Saturday, March 27, 2010
Well, look at that. Most of you were confused by my first post about this project, so perhaps this will help explain. See those photos? They are photos of MY photos published in MODERN magazine's Spring 2010 issue. And see my name up there? So tiny and so stuck in the well that you can hardly see its there? Well, that's my little photo credit(!!!) and small and unimpressive as it is, it makes me absolutely squeal.
Thursday, March 25, 2010
As far as theater goes, it was a bit superfluous. And as far as art goes, it was a lot superfluous. (I stole that word directly from the mouth of Alfred Molina, now didn't I?) But superfluous or not, I enjoyed this play immensely. I enjoyed it because it was ninety minutes of art talk and because the girl next to me couldn't stop smiling. Ya know, there could be an entire short film of Annie watching Red. It would star Pepé Le Pew, and the play would be made of flowers. ANYWAY...
Yes, it was all a bit superfluous. It's difficult to explain how to talk about paintings to people who don't understand how to talk about paintings. And the point of Red was, basically, 'how to talk about paintings' but it never quite got there. Conversations and soliloquies bounced around the topic, but basically hit all the cliches we learn in art school-- colors shifting, lines vibrating, paint glowing-- plus a few hidden cracks at the art world that made certain audience members laugh LOUDLY to let everyone else know that WE GET IT! BECAUSE WE ARE IMPORTANT PEOPLE IN THE ART WORLD! Oh, art world. You're so full of yourself.***
But what this play did hit was the sentiment of an aging artist. This part gave me pause. It made us bow to an artist past his prime who was watching the world grow around him. A sharp irony was held in the references Rothko made to artists who he considered to be past their prime-- Picasso, Matisse, the entire fleet of plein air painters, as well as references made to artists who he didn't think would have lasting quality-- Warhol, Lichtenstein, and pop as a whole. Rothko referred to Picasso as a 'mantle painter,' superfluous in his old age (there it is) knowing full well that his own current commission for the Four Seasons was a fancy way of selling out as well.
I just read an article in The New Yorker about artist Julie Mehretu that spoke of this very concept, and to be honest, made me somewhat angry. Mehretu is the artist recently commissioned to paint that huge mural in the new Goldman Sachs building. When asked to do the commission, she allegedly took six months to decide whether or not she wanted to do it. "What would be the reason to make a painting for a financial institution, you know? Why would that be interesting?" she relayed to the author, as if she was trying to consider artistic reasons for painting something that big other than the massive paycheck behind it. YAWN. I just didn't feel like she meant it. I didn't feel like she actually cared about her work's 'purity' but instead felt pressured to address it because that's the sort of thing 'a real artist' would suffer over.
Of course Mehretu took the commission. The mural is hanging in the Goldman Sachs lobby, and you can go downtown and see it for yourself. (Actually, I really want to do this. Anyone up for a field trip to GS? The mural looks gorgeous, and I adore Mehretu's work, despite me calling her a fake a few moments ago. She is an important painter!)
But Rothko-- the great Mark Rothko-- gave his commission back. He didn't hang his paintings in the Four Seasons. In the end, he chose 'purity' over money (I have to put that word in quotes-- my cynical mind just can't type it without an eye roll) and placed that late, morbid, red series in a chapel in Texas, I kid you not. And this, we came to find out, was the point of the play. In the end, it was an exercise in semantics, a philosophical discussion on what makes art real, on what makes art good.
I'd be interested to hear opinions of this play from those of you who don't spend all day every day talking about art. Did the conversations make sense to you? Did it crack open the mind of an abstract painter? Did it help you understand those big red blocks of color? Go see it, then call me, and then lets sit downtown in front of Julie Mehretu's mural and talk about art.
***yes, I was one of them last night. Am one of them, maybe. I saw this show with clients (and Annie!) for work and was very aware of the super important art dealer sitting next to me. In addition to watching the show, I was constantly trying to determine what one of the greatest minds in art today thought about one of the greatest artists of all time. HE liked it, if that tells you anything.
Wednesday, March 24, 2010
Tuesday, March 23, 2010
Our conversation spanned the globe-- from German grocery stores to health care to a shared childhood obsession that I will not mention here. But even through our ever present laughter, our sentiment held a tone of muted sadness-- for we both know that our lives are quite suddenly changing at a rapid speed. It's the end of an era, people. Four residents of 50 Downing who drink coffee together each morning will each go their own way come fall. Until then, more scallops, please. Until then, more champagne.
Sunday, March 21, 2010
SPEAKING OF FLORENCE--- I'm seeing Florence and the Machine in a couple of weeks at Terminal 5 and just can't wait. So what if she's all over this trailer. Which, lets just be honest, I also just can't wait for Eat, Pray, Love. Judge if you will.
Saturday, March 20, 2010
Ben Stiller falls in line with all of those 'stupid movie' (not the technical term) comedians who feel the need to show their full range by starring in a super depressing indie film. Adam Sandler, Jim Carey, Will Smith, you know the type. I have never been one for the 'stupid movie' comedies (Katie still scolds me for never having seen Dumb and Dumber, Tommy Boy, Liar Liar, or that one where Ben Stiller plays the male model, what was it called?) but luckily I happen to ADORE super depressing indie films(!!!), as you are well aware. Give me Punch Drunk Love over Billy Madison any day, yes please.
Although, come to think of it, Stiller had little to nothing do with my reasons for seeing Greenberg on opening night at the Angelika. It was his much younger leading lady, Ms. Greta Gerwig, who pulled me in. More accurately, it was a charming little profile done by New York Magazine about Greta in last week's issue.
They do a swell job over there at NY Mag, cutting the fat and forcing our interest. They gave this seemingly unknown (I don't know what the hell Mumblecore is, do you?) young actress full credit while still revealing her awkwardness and naive charm. She comes across as fresh faced, sincere, yet completely dedicated and talented in her craft. Good writing fascinates me.
The line that really hooked me was regarding Gerwig's costume fitting and how she gained seven pounds afterward because she “thought [the character's] thighs needed to rub together.” I read that and thought, I know this girl. She is the type of girl I went to school with at my fancy liberal arts college who wasn't fancy at all. Like NY Mag so deftly articulated, she is a girl who looks like she could knit a scarf. And sure enough, Gerwig NAILED this part.
Florence is a character that hasn't yet been exhausted like so many archetypes for twenty-somethings as of late. I think it's her lack of angst. It's her ability to slouch, and mumble, and over apologize. She's totally okay with her employers forgetting to write her a check before they depart for Vietnam. In fact, she encourages their tardiness by claiming its better for her anyway-- this way she'll spread out her spending. When she sees Roger in the bar after her performance, she doesn't over think her reaction-- she waves excitedly with that soon-to-be-recognized toothy grin. She is the anti-Juno, and thank goodness for that.
Greenberg actually hit a different note than I was expecting. It was much funnier than the previews allowed, and Stiller played the role without that ache of loneliness we have come to expect from films about lost souls. He was very crass and unfailingly arrogant. The romance was wacky as well, though not necessarily for lack of purpose. It played out with a sort of bait-and-switch emotional pull. We were encouraged to want Florence to run away from Roger, but melted a little bit when she did things like give him puppets and we were happy when he learned to care for the dog. This was a very sweet film, in the end. We all exited the the theater smiling-- I love when that happens.
I would also like to note the artist Jill Greenberg, whose photos totally distracted me while googling 'Greenberg' for an image for this post. I saw her show at ClampArt last fall, where they served tootsie roll pops at the reception, as she is rumored to make those children cry by taking away candy. She is also the photog who was in trouble with both The Atlantic and the McCain campaign after shooting the presidential candidate 'in sinister light.' That really had nothing to do with anything-- just a little 'Greenberg' trivia for you all. Happy weekend. :)
Wednesday, March 17, 2010
This song has been in my head for three days. I love it, especially that part in the last (or almost last) verse where he skips a stanza and just lets the music go on without him.
Good night, New York. Sleep well. Pancakes in the morning.
If you have ever been to a gentrified Brooklyn playground, you know to what I'm referring... the small talk, the found energy, the obligatory exchange of pleasantries over a stunning yet thrown together backdrop. Your tulips are lovely; I ADORE Frances Bacon; do you have any other children?; it's the Korean deli on the corner, you know the one? It's so funny when regurgitated on stage. I could have watched entire play of that, to be honest--simple observations subtlety replayed.
However, the tone shifted quickly-- almost too quickly-- from compliments and thank yous to hysteria and name calling, just as we knew it would. (The first Lucy Liu cell phone outrage at her husband came too soon. She leaked that anger before it was necessary, I wish they had kept the audience at 'polite tension' a bit longer. Moving on.) God of Carnage is the story of two couples coming together over a playground brawl between their eleven year old sons. Both sides thought it civil to meet and discuss what happened (two teeth knocked out and an apparent name-calling boys gang), and decide how to proceed moving forward.
The entire 90 min play is acted in one long scene without an intermission. The stage is washed in a stark red lacquer (can you use the word 'stark' to describe 'red'?) with a minimal set that forms a Cobble Hill apartment. A modern design sofa with a generous offering of African print throw pillows sits center; book-ending side tables with large vases of white tulips; a massive coffee table housing stacks of art books; and a telephone.
It isn't a set as much as it is a collection of props, and time can actually be measured by the number of items left untouched. The books went first in a spray of vomit (I kid you not, it was awesome), then the side table hiding a bottle of rum, the plates, the cups, the cell phone... Those perfect white tulips were the last to go-- spraying hysterically and wonderously in a fountain of green and and white and water by Ms. Liu upon her final cracking.
The characters took their turns dropping as well. They each hosted a monologue of sorts that revealed an inner madness, each more poignant than the next. Liu, as Annette, had the best monologue, I'm just going to put that out there. Maybe not the best acting, but she had the most to work with and the stage direction and pace were impeccable. She circled the room while her three comrades lay like fallen soldiers, addressing them in turn (Well, Veronica was standing, but slumped facing the wall). Annette started seated against a side table and ended in the same spot and same pose-- a classic theatrical two-step but it worked.
The story itself circled around a constant trading of alliances. This, my friends, is why 90 min of constant conflict was bearable. Yes, the comedy helped most of all, but the switching of sides made what was essentially an ever growing fight interesting. The couples riffed against each other, then the women took sides, then someone poured someone else a drink, and shuffle-ball-change, we got a break and some breathing room and could move onto another layer of id and ego and primal understanding.
Remember those African print pillows? The Frances Bacon book? It's all intentional. Each word, each prop, each movement points toward a central theme that gets to the gut of humanity. It's all there for a reason-- so perfect it makes my teeth hurt.
I loved this play. Loved it. I didn't know what I was getting into upon arrival (I was picturing something more Tony Soprano. James Gandolfini + the word 'carnage' just doesn't read Cobble Hill proper to me.) and I don't remember the last time I was that engaged with a story on Broadway.
*Note: The cast I saw was Jeff Daniels (in the Gandolfini role,) Dylan Baker, Lucy Liu, and Janet McTeer, but there weren't any photos of this cast online. I have been told that the original cast was better, as usually happens, but I didn't see that cast and I thought that this one worked well.
Monday, March 15, 2010
Friday, March 12, 2010
Thursday, March 11, 2010
We did the ghost walk, we toured the House of Seven Gables, and we saw the (claimed) pile of rocks under while Giles Corey famously muttered 'More weight!' as he was being crushed to death. It was awesome. (See, I have a dark side too. It's not all flowers and sunshine over here in Sarahland.)
When I discovered that Miller was also romantically linked to none other than Marilyn Monroe, my swooning reached new heights. I read Death of a Salesman shortly thereafter, and a few of his short stories, but, alas, my love quickly switched to boredom upon realizing that all of his stories weren't about witch hunts. My sixteen year old interest then shifted, I believe, the more racy Miller-- Henry Miller-- and his dear Anais Nin, blushing all the while.
Now that you know a sliver of my own literary history (if you are still reading this post, bless you), I suppose I will get to my point: A View from the Bridge. A View from the Bridge is what I would like to talk about today. This Arthur Miller play hit Broadway with a bang due to its young starlet, Scarlett. I'm also curious if Katie Holmes had anything to do with it-- would anyone have seen All My Sons without Mrs. Cruise along for the ride? And would Broadway have lit another Miller aglow without the financial success of All My Sons? I digress. Scarlett Johansson, Liev Schreiber, and Jessica Hecht (WHO PLAYED SUSAN ON FRIENDS! ONE OF MY FAVORITE SMALL ROLES EVER!) took on this doosey of a play with vigor.
I attended the show early last week with Allison (before the art madness began), in lieu of her actual date, JP. (Thank you, JP, for the ticket!) We sat in the first row mezzanine, my very favorite spot to see theater, and ate up this uncomfortable tale of family, passion, and regret.
Liev Schreiber rocked this role. So well, in fact, that I cannot remember him as anyone without a strong Brooklyn accent and a nervous, snapping anger. His gruff demeanor was a nice contrast to the script itself, which felt slightly Greek in its approach. It opened with a classically thought monologue by a secondary character and a held brief, yet steady chorus to bookend the tale.
I can't say that it was the best play I've ever seen, not even the best I've seen so far this year. I will argue the set design, the movement, and even ScarJo's acting. It was too obvious; too little; too much. But what this play succeeded in, it succeeded well. The story made us physically uncomfortable, to the point of squirming and covering our eyes. The tension was incredibly felt, and we left with a rock lodged somewhere between our stomach and our heart. I haven't felt that since a small production of Macbeth that I saw in North London at the Almeida Theater with Simon Russell Beale-- I left that show angry and upset, hating the play so much that I knew it had indeed worked its intended magic.
This production also brought forth multiple conversations between my girls and I about women and women's historical role in the home. I think it was supposed to have encouraged more talk about immigration, incest, jealousy, and morality, but whatever. We talked about women. We talked about how few options we, as a sex, had in early America and how very dependent we were on husbands just one hundred years ago. We wept for Beatrice, Hecht's character, who must have feared her husband beyond belief. Yet, we didn't blame her for sticking with him, how could we?
This show closes soon, this week maybe. See it. But go for the right reasons-- not because you have a strange schoolgirl fascination for witches, or because you wanted to see ScarJo's curves in person, like I did. Go for the brilliant and classic tragedy that Miller intended. You will not be disappointed.
Monday, March 8, 2010
Anyway. My favorite movie of the year was Up in the Air. Hands down. I didn't have high expectations for it to win anything, and I don't think it did, but I LOVED this movie. I saw it twice in the theaters and think about it often. It struck and cord in me-- a humanity cord, I think.
Up in the Air is a story about the human condition. It is about what we need in order to be happy, to be alive and content and functioning. I remember hearing a statistic once about dolphins-- that if we were to make a checklist of what it means to be human, then tested it against other species, that dolphins would beat out babies.
According to this study, dolphins are tool users, they are highly creative (perhaps even artistic), they enjoy recreational and social activities, from surfing to sex, and they have proven time and time again that they are self-aware. They’ve also formed symbiotic relationships with fisherman, and recent reports suggest that dolphins even have names for each other.
On this same accord, if you tested George Clooney's character, Ryan, against a standard of human living, he may drop on the list below dolphins. Yes, he is cognitive, and a tool user; he likes recreational activities and has a name; but he lacks the basic instincts that most of us go our entire lives seeking-- Home. Family. Relationships. Marriage. Comfort. Material things.
The film succeeds in playing Ryan's character against two other super-humans. Natalie, the driven, confident, naive young girl with a checklist in place of a relationship, and Alex, the love-interest-without-strings. First off, I will say that I was SO GLAD that the script didn't turn to a romantic relationship between Ryan and Natalie. Didn't you all get worried about that in the trailer? It was simply a work relationship turned friendship in which both parties were changed as a result. It was a halting in the lives of two people who are always moving forward.
Natalie's character is one of my favorite ever written. Anna Kendrick nailed it, with each forceful stroke of the keyboard and each forced syllable in her sensible suit and sensible shoes and sensible haircut. Her character let us move deeper into a sort of Wonderland, initiated by Ryan's character in his shiny shoes and standardlized cufflinks.
I'll tell you the other reason that we all went to see this film (in addition to that deep voice and dreamy jawline... love me some Clooney...) It was the same reason we all saw Avatar, and will see Tim Burton's Alice sometime this week. This film was another WORLD. One in which we all pass through quickly, in transit, hurriedly, sure, but also one in which we haven't ever stopped to consider it as an actual structure and universe.
The click of the roller bag handles, the beep of the security lines, the zip of the hotel key-- there was something sensual and romantic about a world so standardized and sterile. Natalie's little skirt suits and simple necklace created for us a character SO SIMPLE that she was actually considered outside of normalcy. The articulation of ever syllable made her untouchable and awe inspiring from her very first presentation.
Ryan and Alex (ironic names, right girls?) began a relationship that from its onset didn't temp us with magic. It was about sex and convenience and fun. No expectations, no feelings, no stopping. It was the wedding in Wisconsin-- that lovely little montage at his old high school, in the snow, on the dance floor-- that made our hearts swell, that made us yearn for it to work. Yet at the same time, it wasn't something that we could see lasting, either. The loophole was that Ryan and Alex didn't have lists like Natalie did. Their lives were already started, moving, flying. A relationship wasn't on the horizon. (Please excuse my airplane metaphors, its just so easy!)
The beauty of this film's 'unhappy' ending is that we didn't find Ryan's character as flawed. It wasn't a story about breaking someone down, forcing them to love, to stop, to settle. The ending showed us his real emotion and heartache. He is human, after all. But being human doesn't exist in two-and-a-half baths and fireplaces and Christmas dinners and white picket fences. Ryan taught us that living exists without rules.
Up in the Air is a film that I will own. One that I will pull out on a Saturday morning and overanalyze with my coffee and buttered toast time and time again. It didn't depress me, not even a little bit. (I heard a lot of people say it was depressing?) Instead, it cleared an understanding in my mind for second chances, for starting over, and above all else-- what it means to keep moving forward.
Thursday, March 4, 2010
In fact, I am ashamed to admit, that I didn't even realize that Kentridge's work would be in attendance until I was literally standing in front of his most famous drawing saying to John, "there is a Kentridge exhibit tonight?" I know, I'm ashamed of me too.
William Kentridge is one of the very first contemporary artists that I fell in love with. Well, more accurately, that I was made aware of. My art history knowledge has a jagged past, and at the age of 18 I still hadn't been to a contemporary exhibit, I kid you not. But senior year in college, the great John S----r introduced my printmaking class to a few artists a week, drilling the need to read/see/think/study CONTEMPORARY work. Contemporary work would make us better artists, he said. It would make us better thinkers. And he was right.
If you've never seen Felix in Exhile, Kentridge's most famous piece, stop reading this silly blog and watch it on you tube. Here. I remember John explaining his work a bit, but more importantly, he let us watch it. He let us take it in, breathe it, consider it. We did very little discussing afterward, but I was left with this huge swelling of realization upon its completion: there was an entire world in which I wasn't aware. Art exists outside of Picasso and Warhol and Botticelli. It is being made today and being made in ways I never imagined. Video art? Give me more.
The show itself is expansive. The videos stretch well up those mezzanine gallery walls as you walk up the front stairs into the atrium. It's all blue and dusty and calm-- you can almost smell the chalk he rubs so heavily across paper. I dragged John (John Morrow, not John my professor, or John-the-editor-of-a-very-relevant-New-York-website that I also met that evening) by the arm from room to room, gasping at all that existed before us.
I need to go back, to be honest. Parties aren't as conducive to looking at art as one might expect. It was fun, though. And John will tell you that it was epic.
Now, onto three more fairs before I can sleep. Hello, art week. Loving every second.
It's a weird week, New York. And unless you're in it, you have no idea its even happening. But out there in the chilly March air are the best paintings and photographs and sculptures in the contemporary market today. It's the best of the best of the BEST, stuck salon style in a room built for storage. Anthony Gormley, Cindy Sherman, Erwin Wurm, Uta Barth, Susan Collins, Mary Heilman, and my dear James Nares' work can be found, to name a limited, favorited (favorited?) few.
They are hidden in concrete blocks jutting off the west side of the island, and a few uptown on the east side. This world exists behind closed doors and private parties, but it is there for you. And now that you know-- now that you have been told by your token art friend-- you must go see the zoo that is art week in New York City. It's an absolute treat.