Archive for July, 2008

Größe Angst!

Just spent last weekend with lovely seven-year-old Nathalie, who draws dozens of booklets and sculpts ceramic dragons with an easiness that would embarass many young post-modern artists hiding behind their Calvin Klein glasses and stylish clothes, their learned-by-heart speeches and their Japanese cameras!

I specially liked „Größe Angst“, where a small curled dinosaur bitting his own tail can be seen because, Nathalie explains to me, he is very very afraid! What a tremendous metaphor.
What I enjoy about her drawings is exactly that there is no fear of failing whatsoever.

July 30, 2008 at 2:56 am Leave a comment

Abraham Bloemaert (ca.1564-1651)

Recently, I came across a painting by the Dutch Mannerist painter and engraver Abraham Bloemaert (ca.1564-1651), which stroke me as very interesting and unsual (image not available at this point but I will post it once I have it). “Judith Holding the Head of Holofernes” has been a recurrent theme and the subject of many famous representations, also by Michelangelo and Caravaggio. Depicting the beheading scene, Bloemaert´s painting caught my eye, for all characters involved in the narrative show their back on us, completely careless of us as viewers. Challenging the classical concept of painting as a “world placed before our eyes”, oblivious to the traditional conception of painting as a sort of stage where narrative unfolds, Bloemaert´s version prevents us to connect with the story, forbiding us to assume our tipical role as objective and distanced observers achieving some universal principle. On the contrary, we only know what it is about because of the title and a few represented icons in the painting, for all participants are engaged in something which we´re not given easy access to. Gathering in an almost closed circle with their backs to us, this representation strikes me as extraordinary for its time.

After a period of travel which included Paris (1580-3) and Amsterdam (1591-3), Bloemaert settled in the city of Utrecht becoming a very influential painter, who even raised the attention of Rubens who visited him in his studio in 1627. Very influent as a painter of biblical and historical subjects, portraits and still-lifes, Bloemaert not only taught a generation of Utrecht’s best artists, including Hendrick Ter Brugghen and Cornelis van Poelenburgh but also had a decisive influence in others, namely Jan Both, Aelbert Jacobszoon Cuyp, Gerrit van Honthorst, Hendrik Terbrugghen, and Jan Baptist Weenix. His engravings openly circulated around at the time.

Bloemaert´s activity sprang throughout 50 years from mythological and religious paintings, in some cases completely new to Dutch art, to tapestries, stained-glass windows and more than 1,500 drawings. He also co-founded the famous Utrecht’s Guild of Saint Luke in 1611. His style is usually summoned up as a decorative synthesis of Caravaggio’s contrasting light effects and Mannerism’s bright and acid colors, this late feature as showned in the Charity depiction from c. 1590 above. His painting incorporates Mannerism’s restless light effects and strong contrasts, richly colored palette, and lots of movement and detail. Over time, we watch the subject matter of his landscapes became more and more incidental and even difficult to find…

His elongated figures and complex compositions are no doubtly a part of the ongoing maneristic program but his specific preocupation with human back makes him in my view very special.
Above I post some examples.

July 23, 2008 at 7:34 am Leave a comment

ON CENSORSHIP. “Imaginary Coordinates” at the Spertus Museum / Chicago

Imaginary Coordinates“, an exhibition curated by Rhoda Rosen at the Spertus Museum in Chicago, originally scheduled to be open through September 7 suddenly closed in the end of June allegedly in response to pressure from the Jewish United Fund/Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Chicago and individual donors. As Deanna Isaacs reported on May 29 on the Chicago Reader: “The Jewish United Fund, a major Spertus supporter, had taken a look and promptly canceled a May 13 fund-raising dinner booked for the tenth floor boardroom. Michael Kotzen, executive vice president of the Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Chicago, says he moved the event after hearing from “a number of people who thought the exhibit wasn’t appropriate” in “content and point of view””.

The exhibition showed maps (including palestinian maps) focusing on different geographic interpretations of the Holy Land some dating back to the 15th century together with contemporary art by nine Israeli and Palestinian women artists, in what appeared to be an effort to open up and reconcile the museum´s permanent historical collection with contemporary art.

Quoted by Lauren Weinberg on June 20th on Time Out Chicago, museum president Dr. Howard A. Sulkin said: “We came to realize that parts of the exhibition were not in keeping with our mission as a Jewish organization and did not belong at Spertus. This exhibition caused pain for members of our key audience who felt it presented anti-Israel points of view.”

The central polemic of the show is that several of the works “implicitly criticize” Israeli treatment of the Palestinians. And pro-Israel supporters object to seeing work that is critical of Israel and supportive of Palestine within a Jewish museum.

Though there has been a refusal to which speficif objects were considered deemed offensive, Museum´s chair and the Spertus board of trustees reject claims of censorship. On one hand they say that “Spertus is not interested in going around and hurting people’s feelings”, and on the other that they are “committed to asking the hard-nosed questions about a lot of things” ?!? – a clear example of “the schizophrenic nature of this conflict” as Richard Silverstein has put it.
As Patty Gerstenblith bluntly writes on the Chicago Tribune on June 24: “It is unfortunate when donors wield more influence over museum exhibits than the museum’s professional staff and that controversial topics cannot be raised because of objections from a local community. Presenting viewpoints that may be unsettling and challenging are precisely the role that museums should play in our modern society”.
This should give us something to think about next time we discuss changing museum funding in Europe to be more like the american private donorship system!

Margeret Ewing, who seems to be the only one critizing the exhibition without political or partidary motivations, refers to the display of maps as adding little to a furthered understanding of the question of how the land of Isreal and Palestine is defined and to the exclusiveness of female contemporary artists as insufficiently explained within the exhibition!! Which is extremely funny, if you think about the polemic the show has raised and that Ewing – a sort of authority in art exhibitions´ critique – dismisses the show as “weak” from the curatorial point of view!

Lynn Pollack of Chicago´s Jewish Voice for Peace gave a very interesting statement to the Chicago Tribune. She said: “These are not fringe Palestinian and Israeli artists. These are mainstream artists who are able to display in their own country. Why can´t this art be seen by American Jews? It´s really a shame”.

On his turn, Richard Silverstein who runs a blog on on politics, culture and ideas about Israeli-Arab peace and world music, asks if the Spertus Museum “must pull its punches by cancelling an exhibit most viewers and artists found well within the consensus of political and artistic discourse about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, hasn´t lost the right to call itself and art museum?”.
And goes on to react to the patronizing attitude by Michael Kotzin (executive vice president of Jewish United Fund/ Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Chicago who said that pieces “like those videos lacked context”) saying: “We can think for ourselves, thank you Mr. Kotzin. We don´t need to be protected from dangerous art, art that makes us think”.

Usually I don´t comment on exhibitions which I didn´t see. But, since this one was shut before any of us had the chance to see it, discuss and make an opinion not to mention that the uploaded video of the exhibition is no longer available on the internet and catalogues became extremely difficult, if not impossible, to find (I am lucky enough to have held one in my hands!), I feel my usual criteria shouldn´t apply. For me this is a clear case of censorship and one of great gravity for money and religion overruled freedom of thought, critique and dicussion!

July 21, 2008 at 5:23 pm 2 comments

Today was just perfect! Here´s some of my pics!

July 20, 2008 at 11:49 pm Leave a comment

Everyone wants to be found!

Lost In Translation – Bob Harris sings More Than This

A propos..

This week, a propos one discussion about love with one of my best friends, I just remembered and went back to review “Lost in Translation”, Sofia Coppola´s only second but striking film.

Released in 2003, “Lost in Translation” won four Academy Awards and ranks among my list of “changed-mi-world” films. It had a decisive influence on my fascination for Tokyo and is one of the reasons why I decided start learning Japanese.

Against a post-modern Tokyo the film tells the story of two people who accidentally meet and spend some time together. Away from home, their common feeling of displacement is not only agravated by the cityscape itself but also by the lack of direction in their life. More than a case of empathy, a real sense of intimacy and mutual trust strikes them both from minute one. And though they never speak openly about it they both know what´s at stake – as we all do when we experience that in real life! (There´s a name for that which most people fear!)

I recalled the film for my friend has a view on love charged with idealism and fatalism at the same time. She is stubbornly “saving herself” for something meaningfull which, she believes, will take place inevitably without her having to move a finger. While pointing to her the blessing of women having finnaly moved on beyond the Cinderella role, and that anyway there are no Princes to be found these days, the amazing story of the film was playing in the back of my mind.

One of the most increadible moments is the final scene when Bob Harris (played by Bill Murray in what has been seen as THE performance of his carreer) while on his way to the airport spots Charlotte (played by Scarlett Johansson) among a frenetic crowd and jumps out the taxi to reach her.
He embraces her, whispers something on her hear and gives her a tender kiss before leaving again. What short-minded critics have considered to be a cheat on the audience for we are left with the frustration of not knowing if they relationship will continue or not, many think (me included) that that was one of the most magic, painfull and beautifull moments of the film. And exactly what has prevented us to forgetfully – as happens with so many other films – overcome it.

Unfortunately such grandious delight has now been ruined! Bill Murray´s whisper has been decoded by someone and uploaded on You Tube.
But, then again, I feel both disappointed about knowing it and relieved at the same time! It is indeed easier to bare! The point being that it is not about a happy end but about making us recognize how unbelievably easy and a true tragedy it is to completely miss that: “More than this/ You know there´s nothing”…

July 19, 2008 at 7:52 pm Leave a comment

Time for Some Campaignin’

A musical satire of the US presidential campaign by Jibjab.com

July 18, 2008 at 7:17 am Leave a comment

Broken People


Control, A Film By Anton Corbijn, 2007
Photo: Google
Joy Division – Love will tear us apart

Control by Anton Corbijn. Ian Curtis. Joy Division.
I feel “irretrievably” broken after seeing the excellent Anton Corbijn´s film on Ian Curtis. I was one year old when Ian committed suicide. What a lost… And yet aren´t we also to blame for? The pressure and expectations we put on others everyday, putting them on a pedestal… Ian was diagnosed epilepsy, according to his daughter he was mentally instable and showed violent humor swings. For the rest of us, who will always admire his music he will keep on disturbing our peace of mind…
He was only 23 years old when he died but he gave us so much…. and so does the film. Thank you Anton! I cannot even talk about it…

More:
Anton Corbijn talking about Joy Division´s influence on his own life, his love for technique and the adventure of becoming a filmmaker >>>>>>

Declarations on occasion of the Premiere at the Toronto Film Festival 2007 >>>>>>

July 14, 2008 at 1:17 pm Leave a comment

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