Archive for the ‘painting’ Tag

Quotation: the merit of craft

“First learn to be a craftsman; it won’t keep you from being a genius.”

Eugène Delacroix

picasso-early-work Self-Portrait 1896 age 15

Picasso – age 15 (1896)

pablo-picasso-self-portrait 90 years old June 30 1972

Picasso self-portrait – age 90 (1972)

 

Picasso self-portraits chronology

Square Root of Instagram

In 2006 at Channel 4 (London) I commissioned a mobile-centred website called Big Art Mob. It enabled users to publish photos of Public Art (from sculptures to graffiti) from their mobile phones. In other words, it was basically Instagram 4 years before Instagram was invented. It was created with digital all-rounder Alfie Dennen (father of We Are Not Afraid) using a photo-publishing platform he had developed with partners named Moblog. I had been experimenting with Moblog for 18 months when a TV project about Public Art (The Big Art Project) came over the horizon and it struck me as an ideal place to apply Moblog technology.

The main difference from Instagram is that Big Art Mob’s photos were not in square format.

Today I went to see the Klimt / Schiele exhibition at the Royal Academy of Arts, London. I have been a big admirer of Schiele since I heard about him from David Bowie on a radio programme around the time Lodger was released (1979). At the time the Austrian painter was little known outside cognoscenti circles (eg the Marlborough Gallery in London). I was taught a little by Frank Whitford at Cambridge who wrote the Phaidon monograph on Schiele. And I won a travel scholarship at Girton to go study his work in Vienna around 1984. Last year while working at ORF in Vienna I got to do a bit of a self-shaped Schiele tour to mark the centenary of his death which I wrote about in On The Trail of Egon Schiele. I even had a stab at a Schiele in a painting class I recently attended locally:

adam gee copy of egon schiele painting

The exhibition was excellent, bringing out the contrast between how and why Schiele and his mentor Klimt drew. Along the way it reminded me of Klimt’s distinctive adoption of the square format in his portrait painting. Which got me thinking about which other artists went square.

Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer I is a painting by Gustav Klimt, completed between 1903 and 1907. The portrait was commissioned by the sitter's husband, Ferdinand Bloch-Bauer, a Jewish banker and sugar producer. The painting was stolen by the Nazis in 1941 and displayed at the Österreichische Galerie Belvedere

Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer I by Gustav Klimt (1903-1907)

Klimt’s famous portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer is 1.38m by 1.38m. It was commissioned by Ferdinand Bloch-Bauer, a Jewish banker and sugar producer, husband of Adele. The painting was notoriously stolen by the Nazis in 1941 and displayed at Schloss Belvedere in Vienna, until being returned by the Austrian courts to Bloch-Bauer’s heirs in 2006 at which point it found a new home in New York. It is considered the zenith of Klimt’s golden period. It uses Klimt’s trademark technique of cropping the figure top and bottom to create a pillar through the canvas, here set slightly right to allow the bulk of the patterned dress or aura to balance the composition.

Square and portraits reminded me of the excellent Hockney exhibition at Tate Britain last year. The square format works particularly well in the double portraits which were the beating heart of that show.

My Parents 1977 by David Hockney born 1937

My Parents by David Hockney (1977)

The emotionally resonant My Parents is 1.83m by 1.83m, even more epic than the Klimt, yet with the most down-to-earth subjects. Each parent occupies their own half in a very different way – attentive mum, square on, in her own space; pre-occupied dad, at an angle, overlapping the furniture – subtly capturing the difference in parent-child relationship.

Hockney was born on 9th July 1937, eight days before my dad. Nine days later another German Jew, Gerda Taro, died in Spain. She has the tragic distinction of being the first female photojournalist to have been killed while covering war at the frontline. This evening I started watching My Private War for this year’s BAFTA judging, starring Rosamund Pike as Marie Colvin, a latter day Taro. Recently, also for voting purposes (BAFTA Documentary Film chapter), I watched the feature documentary Under The Wire, likewise about the life and death of Colvin (killed in Homs, Syria by an Assad regime air-strike). Taro was killed during the Spanish Civil War in a tragic accident involving a reversing Republican tank.

republican woman 1936 gerda taro

Republican militiawoman training on the beach outside Barcelona by Gerda Taro (1936)

Taro was another stand-out squarist. She was partner of Magnum photojournalist Robert Capa. (Capa was introduced to the world by Picture Post in 1938, where my maternal grandfather worked. The Hungarian Jew, who famously lived out of a suitcase for most of his adult life, co-founded the Magnum photo agency with Henri Cartier-Bresson and others.) I saw Tara’s first ever US solo show at the International Center of Photography in New York in 2007. Capa picked up the habit from Taro and there are a number of square photographs attributed to Capa which are widely thought to actually be the work of Taro.

These days I find myself photographing square by default. I’ve enjoyed using Instagram for years as a platform for photography only (none of the Stories bollocks or video). Initially it was an excellent way to syndicate your photos across your social accounts (when it was linked to Flickr – the monopolists must have disconnected on account of Yahoo’s ownership of Flickr I guess). Square poses its own compositional challenges which by and large I enjoy rising to – there are not that many shots I take which can’t be accommodated in the stable, equal-sided space. It encourages the use of diagonals which can be dynamic. Here’s one of my favourite of my square compositions:

statue of george orwell outside the BBC (New Broadcasting House, Portland Place, London)

Statue of George Orwell outside the BBC (New Broadcasting House, Portland Place, London) March 2018

The square is stable enough to carry the two dark figures on the right side. Orwell’s statue is characteristically smoking, hence the appeal of the BBC smoker – both are fag in hand. Of course Orwell like Taro was a graduate of the Spanish Civil War but he made it home to the BBC and to die in the relatively civilised surroundings of UCH (University College Hospital, established by two of my distant ancestors on the Picture Post grandfather’s side, and where both my boys were born). Orwell’s house (at 1 South End Road) is along the same road in Hampstead/Parliament Hill where my dad grew up. He was a child of refugees from Nazi Germany.

If liberty means anything at all, it means the right to tell people what they do not want to hear

To round off these square stories, Taro was given a funeral, attended by thousands, by the Communist Party of France. She was buried at Père Lachaise on 1st August 1937 (what would have been her 27th birthday) in a grave designed by Alberto Giacometti. On the tomb is written, in French and Catalan

So nobody will forget your unconditional struggle for a better world

Fast-forward to the summer of 2016 – an open-air display of Taro’s Spanish Civil War photos was included in the f/stop photography festival in Leipzig. Leipzig is where my dad was born in July 1937 in the shadow of the Nazi fascist regime, a swastika and eagle on his birth certificate. When f/stop ended, it was decided that the display would become permanent. This was partly financed through crowdfunding. On the night of 3rd/4th August 2016 (two days after Taro’s 106th birthday), the display was destroyed by being daubed with black tar-like paint. This dark act of destruction was widely suspected to be motivated by anti-semitism or anti-refugee politics. A further crowdfunding campaign more than raised the €4,000 required to restore the vandalised photos. The equal and opposite forces of creativity and destruction, light and dark, squared up to one another.

Be there and be square.

Quote of the Day: Body’s Light

Egon Schiele : The Embrace (The Loving), 1917

The Embrace [The Loving] by Egon Schiele (1917)

Bodies have their own light which they consume to live: they burn, they are not lit from the outside.

Egon Schiele

to mark my visit to ‘Klimt / Schiele’ at The Royal Academy of Arts, London

More on Schiele & me here:

On the Trail of Egon Schiele

More Egon Schiele

Bowie & Schiele

 

Quote of the Day: New beginnings

Every new beginning comes from some other beginning’s end.     

Lucius Annaeus Seneca aka Seneca the Younger (c.4 BC – 65 AD)

Adam and Eve expelled from Paradise / Adam et Eve chassés du Paradis - Marc Chagall (1961)

Adam and Eve expelled from Paradise / Adam et Eve chassés du Paradis – Marc Chagall (1961)

Picasso’s menagerie

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Bull: Guernica (1937)

horse guernica picasso

Horse: Guernica (1937)

Fauns and Goat 1959 By Pablo Picasso

Goat: Faun and Goat (1959)

the-rooster 1938 picasso

Cock: The Rooster (1938)

dove-of-peace picasso 1949

Dove: Dove of Peace (1949)

Pablo Picasso — Cage with owl, 1947

Owl: Cage with owl (1947)

picasso bull 1945

Bull (1945)

Boy Leading a Horse (1906) picasso

Boy Leading a Horse (1906)

picasso the goat 1946

The Goat (1946)

Woman with a Cock (1938) picasso

Woman with a Cock (1938)

Child with dove (1901)

Child with dove (1901)

Picasso and owl (1947) photographed by Michel Sima

Picasso and owl (1947) photographed by Michel Sima

 

On the trail of Egon Schiele

I first heard of the Austrian artist Egon Schiele in a radio interview with David Bowie when I was at school. At university I got a travel scholarship to do some research on him in Austria. I stayed a short train ride outside of Vienna (Payerbach-Reichenau) and, beside going into the city, I travelled out to Neulengbach (under an hour from the city centre) to where Schiele lived and had his studio at one of the most productive times of his life. When I went there that time (1984) there was no sign of Schiele in the town. When I went to ask the way to his studio I was told people didn’t talk about him.

Last summer I was working at ORF in Vienna and took the opportunity to revisit Neulengbach and various other Schiele-related places. In the intervening 33 years much has changed. Schiele has a strong presence in Neulengbach and in his nearby birthplace, Tulln, and is widely celebrated. There are posters across Vienna and galleries of various sizes.

In my eyes he’s one of the great artists of the 20th century and since this year is the centenary of his early death (at the age of just 28 from the Spanish flu epidemic in the wake of the Great War) I’m publishing this photo-post to mark the occasion. The day of his death was 31st October 1918 (his birth was 12th June, the same day as my other half).

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On the trail of Schiele in Tulln, Austria

egon schiele's birthplace - the station at Tulln, Austria

Schiele’s birthplace – upstairs in the station at Tulln

Schiele's birthplace - upstairs in the station at Tulln

The artist whose name dare not be spoken three decades ago is now celebrated and signed

Schiele's birthplace - plaque in the station at Tulln

The plaque at his birthplace

Schiele's birthplace - the station at Tulln

The station where his father was station master (before he set fire to it in his madness)

Schiele's school - Tulln, Austria

Schiele’s school, Tulln

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A presence in the streets of Tulln

gates of the egon schiele museum tulln austria

The Egon Schiele Museum – Tulln. Opened on the centenary of his birth (12th June 1990).

The Egon Schiele Museum - Tulln

The museum is housed in what was formerly the gaol. Schiele was imprisoned here in 1912.

statue of Egon Schiele outside the Egon Schiele Museum Tulln Austria

Statue of Schiele outside the Egon Schiele Museum, overlooking the Danube

advertisement poster for leopold museum schiele klimt august 2017

Schiele’s presence around Vienna – advertising the Leopold Museum

the atrium of the leopold museum vienna

The atrium of the Leopold Museum, Vienna – opened 2001

Leopold Museum, Vienna

Leopold Museum, Vienna – the world’s largest collection of Schiele’s paintings and drawings

atrium Leopold Museum, Vienna egon schiele

Leopold Museum, Vienna egon schiele poster

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Neulengbach where Schiele lived with his girlfriend/model Wally

egon schiele bust neulengbach austria 2016

Bust of Schiele in the centre of Neulengbach – erected in 2016

egon schiele platz neulengbach austria

Once invisible, he even has his own Platz now

courthouse neulengbach austria bezirksgericht egon schiele

The courthouse in Neulengbach where Schiele was confined and sentenced

courthouse neulengbach austria bezirksgericht egon schiele

The courthouse now contains a small museum

courthouse neulengbach austria bezirksgericht egon schiele

The orange on the cell bed (brought by Wally to paint and eat)

courthouse neulengbach austria bezirksgericht egon schiele

Orange on cell bed

courthouse neulengbach austria bezirksgericht egon schiele

gaol guitar door

courthouse neulengbach austria bezirksgericht egon schiele

Schiele’s cell

courthouse neulengbach austria bezirksgericht egon schiele

I had a moment in here – the whole place was empty

courthouse neulengbach austria bezirksgericht egon schiele

courthouse neulengbach austria bezirksgericht egon schiele

Death mask in a cell

courthouse neulengbach austria bezirksgericht egon schiele

Schiele in cell (he’s on a plastic bag)

courthouse neulengbach austria bezirksgericht egon schiele

egon schiele strasse neulengbach austria

He’s now got a Place and a Street

egon schiele strasse neulengbach austria

on the way to his studio

egon schiele neuzilgasse neulengbach austria

And Wally’s even got her own lane

egon schiele neulengbach austria Schiele's road - Au

Schiele’s road – Au

egon schiele neulengbach austria Schiele's road - Au

A neighbouring house of the same period

egon schiele neulengbach austria Schiele's road - Au

Site of Schiele’s house & studio – it was torn down in the 60s(?)

egon schiele neulengbach austria Schiele's road - Au

Schiele & Wally’s place (photographed 1963)

egon schiele neulengbach austria Schiele's road - Au

Schiele’s house/studio

egon schiele neulengbach austria Schiele's road - Au

Captured for posterity by art historian Alessandra Comini

IMG_1956 egon schiele neulengbach austria prison museum

After the cell experience, Schiele left Neulengbach

egon schiele studio Hietzing, 101 Hietzinger Hauptstraße

In 1912 he moved to a studio in suburban Vienna (Hietzing) at 101 Hietzinger Hauptstraße

egon schiele studio Hietzing, 101 Hietzinger Hauptstraße

I happened to be staying in Hietzing by chance on this visit – beschert

egon schiele studio Hietzing, 101 Hietzinger Hauptstraße

Schiele’s studio is on the top floor

egon schiele studio Hietzing, 101 Hietzinger Hauptstraße

101 Hietzinger Hauptstraße

egon schiele studio Hietzing, 101 Hietzinger Hauptstraße

egon schiele studio Hietzing, 101 Hietzinger Hauptstraße

Treading in the great man’s footsteps

egon schiele studio Hietzing, 101 Hietzinger Hauptstraße

He spotted his future wife (Edith) in the building opposite where she lived with her parents and sister

egon schiele Hietzing, Hietzinger Hauptstraße edith harms

The Harms’ apartment – 114 Hietzinger Hauptstraße, Vienna

egon schiele Hietzing, 114 Hietzinger Hauptstraße edith harms

Both Edith and Egon died in this building in 1918

egon schiele Hietzing, 114 Hietzinger Hauptstraße edith harms

Edith & Adele’s view of Egon’s place

Egon Schiele letter to Edith and Adele Harms 1914

A letter from Egon to sisters Edith and Adele Harms 1914

egon schiele Hietzing, 114 Hietzinger Hauptstraße edith harms

Klimt's grave Hietzing Josef Hoffmann: Grave of Gustav Klimt, Vienna Cemetery Hietzing, Vienna, Group 5, Grave # 194

Schiele’s mentor, Gustav Klimt, is buried nearby in Hietzing Cemetery

Klimt's grave Hietzing Josef Hoffmann: Grave of Gustav Klimt, Vienna Cemetery Hietzing, Vienna, Group 5, Grave # 194

Headstone designed by Josef Hoffmann – Cemetery Hietzing, Vienna, Group 5, Grave #194

Klimt's The Kiss in Schloss Belvedere, Vienna

Klimt’s The Kiss in Schloss Belvedere, Vienna

Klimt's The Kiss in Schloss Belvedere, Vienna

Truly magical

 

Artistic Devices: Hockney in London 2017

I was working at Chelsea School of Art in Pimlico recently and took the opportunity, after a meeting about a prospective TV programme, to nick into Tate Britain which is directly opposite and see the David Hockney exhibition.

To mark the occasion of this major retrospective, entertaining if a little rammed, I’d like to dig out my Hockney Picture of the Month, Portrait Surrounded by Artistic Devices, which is in the show of course.

Portrait Surrounded by Artistic Devices - David Hockney

Portrait Surrounded by Artistic Devices (1965)

And to add an extra something to celebrate the exhibition I’d like to highlight some other artistic devices in evidence in this show. For the significance of ‘artistic devices’ I’ll quote from my earlier post:

The person portrayed is partly obscured by a pile of (obviously painted) cylinders. Above his head is a shelf on which are a selection of large brushstrokes. The cylinders are crude 3D representations, obvious devices or techniques, which stand out as abstract in a still figurative world of suits and rugs and shelves. The shelf is just a 2D line. The strokes on the shelf are more flat, abstract components of painting, exposing the technique and undermining the illusion. The pile of cylinders is actually painted on a sheet of paper glued to the canvas to leave the viewer in no doubt as to the artifice, physical materiality and flatness of the endeavour.

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Sunbather (1964) – water devices (although it’s complicated – Hockney had painted lines on his pool floor)

A Bigger Splash 1967 by David Hockney

A Bigger Splash (1967) – plant devices & more water devices

david-hockney-henry-geldzahler-and-christopher-scott-1968

Henry Geldzahler and Christopher Scott (1969) – glass devices

Mr and Mrs Clark and Percy 1970-1 by David Hockney born 1937

Mr and Mrs Clark and Percy (1970-1) – carpet devices

Sound & Vision: 4 of the best from Bowie’s art collection

I had a bit of an art blow-out earlier this week with three thoroughly enjoyable exhibitions in a day:

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View from a beanbag

You Say You Want A Revolution? at the V&A which looks at “records and rebels” from 1966 to 1970 – I went with my friend Kathelin Gray who was present at many of the events showcased and knew many of the people referred to, including Allen Ginsberg who is the person who first brought us together when I was on sabbatical writing in 2013-14. Walking through this excellent display with her certainly added a special, personal dimension. For a while we kicked back on beanbags to watch highlights from the Woodstock movie, including Jimi Hendrix’s era-defining rendition of the Stars & Stripes, perfect for US election day.

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Endless Highway off the beaten track

The Path Beaten at The Halcyon which for the second time in as many years brings together in London a collection of Bob Dylan’s paintings and sculpture. The images which most appealed were ones like ‘Endless Highway’ which seem of a piece with his songs and how they capture the essence of America. Also perfect for an election day when that could easily get lost.

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Sandwiched between was a visit to Bowie / Collector at Sotheby’s, a last viewing of Bowie’s personal collection (minus the stuff of sentimental value) before it went under the auctioneer’s hammer on Thursday 10th and Friday 11th November (yesterday and the day before). I went with my friend Doug to whom I picked out a single painting by Jean-Michel Basquiat as The One. As it turned out that canvas went for £7.1M, the top price at an auction which raised double the expected revenue, in this case more than doubling its top estimate of £3.5M. So I reckon I’ve got a good eye. And what that good eye spied on the day were these…

ONE Lot 22: Jean-Michel Basquiat – Air Power (1984)

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Jean-Michel Basquiat – Air Power (1984)

For all the bullshitWar(se)hol(e)hype around Basquiat, the young man was a really dynamic artist with a beautiful sense of colour. Bowie played Warhol in Julian Schnabel’s biographical movie. The canvas displays Basquiat’s usual mix of lively paint (acrylic) and fat chalky lines (oilstick) looking like the bastard offspring of a blueprint and a Brooklyn wall. The white ladder shape on the chest and body of the main figure reminds me at once of one of those bone breast decorations Red Indians wear and a railway line reaching westwards. In other words JMB seems to really capture that essence of America.

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TWO Lot 4: Peter Lanyon – Trevalgan (1951)

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Peter Lanyon – Trevalgan (1951)

Hot on the heals of the excellent Lanyon exhibition, Soaring Flight, at The Courtauld last Christmas, Bowie/Collector afforded an encounter with another group of Lanyon’s fresh, original landscapes, of which this stood out the most. Trevalgan is a landmark work in Lanyon’s journey of reinvention of landscape painting, tilting it up to become a fusion of map, aerial photo and abstract expressionist take on the Cornwall countryside, the horizon curved around the picture surface on which sea, fields, cliffs and sky are transformed into a gigantic emerald of England.

Peter Lanyon – Picture of the Month

THREE lot 43: Patrick Caulfield – Foyer (1973)

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Patrick Caulfield – Foyer (1973)

I’ve always had a soft spot for Caulfield as one inclined to a very graphic style in my own drawing and painting. This large acrylic captures much about modern life in a bland space of the hotel lobby variety (which is not much variety) – to get to anything of interest or colour you have to penetrate to the bar, a small bejewelled space of coloured glass and decorated alcoves, tucked away small in the background distance of the image.

FOUR Lot 101: David Jones – Crucifixion (c.1922)

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David Jones – Crucifixion (c.1922)

I suspect Bowie bought this one because the artist shares his real name, plus of course Jones was a highly accomplished religious artist in the vein of Eric Gill. This sparse, stripped down pencil and watercolour drawing captures the agony of the Crucifixion, remembering even to bloody the knees, not just the stigmata. He achieves something truly ancient and in touch with the roots of Christianity.

I felt two things as I left the exhibition. (i) There was so much of it. Too much for any one person to own. It made me feel a bit sick being amongst so much. It must have been a relief for Bowie and his family to offload All This Stuff. David Jones #1’s Christ departs with just a delicate blue loin cloth and a crown of thorns. (ii) Having gone to so much trouble assembling some very fine sub-collections among his overall Collection (mainly of the 20th Century British Art I really love) I wonder why he broke it all up again? Why didn’t he donate little groups to museums to keep them together? I suspect his family don’t really need all £33M of the proceeds.

What Bowie did give – from my little perspective – was an introduction to my ideal drawer and one of my favourite artists, Egon Schiele. I heard him talking about this artist (who I, like most people at the time, had never heard of) on Radio 1 around the time of his Lodger record, the last of the Berlin trilogy. From there a life-long love sprouted. If Bowie had any Schiele’s he kept them back from the sale. The nearest is a single Oskar Kokoschka litho and an Eric Heckel woodcut figure with long boney hands. He certainly had a heroic eye for art. (Though he could have gotten arrested by the design police for his taste in furniture.)

 

 

Chairwoman update

Just back from the Aesthetica Short Film Festival in York where I had my first official Sell Out as far as I can recall.

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I was doing a Masterclass on factual/unscripted short form video. In the Green Room after I met Dr Melanie Williams of UEA where she is Head of Film, Television and Media Studies. She specialises in post-war cinema and has written a monograph on David Lean (very appropriate in that I’m writing this in BAFTA which Lean founded and which Aesthetica feeds into via the Short Film category in the Film Awards). As we chatted the subject of Christine Keeler’s 60s movie came up – see Chairman of the Board below. Well it turns out one of her colleagues at the University of East Anglia has a particular interest in ‘The Keeler Affair’ movie (1963) and in fact (contrary to what I had read) it was made but was never granted a BBFC certificate in the UK, so it only played abroad. Lewis Morley, the photographer who photographed Keeler in That Chair, refers slightly erroneously to: “an intended film which never saw the light of day”.

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It also seems to have another title, ‘The Christine Keeler Story‘, and it turns out that Keeler doesn’t exclusively play herself despite posing for the publicity photos – Yvonne Buckingham plays her although Keeler is also listed as “Herself”. Same for Mandy-Rice Davies who both plays herself and is played by Alicia Brandet.  I’ve yet to find out how Buckingham & Keeler and Brandet & Rice Davies squared that circle though there are some clues in the clip I found below.

NPG x131954; Christine Keeler by Tom Blau

Call Girl – untitled photograph by Tom Blau (1963)

In the synopsis Keeler is referred to as a “teenage prostitute” which seems both harsh and not entirely accurate. I like the term “good-time girl” which is often used to hedge bets in this type of context.

And here’s the bit I found. Quite intriguing. A disco ball in the courtroom… like it.

***

I went from BAFTA in Piccadilly round the corner to the May Fair Hotel for a BAFTA Film Awards screening of ‘American Pastoral’ with leading man and director Ewan McGregor in attendance. It is a striking and original film, directed with amazing aplomb for a first movie (this is McGregor’s directorial debut). It is a thoughtful interpretation of Philip Roth’s novel, not spoonfeeding the audience and concluding with an uncompromisingly enigmatic end. McGregor spoke with great articulacy and clarity about his method as an actor-director. What came across strongly is that this is an actors’ film – the rehearsal and shooting process, as well as the framing and camera movement, were all focused on enabling the actors to do their thing in an imaginative and fresh way.

So far the best of the BAFTA fare. Also very striking is the disturbing poster – the best I’ve seen in a long while – which takes the all-American idealism of Wyeth and Hopper (the first half of the film derives its colour palette from Hopper), takes the all-American idealism of Wyeth and Hopper – and shakes it the fuck up, torching the Dream.

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Andrew Wyeth – Christina’s World (1948)

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Edward Hopper – House with Dead Trees (1932)

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Grant Wood – American Gothic (1930)

South America Day 6 – flaneur in Buenos Aires

frida kahlo painting artist painter

Started the day by putting in an application for tickets for the Rugby World Cup in England & Wales next year. Have seen occasional signs of Argentine rugby during my stay – a pitch here, a newspaper report there.

Made a bright and early tourist start across the sleepy Sunday morning city in the direction of the gallery of 20th Century Latin-American art, Malba. The BA at the end stands for Buenos Aires (Museo de Arte Latinoamericano de Buenos Aires).

It was a 45 minute walk, back to the area where TV Publica lives. As I went past the law courts, motorcyclists of all shapes and sizes were gathering. About an hour later I saw them parading down Avenue Presidente Figueroa Alcorta making as much noise as possible, even the little Vespa at the back.

I checked out the embassy quarter as the gallery didn’t open til noon, too enthusiastic for my own good, need to get myself on Latino time. The embassy area could easily have been in Paris, tranquil streets with 19th Century European style residencies. Some lovely trees, some interesting architecture (including a modernist building with metal oval door and oval windows), no-one around in the light drizzle.

Once I got into Malba I made a bee-line for the permanent collection of 20th Century art, the collecting of Argentine businessman Eduardo Constantini, offered to the city as a permanent and public home for his significant collection. The city’s artist community backed him to the hilt, persuading the municipal authorities to grant him land on which to construct a purpose-built home for the artworks.

Worth making the trip to Buenos Aires for this alone

Worth making the trip to Buenos Aires for this alone

My visit centred on the stand-out exhibit, Frida Kahlo’s Autorretrato con Chango y Loro (Self-portrait with Monkey and Parrot) (1942) of which more here. Worth the price of admission and the 6,900 mile trip alone. Other highlights included Antonio Berni’s Manifestacion (1934), a great example of politically committed painting from Argentina and The Dressmaker (1935) by Amelia Pelaez of Cuba, really original drawing.

I walked back to Plaza San Martin a different way, enjoying the Sunday afternoon calm. The streets were mainly populated by young people and young couples.

After a bit of writing and feet resting in the comfortable, old-school hotel room, I taxied across to Palermo Soho, a bar and shop district on the other side of town, for the day’s meal. Highlight of that: tortilla. I wonder whether this Soho is named after New York’s SoHo, London’s or neither? A coffee and read to round off, then back to base ready for an early start on the journey to Uruguay. It’s not every day you get to visit a country beginning with U. Right up there with the day we walked across the bridge from Zimbabwe to Zambia, a double Z bonanza.

tortilla in buenos aires

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