I love Anaïs Mitchell’s album “Hadestown,” (2010) which I blogged about in 2015. I was thrilled to learn that the album, which was composed as a folk opera, had been turned into a Broadway show now running at the Walter Kerr theater. For my birthday in the spring, Jeff proposed that we go. We saw it on Wednesday. It’s good. It’s about art broadly construed and politics and what art should do and how art fails politics and what to do with the failure. It’s a show about Eurydice and Orpheus. It’s a show about right now. The end of the show found me with tears streaming down my face. So I think it did its job.Read more
Posts from the ‘Art’ Category
The City as Canvas exhibition first went up at the Museum of the City of New York in 2014. A large portion of the exhibit is of work that Martin Wong collected in the late 1980s and 1990s while living in New York, including graffiti artists’ black books of sketches and a series of photographs from subway trains around the city (more on the backstory including how Wong built his collection by paying graffiti artists for their work can be is here).
I am glad that this exhibition was in Indianapolis. Today is its last day at the Indianapolis Museum of Art at Newfields. I have to say that first before I pronounce on how it produces the sense of New York and graffitied New York as a strange and foreign culture where the natives did things like (gasp) spray paint on public property. They even had a display of graffiti vocabulary to drive home the “look at the strange natives” vibe. Growing up in Philadelphia in the 80s and the 90s, I find graffitied cities to be the backdrop of city life. I remember starting to recognize tags and seeing how much certain artists got around town, and thinking, it was like a secret code, because it was. Read more
Today I saw the retrospective of Vik Muniz‘s work at the IU art gallery. This in between reports about refugees being turned away from airports around the country and people gathering at these airports to resist the executive order that led to this turn of events. Muniz’s art is appropriate for this moment. It seems appropriate to begin with a recreation of Goya’s Saturn Devouring His Son. It is made from the trash from Jardim Gramacho, the garbage dump on the outskirts of Rio de Janeiro where Muniz employed catadores or garbage pickers to select pieces of garbage for his work, which he then sold to support their community. There’s a documentary that was on PBS following Muniz as he made this series–Waste Land.
Muniz is a Brazilian artist who uses unusual material for recreating famous works of art. Muniz himself notes that his material is more ordinary than the materials that create paint have traditionally been–he uses peanut butter and jelly to recreate Mona Lisa, for example, GI Joe plastic toys to recreate famous photographs, recovered trash to recreate paintings, torn up postcards to recreate photographs of the youngest person to be executed by the electric chair. His work makes the ordinary extraordinary, and shows the way that high art has become part of the backdrop of our everyday lives. He says he relies on a “poster store iconography.” Working with big canvases, Muniz produces work that up close make the materials very apparent and far away show, as he himself explains in documentary film in the exhibit, the mind of someone else. Somewhere in between is a moment of a threshold where the ordinary materials manifest the mind of an artist. One of the themes of Muniz’s work is how the camera can change the way that we see. I found a number of times that big pieces did not come into focus to me until I took a picture of them, as with Old Cheyenne and Guernica. Now is the time for changing the way that we see. Read more
Since I moved to Indiana, I have been blogging about various adventures in exploring Indiana, often at the instigation of my friend Nazareth Pantaloni who lives in Bloomington. Last spring, we visited Naz in Bloomington the same weekend that the film about Joseph Mallard William Turner’s life, Mr. Turner, was playing in IU’s Art and a Movie Film series. Turner lived from 1775-1851, and, as that NYT piece linked above says, his life was a piece of work just as much as his art was. So this weekend, Naz joined us (and our very dear friend Leigh Johnson) for a visit to the IMA to see the exhibit of drawings by Turner. There are two large oil paintings on display in the general collections of the museum, including this one, The Fifth Plague of Egypt, which Turner painted in 1799.
The drawings show a different side to Turner. They are largely architectural, and not nearly so full of Sturm und Drang. They often highlight the everyday life and work at the foot of impressive architectural edifices, like this one below of Ripon: Looking along the Kirkgate toward the Cathedral from 1797 (Turner was 23!). The exhibit is in a room is up the stairs from the Clowes Courtyard. Unlike much of the museum, which feels very much like a museum, this room appropriately feels like you are walking through someone’s living room. I admit I was a little confused about why some pieces that were not Turner’s were included – I expect it was to show influence and connections, but there was no explanation. The exhibit is up until August 28.
I moved to Indianapolis just a couple months ago, but I already thought I knew the city. I have visited the Indianapolis Museum of Art plenty (I blogged about the Georgia O’Keefe exhibit here). But not until this weekend did I venture beyond the main building to the house and gardens that make up the estate behind it–Oldfields. This is the home of J.K. Lilly, Jr., the businessman and philanthropist who now seems to fund most of Indiana nonprofit work. As followers of this blog know from this series, I bought a home not too long ago. In the Exploring Indiana series, I have blogged about visits to three historic homes in Indiana–the Miller home in Columbus, the Eugene Debs house in Terre Haute, and the Steele estate in Brown County. But it struck me at the Lilly house this weekend that if interior design is aspirational, as Francesca Tronchin has argued and as I consider here, then the very function of all these homes set aside for our viewing pleasure is to produce the sense that homes show who you are, who you see yourself to be and who you want others to think you are. Even these people were doing aspirational interior design. Look at this library, what does this say about me? Look at this china set, look at this kitchen, it even has a separate dish-washing kitchen. The website explains, “Lilly House is a historic house museum and has been restored to its 1930s splendor. ”
Of course there is an historical element–this is how people lived, which is why I like to see the kitchens and the dumb waiters and learning whether the elevator was a new addition or part of the house when it was built (it was part of the house when it was built). But if it were only that, we would be as interested in preserving and visiting the average person’s home – the Debs house pretty much is the average person’s home and so many fewer people visit it. Or we would be talking more specifically about the historical significance of the home. But what we are talking about is silver collections. The top floor of the Lilly House is an exhibit of the silver. The website discusses the history in terms of the history of improvements that have been made to the house. It isn’t just that this house communicates that this is what it means to make it. To have a silver urn of this sort. To have this old car. To have the ability to donate this 100-acre estate to set up an art museum. But rather, that these people were showing who they had become and how they wanted to be seen by their extensive china collection. Don’t get me wrong, it’s captivating. I envied the library. The gardens are very nice. The orchids on display in the greenhouse are amazing in the I-can’t-believe-this-exists-in-nature kind of way. But it’s unmistakeable that these homes and gardens construct our desire and our feelings about needing to be better consumers in order to be better at communicating who we are to the world in the guise of interior design.
Yesterday, I went to the Georgia O’Keeffe exhibit at the IMA they’re calling “Georgia O’Keeffe and the Southwestern Still Life.” The exhibit situates O’Keeffe among her contemporaries working in American art in the early to mid-20th century in the southwest. O’Keeffe was an American woman painter when they were few women respected as painters in the US. The exhibit shows how O’Keeffe was influenced by the terroir, the architecture and the Spanish and indigenous cultural elements of the southwest. By putting her alongside her peers, the exhibit shows how O’Keeffe was in dialogue with the abstractionists of the 20th century while maintaining her own voice (I was struck by the number of O’Keeffe’s peers who just painted guitars like Picasso). There were three claims that the exhibit seems to make that I took issue with: 1. that O’Keeffe’s work is not abstract; 2. that her bones are not about death; and 3. that her flowers are not sexual. Read more