Tag Archives: The New Yorker

In love with a poet….again

I have accidently fallen in love with another poet.  It happens. The timing is perfect:  It’s April, National Poetry Month.  (Do you ever wonder who makes these kinds of proclamations?  Could we declare a National Fruit Pie Month, or a National Dark Chocolate Month?)

Fortunately, in these days of physical distancing, it’s a literary love and not a romantic one.  Ada Limón’s collection of poems, The Carrying, was on my library Hold list.  I can’t remember where the recommendation originated, but with the libraries closed indefinitely, I’ve had the luxury of time to enjoy it.

The Carrying by Ada Limón, published by Milkweed Editions

It’s not surprising  that The Carrying won the National Book Critics Award and was named A Notable Book by the American Library Association in 2018.  I found myself wanting to share many of the poems with others.  Limón’s tone is narrative; some of poems are the result of a letter/poem correspondance with Natalie Diaz.  The first New Yorker on-line poetry column featured their poetry collaboration.

The collection is beautifully structured.  It begins quietly, with The Name, a brief poem about Eve encountering the animals in Paradise.  It ends with Sparrow, What did you Say? where we find the narrator in her own garden, listening to bird song.  Limón moves easily between societal and personal concerns, showing us how they are inextricably connected.  Her voice is honest – unflinchingly so – and compassionate.

Enjoy listening to Ada Limón as she reads a couple of the poems from The Carrying.  

Despite very limited shelf space, I want my own copy of The Carrying.  I look forward to exploring her four (4!) other poetry collections.

 

 

 

Agnes Denes at The Shed

Sometimes the best travel recommendations come from strangers.  When I was recently in New York City, another guest at the BnB lodging encouraged me to see the Agnes Denes show at The Shed. “Not to be missed,” he said. (Now, I’ve wasted time and money on other “not to be missed” recommendations – apparently some reviewers and I disagree at the New Yorker – but I had just happily attended The Outsider Art Fair, because of recommendations by three different friends.)

I was intrigued.  Here was an opportunity to see a retrospective at a relatively new, significant arts center….and I’d never heard of the artist.

Perhaps I wasn’t familiar with her work  because it’s not easily explained, or categorized.  It ranges from Philosophical Drawings to the visual representation of mathematical theorems to site specific environmental projects. The Shed did an excellent job of curating the work into (mostly) manageable sections.  (I’ll admit some of the philosophical and mathematical renderings were a bit overwhelming in their complexity and detail. Yes!  You read that correctly. She draws philosophical arguments.)

The Map Projections were more accessible to me.  They are playful, as well as complex, using the earth’s dimensions to mathematically distort it into various shapes.

Map Projections, Agnes Denes

Map Projections, Agnes Denes

Map Projections, Agnew Denes

Map Projections, Agnes Denes

Map Projections, Agnes Denes

Map Projections, Agnes Denes

The curatorial statements indicate her work is dedicated to bettering humanity’s future and that it has an environmental focus.  This is detailed in her many unrealized, as well as several completed outdoor projects.

Tree Mountain: A Living Time Capsule is a wonderful example of her complex thinking, unbounded creativity, and care for people and the planet.  It’s a massive earthworks and environmental installation, where 11,000 trees were planted by 11,000 people.  Click here for a brief (one minute!) video from The Shed, explaining the project.

She may be best known for her project Wheatfields for Manhattan .  In 1982, she and a team of assistants prepared an abandoned waterfront site in lower Manhattan (near the financial district) where they planted and harvested 1.5 acres of wheat.

Wheatfields for Manhattan, Agnes Denes, NYTimes image

Wheatfields for Manhattan, Agnes Denes, NYTimes image

It seems unfortunate that I’d never heard of her work before this retrospective at The Shed.  Agnes Denes reminds me of a contemporary Leonardo da Vinci.  She explores ideas, possibilities (there’s a whole section on housing for the future called Future Cities) and proposes projects to improve and sustain life on earth.  Her works defy easy categorization as they work across multiple genres and disciplines.

The environmental projects, conceived in the 1980’s,  provide excellent models for similar kinds of projects.  It’s important that The Shed is highlighting this work.  Perhaps we accept the ‘better late than never’ view, and hope individual, civic and political awareness is raised and inspired. (If, indeed, art can or should be political.  I suppose that’s a topic for another time.)

Here is another brief video from The Shed, summarizing Denes’ work, and touching on a few images from the show.  The exhibition, Absolutes and intermediates, runs until March 22.

 

 

As promised! Art at the de Young Museum

One of the first rooms I entered at the de Young contained only two pieces of art.  It wasn’t a small room, even by museum standards.  The two works were very different, and yet, the room felt complete.  I lingered for a long time, as did a young man with a toddler.   (It’s always a good sign when children are engaged in the art on display.  For an interesting testimonial about children and art viewing, see Rumaan Alam’s short New Yorker article here.  Thanks for drawing it to my attention, HM.)

At one end of the rectangular room was El Anatsui’s Hovor II.  I have written about El Anatsui in a previous posting, Gravity and Grace.  (He would definitely be on my list of “Favourite Contemporary Artists” ….. If I had such a list.)   He’s Nigerian, and creates contemporary art that references the history and struggles of many Africans.

Hovor II, 2004 Ewe people/El Anatsui (Terry Vatrt image)

Hovor II, 2004 Ewe people/El Anatsui (Terry Vatrt image)

The work is stunning in size, texture, material composition and meaning.  Take a closer look…..

Hovor II (detail), 2004 Ewe people/El Anatsui (Terry Vatrt image)

Hovor II (detail), 2004 Ewe people/El Anatsui (Terry Vatrt image)

Hovor II (detail), 2004 Ewe people/El Anatsui (Terry Vatrt image)

Hovor II (detail), 2004 Ewe people/El Anatsui (Terry Vatrt image)

Yes, the shimmering tapestry is created from recycled packaging-often the foils from liquor bottles. The de Young Museum writes that the work is a …..comment on a global economy fueled by massive commercial consumption.  However, these recycled materials also convey the ability of African traditions to adapt and evolve over time.

Facing El Anatsui’s tapestry, and filling the other end of the room, was Anti-Mass, by the British artist Cornelia Parker.

Anti-Mass, 2005 Cornelia Parker (Terry Vatrt image)

Anti-Mass, 2005 Cornelia Parker (Terry Vatrt image)

 Cornelia Parker’s work is also composed of recycled material;  Anti-Mass is constructed from the debris of an African American Baptist church in Alabama, which was  destroyed by arson.  It is one of two related installations she created.  The sister piece, Mass (Phoenix Art Museum) uses the charred remains of a Texas Baptist church (with a white congregation) that was destroyed by lightning.  I like this comment from the de Young Museum…..Her resurrected church is a monument to the positive powers of creativity and love to triumph over the negative forces of destruction and hatred.

I could have started and stopped my art viewing for the day in this one room.  Experiencing both of these works was very fulfilling:  visually gorgeous, conceptually rich and ideologically challenging.

 

 

Faces, Places

You may have already heard about or seen the documentary, Faces, Places (Visages, Villages) as it’s getting some positive press these days.  The Atlantic called it  a one-in-a-million crowd-pleaser that deserves to be seen by the widest audience possible.

Agnès Varda and JR (IMDb.com image)

Agnès Varda and JR (IMDb.com image)

It’s a quirky, charming film about two artists, Agnès Varda, and JR,  who work together to create some art.  Click here to watch the official trailer.

Faces, Places documents some lovely moments.  There are images in it that will stay with me for a long time.  In an unassuming, non-didactic manner, it shows the power of good art.  It is a film that affirms the importance of beauty in our lives……and that we are surrounded by that beauty in the landscape and in others.

Agnès Varda is an intriguing person.  Faces, Places only hints at her background; the documentary is the story of the colloboration between Varda and JR. She’s been making films since the 1950’s.  She was one of the lesser known, but, perhaps, most groundbreaking of the French New Wave  (Nouvelle Vague) filmmakers.  She met Jean-Luc Godard (the more famous of the New Wave directors)  at a film festival in 1958. He was working as a film critic, and she had two films in the festival.  It’s worth reading this short review of Faces, Places in the New Yorker for a bit of history, and Richard Brody’s opinion on the differences between Varda and Godard’s films.

I’m looking forward to watching more of her films.  There are 52 films listed on her Filmography….lots of choices for the winter evenings ahead.

Agnès Varda (variety.com image)

Agnès Varda (variety.com image)