Personal Libraries & Pawel Althamer

October 13th, 2011 § 0 comments

The nice thing about being a book critic, aside from getting to read books that you normally wouldn’t read (or wouldn’t want to read), is that you get to keep them, and therefore build a library. I’ve been getting spoiled lately, wishing I had more books than I actually have, while moving the ones I’ve amassed between several different bookshelves. A while back we created a dedicated book area that now seems to be expanding to other walls and shelves, and I’m already dreaming of the day when one whole area is filled only with art books. The appeal is not just to have them, however, though some are pretty, but to also use them. Currently researching for a review on Eva Hesse, I keep wishing that I had a good collection of writing by the minimalists or Judd, who wrote highly and often about her work. A somewhat forgotten woman in a generation of male sculptors, I keep finding archived articles in the New York Times with titles like “Eva Who?”

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In Memory: Five Years Since

September 17th, 2011 § 2 comments

Did you see our brother
He was here the other day
But he only came to say that he was leaving

Who writes to dead people? Poets, artists, daydreamers, perhaps Emily Dickinson, and certainly those who miss someone lost. Five years you’ve been dead, and only one year has gone by that I didn’t acknowledge it. It reminds me of a scene from a very beautiful French movie called Il y a Longtemps que Je T’aime (I’ve Loved you so Long), about a woman coming to live with her sister after spending fifteen years in prison. In a dramatic scene she accuses her sister of forgetting her, at which point the younger sister shows her day planner after day planner where her name is written at the top of each page. Hemmed within thousands of little boxes dictating the day of the week, the month of the year, or scheduled daily obligations, were 5,475 remembrances. Though writing a name everyday is a simple task, it takes great deal of effort, like putting a penny in a jar at the same time every morning as my brother did as a teenager, to remember someone gone.

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At Long Last: Montréal

September 12th, 2011 § 1 comment

It’s a city I’ve wanted to visit for a long time now, and one I haven’t ever lived too far away from. When I lived in Chicago I remember spending a decent amount of time wishing I could visit Canada, as it seemed so close. After a false start and a few passport problems, I finally made it past the U.S./Canadian border. It still seems strange to me that while I’ve traveled outside the U.S. a great deal, I’ve never visited our two nearest neighbors: Canada and Mexico. I wish train travel was a bit more romantic than it actually is. I wish the bathrooms worked correctly, and that dining cars served more than pre-packaged snacks, but neither does. It was certainly a beautiful ten-hour ride upstate; the tracks running along the river and through forests and fields. The sun was setting as our train, finally fully inspected, was allowed to continue onwards toward Gare Centrale. Montréal itself is only about an hour from the border, and it was dusk when the silhouette of the city skyline appeared outside my train car window. Reading up on the city before I left, I had already dispelled my preconceived notion that Montréal is a small, quaint city. It’s a large, busy city with more modern buildings than historic ones.

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Public Art, Midsummer

August 18th, 2011 § 0 comments

As summer draws toward fall, relatively speaking, I am gearing up for the start of the new art season next month. The enticing prospect of new shows opening throughout the city, many of them dedicated to the tenth anniversary of 9/11, means that all the shows which opened in the latter half of the summer will be, or already have, closed. Though Ai Weiwei himself was thankfully released at the end of June, his photographs of New York City, on view at the Asia Society, closed today, and his Zodiac Heads, at the Pulitzer Fountain in Central Park, have been shipped to L.A. where they will open at LACMA at the end of the month. The Alexander McQueen exhibition at the MET, Savage Beauty, was undoubtedly the blockbuster of the summer (like Tim Burton at MoMA last summer), but Ai Weiwei’s disappearance, detention, and release was the story of the summer—it was a story that brought the whole world to the doorstep of the art world.

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Published—Van Gogh and Vampires

August 4th, 2011 § 1 comment

A part of me wishes that Centerpieces, the latest book by the author Penelope Przekop, and the subject of my latest book review, had actually been what it promised: a historical fiction about Van Gogh. I would have enjoyed it more if it had even reminded me of Van Gogh, his art or life. A cliché artist now as part of the Impressionist/Post-Impressionist pack, he is always an appealing painter. I still remember the old portfolio of Van Gogh prints I discovered during my childhood, hidden away in my mother’s closet. I don’t know where they came from, but finding a whole collection of poster size prints was like finding gold. She let me take them, and for a large part of my childhood colorful, swirling portraits in careful rotation filled my bedroom walls. I’d lie in bed staring at them when I’d take breaks from doing schoolwork. When I started dancing my mother bought me a beautiful Degas print of a little dancer tying her shoe, and framed it on my wall. It’s not terribly surprising that I found myself taking both Impressionism and Post-Impressionism in undergrad, where I learned about the dark personalities that made such colorful and seemingly cheery paintings. Both movements were full of moody, brooding men with devoted families they didn’t love. Instead of any of this, however, Przekop gave us vampires, pharmaceuticals, and awkward writing.