29 May 2009

While thy Booke doth live

Thou art a Moniment, without a tombe,
And art alive still, while thy Booke doth live,
And we have wits to read, and praise to give.

- Ben Jonson "To the memory of my beloved, The Author Mr. William Shakespeare: And what he hath left us:

A suitably bookish thing to do on a sunny afternoon in Paris is to stroll through the Latin Quarter and stop to browse for books here:

or here:

Liked the signboard outside the shop:

28 May 2009

Art High

I've had a dream before, where I am in the Musuem of Modern Art, New York: There is a particular spot, between two galleries, where I could lie on the floor, or float perhaps, to soak up the art around me. In this spot, one could turn in one direction and see one of Monet's paintings of waterlillies. In the other direction, you would find a grouping of Brancusi sculptures. To your left, colorful masses replicating the effect of light on water and flowers. To your right, almost colorless, almost mass-less, sculptures defining a shapeless spirit. One a breaking down into parts of light to see what we don't always notice; the other a distillation of beings -- bird, tree, human -- into the simplest of forms, so that we can see beyond form alone to the spirit of the thing.

The first time I saw the grouping of Brancusi works, I had walked around the corner from another gallery to be stunned by this collection of sculpture; I gasped. When I later decided to move along to other parts of the museum, I turned slowly from the work to see, through the doorway to the next gallery, the large Monet painting, its familiar blue and mauve colors, making me smile like I was seeing an old friend.

There was a tug on me from these two very different installations: the many parts to see the one, the one to see the many. Is it any wonder I have since dreamed of being able to move around these works, undisturbed, in solitude? It is a nice dream.

This week, while not dreaming, nor able to circulate freely around artwork without hinderances of security features and other museum visitors, I was able to see works by both Brancusi and Monet. A bit of an art high for me.

First, Monet, at the L'Orangerie:

These works were created for this building, designed specifically for the curved walls of the L'Orangerie. Renovations to the building, completed a few years ago, adding skylights so that the works can be seen in a subtle, diffused, natural light. There is a tangible feeling of cool and calmness in these rooms that cannot be captured by a photograph of the paintings (as if any photo could capture a painting!).

Details from the larger work:

Then, Brancusi's Atelier, at the Centre Pompidou:

Brancusi left the contents of his workshop to France, with the condition that his studio be recreated as-is. In later years, Brancusi did not sculpt, but worked on the arrangments of his works in his studio, grouping them in various ways. With the aid of photographs, his workshop has been recreated. It's unfortunate that for security reasons the studios are set behind glass, but, you can observe the entire collection as a whole without having other patrons walking amongst the sculptures, taking away from the setting.

Brancusi lived with his sculptures. Note the loft area where he slept in the photo below, as well as the golf clubs on the wall, and a guitar in the back. See second photo below for enlarged detail of back of studio.

I also like this view as you can see the entrance into the studio. It too has a roundness of form that complements Brancusi's sculpted heads.

Here is a video clip from a 1996 Charlie Rose broadcast, with the late art critic, Kirk Varnedoe, discussing Brancusi. About 8 minutes into the segment, Varnedoe discusses Brancusi's arrangments in his studio.

Perhaps later I'll post on some of my other art-viewing adventures in Paris this week.

12 May 2009

Spring: unfurled, unseen

Spring unfurled unseen.
In times interwoven with rain
the warmth penetrated, luminous
diamond pipes between drops,
soaking into the loam, finding possibilities
archived from the shedding of previous years,
only faint jasmine scents of pleasures
in the gardens of Alhambra.

I forgot to listen at night
for the furtive sounds of the shoots
climbing a steady moon-lit path,
past decaying leaves to stand still
at dawn like vampires, lest they be seen.

And what of such duplicity?
What covenant with angels unknown have they made
that keeps secrets disguised by chlorophyll --
their colors so bright, so luminescent
that they hide behind ordinary greens --
so that we can never be
what they have always known?