I didn’t want to go see art (“I’m here to see you”) but son Matt insisted and anyone who knows Matt knows that when he insists, it’s futile to protest. Besides he was right, as he usually is.
Our first stop was Ace Gallery, which in L.A. is as vast as its last incarnation in New York, to see Matt’s friend, Melanie Pullen’s glamorized portraits of soldiers in uniform, which you can get a glimpse of here. Then there was a chain of three rooms lit by Robert Irwin in different colors, the after-image of each affecting how you perceived the hue of the next, and a lovely set of graphite squiggle drawings by Australian artist Ana Pollak, which, like the Irwin installation, were totally unphotographable. You can look here, but you won’t have a clue.
http://www.lacma.org/ I admitted I wanted to see the Jorge Pardo reinstallation of pre-Columbian art at LACMA that had generated so much controversy, and as with the Musee Quai du Branly in Paris, I don’t feel the need to evaluate it, but am simply glad that museums are experimenting with creative solutions. I guess my only gripe about the Pardo is that the lighting was so even throughout that the objects on display seemed more incidental than highlighted. Meanwhile the show of young Korean artists, “Your Bright Future” was one of the worst shows of anything I’ve ever seen, another example of how the Academic Faux Avant Garde (hereafter to be known as AFAG) has gone global.
Best of all was Chris Burden’s Urban Light, 2008, a grid of 202 vintage Los Angeles street lamps that’s permanently installed on Wilshire Boulevard at LACMA. Sometimes I think that video (except for Christian Marclay and perhaps Omer Fast) could have begun and ended with Nam June Paik, and conceptual art could have begun and ended with Chris Burden. These are my photos—next time I want to see it at night.
Which comes first, the artist or the landscape? I remember being profoundly disappointed when I went to Aix-en-Provence and discovered that the countryside looked exactly like a Cezanne. Damn! He just painted what was in front of him--although he did elaborate a bit on Mount St. Victoire, which was punier than I expected. And Venice looks just like Canaletto, Paris like that rainy day Caillebotte at the Art Institute in Chicago I've always loved, and while I haven't been to China, a friend told me that the mountains and mist look just like--Chinese paintings. So now that I live on the edge of the Hudson River Valley I think a lot about the painters of the Hudson River School and how they, too, were painting just what was in front of them. Or were they? Perhaps I see it the way I see it because I've been shown it through their eyes.
I thought about this a lot on our trip to
I get annoyed when people apologize for photographs, but this is the best I have of the cliff line with waterfalls at Þingvellir, taken around 11:00 at night with an overcast sky. At least you get the idea. I haven't yet got the hang of taking photographs in Iceland, but it's something I look forward to working on.
Readers of this blog know how passionate I am about keeping the art experience free from any interference that attempts to interpret the work for viewers or bombard them with information that gives the impression that art is about, well, information. This is a philosophy I share with Robert Irwin and Olafur, who was greatly influenced by Irwin (did I get the idea from them or was I attracted to them because of it?—another question that can never be answered). No wonder I’m so comfortable in
The only sign I saw at Gulfoss, one of the biggest waterfalls in Iceland. The cloverleaf symbol indicates an official site of natural or historic interest.
And now I’m off to
I thought about this a lot on our trip to Iceland, where we were shooting background landscape for our film about Olafur Eliasson and Einar Thorsteinn’s collaborations. Terry, who did his Ph.D. thesis on Olafur’s work, was visiting Iceland for the first time, and when he got there exclaimed, “Olafur is just appropriating the landscape!” Not that Olafur pretends to do anything else—it’s possible to trace almost everything he does back to Iceland in one way or another—but this time it was even more clear to me. Þingvellir is that most famous site in Iceland where the Vikings established their parliament back in 930 A.D. Now a national park, it is edged by a wall of black rock interspersed at intervals with waterfalls of varying sizes and looking at it this time it was easy to imagine the black rock as the New York City skyline as seen from the East River, where Olafur placed his waterfalls. Americans expect waterfalls to be spectacular, but in Iceland, while of course some are spectacular, many, as in Þingvellir are simply columns of water whose movement animates the otherwise more static rocky landscape.
Readers of this blog know how passionate I am about keeping the art experience free from any interference that attempts to interpret the work for viewers or bombard them with information that gives the impression that art is about, well, information. This is a philosophy I share with Robert Irwin and Olafur, who was greatly influenced by Irwin (did I get the idea from them or was I attracted to them because of it?—also a question that can never be answered). No wonder I’m so comfortable in Iceland, because here is an entire country that appears to share my aversion to signage. The first time I went to Þingvellir I drove right past because there was a road sign, perhaps, but no more. No WELCOME TO ÞINGVILLIR, HOME OF THE PARLIAMENT, or its equivalent in Icelandic, not even a billboard with the park’s name on it. I also drove past the visitor’s center because there were no signs, no advertisements, nothing. The only way you’d know that the building, which appeared commercial, housed hospitality facilities would be to go look in the window. I love that. And once you get into the park there are no plaques explaining what you are looking at here and there; you can have your own experience. If you have a desire to know more you can get a guidebook. Anyway, it’s an interesting philosophy that Olafur shares with his favorite country, something to ask him about one day.
And now I’m off to California, causing a friend to grumble something about my carbon footprint. Well I don’t know if it fully absolves me, but I do grow my own vegetables.
Erica noted that everyone walks slowly to the point where, if we concentrated on it, the people on Reykjavik’s main shopping street appeared to be moving in slow motion. They are also quiet spoken, but at the same focused and deliberate. Is this because their sense of time is so unlike ours? In Iceland, rather than moving through time, you are suspended in it, and indeed we were told that the Vikings didn’t divide the year into months but gave each day its own name. I loved that it was light all the time, although the landscape seems less dramatic (if that’s possible) in summer because the light is more diffused. When I was in Iceland in the fall, the sun hovered just above the horizon, always in your eyes and casting long shadows from even the smallest rocks. Last week there was an hour or so of twilight around midnight and then, with a change that was more sensation than visually perceptible (something a photograph, for instance, could not capture), it would shift to dawn. In the space of a few minutes I’d go from anticipating more of the evening ahead to feeling as if I’d been up all night and wanting to go to sleep. There was also a different pattern of activity—more people out on Reykjavik’s streets at midnight on Saturday than at any time during the day.
Landscape at Þingvellir, with flowers for scale
Gullfoss: if you look carefully, you can see people standing on the top of the ridge