Jersey City This Weekend – Art Studio Tour and Film Fest

If you are a Jersey City resident, or live nearby, and if you are interested in Art and Film, you’ll want to hang around town this weekend!

The 24th Annual Jersey City Artist Studio Tour is taking place. This is a highly anticipated event, where hundreds of artists show their work by opening their studios to the public, or through group exhibitions at selected locations. The art event runs from 12N to 6pm on Saturday and Sunday.

Simultaneously, there will also be the first inaugural Jersey City Film Festival going on at several locations in downtown JC. For just $25 you can get an all access pass to see any of the film selections, and there is a full slate of offerings available.

So stick around downtown Jersey City and enjoy!

Icelandic Art opening at Scandanavia House

On October 9, Scandanavia House held an opening for their new exhibit Uncommon Ground: Artists and the Icelandic Landscape and I was able to attend both the lecture and to view the works on display. Here are some images from that evening.

Ragna Robertsdottir in front of her wall mural made of shards of lava pumice

Ragna Robertsdottir in front of her wall mural made of shards of lava pumice

Of all of the works on display, I found Ragna Robertsdottir’s work the most compelling. She applied lava pumice directly to the wall to create a textured landscape, which looks flat when viewed from the front, but when viewed from the side, you can see the lava pieces jutting out from the wall.

Lava pumice mural - side view

Lava pumice mural – side view

I never would have thought to photograph her piece from the side until she told me to look, using that perspective. “The painting is all black when you view it from the side,” she said. Yes, and it radically changes the viewer’s depth perception of the piece too.

Sea water landscape

Sea water landscape

This sea water landscape is interesting. My understanding of the process is the artist uses these almost petri-dish looking glass vessels and allows sea water to evaporate, leaving behind highly textured salt landscapes.

Icelandic landscape painting on display

Icelandic landscape painting on display


Textural detail from the painting. The artist uses a layering of paint to achieve this effect.

Textural detail from the painting. The artist uses a layering of paint to achieve this effect.


Icelandic floral detail 1

Icelandic floral detail 1


Icelandic floral detail 2

The two floral images are small details from much larger compositions that do not photograph well. This is the work of Eggert Petursson, who paints Icelandic flowers found on the heaths and lava fields in Iceland.

And while these floral landscapes don’t exist as Petursson portrays them, because this variety and abundance of flowers would not exist in one place, his work evokes the way life must eke out an existence in that landscape … one flower at a time.

Icelandic artist panel. Moderator Gregory Volk on the left, Ragna Robertsdottir, Eggert Petursson and 2 other Icelandic artists discuss their works.

Icelandic artist panel. Moderator Gregory Volk on the left, Ragna Robertsdottir, Eggert Petursson and 2 other Icelandic artists discuss their works.

I believe this exhibition will be on display in the Scandanavia House galleries for the next three months. Scandanavia House is located on Park Avenue at 38th Street, in New York City.

NJ As Non-Site – Show at the Princeton U Art Museum

NJ as Non Site - Show Entrance

NJ as Non Site – Show Entrance

The New Jersey as Non-Site exhibition at the Princeton University Art Museum came to my attention in the New York Times Arts section a few weeks ago. I guess it’s ironic that I’d find out about the show through the NY Times since one of the themes of the exhibition is New Jersey’s proximity to New York City, and yet how the landscape is totally outside the urban center. (What’s even more ironic is that I was reading the NY Times in California, where I had traveled on business… but we can only have so many degrees of ironic separation here.)

Today I made the trek from Jersey City, down the NJ Turnpike, over to Route 1, and then over to Route 27 into the heart of Princeton… far from any urban center or major highway which are the primary subjects of the show.

Maybe this suburban remote location for this “boutique” sized exhibition is fitting because the museum attempts to mount a show about a subject that is much larger than the space afforded – the exhibition composes two small galleries in the museum.

Of the images on display in the show, this one is the most striking:



Beside this photograph is a video showing how the artist (in the photograph) is building a miniature “landscape” on his own body. You cannot see it well in my version of the photograph above, but in the video we see him building tiny walls on top of a dirt foundation, brick by brick, built on top of his torso.

We don’t see the artist’s whole body in the video, just the close up of the “building site” each brick is perhaps one inch… the finished image (above) is the final result.

I think it’s quite beautiful.

The curator’s description of the show:

New Jersey was one of the principal laboratories for experimental art after World War II. Between 1950 and 1975, a host of innovative artists flocked to the state’s most desolate locales. There, in its industrial wastescapes, crumbling cities, crowded highways, and banal suburbs, they produced some of the most important work of their careers. The breakthroughs in sculpture, conceptualism, performance, and land art that New Jersey helped catalyze are the subject of New Jersey as Non-Site, which features more than one hundred works by sixteen artists.

It is neither incidental nor accidental that artists came to occupy New Jersey in the years after World War II: much about the state resonated with ideas and themes already in the air. Intrigued by its people as well as its landscape, artists found New Jersey both informative and revelatory. Whether they crossed the Hudson River to collect materials, forge a political movement, or stage performances, artists seemed to agree on one thing: peripheries like New Jersey provide critical leverage not available in cosmopolitan centers, an unfamiliar perspective that disables convention and expectation alike.

Behind artists’ commitment to New Jersey lay something specific: difference. For more than a century, New Jersey’s identity has been measured in terms of its difference—not to mention its distance—from New York. Long considered New York’s “other,” New Jersey was one of the first “other” places that artists explored in the 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s, a period when many, including those featured here, started to abandon the insular world of the studio for the environment at large.

Here are some other images from the show:

Bayonne - photograph of landscape sculpture

Bayonne – photograph of landscape sculpture


Photograph on a NJ beach with oil drums

Photograph on a NJ beach with oil drums

Unfortunately, the depth of this show and its subject matter is not conveyed in the limited materials on display at the Princeton U Art Museum in “New Jersey as Non-Site.”

New Jersey’s urban landscapes are iconic and inspirational on many levels. There were too many things “left out” and what remained was a smattering of rock sculptures, photographs of landscapes, and other objects that did not hang together cohesively enough for me, as the viewer.

As a life long resident of New Jersey, I’ve always had conflicting views about my home state anyway… so it’s no surprise I’d have a mixed reaction to this show.

The show will be on view only a few more days, until Jan 7, 2014. Entrance to the Princeton Art Museum is free, and always worth a look.


Dear readers,

Maybe it’s the improved levels of Omega 3’s in my body due to the new eating regimen, or maybe it’s me feeling good just because, but I’d like to wish everyone a Happy Thanksgiving.

This year I have had a lot to be thankful for: good health, good friends, and amazing opportunities to travel and enjoy life.

2013 has been a blockbuster year for me to see art, both locally in NYC and abroad: the Tate Modern, Prado, Sophia Reina, SMAK Contemporary in Gent, the Armory Show retrospective at the NY Historical Society, Chelsea galleries, and many more events and museums than I can mention now. (Check out the “Art” tag in the tag cloud for posts.)

It’s been a blockbuster year for music too: seeing BB King live was a high point, along with visiting tons of jazz clubs from Amsterdam to Madrid to Barcelona, along with local jazz in Jersey City too, and “discovering” jazz pianist Bill Evans for myself has really made my year. (Check out the “Music” or “Jazz” tags in the tag cloud for posts.)

The amount of artistic talent I’ve been exposed to in 2013 in incalculable – but it has had a tremendous effect on me. I’m inspired to keep putting my energy into seeking out musical, artistic and writing talent.

Amazingly (to me, at least) I’ve also continued to have editors accept my work for publication. While 2013 was not a highly productive year for me when it comes to producing finished fiction, I was able to regularly maintain this blog (thank you readers!) and recently, I joined a Jersey City writers group so I can invest more energy into this creative part of my life, which is essential to me. (Yes, I’m doing it, damn it!)

Finally, although it’s a challenge, I continue with my mostly-vegan eating patterns, plus I’ve given up caffeine. This change has been significant, and has already produced tremendous benefits, like more energy, regulated sleep and digestion, losing weight, and a feeling of well being. I look forward to more of the same!

I hope you, dear reader, have much to be thankful for too. I hope you are living up to your creative potential. I hope that this year gave you many reasons to be inspired, and that you seek out ways to continue to be inspired.

If I’ve played any part of that at any point this year for some of you, I’m grateful.




Three Shows on Now – Chelsea Art Galleries

Yesterday I went art gallery hopping in Chelsea to see the latest and greatest. It has been many months since my last visit. Along the way there were three artists I found interesting enough to want to share their work here.

It’s impossible to go to Chelsea and see “all” the galleries in an afternoon, there are too many. So what I’m presenting here is just a tiny slice of what I saw yesterday, which is an even smaller slice of what’s actually on view.

The first artist is Justin Bower, and the show is Panic Room. It’s on (through December 10th) at Unix Gallery, 532 W. 24th St in Chelsea, New York City.

Here’s an excerpt of the statement on the show:

Panic Room focuses on the destabilization of the human subject and problemitizes how we define ourselves in this digital and virtual age. Complex backgrounds referencing optical art relate to a certain kind of “code” and control the subject in Bower’s paintings. His art interrogates the autonomy bestowed upon us by the ideals of the Englightenment and opens a dialogue documenting the trauma that technology has on the contemporary human. In an age where infinite data is comprised of replicable code, the works confront the viewer with a radical question of “What am I?”

Alternatively, you could go with my interpretation of these works:

Chuck Close on acid.

I like them.

Here they are:

Justin Bower - Panic Room face 1

Justin Bower – Panic Room face 1


Justin Bower - face 2

Justin Bower – face 2


Justin Bower - face 3

Justin Bower – face 3


Justin Bower, face 4

Justin Bower, face 4


The second show is Skylar Fein’s The Lincoln Bedroom, on now (through Dec 21st) at C24 Gallery, 514 W. 24th Street, NYC.

The Lincoln Bedroom is a series of installation pieces that provoke the viewer to re-imagine history as a not-so-sanitized version of events as what we might read in our school textbooks.

Here’s an excerpt of the gallery text describing the show:

Abraham Lincoln shared a bedroom with Joshua Speed in the 1830’s in Springfield, IL. Many historians, biographers, and scholars have speculated about the nature of their relationship, causing an ongoing debate about Lincoln’s sexuality. Fein’s work combines factual and fictional histories, and proposes evidence of these uncertain moments through his imagery and objects. Since no photographs exist of the Speed residence, the artist relied on photos and sketches of similar structures, as well as on his imagination to create an impressionistic, and slightly hallucinatory recreation that is far from a museum period-room.

What I can tell you is that the Lincoln Bedroom is highly amusing and yes, thought provoking. The installation works well and pokes fun at many histories that have been told and re-told, or are largely untold, in the textbooks.

Here are some images from the show:

An entire building was constructed to house the bedroom. The outside looks like a general store.

An entire building was constructed to house the bedroom. The outside looks like a general store.


"Men's Magazines" is a rack of fictionalized mags, many with pornographic themes

“Men’s Magazines” is a rack of fictionalized mags, many with pornographic themes. My favorites are the top two on the left showing a menacing wrestler in his underwear, but the topics are “antiques” and “camping.”


Moorcock's "Specifics" - treatments on the right for women, and on the left for men. Very funny stuff.

Moorcock’s “Specifics” – treatments on the right for women, and on the left for men. Very funny stuff.


The last show I have to share is Shinichi Maruyama’s Nudes on at the Bruce Silverstein Gallery, through Dec 21st, 535 W. 24th St., NYC.

The SLATE article written about the show says it well:

Specifically for NUDE, Maruyama created each image by combining 10,000 individual photographs of the dancers to compose a single shot. Maruyama is aware his images capture a new way of showing the human form and motion over time, and he hasn’t forgotten photographers who paved the way for this new technology.

“I know the advancement of technology has allowed me to create these new images that would have been impossible for others in the past,” said Maruyama. “The scientist/photographer Étienne-Jules Marey, who contributed a lot to many artists more than 100 years ago, used a camera that shot 12 images per second. But because of the technology we have today, I was able to use a camera that let me take about 2,000 images per second.”

I took some shots with my cell phone camera to share here, but the shots on the SLATE site are much better quality. Use the link I provided above to SLATE if you want to see more images than what I have here.

Dancer 1


Dancer 4





That’s it for now, until the next time I visit the Chelsea galleries!

Cultural Gluttony: BB King, The Armory Show and more

This week I’ve binged on culture and this post covers my wanderings.

I saw BB King and Robert Cray live, went to the 100 year retrospective on the Armory Show at the NY Historical Society, and saw blues artist Joe Nemeth for his one night NYC performance.

I've got a golden ticket!

I’ve got a golden ticket!

Read on for details!

BB King and Robert Cray – live at the State Theater

BB King is now 88 years old, and I’d never seen him play live, so it was a treat to see him this week.

His eight piece back-up band, consisting of 4 horns, a keyboardist, drummer, base player and guitarist were great, and from their ages I’d say they’ve been playing with BB a long, long time.

BB with the band - 8 pieces!

BB with the band – 8 pieces!

The State Theater in New Brunswick, NJ is an intimate setting, and for my $100 (USD) ticket I got a seat in the “front balcony” of the theater, above the main hall and overlooking the stage. I could see what was happening on stage clearly, but I wasn’t close enough to get good cell phone photos. Still, you can see some of the stage set-up… :-}

Lovely view of the State Theater stage before the show

Lovely view of the State Theater stage before the show

Robert Cray and his band opened the show with a one hour performance of some of his classic popular blues hits like Strong Persuader, but I’m sorry to say he never played Smoking Gun, probably his biggest hit. Still, Cray’s voice and guitar playing are top notch.

The Robert Cray Band

The Robert Cray Band

It occured to me, during Cray’s set, there’s a reason why he made it as a professional. His stage presence is strong but easy going; he’s so obviously a talented and capable musician.

After Cray’s band finished, the re-set up process created about a 45 minute intermission before BB King’s band came on.

Once BB’s band came on, they played two numbers without him as a warm-up, and then he joined his band and played perhaps five or six songs total to finish the evening.

BB likes to patter with the audience and joke around, which fans know if you’ve seen videos of his performances or listened to his live albums. This performance was no exception, and BB delighted in leading the audience in a sing-a-long of “You Are My Sunshine” and then kidded around with some of the folks down in front near the stage.

It was extremely charming that as his band was playing When the Saints Come Marching In to end the show, BB didn’t really want to leave the stage. People rushed to the front of the auditorium to shake his hand, take his photo and get his autograph… while they still can.

BB King is rushed by adoring fans at the end of the show!

BB King is rushed by adoring fans at the end of the show!

I can’t blame them – BB King is a living Blues legend.


The Armory Show at 100: Modern Art and Revolution – new show at the NY Historical Society Museum

Original 1913 Armory Show set up

Original 1913 Armory Show set up


Cutout of Duchamp's Nude Descending a Staircase in front of the NY Historical Society

Cutout of Duchamp’s Nude Descending a Staircase in front of the NY Historical Society

I’d been greatly anticipating seeing this show at the NY Historical Society and finally got the chance to go yesterday. The show will be up until early 2014, so there’s plenty of time to see it.

Duchamp - Nude Descending a Staircase

Duchamp – Nude Descending a Staircase

Travel Tip: Since it’s only the second weekend since the show opened, I’m happy to report it was crowded. Still, tickets are readily available at the museum, you may not need to reserve them online. (I called the museum to check on ticket availability and was told to come in.)

Matisse - Blue Nude - 1907

Matisse – Blue Nude – 1907

This retrospective show is very small compared to the original Armory show, which had hundreds of artworks. In fact, the entire NY Historical Society coverage consisted of two galleries, while a third gallery covered pieces shown “soon after” the Armory show but not from the show itself.

Still, the curators of this show have gone to lengths to explain the original placement of the artworks and the cultural context for the showing of these works. One thing that fascinated me was the curator’s emphasis on how the artists were found for the show. Half of the works at the original show were American, the other half European. There is a lot of good reading material in the show too, and if you’re interested, there is a catalogue for sale.

What surprised me most about the show was that many of the works shown were not only “not shocking” they were traditional landscapes and portraits. It turns out that the organizers of the original Armory show were trying to show viewers an art trajectory, from the classical European, to the American point of view, and then the big divergence with Cubism and Fauvism and so the traditional works were a purposeful lead in, to help the viewer acclimate to what they saw in the final gallery.

Van Gogh - Mountains at St. Remy - 1889

Van Gogh – Mountains at St. Remy – 1889

This final gallery was the only section of the original Armory show which showcased the “new” works, and the public was shocked by them due to their bold colors, multi-varied perspectives, non-traditional forms and in some cases content.

One of my favorite “put-down’s” of Duchamp’s Nude Descending a Staircase was that it looked like a “splinter salad.” The reaction was clear: critics of this art were severely challenged to understand the new forms.

Although today’s viewers will likely not be shocked by the Matisse, Duchamp, Gauguin and other paintings and sculptures they see, it’s good to be reminded how new art forms CAN shake viewers up, and CAN challenge them to think about art in new ways.


Joe Nemeth at Terra Blues, Thurs, Oct 17th

What can you say about Terra Blues on Bleeker Street in NYC except that it’s a Blues Institution. This venue attracts top talent from all over the world to come and play blues, and yes, sometimes the acts are only in town one night – as was the case with Joe Nemeth, a blues harmonica player and five time Grammy nominated musician.

Joe Nemeth - Blues harmonica and lead singer

Joe Nemeth – Blues harmonica and lead singer

Nemeth and his band played a funky blues first set, and then… the electrical power went out for the amps in the back of the stage.

Nemeth was undaunted by the set-back, and sent his band offstage to take a break, while he decided to sing solo, just a boy and his harmonica, and he brought down the house.

Joe Nemeth at Terra Blues in NYC (bad lighting!)

Joe Nemeth and his base player too at Terra Blues (bad lighting!)


However, after his one solo song, the power had not come back on, and so he too took a break. Unfortunately, many in the audience didn’t wait for the electrical repair and got up and left. Since it was only Thursday night, and I knew I had a busy few days ahead (to see BB King the next night, and then off to the Armory show too) I also decided to call it a night.

Young drummer for the Joe Nemeth band

Young drummer for the Joe Nemeth band


The very talented lead guitarist for the Joe Nemeth band

The very talented lead guitarist for the Joe Nemeth band

Does it look like I was sitting right next to the stage? Because I was at the very first table next to the stage. I could have almost reached out and touched the lead guitarist’s cowboy boot!


Danish Paintings: From the Golden Age to the Modern Breakthrough

Tonight I attended an opening reception at the Scandanavia House for Danish Paintings: From the Golden Age to the Modern Breakthrough.

Vilhelm Hammershoi - DETAIL - Courtyard Interior at Strandgade

Vilhelm Hammershoi – DETAIL – Courtyard Interior at Strandgade

Scandanavia House – which is part of The Nordic Center in America – is located in a swanky mid-town neighborhood on Park Avenue in NYC. I’m bringing this up because while this opening was certainly about Danish paintings, it was at least as much a New York City-centric event than anything else. Yep, it’s good to be home. When I filed into the auditorium in the basement of Scandanavia House, I felt like I’d been put into a time machine from earlier in my life when I used to work in this neighborhood. All around me were men in suits and women with serious jewelry. These men and women obviously had a lot of money; they were attending this event to help pay homage to the personal art collection of former Danish Ambassador (from 1981-83) of John L. Loeb, Jr.


Ambassador Loeb, who seems to be in his … 70’s? … has amassed the largest collection of Danish paintings outside of Denmark, and is an ardent supporter of the arts, including the two co-curators of this exhibition, the five additional staff assistants that helped put the show together and the printing of a “handsome catalogue,” I was informed by one of the curators during his lecture. In addition to the opening event tonight, there will be ongoing events, like docent tours, etc. from now through the end of January 2014 when the exhibition closes.

PS Kroyer - Self Portrait - Sitting by his easel at Skagen Beach

PS Kroyer – Self Portrait – Sitting by his easel at Skagen Beach


PS Kroyer - Portrait of the Artists Wife Marie

PS Kroyer – Portrait of the Artists Wife Marie


In the lecture, the curators presented the concept behind the show, which is staged in three parts, one for each display gallery: The Academy; The Land; and The Modern Breakthrough. The Modern Breakthrough represents when Danish painters thought about:

the psychology of the individual, the role of the environment on identity and the ways in which the act of painting itself could be used as a medium through which emotions could be expressed and society renewed…

The opening image, my detail of the figure hanging out the window looking into a courtyard by Hammershoi, is an example of a piece within the Modern Breakthrough.

Hammershoi Courtyard Interior - full painting

Hammershoi Courtyard Interior – full painting


Here are some additional images from The Academy gallery…with some information from the curators.

Jens Juel - Seated Chinese Man (Section: The Academy)

Jens Juel – Seated Chinese Man (Section: The Academy)


Joel Ballin - 1882 - Study of a Model - Young Girl Undressing

Joel Ballin – 1882 – Study of a Model – Young Girl Undressing

During the lecture, we were told that the Danish Art Academy was one of the first (if not the first?) to have women models come and pose nude, rather than just male models.

The curator’s description in the gallery reads:

This work, painted in CW Eckersberg’s life class at the Academy records some of the professor’s most important pedagogical innovations. Traditionally, studies of the human nude had been conducted exclusively with male models, and only in the artificial light of candles or lamps. The point was to not represent life but to evoke an imagined realm of ideal beauty. Eckersberg … brought female models into the studio and instructed his students to paint them in the light of day and in realistic domestic settings.


Christen Dalsgaard - DETAIL - Young Girl Writing

Christen Dalsgaard – DETAIL – Young Girl Writing


So if you find yourself on Park Avenue near 38th Street between now and next January, you may want to stop by and see these Danish paintings from the private collection of the former Danish Ambassador. While you’re at it, pick up a handsome catalogue documenting the Ambassador’s collection by expert curators and enjoy the show….

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.


I will definitely be going to this one!

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.


And then, there’s Rothko.


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:,) 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


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.

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. (

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.

Goran Djurovic’s Prime Time Revisited – A Story of Friendship

To begin: the story about how I came to find the Goran Djurovic exhibit in Gent, Belgium.

I didn’t tell this story earlier when I posted about Djurovic’s Prime Time solo show, but I think it will be nice to pull back the curtain now. It is yet another example of how I’ve met extremely kind people in my travels. (And I want to say how much I really like Belgium!)


I was walking down the street in Gent, on the Saturday morning I was in town. I had my city map in hand, trying to find the “Patershol” neighborhood. Patershol is known for its charming streets and interesting restaurants and is less touristy than the historic center. But I sensed I was lost, although I was walking alongside one of the main canals running through the city.

It just so happened, as I walked down the street adjacent to the canal, that a young man was walking toward me holding a bag of groceries. Now, given that the Gent Festival was getting started, I quickly deduced I’d have a better chance of asking directions of a local than another tourist like me! Who better to ask then, than someone holding a bag of groceries?

I flagged him down and said I think I’m walking in the wrong direction. Can you help me? He looked at where I was pointing on my map and confirmed it. I was walking in the exact opposite direction of where I needed to go! Since he was heading in that direction anyway, he said, why not walk together so he could point out how to get where I was going? I welcomed the opportunity. 🙂

That young man’s name was Wim, and once we started chatting, we realized we had a lot in common. So I invited him to come with me to Patershol if he had the time and wanted to show an American tourist from New York City around his fair city. He graciously agreed, and off we went.

When we got there, Wim actually wanted to show me a different – and very famous – piece of religious art that is known as The Adoration of the Mystic Lamb. But when we got to the museum associated with it, we found the Goran Djurovic exhibit instead.

As you may know, reader, from my previous post – I took a sampling of photos at the Djurovic exhibit – but I neglected to take photos of some of the works Wim and I stopped and talked about the most. I regretted it later after I got home.

But, as kindness would have it, Wim and I exchanged email addresses and became pen pals even after I returned home. When I expressed to him how much I enjoyed our viewing of the exhibit and I was sorry I missed taking some shots of the works we talked over at length… he went back and took photos of over 100 Djurovic paintings and emailed them to me.

I was blown away by his tremendous kindness and enthusiasm for the artwork. In turn I promised him I would post another 15+ Djurovic works on my blog to give a much better sampling of what we saw that day.

Also, in fairness to Mr. Djurovic I don’t think it would be right for me to post images of every single piece in the solo show – however – if this blog posting helps spread recognition for his work and talent, then I am grateful to be part of that process in a very small way.

And so, without further delay, here are more of the works of Goran Djurovic … photos taken by Wim of Gent, Belgium, a gentleman I am proud to call my friend.

Let it be said: art brings people from all over the world together.

The art of Goran Djurovic

The art of Goran Djurovic

Goran Djurovic Many Laptops Goran Djurovic010 Goran Djurovic018 Goran Djurovic020 Goran Djurovic026 Goran Djurovic035 Goran Djurovic037 Goran Djurovic050 Goran Djurovic053 Goran Djurovic058 Goran Djurovic069 Goran Djurovic091 Goran Djurovic094 Goran Djurovic105 Goran Djurovic106 Goran Djurovic107


Art in Gent – Goran Djurovic’s Prime Time

During my last trip to Gent, I happened to be lucky enough to see a public art space called the “Provinciaal Cultuurcentrum – Caermersklooster” on Vrouwebroerstraat 6 in Gent.

They were hosting a solo show for Serbian artist Goran Djurovic called “Prime Time.”

Goran Djurovic - Prime Time solo show in Gent

Goran Djurovic – Prime Time solo show in Gent

Mr. Djurovic now lives in Berlin and it seems his work was only “discovered” in the last few years and had his work hosted in a variety of European museums. The painter is currently in his 60’s.

Djurovic backgrounder

Djurovic backgrounder

The Privincial Culture Center (I assume the English translation) is a magnificent, well lit space and worth the visit. For this particular show, the number of works on display is staggering. The solo show must have more than 40 original oil paintings on display in four small and one very large gallery space.

I will leave you to digest the themes of Djurovic’s work on your own from the sample of photos I took at the show. While the work can be quite dark, I found it inspiring.


Painting from the Prime Time exhibition

Painting from the Prime Time exhibition


The work of Goran Djurovic

The work of Goran Djurovic


This one is called Visitors on Display

This one is called Visitors on Display


The mouse dance

The mouse dance


More of the work of Goran Djurovic

More of the work of Goran Djurovic