Under a moonlit sky in Milan, my friend and I discovered a rare evening treat: an ingenious pairing of art and music. Enclosed behind the Castle walls, for only 15 Euros, we thrilled to dramatic staging of details from the paintings of Caravaggio accompanied by the Milano Chamber Orchestra playing Bach, Handel, Vivaldi, and Monteverdi among others.
Three actors from Teatri 35 captivated us as they deftly draped fabric around themselves changing scenes, positions, and dress 19 times using only the billowy material. They enacted images from Caravaggio’s artwork, then adapted final postures, posing like statues for up to a minute or so while Baroque music enveloped the emotional staging. How they held the poses for as long as they did was astonishing to witness.
Called Vivant Tableaux (Living Paintings), this performance technique of scenic representations originated in the Eighteenth Century and gained popularity in the Nineteenth.
Another night we watched an operatic rendition of Cinderella, using student actors in a parody of the fashion industry as a setting. Among the more amusing takes we recognized were four men in white, pony-tailed wigs and sunglasses lampooning Karl Lagerfeld, and a blond-wigged woman spoofing Donatella Versace in expression and gestures. Though clever and amusing, the performance–accompanied by the beautiful operatic voices of students–went on too long.
We noted (but did not go) that Notturni in Castello (Nights at the Castle) planned a fantasy Harry Potter performance another evening. Clearly, the Castle has something for everyone.
Innovative concerts starting at 9 PM en plein air at Castello Sforzesco run from June through August. You can buy tickets in advance on the grounds during the day. For more information: https://www.notturnincastello.it/
Exhibition at Smithsonian’s Renwick Gallery is ongoing through January 21, 2019. For more info: https://americanart.si.edu/ exhibitions/burning-man
Pushing the outer limits of their own space, the Renwick Gallery brings the boundless creativity of Burning Man from Black Rock, Nevada, to the conservative confines of Washington, DC.
Since the first sybaritic spectacle in 1986, the dry lakebed outside Reno has been home to phantasmagoric sculptures, whimsical mechanical devices, and radical art. Minus the sex, drugs, and rock and roll, the Renwick indulges our curiosity in this countercultural contemporary art scene both in the museum and out into the neighborhood. Pick up a map at the museum to find six street art installations nearby, including the giant Grizzly Bear (photo below) made of pennies. Read more ›
Massena Museum, Nice, France
Housed in a stately, 19th century villa on the promenade des Anglais overlooking the Mediterranean, the Massena Museum —the façades and roofs of which are classified by French Historic Monument Association—offers visitors a viewing of Empire Age salons and furnishings, tranquil English-style Gardens, and temporary exhibits, such as its current photography exhibit, Jean Gilletta et la Cote d’Azur, paysages et reportages, 1870-1930.
As the primary and inexhaustible landscape photographer of the Riveria, Gilletta documented its art and culture, commercialism, and tourism. According to Gilletta’s great nephew, “…nothing escaped his lens,” as he captured a time in flux, casting that lens on the modest and humble as well as the privileged. On construction sites, railways, and bridges. On market vendors, washerwomen, presidents and princes. He recorded rural life and the high life of Nice and Monaco among other sites. From fashionable spa towns, olive groves, and snow-covered mountain peaks to the 1887 earthquake, he was an exemplary reporter and witness for his times.
A 19th century Cartier-Bresson, Gillette preserved those times–forever gone or transformed–through at least 10,000 photos as he tooled around the Cote d’Azur on his three-wheeled, motorized bike—an example of which is on exhibit. In addition to snapping photos, he was also a prolific publisher of postcards and books.
The delightful exhibit opens with head cutouts of peasants of the day. Go ahead, stick your head though the opening slot and journey back in time. (I did; Noel was less enthusiastic.) The guards will take your photos. The balance of the exhibit holds numerous original photo prints of people at play and work along the seaside and in the country. The photographs are small and require time and close-up inspection, but to get a sense of the larger exhibit, the designers have created life-size impressions projected on the walls in each room recreating the ambience in which Gilletta worked. In addition to the photos, there’s a three-wheeled, motorized bike that Gilletta tooled around the Cote d’Azur setting his sights on images to snap. A large box camera he used is also on view.
The show recalls an insouciant time along the Cote d’Azur through five principle themes: Nice the resort capital of France, Nissa la Bella (Nice the Beautiful–the city’s unofficial anthem. Listen on YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=15oZvZtsYYw), By the Mountains and the Valleys, Under the Azure along the Coast, and The News in Pictures.
The exhibit closes March 5, 2018.
The Museum’s permanent collection displays the history of Nice from the 19th century up to the end of 1930s. Highlights include Napoléon’s death mask and Josephine’s tiara with its glittery gemstones, gold, and pearls.
Hours: Tuesday-Sunday 11-6, winter; 10-6, summer.
Closed Tuesdays and certain holidays
Tickets: 6 Euros or buy a 7-day pass for 20 Euros (Access to all 12 municipal museums and galleries for 7 days in Nice)
Location: 65, rue de France (ticket entrance)
Henry James and American Painting Exhibition at The Morgan Library, NYC
On View through Sept 10, 2017
Henry James (photogravure above in 1906 and painting of him in 1862) equated the art of the writer with that of the artist, declaring he saw no difference in their acts of creation. In The Art of Fiction, he wrote, “… the honour of one is the honour of another.” Fascinated with the visual arts, James often explored the artistic process, inspiration, and influence of art in his novels.
I thought I’d run in, glance at the Morgan Library exhibit for a half hour and be on my way, but I lingered for two hours. So engaged was I that I read the accompanying wall text—a rarity for me when many museum labels are often, in my humble opinion, a bullshit attempt to be erudite but are frequently just obtuse. Instead, I found myself absorbed in the text, laughing aloud at entertaining stories and James’ numerous observations about his artistic circle of friends such as James McNeill Whistler, John La Farge, and John Singer Sargent among others. Many of his friends were players in James’ novels, and their lives were fodder for his plots. Much of this is clearly evident in images and text selected.
Early in his career, James himself attempted to paint, but–determined to avoid mediocrity–opted instead to write painterly novels, clearly an inspiration to the co-curators, Declan Kiely, head of the Morgan’s Department of Literary and Historical Manuscripts, and novelist Colm Tóibín. They collected an enticing selection of artwork–paintings, drawings, watercolors, sculptures, photographs, as well as the written word–books, manuscripts, and letters from museums and private collections in the United States, Great Britain, and Ireland. They have assembled vivid stories of artistic connectivity. It’s an inspired exhibit.
To read more, check out the NYTimes review: https://www.nytimes.com/2017/07/06/arts/design/henry-james-a-poohbah-who-painted-with-words.html?mcubz=3&_r=0
Aptly titled “You Break It, You Make It,” Bette Ann Libby’s Mosaic Workshops in the Green Mountains (also Boston) are creative and fun. Not to mention therapeutic. Grab that hammer and smash your old ceramics to bits. (Go ahead, imagine whatever–or whomever– you want.) If you don’t have any old dishes, don’t worry. Bette Ann has enough shards for any project you have in mind, along with all the safety apparatus, cement, and grouting you need. It’s a messy business, but the process is all-engrossing, and, I promise, you won’t think of anything that has stressed you out. For a day and a half, your focus is design intensive. No need to bring any snacks either. Bette Ann not only teaches you the basics and inspires you, she also feeds you well. (Full disclosure: Bette Ann has been my friend since college days.)
This was my fourth mosaic workshop and I’d participate again. The first couple of times, I had specific designs in mind. The third time I was clueless and just made an abstract. This time, having been too busy to give it much advance thought, I settled on my house number—a Bette Ann suggestion.
Considering that you are shattering shards, the workshop location could not be more peaceful. Whether you are juggling pieces of glass, mirror, or ceramics, this hands-on mosaic workshop is an adventure in recycled art.
Last few days to see Val Lewton From Hollywood to Breezewood, a retrospective of one of the most talented Washington (by way of Hollywood) artists. Former exhibit designer for Smithsonian’s American Art Museum, Val Lewton had a supreme and unique command of color and composition. (Full disclosure I’m friends with his widow, Claudia Manizozzi (also a painter), and knew Val from my former Smithsonian days. I also own two of his paintings as well as one of Claudia’s. And I wish I had wall space for more.)
I have long been fascinated with building cranes that pierce the sky at construction sites, marveling how something so industrial can be so elegant against the sky. Val Lewton elevates these same scenes and more with his paintbrush to create penetrating and cinematic close-ups of mundane cityscapes: trucks, construction sites, cranes, shovels, gas stations, cars, highways, taxis, traffic jams, smoke stacks, police call boxes. From wrecked and razed construction sites to massive in your face truck cabs you can feel the power of the movement on the road.
Val makes the ordinary extraordinary in such diverse images as his colorful, overflowing paint cans and his Dale City depictions of suburban sprawl. All on view just till August 13th. If you miss it, check out the accompanying full color catalog with essay by former Washington Post critic, Ben Forgey.
Petersen Museum for Car Buffs and Others
Even if you’re not an auto aficionado (I’m not), one can surely find an element of oohs and ahs when visiting The Peterson Auto Museum in LA. Hard to miss the building itself: Like a crazy layer cake interspersed with red and metallic icing, the façade is wrapped in a spiraling whirl of metalwork resembling a car grill. Inside, even the stairwell appears as a vortex of chrome.
I was fascinated with the history of former celebrity-owned cars (Steve McQueen’s is there), futurist visions of transport with aircraft-inspired styling, and film vehicles such as the Winged Warrior 1989 Batmobile, Herbie the Love Bug, and the Delorean DMC12 Time Machine driven in “Back to the Future.”
Holy SideCar, Batman! Yes, TV’s 1966 Yamaha YDS-3 BatCycle is here, too. But, most of all, I loved the shiny chrome colors rarely available on current cars: metal lime green, eggplant purple, and orange ice to name a few. Polished to a high sheen, cars new and old glittered and gleamed. Three floors full.
On view are antique machines that weren’t much more than an engine on a plank of wood and four wheels, grand luxury sedans of 20s 30s, and the wonderful excesses of the 50s with magnificent color and elongated tail fins. See tiny cars without any soul built in Japan and copied by Americans.
The history of the auto is unveiled bearing witness to a technologically changed world at a price almost anyone can afford, thanks to Henry Ford’s everyman car. Most clearly present at the museum is America’s love affair with being on the road in a car of choice.
Pierre Chareau: Modern Architecture and Design, On view at the Jewish Museum in NYC, November 4, 2016 – March 26, 2017.
Having toured the actual Maison de Verre (Glass House) in Paris, I was curious to see how the exhibit could possibly compare to the ingenious interior design and workings of this 1932 home. But in using virtual reality and clever silhouette images, the exhibit is as innovative as the house was. Chareau combined industrial glass, wrought iron, and precious woods in highly original and daring ways and fine craftsmanship. Many actual furniture pieces and lighting are in the exhibit, but the other surprise was learning that Pierre Chareau and his wife Dollie were patrons of the arts. Several works by Picasso, Piet Mondrian, Amedeo Modigliani, Jacques Lipchitz, and Max Ernst are on view as well. Read more ›
It seems an apt description of our recent presidential election, but, in fact, it’s the title of a fun exhibit at the Tel Aviv Museum of Art. On view are forgeries, fakes, and deliberate deceptions in art, archaeology, religion, literature, fashion, commercial products, and documents. (fake Modigliani heads of women below)