Tag Archives: The New Yorker

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.

 

 

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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)