Saturday, December 15, 2007

Martin Puryear at MoMA

Martin Puryear at MoMA
Martin Puryear at MoMA
Martin Puryear at MoMA
Martin Puryear at MoMA
Martin Puryear at MoMA
Martin Puryear at MoMA
Martin Puryear at MoMA
Martin Puryear at MoMA

Caught the Martin Puryear show at MoMA the day after our opera night (see previous post). This show covers Puryear's development from the late 70's to the present and features around fourty-five pieces. The bulk of the work is on the sixth floor special exhibition spaces, but a few of his larger works are placed in the second floor atrium area, where my photos were taken. No photos were allowed in the sixth floor section, of course.

I first became aware of Martin Puryear in the mid-late 80's when I saw a great exhibition of his work at the Philadelphia Museum of Art. Quite a few of the works I saw then were in this show and it was like seeing old friends again after a long separation. Right alongside the older works were newer ones, a non-chronological arrangement that was a great asset to the show since you could see Puryear's ideas going back and forth between works completed years apart. At the same time, there wasn't a sense that he was repeating himself. That's something that I think contributes to the sense of timelessness his sculpture has.

The allusive quality of his work is really strong but you can never quite put your finger on what it might be that he is refering to. I can look at one of his pieces and be on the brink of recognition, just about to have an 'a-ha!' moment, but then something happens-a shift in materials or surface treatment-that makes me re-evaluate my original assumption; is that a wooden facsimile of a sawblade or one side of an unfinished flight of stairs? Puryear takes fairly recognizable forms like ladders, wheels, tools, etc..., and places then in unusual formal relationships that creates things that are tantalizingly close to what we know in our world but just different enough to exist on another plane altogether.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Night at the Opera


Metropolitan Starbursts

Those are the chandeliers that hang in the atrium/lobby of the Metropolitan Opera House in Manhattan. E and I had just seen the amazing Placido Domingo sing and were still in a daze from the performance, which was amazing! I went into this whole thing not having ever been to an opera before and didn't really know what to expect. I mean, of course I knew about operas but only in the most cursory way; operas were basically plays whose stories were sung. I wasn't prepared for how good and interesting a well-produced opera could be. For the price of a movie and snacks ($15), we were able to see and hear a living legend perform.

I was fully open to the experience but I have to admit that beforehand, I thought that I'd wind up being bored at some point. That wasn't the case at all. It's impossible to be bored when you're sitting three or four stories up and back from the stage and these ntaural, unamplified voices come soaring up at you and you can hear them as clear as day. Something like that puts most contemporary pop singers to shame, honestly. I nearly forgot that the orchestra was actually there-that's how seamless things went.

It took me a while to get used to glancing at the subtitles on the small screen on the back of the seat in front of me (the opera, Iphigénie en Tauride, was sung in French) and keeping up with the action on the stage during the first half. After intermision I was able to keep up with everything fairly easily. Being at the Met reminded me how great live performances can be.

The source material for Iphigénie en Tauride was based on a tragedy by Euripides titled, Iphigenia at Tauris which reminded me of the source material for three large paintings I did in college as a final project in an independent study painting class in the mid '90's. I don't know why I was interested in it, but I wound up reading the Three Theban plays by Sophocles. I did the paintings in response to the intense emotional drama I found in the plays. The human drama depicted in ancient works like Antigone, and Oedipus at Colonus resonates through the years because human nature never changes, no matter how modern and civilized we think we are.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Placido and Puryear


Last Light IV

Goin' to get some high culture tonight!

A couple of months ago, my wife found an announcement somewhere online that Placido Domingo was appearing in an opera at the Metropolitan Opera House and promptly purchased tickets. The only seats we could afford were the family circle, a.k.a., 'the nosebleed seats', but we figure it's worth it since we're there more to hear him than see him. I've never been to the Met, so maybe the sightlines are better than I might think. I think they have screens now at some opera houses, but I'm not sure. Might have to rent some binoculars just for the hell of it.


The opera we're seeing is Iphigénie en Tauride. There's a synopsis of the story here. Domingo sings the part of 'Oreste', brother of Iphigénie.

We're staying overnight at a friend's house in Brooklyn and tomorrow we're planning on seeng the Martin Puryear retrospective at MoMa. I've long been a fan of Puryear's work, especially since seeing a show of his work at the Philadelphia Museum of Art back in the late '80's. I've always loved his craftsmanship and how he's been able to work near wonders with wood and other materials. Tyler Green had a lot of good things to say about the show as did Roberta Smith in the New York Times. I'm definitely looking forward to seeing this long-overdue exhibition.

I'm going to be in an art coma by the time we're home tomorrow night.