Posts Tagged ‘art’

Art review – Robert Wilson, Portraits – Palazzo Madama, Turin

November 8, 2012

While this blog is mostly about my theater visits, I mix in some ballet and opera, but I have other interests. I’ve had a few gardening posts: today I’m going to write about art. The inspiration: a trip to the Palazzo Madama in Turin, where I discovered an exhibit by Robert Wilson tucked amidst the Medieval sculpture and Baroque gew gaws. This makes 2012 the Year of Bob for me, since I’ve been to both his Walking exhibit and seen Einstein on the Beach.

Now, Bob wasn’t what drew me to the Palazzo: frankly, it’s a bit hard to ignore, what with it sitting smack dab in a huge open space in the middle of the historic center of Turin. And it’s a fascinating hodge podge, all medieval-looking from the back, but with a frothy white front that matches the rest of the public facing buildings. The mixed history of this building is what drew me to it, as I am frequently turned off by Baroque architecture – sometimes I can get lost in all of the curly wurly hurly burly, but more frequently I just find it all as indigestible as an all-icing cake. I saw it and went, “Hey, now that is cool looking building, nice and ancient looking in back, yet curiously modernized! What in the world is going on here?”

As it turns out, the building not only has its own fascinating history (I’ll let you read up on it on your own, it goes back to Roman times) but is an icon of Turin’s glory days. Inside it is housed a museum of art as well as the semi-preserved apartments of “Madames” Christine Marie and Marie Jeanne (which I was much less interested in than the art). I had actually planned on blowing through the upstairs altogether (baroque furnishings, bleh), but downstairs, amidst all of the fantastic gothicky wooden carvings and lovely paintings of the saints, there were all sorts of little reminders that there was an exhibit of portraiture upstairs which was in some way responding to the art in the (very old feeling) basement.

Let me talk a little bit about the art in the basement. The first room was a painted altarpiece, a ceiling moved from a demolished building, and the most amazing choir stalls, carved with the freakish creatures (mermen, chimera, something that was mostly a head) that bubbled out of the imagination of a team of 16th century French sculptors. The amount of detail was amazing – even some of the seat backs had little scenes in them. I had a hard time leaving the room.

The next room, the largest in the basement, was divided into several areas, each filled almost to bursting with excellent examples of medieval and renaissance art. The most celebrated painting was Portrait of a Man by Antonello da Messina; but I was entranced by the many lovely things, including a bone casket with Limoges medallions, a sculpted “life of Mary Magdalene” where every personage was grinning like a loon, and a fascinating Renaissance allegory painting (called, I believe, “The Game”) in which Venus appeared to be playing chess with Mars. I could barely leave.

When I finally ascended the stairs (after a long visit with a coffin featuring the adventures of Perseus carved in alabaster), I made it into a room that was white to the point of glowing, with sculptures of pairs of women curled on a ledge under the ceiling. They seemed wise and a bit amused, and while they were, apparently, representations of the various provinces of Savoy (if I recall correctly), I read them as an older woman’s assertion of confidence and sense of self. These statues were lit, in turn, by the glow from the numerous video screens in the room, which were somewhat muted by an unusual arrangement: in the center of the (white) room, there was a roofless box (of white), pierced by four entryways, each gap partially blocked by a (white) panel. On exploration, the panels held video screens that faced toward the cube; they were best seen by entering the cube itself, which was covered by numerous glowing panels with polka-dotted backgrounds and a snowy owl. The effect was, looking up, COLOR COLOR OWL CHAOS smiling female statue. Fascinating! Each of the panels had a video screen of a different animal, chosen (seemingly) for their own color (or lack thereof): a black panther; a pile of skunks; a porcupine; a clearly manipulated (so as to be rainbow colored) frog. The effect of the mostly black and white palate made the occasional motion of the animals even more heightened – and with the women looking over us, it felt like somehow we were having a joke played on us. It was, to be sure, playful, and gorgeous, and very fun.

The next room I went in was full of the kind of gewgaws and trinkets that, while the height of baroque artisanship, are so overwrought that, when clustered together, I tend to tune them out. Cabinets with beautiful inlaid marquetry/stonework; statues; silver salt cellars; ridiculous clocks. I would have normally blown by them, but now they fought against the slightly moving and equally vibrant modern video portraits scattered among them. The effect was to make the regular collections more digestible, to convince me to spend a bit more time with them just as I was needing to spend more time looking at the Wilson pieces to see them evolve through their storylines (each of them had a bit of motion in them).

The next two rooms were large and mostly empty, and the pixelated pictures stood as equals (yet leaning towards having more energy what with occasional music) amongst other portraits. The rooms led to a pretty circular room covered with tiny portraits, vying with a large picture of Brad Pitt being rained on (which seemed to attract rather a lot of attention, what with his being in his boxer shorts). I got the feeling that I was in Hogwarts, with the old portraits on the walls all but talking to me. It was very striking, the effect being of the world of art gone by standing up to greet its newest incarnation. Delightfully, from this corner (where I spent rather a while, waiting to see just what he was going to do with his gun) I was able to sneak down a hall to a lovely, naturally-lit room and enjoy a lovely hot chocolate. All pleasures were being catered to at the Palazzo Madama!

While there was even more palace and even more art to be seen, I’ll end my review here. I was impressed at the way the portraits – which in a different environment I might have considered banal, celebrity-focused, unnecessarily obsessed with technology, and forgettable – actually engaged strikingly with their environment in a way that enhanced both the form and contents of the Palazzo and Robert Wilson’s otherwise gimmicky product. They added light, sound, and motion to a dusty static world, and the effect was positive for both of them. I’m really pleased I had a chance to see this installation, and I have to applaud the forward thinking museum directors who made this exhibit happen.

(This review is for an exhibit I saw on Sunday, October 28th, 2012. It continues through January 6th, 2012.)

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Review – Walking – Robert Wilson at Norfolk and Norwich Festival

August 24, 2012

Imagine if you will: the beach. Really cool art. A promenade that is really a promenade. And the art is made by Robert Wilson, shit hot theatrical all purpose genius whose Einstein on the Beach is pretty darned fresh in my mind. Now that would be an installation art experience you would have to see.

Even if it was a part of the Norfolk and Norwich Festival. Which Walking is. And, while I don’t have any particular feelings for or against any festival (other than the Edinburgh Fringe), this did mean that to see this thing I was going to have to travel to a whole new place: in this place, Holkham, a town so small that even the bus driver whom I asked in Kings Lynn (where I was supposed to pick up my bus to get to Holkham!) had not heard of it. And to get there from London, I first had to take a train (for about two hours), and only THEN could I catch the bus for my further hour and a half on the bus to the actual destination (arriving twenty minutes later than expected).

The bonus? In the end, the public transportation thing DID totally work. British Rail delivered me on time to Kings Lynn, and the #1 Coasthopper bus did turn up as promised about five minutes after my train did, then magically turned into a #2 at Hunstanton so that I could make it the rest of the way without changing buses. And the meetup point for walking was just a five minute walk from the bus stop, in a field off of a path leading to the ocean, and clearly signed. The bus was twenty minutes later than I expected, but since I’d planned on arriving forty five minutes early (as advised), I was still on time.

Negative: I had ten minutes before things were going to start and I had not had any opportunity since 8:45 AM (when I caught my train from King’s Cross) to purchase a sandwich as First Capitol Connect don’t offer so much as a bag of crisps for sale on their trains. The instructions for the walk said to bring no food, so I hadn’t packed emergency rations, counting on a BIT more of a gap somewhere along the line to hit a sandwich shop. And if there was a sandwich shop in Holkham (or even a convenience store), I never found it. However, I ran to the nearby Victoria pub and was able, for a mere £7.95, to convince them to make me an egg and cress sandwich wrapped in foil which I ate as quickly as possible.

Note: bring food. There is none on site. An apple doesn’t cut it.

Negative: waiting. Too much waiting. We waited about 20 minutes for our pickup to the walk start site, then waited about half an hour to actually be able to start the walk. This particularly aggravated me because I could have enjoyed my little sandwich a bit more. Now, the wait at the event start point was because we were being sent through one at a time with about a five minute gap between person, but the effective point was that you had to stand there, in the lovely open air, in a f**king queue, which to be honest was the one thing I wanted least to be doing on a day which, in my mind, was going to be about being outside and walking. Given that we were 1) about to be on our feet for four hours and 2) not going to be talking to anyone else for that time, I would have much preferred it if we could have spent that time sitting in a convivial circle and visiting with each other until our number was called (as it were). Waiting became, by default, a part of this event, and it was not managed well.

So, let’s now pretend that all of the effort of getting there via public transportation and trying to get food on short notice and under duress and standing in line for half an hour did not happen, and start at the beginning of the experience as I imagine Robert Wilson planned it:

You come up to an entry to a field. In the distance is a giant box (?) of plywood, with a black curtain across the front. A yellow rain jumper clad guard bars the entry to the plywood. People are slowly, slowly walking toward the curtain, then disappearing. Perhaps they are being turned into sausages, because they do not seem to emerge anywhere.

You are now about to enter the field. A kindly, yellow rain jumper clad guide comes up and tells you your journey is about to start. She then walks beside you for a bit, helping you align yourself to the very slow, deliberate pace you are supposed to follow for this event. You then walk, slowly, to the black curtain. After a bit of instruction, the guard lets you in.

The room is totally black. You sit there and wonder when it will not be black. No light comes in at all: there is a deep booming coming from the other side of the wall. Eventually (three minutes later?) the black velvet cracks and a door opens in front of you, revealing, not a box, but an open-roofed enclosure with two story tall, brown reed covered walls on three and a half sides, a sand-covered floor, and a deep black pit in the middle (the bottom is not visible) surrounded by raked sand. Five people are stood around the edges, almost like time markers on sundial. The walls are pulsing with some kind of very deep sound. I am walked to an open position, facing the pit. Another person is walked out the gap, away from the door; after a while, someone comes through the door and is walked to the newly opened position.

After about 15 minutes (maybe 20? we weren’t allowed to bring anything that showed the time, although of course I had my phone in my pocket so I could tweet the whole thing) I was brought to the gap and shown the path, and again reminded of the slow pace. I was told to look for the white rocks that marked the path in case I lost sight of the person in front of me (which I was told I would as the path turned at various points). I then sat off.

It was a very nice day, overcast, not hot and not raining. On one side was a fenced field with cows. Ahead I could see about four other walkers. As time went on, I caught several of them, presumably separated from their companions, looking over their shoulders nervously; I couldn’t help but think of Lot’s wife.

We continued slowly, slowly walking along past a creek with rushes growing out of it; past a field with a foal napping in it; past more horses; over a newly made wooden bridge; over a specially made stile. Eventually we went up a tiny, tree covered hill, where the other walkers finally disappeared. I never felt tempted to look behind me, but I couldn’t help but feel the pressure to WALK FASTER and I saw the woman in front of me frequently having to stop herself so she didn’t overrun the elderly lady just ahead of her.

Our next art installation was … basically two tall wooden walls with about a shoulder’s width of space between them. After this, we walked on the edge of a pond.

Finally, we got to the actual sand dunes, which were riddled with holes from rabbit warrens. A dead rabbit, flattened by time, seemed a deliberately placed metaphor I wasn’t quite able to translate. Then over the hill and …

into a world of grey cubes with people sat on them. I had found the rest area! There were also two narrow tables with artistically placed bottles of water and apples (alternating) across them. I was greeted and advised to use the rest facilities and help myself to the food, and told that a particular cube was mine to sit on until a guide came by to “take me on the rest of my journey.” This area seemed jammed with people I hadn’t seen before, and, of course, since there was a gap for the walking, there was a very long wait while all of us were processed … it did feel a tiny bit like something out of a myth, and the mood music was probably supposed to help us feel that we were in a timeless place. But somehow people felt a bit rushed and uncomfortable. But I sat there on my grey cube and listened to the music and imagined myself in a Magritte painting and imagined that we were all off on heroic quests …

Then it was my turn. A guide came to me and helped recalibrate my steps so they were nice and slow, then mentioned that, as I was heading into a hilly area, I needed to be looking for white sticks instead of the stones as before.

This section of the walk, with the twisted pine trees and lovely texture of the hills, was actually more fun than the other half, as it seemed to be more close to the land of fairy tales. But I couldn’t escape the trudging of the people ahead of me. They’d stopped looking behind them, but now the woman behind me was needing to just completely stop at times to allow the woman ahead of her to keep at a reasonable distance; and I could feel the disappointment of the people behind me when I, in turn, stopped to keep the gaps level.

At last we broke out of the woods and into the pure sand dunes, and there, in the distance, was the tiny point of a pyramid – the next installation of the path. It was very iconic on the horizon and fun to walk toward and watch grow larger. It was actually about three stories tall when we finally got to it, and there was a little hole allowing us to go into it (and out again). Inside there was some kind of sound coming from overhead. I loved the space, but was hustled out by a guide as I was apparently fooling around a bit too long.

Once we’d gotten out, we were just a few steps from the very end – the front of the long beach at Holkham, beautiful with the tide out, covered with long, narrow clam shells. Above the tide line were about eight platforms facing the sea; we were encouraged to go stand on one (there was a ledge of about a foot) and then be slowly winched so our horizon line went up, up, up, away from the sea, to the sky, so we were laying on our backs, listening to the water, watching the sky. It was very nice (if initially disorienting) and I sat there for rather a while with my eyes closed, grateful the sun wasn’t shining any more brightly.

And then, of course, it began to rain. I asked to be returned to level ground, and was told I was near the end of the walk, just ahead, where there were water bottles and flapjack (yum!). So … I went and got my water and my flapjack … and was told I had a THREE MILE walk back to the start of the walk, or, if I wanted, I could go to the shuttle pickup nearby, where the minibus came by every half hour at an indeterminate time.

I realized I was in a bit of a pickle as it was getting to be the time when the bus back to King’s Lynn was only going to coming once an hour, and the rain was now coming down quite hard. I went forward toward the spot I’d been told was the turn off (“near the blue tent”), and, hoping for the best, headed back into the dunes looking for the pickup zone, only to find myself wandering lost in the sandy hills (and then the trees), only finding the occasionally sunning naturist. What had happened to our white poles and rocks? How was it, that after all of this effort to guide us for four hours, we were just completely forgotten about at the end and dumped into the middle of nowhere with nothing more than a “it’s thataway” to help us find our way back?

By the time I finally made it back to Holkham proper, I was wet, hungry, desperate for a wee, and more than just a little pissed off (did I mention hungry? that don’t bring food thing was crap). I had five minutes left until the bus came … but given the choice between two hours on a bus with a full bladder and missing the bus, I decided portapotty takes precedence. I then finally made my way back to the bus stop …

only to discover 1) I’d been looking at the Sunday schedule, and the bus now came ten minutes earlier than I’d been aiming for and

2) the bus was, for some reason, running half an hour late. The woman who’d started the walk with me was furious at the bus’ tardiness (as she thought it meant she’d miss the exchange in Hunstanton, but again it was the same bus) as she’d gone full speed through most of the installation and had been waiting for it for all of the time it was supposed to have been there. But to me, it just meant I got to catch the bus and not wait for another hour, and I was grateful.

We sat next to each other on the way back and talked about the show. To her, it was “zen fascism,” a phrase I thought hysterical and somewhat mood lifting in its implied rage. She, too, had travelled from London for this event, and she, too, agreed with me: it was just really not all that much in the end, and certainly not worth the tremendous effort we’d made to get there (including, for me, taking a day’s holiday from work). One open top box, one wooden wall, one cute lunch area, the pyramid, the platforms. Well, the platforms were cool, but they still weren’t worth the effort, and the overall collapse of the event at the end of the trail really just made the whole day incredibly painful.

Ah well. Next time, I’ll just take a walk on the beach, and pack a sandwich.

(This review for walking was based on the events of August 21st, 2012. Signage may have been improved by now. The event continues through September 2nd.)

Millais at the Tate Britain and the Dennis Sever’s House Christmas Tour

December 28, 2007

These events are both “art” events, though since the Dennis Sever’s house is kind of a theatrical still life I think it deserves to be included here …

The Millais exhibit up at the Tate was was a good way to spend the afternoon, at least if you are a Millais fan. The first two rooms were mostly filled with the paintings of his I’ve seen a million times before – Ophelia, Mariana, Christ in the House of his Parents, The Order of Release, Autumn Leaves – the really pretty paintings I’m so fond of but …. well, let’s be honest, which occasionally have a touch of schmaltz to them. (I still like many of them quite a lot, and enjoyed seeing new works I’d not seen before, such as “Love,” pictured, and the studies for many of the paintings I was very familiar with.)

The “schmaltz” factor seemed to more and more take over as the exhibit wore on. I was happy that he found love in Effie Ruskin (whose portrait he painted many times), but once he had eight kids to feed, I guess he threw artistic purity out of the window in favor of commercial success. Sappy sweet kiddie portraits, random decorative romantic “scenes,” society portraits … the middle three rooms (“The Boyhood of Raleigh,” “The Ruling Passion,” bleah!) were full of what looked like the kind of crap you need to crank out to keep the bills paid.

That said, the last room was full of lovely Scottish landscapes that he painted when he ran away from London society and went to live “the life of an English gentleman,” which apparently involved a lot of hunting and fishing and hiding in little huts for seven hours a day painting water pouring over volcanic rocks. Unfortunately I was a bit too tired by this time to really appreciate this art and just wanted to sit down and have some more tea and recover a bit.

Afterwards, off we went to Liverpool Street Station to meet Spikeylady and enjoy a christmas tour through the Dennis Severs house. All of the house was lit by candlelight and in each room it appeared the occupants had just left – leaving behind a half eaten softboiled egg, a whiff of perfume, some overturned crockery, etc. I found it all quite charming but felt like a little bit of it was passing me by! Apparently the whole house was the artistic project of Dennis Severs, who died some years back, but like my last trip to see a Punchdrunk production (in this case Faust), I felt like I was just a little bit behind getting what was holding it all together. But it was neat, anyways. I’d like to do it when I’m feeling not the least bit worried about whether or not other people are finding it interesting, or perhaps even during the rest of the year, when it’s open at lunchtime and such and not filled full of Christmassy things. The neighborhood itself is also very interesting – just a tiny nubbin of what used to be there and frighteningly dominated by the various shiny bank buildings just a block away. I must go back and just take a stroll after the holidays are over.

Review – Anthony Gormley – The Hayward

August 5, 2007

Saturday morning we set out at 11:30 to see the exhibit in Notting Hill I’d read about in the paper a few weeks ago, but were quickly turned back by a call from the curator letting us know we’d missed our entry slot and would not be allowed in (drat). So we made a quick u-turn and headed to the train station and the quick shot to Waterloo and the Hayward, where there’s an exhibit up by Antony Gormley. You know the one: the ads have this sort of foggy room pictured on them, and the bizarre statues that are on top of the buildings nearby are a part of it.

Well. The good bit: the foggy room was really cool. Two steps in and you can’t see the door anymore; inside the walls, the space seems infinite. You can tell other people are there by their voices, but you can’t see them (much less your feet) until they are within a foot of you. Basically you see a dark area, and then it has color, and then it resolves into someone saying, “Excuse me” as they’ve almost run into you.

and I had a great time in this part of the exhibit. Two steps back and he’d disappear, then I’d tiptoe away, giggling, and see if I could sneak up on him. On my own, I tried to see if I was managing to go in the direction I thought I was (is this the south wall? the north wall?). At one point, we were playing Marco Polo, which was making me laugh and laugh. We had lots of fun.

The rest of the exhibit was … let’s start by saying odd. There were all of these casts of his body, some of them sort of stapled to walls, other hanging from the ceiling upside down by iron cables. Then there were sort of these negative casts of his body, but set up so they were cages with an open space where the body would have been, like African fetishes, or a reverse iron maiden. To be honest, they all looked a little pervy somehow, like giant bondage toys – suspension bondage mummy cases and giant mesh prisons in which a body could only find one way to contort itself.

But the more I looked at these things, the more I thought they were some of the most pretentious, egotistical twaddle I have seen in twenty five years of looking at modern art. Gormley’s exhibit, at its heart, is about ME me ME me ME ME ME, my body, my nose, my butt, me in a ball, me standing up, me stapled to the wall, me standing outside, ME ME ME. It really got aggravating when I realized that it was simply impossible to see it as being a generalized human form as there was not a single female figure represented in the entire exhibit. No, really, I might as well have been looking at casts of Antony’s penis, because his self-obsession was so utterly and puerilely focused on his own magic self. I would have found it so much more honest if it had really been a bunch of SM toys and not such an altar to his own vanity.

But wait! There were other people represented in the exhibit, in the work called “Allotment II.” The exhibition pamphlet said of it, “The individual units that congregate to form Allotment are derived from the vital statistics of real people aged between 18 months and 80 years. Besides the height and widgh of their bodies, thirteen other precise measurements were taken from each of the 300 volunteers.” And what did he get out of these? Little cement blocks. Yep, that’s right, Antony Gormley is represented by anatomically correct body casts; the rest of us, in his art, are little faceless rectangular blocks of cement, with holes for our eyes and mouth. It was really pathetic.

I left in a hurry to escape from the pretension and return to the world of people and light, where the sun was shining and people from a hundred different cities were walking down the banks of the river and beer and friendship and laughter were waiting for me. We went to the Borough Market, bought venison sandwiches and a delicious slab of cheese (and nice cider), had a sit down at The Rake, then trotted off to Walthamstowe and the lovely company of . We napped, we ate, we drank, we enjoyed a walk in the forest and sunset in the garden, we played Cartagena (I’ve apparently lost a pirate), we laughed a lot, we pondered the great mystery of Relationships then had more wine. It was great, one hundred percent Live Life Now, and a wonderful antidote to the art exhibit as well as the rest of the week. Rah!

Review – In the Face of History (an art exhibit) – The Barbican

January 27, 2007

There’s an exhibit up right now at the Barbican, In the Face of History, that I think every photographer should see. It hit for me on a few of those ongoing questions about photography: what makes photography great? What makes an individual photographer’s work notable? How is photography quintessentially different from other art forms? – and gave me some ideas about answers to those questions, and, most importantly, inspiration to Make Art.

Photography has had problems since its inception with whether it is an art at all, because, in truth, photography was created to document, faithfully, the reality that our eyes perceive. In the late 1800s the Photo-Secessionists decided that they would try to make photography “art” by manipulating the image, or, if you prefer, making it worse than a clean, focused mirror of what the eye sees. They put vaseline on the lens, they shot out of focus, they printed on heavily textured paper that just couldn’t get all of the detail that the negative was utterly capable of faithfully reproducing. (I once heard Bill Jay say they were later dismissed as the “Fuzzy Wuzzy School of Photography,” and, even though it’s a very cruel moniker, it’s not entirely undeserved. In fact, it’s totally deserved, but I love their pictures anyway.)

This dichotomy between “is it or ain’t it art” has continued today, getting, I think, worse in the age of the digital camera. I keep seeing what I see as two different approaches to photography that mirror the original split: is it about making art or is it about making a faithful image? The faithful image school tends to be a more “masculine” arena, more Edward Weston and Ansel Adams, focused on the perfect shot, and the perfect set of equipment (and production techniques) needed to get that image. I feel, however, that this (to my mind) obsessive focus on tech and technique skips the vital element of the content of the photos and the ultimate making of (what I can’t help but see as) art. I see piles and piles of people out there cranking out photos and fussing over their lenses and color balancing and yammer yammer blah blah blah (lots of magazines out there for these folks), but they are NOT talking about art to me.

I start from the presumption of art, and then I looked (tonight) at a group of photographers and thought about their practice and what made each of them artists. For photographers, it seems that the oeuvre is the thing, and to understand how an individual saw the world, you want to see many of their photos. One person shows images from a studio he does not dare to leave; another, portraits of people whose inner lives he cannot understand; a third, nearly microscopic images taken while he was a soldier. Each of them left me with insights into the artist, but, more importantly, things for me to think about caused by the generally pleasant assault of so many pictures.

But which of these images are compelling? Compositionally, many of them are doing interesting thing; but I was faced with the tyranny of the label! Art, I like to think, does not need a “label” to make it enjoyable or understandable; in fact, I often prefer to avoid reading the information next to displays in a gallery in order to have a purer appreciation of the work. But … photography is utterly contaminated by being pictures of things at a certain place in history! It can barely get away from the labels! Sure, Westie’s green peppers and Stieglitz’s nudes break free of time and place, but when you are looking at the work of Henryk Ross, how can you not go, “Ooh, secretly made photos of Jews in the Polish ghetto that were stuffed in a can and left behind when he finally ran for it!” I hated that I was being (as I felt) emotionally manipulated by these declaration of time and subject. Couldn’t I just enjoy the images as they were?

Well, heck, you know, I think I just have to accept that this is part of the medium, that it is affected by its ability to document transience and historicity. Some images go beyond this; but some images are, in fact, far more moving because they grip on to their point in time and refuse to let go. And thus we have the dark and gorgeous shots of Brassai’s Paris, with its prostitutes and lesbian couples and transvestite sailors; Anders Petersen’s pictures of the poor habitues of a sleazy bar in Hamburg; and, again, the shots of the Polish ghetto. If we accept that this ability to be stuck in time is a part of the power of photography, then art may in fact be created by loving and obsessive documentation of what it means to be here, now, in a time that will not be forever. Christer Strömholm, I believe, is the artist who said, “Photograph what matters to you,” and I think that this passion very clearly comes through in these photographs. So I, in order to create art, should photograph the things that are happening at this moment, the people and the life that matters to me; and somehow, in the struggles of composition and balancing light and dark and pattern, I think that this will create art, an oeuvre worth remembering, far more than 5000 perfectly lit pictures of quaint New Mexican towns or spiral staircases or seashells could ever hope to do.

At any rate: see this exhibit. And go, people, go make art, and don’t beat yourself up because you don’t have the best lens out there or the spiffiest camera. You can make objects of lasting beauty with what you have right now. I went to the museum tonight, and I know that what I say is true.