica over the years, but nothing could compare to seeing it in person.

But, I’m sorry to say, if I want to see those brown and black cubist paintings that Picasso and Braques did side-by-side for a few years and that look very similar to one another… there are a lot of them, and I see them everywhere. After a while, I don’t even really bother looking at them because my mind “knows” the image.

And once you have seen two dozen paintings by Miro, which I have in a variety of museums, I’m sorry, but I “get it” and I know the style and I can even enjoy the image but it’s something similar happening over and over.

Perhaps this is one reason Guernica has such impact. It’s a combination of cubist style and figuration – plus the historic content which is essential in understanding that scene of war horror.

But I digress.

Museums often have a “mission” to display art history, and present some chronological view of art through the ages. And in that world tour, Cubism is in there, and so yes, you will be shown those brown and black Picassos because he created that new style and it was an important moment in Art History. Yes, I agree.

Unfortunately, since many/most museums have this same mission, you wind up seeing many of the same painters over and over, and you see paintings of the same style, and in the Museo Reine Sofia I just found that I’d “seen it before” when it came to anything other than Guernica.

Am I saying don’t go to the museum? NO. I am saying if you have the chance to see Guernica, just the experience of seeing that one work is completely worth it – in my opinion. It is like Bosch’s Garden of Earthly Delights at the Prado, a one of a kind and not replicated in any other painting globally. The painting – unto itself is a piece of Art History.

But consider what I’ve said when it comes to visiting museums. What is it you hope to “experience” at these institutions, and then make your choices accordingly.

Yes Virginia, there are vegetarians in Madrid and Barcelona

Despite the fact that Iberico pork is an object of national worship in Spain (I’m not kidding – they have a chain of stores called Museo de Jambon, the Museum of Ham) and despite the fact that Spain is known for its gastronomic legends like El Bulli … I’m here to tell you that you can not just survive, but thrive, as a vegetarian in Madrid and Barcelona.

Much to my pleasant surprise, I had several excellent meals at vegetarian restos in Madrid and Barcelona, and since I was only in each city a limited amount of time I did not exhaust the list of possible vegetarian places I could have tried (not to mention I went back to places I liked and ordered something different from the menu.)

MADRID

  • In Madrid, I can highly recommend the food at Artemisa – http://restaurantesvegetarianosartemisa.com/ which offers a more ‘gourmet’ spin on vegetarian cuisine. Prices are in the middle range, expect to pay $6-8 euro per starter and $11-15 euro for a main dish. They also cater to people who need gluten free or vegan dishes.

I had the “Queen of Africa” dish, which had two “fillets” of eggplant topped with a delicious mixture of pureed vegetables, spices and chopped pistachios. Also on the plate was a refreshing salad mix. A few days later I went back again, and ordered a hummus appetizer from their specials menu, and then had a layered eggplant gratin dish that was quite rich and yummy.

The waitstaff at Artemisa are pleasant and nice, but the service at Artemisa is slow. For example, on my first visit, I was literally the only person in the restaurant and had to wait 20 minutes to place my order. Once I ordered, I waited a long time for the food. I know I’m not the only one who felt the service was poor, customers kept looking around for wait staff that were not available.

Still, if you can be patient at Artemisa, you will be rewarded with good food.

Travel Tip: In Madrid, you can order “agua del grifo” (pitcher of tap water) for free or you can purchase a bottle of sparkling or still water – it’s your choice. In Barcelona you will not be able to order agua del grifo at restaurants.

BARCELONA

  • In Barcelona, I’d suggest giving Veganoteca a try – http://www.veganoteca.com which offers both vegetarian and strictly vegan dishes too. The day I was there I ordered the “special plate” which included a wide variety of foods – salad with fresh corn, small quesadilla with cheese and veggie filling, fresh melon and pineapple slices, a few pieces of brie. For dessert a two-bite piece of apple strudel and organic yogurt with museli topping. All that and a bottle of water was included, and the whole meal was under $10 euro, which is an excellent deal.

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  • If you’re feeling more adventurous, give Teresa Carles a go – http://www.teresacarles.com This resto was established in 1979 and is rooted in more of a “scientific” approach to food as a way to improve health. As a result, they offer a variety of drinks for health purposes (I had a divine glass of lemon, pear, and ginger juice with organic honey that I’d love to replicate at home).

I also ordered a dish that was two poached organic eggs on a bed of spinach, sun dried tomatoes and a really delicious variety of mushrooms in perhaps an olive oil based sauce. My one “nit” with this dish is I cannot stand undercooked egg whites. Runny egg whites are not my thing, so I had to send my dish back for further cooking, although I was told this is how they normally serve the dish.

Service at Teresa Carles is also very slow. Once I ordered, I waited 20 minutes for my food, and there was only one other table of customers in the resto. I’m not sure if this kind of service is typical in Spain, or just the particular vegetarian places I went, but it’s better to know these things beforehand.

LINKS

Other Links for Vegetarians Traveling in Madrid and Barcelona

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Finally, any blog post about Barcelona and vegetarians would be incomplete if I did not mention La Boqueria, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/La_Boqueria, a public and tourist landmark in the heart of Barcelona, on the main street Las Ramblas.

La Boqueria is a market full of fresh fruit, vegetables, nuts, olives, cheese … along with standard provisions for non-vegetarians (meat, fresh seafood, etc.)

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So if you are a vegetarian, go forth and enjoy the bounty of choices available. 🙂

Poem to appear in Sassafras!

Miranda Holmqvist, the editor of Sassafras Literary Magazine (http://sassafrasmag.wordpress.com/issue-one/), reached out to me based on a story of mine she read in Metazen. As a result of seeing my work, she was kind enough to invite me to submit a piece for her consideration for inclusion in Sassafras, her new mag.

This is the first time an editor has reached out to me directly without prior contact to invite me to submit. I have had editors invite me to submit based on prior contact and existing relationships, and knowledge of my prior submissions, but I’m excited to have been found this “new way” by Miranda. I hope it’s a trend!

And so I’m pleased to announce she has accepted She Took To Her Bed, a poem I wrote last year, to appear in Sassafras Issue #2. I’m excited to be an early contributor as she gets her fledgling publication off the ground.

Issue 2 of Sassafras is supposed to appear next Monday, 9/16. I will post a link to the piece when it goes live!

Jazz in Madrid and Barcelona

As regular readers of my blog know, when I go traveling, one of the things I enjoy is seeing live jazz. And on my trips to Madrid and Barcelona, I sought out jazz venues in each city. In both cases, I was handsomely rewarded with great performances at famous venues in each city.

Check these out:

The Flamenco Jazz Company - Cafe Central - Madrid, Sept 2013

The Flamenco Jazz Company – Cafe Central – Madrid, Sept 2013

Madrid – Cafe Centralhttp://www.cafecentralmadrid.com/

At Madrid’s Cafe Central the jazz I saw was heavily flavored with Spanish style. The Flamenco Jazz Company was playing the night I went, and their jazz is a fusion of both flamenco style singing, Spanish guitar and drums/percussion melded with jazz. The combination was exciting.

Cafe Central is a unique venue since it’s got lovely Art Deco architectural touches around the small space. The venue is intimate, so make sure you get there before the show starts to be able to see the stage.

Also, as opposed to the well deserved party-all-night reputation Spain has, at Cafe Central the music is on from 9-11pm so if you want to see the show, you must be there for those two hours. The two hour show will cost you about $12 euro per person.

Barcelona – Jamboree – http://www.masimas.com/en/jamboree

If the name of this venue sounds familiar to hard-core jazz fans, it’s because this place has been around for decades. Ella Fitzgerald played Jamboree, along with other jazz notables.

The Jamboree venue is in a vaulted basement, with surprisingly good acoustics. I sat to the side of the stage, as opposed to most of the guests who sit in front of the stage. I had a fantastic view of the band up close and personal. I was literally 10 feet from the drum kit, and I got to sit next to the singer before she went on.

I had the pleasure of seeing Carla Cook, a jazz singer with a great voice and energy. I felt a little bit like I was “cheating” to see her in Barcelona, because she is currently from Brooklyn, but we New Yorkers get around! She did a few original songs, and then paid homage to Duke Ellington several times in her quick set.

Jamboree sets only last one very brief hour, which flies by quickly. The night I was there, shows were 8-9pm and 10-11pm, at a ticket price of $12 euro at the box office ($10 euro if you get advance tix online.)

Serious Spanish Art Loot – The Prado

I only wish I could show you some images of art at the Prado Museum, in Madrid, Spain but they do not permit photography of any kind, and it’s no wonder.

I spent hours wandering around the museum today with my mouth hanging open, gawking at the serious loot of centuries of Spanish colonial rule. There must be, and I do not think I’m exaggerating here, billions of dollars of art in that museum. It is beyond a national treasure for Spain.

Since I’m from New York City and I cannot help but try and compare museums to my “home town” museums, I have to tell you that the particular collections located in the Prado are not replicated – or anywhere NEAR closely available – in NYC. Believe me, that’s saying a lot.

Let’s start with Goya, since there are so many incredible Goya images housed at the Prado. In particular, the “Black Paintings” (including Goya’s Dog, or The Drowning Dog as it’s sometimes known) are in one gallery together. The other famous image from that collection is Saturn Devouring His Child, probably one of the earliest expressionistic paintings known.

But Goya isn’t even the beginning.

I have never had the pleasure of seeing Hieronymous Bosch’s The Garden of Earthly Delights in person. It is… beyond words. I visited that painting three times within the hours I was in the museum, and still I could have stayed staring at it for hours more if I had had more time. There was another piece called The Table of the Seven Deadly Sins, also by Bosch that was magnificent.

Beyond that, the self-portrait of Albrect Durer really enchanted me. A young Durer with gorgeous long, curly blonde-red hair, in a jaunty black and white striped cap, with the upper part of his chest exposed told me a lot about him. I have a little art crush on Durer now. Clearly I was born in the wrong century. 🙂 The other pieces by Durer that left a lasting impression were his portraits of Adam and Eve.

Rubens, Velasquez, El Greco and many other gigantic canvases line the walls of galleries, towering over the spectators. In gallery after gallery, I had to stand back six, eight or ten feet just to view the image being shown. But then I wanted to get as close as possible to the Carravagio painting of David with the severed head of Goliath. (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A_GUJjvCBWY)

There are too many museums to see in Madrid in just four days. I have already seen the private Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum with its fantastic Kandinsky’s, Picasso’s, Braque’s and other examples of cubism (I will post in the future, with images, since they allow photography.) I want to see the contemporary art museum too, on a different day (I need to be rested from the visual overload.)

But if I could only see ONE museum in Madrid, it would have to be the Prado.

Thank goodness I don’t have to make that choice!

P.S. The Prado allows visitors to visit free during a 2 hour window ‘later’ in the day. If you’re coming to town, check at the museum to see when you can come for free. Otherwise, admission is 14 euros and totally worth it.