Friday, March 15, 2013

Dead Hare Radio Hour: Show #40 - Crystal Bridges

Another episode of the Dead Hare Radio Hour is out. The subject this time is the Crystal Bridges Museum in Bentonville, Ar.

Frank and Gloria in front of Crystal Bridges.

Roxy Paine's shimmering tree welcomes visitors to the museum.

Carolina Miranda is back on the Dead Hare Radio Hour (she was the program's very first guest) and she and I compare notes from our visits to the museum.  I recorded our conversation at Carolina's apartment in Brooklyn last May (she and her husband, El Celso, have since moved to L.A.)

Crystal Bridges opened in November of 2011.  I made the first of my first visit to the museum - a week after it opened - with my grandparents who live very close by.  You can see them in the photo at the top of this post.  (By chance, I'm releasing this podcast just two days after my grandpa broke his shoulder in two places from in a fall, so I'm a bit concerned for him.)
 Devorah Sperber's take on the Last Supper.

Below are some links relevant to the show.
Carolina's Crystal Bridges photo diary on her blog, includes images of several of the works discussed.
Carolina's most recent radio piece for NPR on the artist Llyn Foulkes.

A recent update on the Walmart bribery scandal in Mexico.

NPR's series on art destinations.

Martin Johnson Heade's exquisite paintings of rain forest orchids, butterflies and humming birds.

Vik Muniz responds to Heade's orchid paintings.

This Washington Examiner story states that the 600,000 Crystal Bridges visitors in the museum's first year is double the expected number.

A Wall Street Journal story on the Mark Rothko painting, No. 234/ No. 234, recently acquired by Crystal Bridges

Inside the Precious Moments Chapel.

More images from my visit to the Precious Moments Chapel in Carthage, MO. can be found in this photo album.  This is one crazy joint. A real spectacle that is at once impressive, and a wee creepy.

Finally, this episode  wraps up with a short anecdote from Peter Acheson (Show #30 & #36 ) about an encounter he and his buddy Chris Martin had while hiking in Colorado.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Personal Best

Nighttime Painting 1, 2009, acrylic, gravel, glass beads on canvas 11"x14"
The second of the tangents in my previous post brought to mind an exercise I maintained periodically when I lived alone.  It's very possible that I mentioned it previously on the blog, but who's going to go back and check?
This exercise was a mental one in which I tried to calculate, given my current social circumstances, minus any telltale effects of odor, how long it would take for my body to be discovered after dying.  At one point, I figured that I could be dead about a month before anyone would consider my lack of contact a cause for alarm.  Although, my competitive nature yearned to strive for an ever longer period of time, I felt I should do my best to prevent that eventuality from growing past a month.  I think that I unconsciously omitted the odor factor from the calculation.
Now it could be that I'm simply forgetting this, but it was only after thinking about yesterday's post and the story of my dead invisible neighbor that I connected the progressive experience of tracking a dead man's progress through smell and this mental exercise.  I can't believe that a correlation between the two events would have escaped me, but the sensation of making the connection yesterday was so fresh, so revelatory, it felt like a true discovery. 
Although now, I'm feeling like what I've discovered may be the beginning of the dismemberment of my memories as I get further on in my own years.

Saturday, March 09, 2013

Geneve Journal: Dec 14-15,2012, Paris and back

I was a little conflicted about going to Paris.  My objective in going was to meet up with and record a conversation with Magali Aubert who, by the fact that she was assigned to staying at my parents' house while on her month long Summer residency in Colorado in 1991, was the real kickstarter to this entire Geneva-facing part in my life. 
It's almost embarrassing to say I had never been before.  It's an embarrassing embarrassment to harbor, too. Talk about a problem born of privilege.  I really only in Paris to see Magali for the sake of the project, and I didn't want my attention to get diverted from the matter at hand, (never mind that I was spending a lot of time trying to scheme a way to travel from Geneva to Paris to Berlin to Milan to visit friends.) I was afraid of taking away time from being in Geneva, so I decided to make a precision incursion into Paris - arrive Friday afternoon, see a sight (I chose the Palais de Tokyo) or two, then meet up with "turtle girl" then out on the morning train.

Taking the 11:40 train out of Geneve gave me time to work on postcards and a few drawings in the morning. 

Got on the train - past the couple with mega stroller and baggage blocking the main corridor to find that It appeared that I'd be riding solo in a bank of four facing seats.  Awesome.  My buzz was killed by an aging Brit and his husky voiced wife of apparently Eastern Euro origin took who note of my largess and planted themselves in the two seats facing me from across the table.  A bit of a downer, but no biggie.  I retracted my legs and settled in for a more expected density.

Annoyingly, worldliness and self-awareness of this Limey's seemingly sophisticated accent belied the lack of vocal attenuation one might expect from a less couth-sounding voice.  This guys's voice carried.  Loudly.  I noticed it when I first took my seat than the couple was still seated behind me and across the aisle.  Now I was directly facing himI braced myself with provisions of seething which might sustain me through the voyage.
He was reading the paper, choosing to recite capsulizations to his wife who muskily replied in sighs and affirmative groans.  His first bit of sharing related to Allen Turing.  His wife seemed uninterested.  I learned quickly that her disinterest was, to him, a cue to continue.

Limey:  "Switzerland replaced Norway as the most expensive county in Europe."
Wifey:  "Hmm."

Next, he informed the car about NASA making a preemptive "told you so" video about the impending end of the world five days hence.

Half an hour later the couple were sent back to their own seats by proper ticket holders boarding the train at Bellegarde, France, regardless, the car was still kept abreast of the results of the Limey's reading.

Limey: "The Italians have no word for leadership.  The Germans have no word for small talk and the Eskimos have no word for war."

Limey:  " There's a costume drama on Sunday night back in England called 'Making of a Woman.'"

Limey:  "It's raining."

Limey:  "I thought we'd go for a walk outside" - this after hearing an announcement about our unplanned stop and accompanying request that no one disembark.

Limey:  "I'll shall return."  On his way to the cafe car

After returning from the cafe car he began playing a driving game on his ipad.
Limey:  "I had a chafe."
            "I want to break 400.  My best score is 394."
            "I'm now in the lead."
            "A nosty accident."
            "I've got 50 to beat."
            "I'm ahead."
            "Did you see those 2 police cars ganging up on me?"
            "Getting a hundred on the train is tough."
            "Must be able to do better than that."

Eventually, we arrived in Paris.

I was struck by two things upon arriving in Paris:  #1.  All the black people.   This sudden awareness is more descriptive of the extreme paleness of Geneva than anything else, but after spending almost 3 weeks in that bowl of mild Swiss milk, my eyes needed to adjust to the multi-colored metropolis of Paris.  #2 The complete dirtiness of the train interior.  This joint was dirty; the archetypical depiction of urban dirt in a movie kind of dirty.   The state of the car I in which I was riding brought to mind something that has dumfounded me before, which is that the seats of several public transportation systems in several European cities are covered in cloth.  This astounds me, and seems like that modicum of urbane comfort represented by cloth upholstered seats must come at dear price.  Coming from the one city (Geneva)to the other (Paris) is a study in contrasts.  The fabric seats on the buses of Geneva seem perfectly natural in that near prisine environment, but I can not imagine an NYC subway that can't be hosed down and dissinfected regularly .....

Tangent #1
On a recent stint @ MOMA, I spent a night with friends in Brooklyn, as I do occasionallyOn my commute to Manhattan the next morning I was presented with an extremely crowded subway, which had one relatively open car.  With my commuting savvy being dulled through inactivity, I readily jumped on this car - and was confronted by a STENCH soooo strong, sooo pervasive and shocking that I was struck dumb.  I was paralyzed for a fraction of a moment, which was long enough to prevent me from exiting the train before the doors closed.   
Alone on one bench near the center of the car was a female figure, bent over.  My mind is dressing her in wintery layers of dingy, dirty pink.  I don't know if I'm imagining the rings of evaporated liquid that marked the floor around her presence, but I see them now.  The two ends of the car were packed by commuters trying to get as far away as possible.  Unbelievably, 3 or 4 people were sitting on the bench opposite from this being, and were still conscious.  Occasionally, pity and empathy for the poor soul/source of offense poked a toe under the thick velvet curtain of disgust that pressed on my field of thoughts, but then I had to take another breath.  It was an odor, thick and granular, the equivalent of walking through a cloud of glitter or a chest high field of thistles and burred grasses, not only are you besieged while in the midst, you must contend with attempts to shake off the material effects of your exposure long after the terrain has cleared.  On the subway that morning, my fear of my being being suffused with the smell for the rest of the day was great and I wasn't going to risk it.  I couldn't (but yet I can) believe my fellow commuters could tolerate this for the 10-30 minute ride that was their immediate future.  I jumped off at the next stop.  This was no mere unpleasant smell.  This was a death rattle of olfactory putridness which brought to boil a sensory memory from ten years previous.

Tangent #2:
Back in late '93 and '94, when I was "surviving" in NY, I took up residence for a time in a flop hotel in Hell's Kitchen, just off 50th St and 8th Ave, I think ( I always forget which Ave, but in any case the joint sat back from the corner that was kitty corner from the Winter Garden Theatre where CATS! was having its eternal run.)  I think I spent 5 weeks in this place and I think I paid $125 a week for my 1st floor room just off the lobby.  For sure this place was a scuzzy joint.  I wonder what the me of now would think if I were to visit the place today (I don't think it exists any longer.)  My room had a window onto a cavernous interior air shaft.  There was a bare bulb for a light on the ceiling.  There was a bed, a side table, a bureau, possibly a small table...but maybe it was just a chair.  I think there was a mini fridge in there.  There was a tv that had sound but no picture.  What my room didn't have for a fair share of my January/February stay was heat.  Those were some miserable nights.  Fully dressed, and then some, under the veil of a sheet called blanket, I left the light and the tv on for what heat they could produce.
Using the bathroom around the corner and down the hall wasn't exactly a picnic.  Except, it was like a picnic if you include the wildlife you'd likely encounter emerging from the room's crevices.  The ultimate memory from the time of my residence here was when one of my invisible neighbors kicked off, alone and unknown in his room.  Coming in late from a night with friends on a Wednesday, I ventured down to the bathroom and took note of the faint but pervasive odor of spoiled milk.  That odor evolved and strengthened in the proceeding days until on Sunday morning when, hearing a commotion in the hall, I peeked through the hole in my door to see a blur of dark blue uniforms passing by.  It was the NYPD.  The manager had discovered the body that morning.  When I left room for work that morning, I was pummeled by the malodorous emanations that flooded the hall after the cops had opened that door 20 feet and a corner from mine.  Among the weakest of the regrets I hold on to is that I didn't ask to view the body.  I think I was aware and fearful that the sticky stink would cling to me and my gear if I lingered too long.  The whole seen got disturbing in the next several days when, even though my neighbor had left the building, esScents had stayed on.  It was this lingering that proved to much for me.

So for that, I can not imagine NYC's subways clad in cloth as they are in Paris, and even Berlin.  Our Metro North commuter trains have vinyl upholstery - and those can trip alarms occasionally.  I'm getting the skeeves just thinking of the possibility.  But yes, I did actually take a seat on my journey on the RER A.

While on the RER A I saw a thin young man wearing a red beret.  If it's possible to embody a look which is both dorkie and douchy at the same time, this skinny dude did it.

My destination was the Palais de Tokyo to check out some contemporary art offerings before my meeting with Magali. 
Jerome Hentsch had told me about an exhibit of aboriginal painting that was on view at a museum of anthropology or sociology.  I wish I had taken his suggestion.  My visit to the Palais de tokyo ranks as one of the most disappointing museum experiences I've had.  Individually, there were some worthwhile pieces, like Ryan Gander's Esperlutte and William E Jones' film Is It Really So Strange?, but the overall installation and combination of works was uninspiring, dry, and lifeless.  There was one large installation by Fabrice Hybe amounted to a lot of effort made in creating the sprawling piece with subdivisions of environments through which one passed, including a small structure made entirely of refrigerators with the doors open, and a sort of clothes line gauntlet and some sort of lifesize bio-dump/ compost diorama.  It was a cross between an obstacle course and a Chuck E Cheese playland, but I found it largely devoid of charm.
It really sucked.  The very best part of the whole museum was a series of interventions in the stairwell, not all of which were visible, I think due to work being done.  There was more soulful spirit in the actions in that stairwell than in much of anything else on display.    Major bummer.

The sky was spitting rain and the wind was brutal.  Use of an umbrella was ineffective and hazardous.
I hopped on the metro in the direction of Magali's office in the 3rd Arrondissement and grabbed a beer while waiting for our meeting time.  She hasn't changed in twenty years. 

Standard started out more as a small pamphlet several years ago and has grown into a weighty glossy mag with an eclectic mix of art, culture and fashion, and if you ask Magali, she's guided this development without really knowing how to produce a magazine. She may not know how it's done.  She just does it.  I find it immensely impressive.  Standard is released on a quarterly basis.  The model on the current Spring issue's cover is wearing some wild tin can high heels.  

We drank and ate and drank and recorded a conversation until Magali's English gave out.  She told me the story of the death of her last cat during celebrations immediately after France's World Cup victory in 2000 I'm haunted by that poor kitten's demise.
A bizarre portrait I made of Magali in 1992.

I picked up on a surrealist nature of Paris.  First of all, there's that sense of visiting a place for the first time, but sensing that you've been there before.  It's an odd familiarity wrought by exposure to place through film and tv, no doubt.  Perhaps its the same with first time visitors to NYC.   While all new, the experience has a lot of "old hat" about itAdditionally, the scale of the streets in areas  feels wholly unreal, as if everything is slightly a smaller than life size model of itself.  As we walked to her apartment, I felt like I was walking on a back lot in some studio in LA.  
I don't know where we went that night, we passed the site of the Bastille, I know that, but I passed through the warren of Paris city streets in the dark, blind - pre-internet blind - an odd and refreshing geographical blindness that I don't experience much in this age of Google maps.

The next morning Magali walked me to the Gare de Lyon, and I was on my way back to Geneve.  

Mid afternoon I returned to my Genevois home base with the sense of comfort and satisfaction of a homecoming.
Crossing over to l'isle, an Archigraphy.
I worked on a few things then went out to a book launch/ signing for the publisher of an upcoming monograph on Hadrien Dussoix's work.  The vernissage was held at Librairie Archigraphy.  There, I met Hadrien's girlfriend Yoko and occupied much of my time with perusing the artbooks.  After the event the three of us made our way to Livresse, a small lesbian bar/bookstore which serves up Belgian beers.  On the way, I discovered Hadrien's fondness for Root beer, a proclivity we share.
We started to drink.  I drank a lot that night, and had a grandly fun time.  
Some of Hadrien's works at Livresse.
What I can remember of our conversation: some debate on the suitability of artists as parents ( I feel like I had been inserted into a private debate)....and hours worth of other topics I can't recall.  But out of the evening came the seed of a yearlong project for Hadrien and myself, one which is underway (and I trust he is doing his on a daily basis as I am here)  
It's a diaristic, ritualistic project.  we are each creating a "work" every day this year born of an utterance during a smoke break.  More on this later.  Here are a couple pieces I've made in realizing this project:
January 7, 2013
February 1, 2013
There's a wonderful sense of pride of accomplishment one feels when one can find one's drunken way home in a foreign city utilizing long buried sensory memories of the place and gut instinct as the primary navigation tools.
A Genevan street turned Xmas tree lot.

It was a good night, and with it a project of mutual accountability ...
TV tray to the stars.

One of the things that I might have set out as a goal for myself for this project/trip was to lay the groundwork for future works, not just making a retrospective endeavor.  The real gift and uplifting feeling from the trip came from realizing that indeed my interactions and experiences were spawning new works and new possibilities.  That was a thrill that pervaded the drunken night and which has outlasted the hangover.