Friday, June 29, 2012

Friday Flowers: Silent Roses

Rose: Judy Garland

We'll watch our words tonight.

Rose: Moondance

And savor these graceful sights.

Rose: Love & Peace


Wednesday, June 27, 2012

With Tremulous Cadence Slow

Detail of Afternoon Stroll (2010) by Dale Johnson, on exhibit at dnj Gallery

A standard impression of the Los Angeles beaches is that they are constantly sun-drenched, bright and busy places where scantily clad young women play volleyball and children build sandcastles. Well, such scenes definitely do exist, but, more often than not, the beaches of the South Bay area have a heavy marine layer that doesn't burn off until after midmorning. Rather than "beach babes", you're more likely to find elderly walkers, perhaps accompanied by their dog.

And it's quiet. Except for the sounds of the seabirds and the alternating roar and hiss of the waves coming in and rushing out, there are only the noises that are brought with you, beit music on an iPod or conversation with a friend. It can be a lonely and sublime experience.

That's what I feel when viewing Dale Johnson's work in "By the Sea", on view at dnj Gallery until July 21. These hazy images of desolate shores, lonely walkers, and grey skies, they capture the timeless and vast atmosphere of the seaside.

Detail of Lab and Longboard (2011) by Dale Johnson

The flat and muted scenes have a sense of authenticity to them. They capture those long moments at the shore in which there is no flashy focus upon human activity, no sandcastles, no young women frolicking upon the sand, no surfers catching waves. There are only shades moving through the dark grey of the marine layer.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Clouds in My Coffee

Carly Simon was born on June 25, 1945.

Music appeals to me on so many different levels. There are those pieces that I enjoy for their accessibility. For others, I appreciate them for intellectual reasons, compositional creativity or clever lyrics. And then there are those that bring back memories, regardless of whether or not I like the music.

For the most part, it is in the last category that I place Carly Simon. I've never been a great enthusiast of her music, but her voice and style comfort me. That warm and folksy quality, free-spirited and passionate, it echoes down through the decades, eternally young and full of the emotional intensity of youth. It takes me back in time, makes me reflect on where I was and where I am now going.

Although it is mainly her music from the 1970s that have this effect, her later works do, to a lesser extent, evoke the same nostalgia. And that's why I occasionally turn away from the classical music and the jazz, turning instead to Carly's introspective and vivacious songs.

Detail from Carly Simon's album, Anticipation (1971)

So, let's celebrate Carly Simon's birthday with some music.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Sights to Delight

Sculpture of a Feathered Serpent from the Mayan civilization at Chichen Itza, AD 850-1100, on view in LACMA's "Children of the Plumed Serpent" exhibit.

I have been fortunate over the past few weeks in being able to visit various art venues, museums and galleries. Although I plan on writing about a few of them individually, I figured that sharing a few images would make for a fun post.

So, I have recently gone viewing in four of the city's cultural centers: the Miracle Mile, Culver City, Bergamot Station, and Long Beach. It's been a great start to the Summer.

Midnight Ride (2006) by Deborah Kupinsky, on view at the Long Beach Museum of Art

Lots on interesting works on display. I'm especially happy to have visited some venues down in Long Beach, an area that I enjoy but rarely visit.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Seconds in Silence

Empty dance studio

Another thing about Summer, there is something both peaceful and creepy about an empty campus or classroom. Peering through the windows into a room, where one would normally hear the constant chatter of students, the sounds of occupation, finding it abandoned and silent can be disturbing.

Of course, teachers probably see it as wonderful thing. Like Sisyphus and his stone, it is the moment that the task has been completed, if only for a while, before the next academic year starts the whole process over again.

But I'm not a teacher. I look at the emptiness with an eye towards poetry and purpose. Without habitation, we can appreciate the structure and space of the buildings, their functional design. However, classrooms without students are not fulfilling their purpose. And there is something transgressive about that.

Empty classroom

It's as though the space echoes with impressions of what has been, what will be, and what ought to be. It is as if every empty classroom is haunted by the ghosts of potential students.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

It's Summer Time!!!

Detail of The Seasons: Summer (1900) by Alphonse Mucha

If there is an image from Mucha on the page, then we must be celebrating the changing of the season. ;-)

Indeed, we're celebrating the start of Summer, my favorite season. The bright flowers, the birdsongs, the lovely ladies in their summer clothes, these are some of my favorite things. Yeah, it might get hot, but it's worth some sweat and discomfort, if the beauty of the season can still be experienced.

During the gloomy months, I haunt the museums and galleries, but now it's time to stroll the gardens. The artworks of nature are drawn from a transcendent palette.

Detail from Ceres: Summer (1712) by Antoine Watteau

Here's hoping that the upcoming season is vibrant and filled with joy!!!

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Amongst the Clouds of Gold

Detail from Avalance in the Alps (1803) by Philip James de Loutherbourg

Even for those familiar with operatic repertoire, the name of Alfredo Catalani draws a momentary blank; it sounds familiar, but what did he write? As the mental list of titles runs through the mind, a sweet and haunting song rises from the unconscious.

"Ebben? Ne andrĂ² lontana"

The famous aria from La Wally!!! The one-hit wonder of Italian opera! That's Catalani. If YouTube had existed back in the 1890s, people would have been Catalani-rolled.

Well, that's not really fair. Given his short life, he produced a respectable body of work. They aren't "works of genius" but they're enjoyable bits of music, charming and graceful. The rise of modernism and experimental operatic concepts resulted in an already obscure composer falling into even greater obscurity. But the music remains beautiful, a ghostly echo of traditional opera, a style that was fading away even as Catalani was penning these notes.

Detail from The Dance (1856) by William-Adolphe Bouguereau

But we don't have to let his music fade away. Instead, let's celebrate it tonight, marking his birth date, June 19, 1854.

The Miracle of Lasagna

Image from Garfield bookmark "Some Call It Laziness. . ." (1978) by Jim Davis

On June 19, 1978, Jim Davis' comic strip, Garfield, was first published. Featuring a lazy, lasagna-loving cat, this comic strip was a childhood favorite of mine. The jokes were really simple, the gags repetitive, and the smug attitude of the rotund Garfield appealed to my youthful sense of humor.

Eventually, I lost my enthusiasm. Perhaps it was the continuing anthropomorphizing of Garfield, who looked less cat-like over the years, walking upright and possessing obvious human-like hands. Maybe it was just the development of mature tastes in comedy. Or it could have been that the lasagna jokes were getting stale. Whatever the case, this comic strip fell out of my favor.

Nevertheless, there is a warm spot in my heart for Garfield, despite the awful unoriginality to which the comic strips have fallen. And the movies were heinous, especially A Tale of Two Kitties. Yikes!!! That was extremely bad!!!

Image from Garfield bookmark "That's Right. . . 100 Pizzas to Go" (1978) by Jim Davis

Occasionally, when looking through my old book collection, searching for something to donate to the local library, I'll find a ratty old bookmark from my childhood, from the time when Garfield comics were the light of my day. Silly and banal though they may be, they nevertheless fill me with nostalgia and return me to a simpler time when a fictional overweight lazy cat could brighten my life.

Monday, June 18, 2012

2012 Weekly Wrap #13

Detail of Blue Drift (2012) by Sylvia Ji, on exhibit at the Corey Helford Gallery

We've finally hit lucky Number 13!!!

Well, eleven posts in thirteen days isn't a model of productivity, but it's an improvement. Moreover, I'm fairly satisfied with the quality of these posts. They weren't just "Image of the Day" tag hits. This set had some substance, some style, some classic Paideia considerations.

We hit a nice blend of topics, including a gallery visit and an advertisement critique. I do regret that I wasn't able to put some poetry into the Friday Flowers posts, but I'm happy that we actually had flowers for both Fridays. ;-)

In short, I'm happy. And this positive mood gives me the energy to put a little bit more creativity and personality into my writing. I hope you all have enjoyed reading this most recent batch of posts as much as I have in writing them.

Detail from the cover image of Scooby Doo! #114, "Turkey Terror at 2000 ft."; pencils by Robert Pope

And here are our eleven posts:

We had four art related posts. We "celebrated" the birthday of Damien Hirst. A visit to the Getty Center inspired me to muse upon the everchanging way in which one perceives art. I checked out "Motion: The Art of Movement" on exhibit at the Corey Helford Gallery in Culver City. Finally, the annual Muse Artwalk at LACMA provided the opportunity to enjoy some dancing, music, and performance art.

In music, we had three posts. We celebrated two birth dates, Nancy Sinatra and Richard Strauss. Then, our Monthly Dance Party highlighted the weekend.

There were two Friday Flowers, featuring a rose, Walking on Sunshine, and Snow-in-Summer, appropriately named flowers given the current weather conditions we're having out here in Los Angeles. Then we enjoyed giving 'em the bird in a criticism of Wild Turkey bourbon advertisements. Finally, I expressed my love for architectural designs that incorporate stripes, especially those caused by the play of shadow and light.

Over at Madrona Musings, it's been slow now that our exhibit "Between the Knowing" has closed down. However, I did put up a "spotlight" post for our most recent lobby sculpture, Michelle Carla Handel's Big Yearn, Let Down. It's a fun work.

Well, that's it for now. I'm looking forward to the next set of posts.

Image from 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968)


Sunday, June 17, 2012

Dancing and Singing for the Muse

SZC Project performs a dance across the LACMA campus as part of the Muse Artwalk events

My friends sometimes ask me, if I have the normal member's free admission to LACMA's galleries, why would I attend the bustle and crowd of the annual Muse Artwalk? The answer is obvious: the performances. Certainly, I can visit the museum whenever I wish. Likewise, I'm no stranger to the Miracle Mile art galleries. But it is a rarity that I can view some engaging modern dance performances.

Moreover, the manner in which the choreography incorporates the unique features of the site absolutely cannot be replicated anywhere else. This makes for a "one time only" experience, an aesthetic moment that is transitory, constrained in time and space. For me, this limitation makes it a precious and much coveted art event.

Yeah, sometimes the throng of visitors might get annoying, especially if they have some rambunctious children with them. However, for the uncommon taste of performance art and dance, I will happily tolerate an occasional screaming babe. ;-)

Invertigo Dance performing in front of Chris Burden's Urban Light (2008)

Now, the hazy and humid heat might present another problem, but, if the performers can endure it, then I can do so as well. After all, it's not me jumping around, kicking and twisting and writhing, upon the hot concrete of the BP Grand Entrance. And that's a very good thing. :-P

A dancer from kDub Dance, constrained within the boundaries delineated by colored tape.

The performances were well worth the effort. I especially enjoyed SZC Project's performance upon the exterior stairway of the Broad Contemporary, but each dance brought something new and engaging. They really inspired me to make more of an effort to attend dance events. Every year, the Artwalk inspires me, but I rarely follow through. This time, I intend to hit at least three shows before next year's event.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Dance Party: June

Detail of the cover image for Dirty Vegas' "Days Go By"

It's that time again, amigos!!!

We've got a fun roster of classic and quirky songs to celebrate the month of June, at least in five year increments from 1967 to 2007. ;-)

The night is pressing and I haven't the time to get all prosaic on you all, but, since we've been doing this for over a year now, just imagine that I'm engaging in some rants and raves. It can be a form of Paideia "Mad Libs", going something like:

"I'm not much of a (Noun) for (Band Title) but this piece is (Adjective), showing real change from the (Adjective) style of their early music towards a more (Adjective) sound."

See!!! Music criticism is easy!!! LOL!!!

Cover image from Kim Wilde's "You Keep Me Hangin' On"

Let's listen to some music!!!

Friday, June 15, 2012

Friday Flowers: Snow-In-Summer

Cerastium Tomentosum: Snow-in-Summer

Well, it may not be Summer just yet, but we've got "snow" already. ;-)

I decided we'd go with a less popular type of flower this week. While visiting the South Coast Botanic Garden, I noticed a nice bank of these darling ornamental flowers, silvery and small. So I took a few photos to share with you all.

Last week, I had hoped to have some poetry to go with this week's floral selection. Well, time ran out and I figured that it was better to get a post up without a thematic poem than to skip our weekly view of botanical beauties.

Cerastium Tomentosum: Snow-in-Summer

Anyways, I think these precious little flowers need no verse nor lyric to enhance their bright charm.

Give 'Em The Bird

Detail of Cousin Reginald Catches the Thanksgiving Turkey (1917) by Norman Rockwell

According to folk tradition, on June 14 in 1789, Rev. Elijah Craig of Bourbon County, Kentucky, distilled whiskey from maize. This is noted as the first creation of American Bourbon whiskey, named after the location. Now, this story is certainly untrue, but it has a nice folksy feel to it.

In the early days of this blog, I used to share some of my favorite or most hated advertisements or marketing campaigns with you all. Once a week, I'd feature some commercials or photos. It was a lot of fun. Well, I last looked at some ads about three months ago, which means that we're really overdue for another.

So, in honor of the legendary cleverness of Rev. Craig, let's give him the bird!!!

Logo for Wild Turkey Kentucky Bourbon

Naturally, I'm talking about that symbol of American spirit, the Wild Turkey. ;-)

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Objects in Motion

Detail of The Shallows (2012) by Korin Faught

I had the opportunity to visit the Corey Helford Gallery in Culver City, where the current exhibit is a group show, "Motion: The Art of Movement", which runs until June 30. This blog has featured many of the artists on display in this show, including Eric Joyner, Korin Faught, Ray Caesar, and Sylvia Ji. So, it was a pleasure to see new works from them.

Although I definitely enjoyed the show, I can't say that the theme of "movement" was compellingly explored. Certainly, in some works, there was some sort of obvious physical motion, a rocket ship zooming through space or the wind blowing through the subject's hair. In other works, the movement was psychological, represented by multiple figures or ghostly trailing images. And then there were works that featured compositional techniques that put the eye into a sense of motion, with radiating lines of color or stretched and distorted figures.

Detail of Cold Spell by Billy Norrby

For certain, each piece contained motion, be it physical, psychological, or technical. My question regards premise; is the movement central or incidental to the composition? For me, in too many pieces, the work contained, but was not about, motion.

But that doesn't mean it was a weak show, not by any means. The art was every bit as awesome as I've come to expect at Corey Helford's. Although the ostensible theme is not very compelling, I highly recommend this exhibit; the individual works are strong.

Detail of Space Patrol by Eric Joyner

Of course, I'm always in support of any showcasing of robots and doughnuts. ;-)

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Stripes of Shadow and Light

Alternating bands of shadow and light at the Torrance Cultural Arts Center

I am fond of repetition and pattern. When looking at architectural designs, I love a good set of tightly packed parallel lines. ;-)

Perhaps, my favorite way of creating these driving, linear bands is through the use of shadow and sunlight. It's a beautiful technique that combines the geometric precision of the linear design with the ephemeral and dynamic qualities of light. As the day progresses, the experience of the stripes changes, from being loosely aligned with the casting structure to locking into a firm conjunction with the architectural design.

I love the way in which it draws my gaze into the distance or along a path.

Torrance Cultural Arts Center

This form of open architecture and the utilization of natural light and shadow are hallmarks of Californian design. It's another reason why I love living out here in Los Angeles.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Behold, I Teach You the Overman!

Promotional image for the Los Angeles Opera's 2005 production of Richard Strauss' Der Rosenkavalier featuring Adrianne Pieczonka and Alice Coote, with designs by Gottfried Helnwein

It's been a while since we last celebrated the birth date of a classical composer. Since Richard Strauss was born on this date in 1864, we'll enjoy a few of his works. I'm not the biggest fan of late Romanticism; it's often too overblown for my tastes, loud and long, heavy and bombastic. But, whereas Mahler or Bruckner might make my eyes glaze over, Strauss keeps me engaged.

Moreover, I'm an opera enthusiast and Strauss writes some fine pieces. From the charming homoeroticism of Der Rosenkavalier (no, really, one of those ladies is supposed to be a man) to the passionate depravity of Salome, these are compelling works of musical narrative.

Detail of Salome Dancing Before Herod (1876) by Gustave Moreau

So, let's listen to a few classic tales, expressed in luscious music.

Never Twice the Same

Three Squares Gyratory (1971) by George Rickey, with the Getty Museum in the background.

Why do I so love visiting museums, art galleries, and botanic gardens?

The easy answer would be that I like looking a beautiful objects. That's true, but there's more to my adoration. Perhaps, it's about change. The concept is pretty easy to grasp when you think about the gardens; each month has a different set of flowers, different colors, and different scents. Although it's the exact same place that I might have visited a few weeks back, the subtle changes make for a vivid new experience.

Likewise, the way in which art galleries cycle through exhibits, it requires effort to see the same show twice. Yet, with most museums, asides from temporary exhibitions, the collection doesn't really change. So, why do I get such a thrill from visiting and revisiting such venues?

Detail of Dancer Taking a Bow (1877) by Edgar Degas

Because I and my circumstances change, the cultural venues speak to me in different ways, capture my imagination afresh with novel insights. My moods and interests shift from day to day, week to week, altering me in subtle but significant manners. Just as the changing of flowers makes it so that a botanical garden is never twice the same, so too is it that my personal changes make each viewing of a stable museum collection a unique experience.

Friday, June 8, 2012

Friday Flowers: Walking on Sunshine

Rosa Floribunda: Walking on Sunshine

Hey!!! It's Friday and we've got some flowers, some beautiful roses!!!

A while back, I decided to limit my flower posts to only one per Weekly Wrap cycle. That was a mistake. I've been snapping photos at my regular pace, which has led to a huge build up of lovelies that I would have liked to share with you all. So, I'll be returning to my old tradition.

If it's Friday, then there will be flowers. ;-)

And, hopefully, some poetry as well.

Rosa Floribunda: Walking on Sunshine

But, for now, let's just celebrate these All-American pretties. And don't it feel good?

And One for Your Dreams

Nancy Sinatra's recording of These Boots Are Made for Walkin' hit the top of the Billboard chart in February, 1966

Nancy Sinatra was born on June 8, 1940.

Well, go go boots never looked so good. ;-)

You all know that I adore the songbirds on the 1950s. Well, Nancy Sinatra may have been singing in the 1960s, but her classiness and sophisticated style of singing kept the tradition alive. She delivered her songs smooth and swingin'. Some people credit her fame to her father; there is some truth to that. However, her personal mark on the music leaves a sexy playfulness that Frankie could never match. ;-)

Nancy Sinatra was born on June 8, 1940.

And so we wish Nancy Sinatra a Happy Birthday. And keep on walkin'!!!

Thursday, June 7, 2012

But You Didn't, Did You?

For the Love of God (2007) by Damien Hirst

My tastes in art are very inclusive, liberal in regards to craftsmanship, and friendly towards conceptual experimentation. Yes, I love traditional representational artistry, but I am equally as enamored by intellectually engaging innovations. At the very least, I'm willing to keep an open mind towards the work, listen to the general critical assessment, and, with as much empathy as I can muster, consider the creative process that led to the creation of such a work.

But the works of Damien Hirst have never won me over. I find their concepts to be purest banality. Sure, I love a good vanitas, but Hirst's works are more about spectacle and sensation than contemplations on mortality, regardless of what he titles the pieces. Well, what's wrong with a bit of showmanship in the art? Nothing, but the flash ought to reinforce the work's premise. Instead, Hirst's stuff is shallow razzle dazzle, with a "concept" that feels tacked on to provide a fig leaf of aesthetic legitimacy.

In all honesty, it feels like total hucksterism, a big scam. I've racked my mind trying to see what so many insightful and erudite critics find of value, but have come up with nothing. In terms of originality, personal craftsmanship, composition, beauty and the sublime, Hirst's art is a failure, completely without authenticity or charm.

Detail of The Physical Impossibility of Death in the Mind of Someone Living (1991) by Damien Hirst

But, if it would earn me vast sums of wealth, I'd pickle a big fish and come up with profound sounding mumbo jumbo too. So, in amazed respect for Damien Hirst's financial artistry, let's wish him a Happy Birthday.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

2012 Weekly Wrap #12

Image of Arnold Schwarzenegger from Conan the Barbarian (1982)

First off, I'm sorry for the recent lack of posts. Life has been full of twists and turns recently, some very excellent and some not so much. I blog mainly for the fun of writing about oddball topics and to bring back to mind the various subjects that have brought me entertainment or insight over the decades of my life. But, recently, my mind has been occupied with other matters, more pressing and immediate, such that I just have not had either the time or the energy to blog.

It's a bummer, but that's life. There have been many topics that I would have like to discuss and celebrate. Well, there's always next year. ;-)

I know this is starting to sound like a broken record, but I really think that I'm on the rebound. Some recent elements in my life have taken a dramatic turn for the better. So, I'm thinking that with a more positive attitude, I'll find the time and energy to have some fun here at Paideia.

As always, I'm grateful to my readers.

Now, let's look at the last "week" of posts.

Detail of a promotion image for Curious George (2006)

Recent posts have been so haphazard that I can't really do my normal art/music/cinema/etc. divisions. So, I'll just list them in chronological order.

We celebrated the 30th anniversary since the release of Conan the Barbarian, starring Arnold Schwarzenegger. Then I shared a photo of some power lines paired with music from '80s synthpop band, Information Society. Next, inspired by the birth date of Margret Rey, we considered Curious George.

Friday Flowers were Jacaranda. Then, I moped about the pitiful state of my blogging, and shared some music from Concrete Blonde, Enya, and Foo Fighters to ease the angst. ;-)

A trip to the Huntington Museum revealed to me the Shield of Achilles. And, then, the 25th anniversary of the release of The Cure's Kiss Me, Kiss Me, Kiss Me made for a pleasant reminiscence. A mirrored mannequin face and some Los Lobos rounded things out over a busy weekend.

We celebrated Memorial Day. While driving, I saw an image of Alfred E. Neuman up on the side of a building. Finally, when visiting Bergamot Station, a new image of Daphne Blake in her underclothes was on display.

Eleven posts in nearly a month. That's not good, but it'll get better.

Detail of Mad #94 (1965) with Alfred E. Neuman as King Kong.