LAlive: Two Days in Another Town

Two views: One via Southwest, the other via the Getty Center.

Janene said, but you’re in Long Beach, you really aren’t in L.A. ? When I talk about Los Angeles, I talk about the whole thing. I know some of the parts think of themselves as separate, but the view from the outside has always been it is ALL L.A.. And in the good way that Los Angelenos think of themselves.

Down at the Convention Center in Long Beach, the Queen Mary sits and there was some kind of Monster convention going on.

Whether day or night, L.A. has its own color.

We figured out right away that North Long Beach looked a little like parts of Winter Park in FL. We found the typical chains, as we found on this coast, Aldi’s and Dollar Tree. Then we found the local In-N-Out Burger, and thought it would be a gas to eat there late that evening.

This is the day we arrived.

The second day we got out to the Getty Center using the Santa Monica Freeway, the one that becomes countless stories, starting with Bob Hope at the Oscars a thousand years ago. This was America’s superhighway, when bumpkins elsewhere couldn’t think what to do with a car, beyond start it.

You will find first rate art at the Getty Center, like van Gogh’s Irises,

and its own tram to transport you,

and first rate architecture by Richard Meier, the same on who did the High in Atlanta

and a Saturday night filled with stuff to do and see.

LA is a lot of things to a lot of different people. Easterners think of LA as a place of kooks, and they have a share, but none so much as places like NYC or DC. As I watch Latino families at an In-N-Out Burger, they look no different than the families I have seen in Apopka.

This baby made her second cross to the West Coast this year!

roma 17: Finding Caravaggio

ft.pngThe Fortune Teller, an early work of the master in the Capitoline collection

Another copy exists in the Louvre.

A while back, I had read the definitive biography, M: The Man Who Became Caravaggio by Robb  and blogged on some of the work of Michelangelo Merisi (1571 – 1610) , or as we know himCaravaggio. Thus, seeing a second version of The Fortune Teller, but with more classic treatment of the male (the Louvre version seems to be a portraits of one of his assistants or friends).

S. Giovanni Battista (St. John the Baptist) also on view at the Capitoline.

The St. John in the Capitoline is Caravaggio at his classic style. The use of red for the drapery and the chiaroscuro used on the figure, already gives you an idea where Rubens and Correggio will go, with slightly broader palettes. After seeing the Rafaello rooms in the Vatican and the Sistine Chapel, you kind of get the reaction to the color constrain that Caravaggio is going for. His concentration of flesh tones and the use of red and medium blue, go far against the black grounds.

Deposizione (The Entombment of Christ) at the Pinacoteca at the Vatican Museums

The last time I saw this was at a terrific show of Caravaggio, at Scuderie del Quirinale. Desposizione was as striking as it is today. The sculptural effects he creates in this tight space is amazing, including the way the stone they are standing on juts out. Of all his work the faces are beautifully done, especially the women, watch how the hands lead in and out of space of the group.

 Mary Magdalena (center) is truly one of the most beautiful women Caravaggio has ever painted for me.

Look at the slight angle change of the heads from John to Nicedomus

Too bad the lighting of the painting led to a flair, but overall the beauty of the faces in this one is incredible.  The beauty of simplicity, the great use of drawing. It will always be amazing to me, that Caravaggio began painting directly on canvas without dozens of preliminary drawings!

But BINGO! San Luigi dei Francesi holds three Caravaggio’s in one small chapel.

In Rome you can explore and find artist’s work onsite, as they were intended to be displayed. This is the story of Caravaggio’s series on St. Matthew. East of the Piazza Navona, in the beautiful church of San Luigi dei Francesci in a little corner chapel, for nothing, but a few coins, if you wish, you can see a display of at least two of his finest paintings. In order to really see the paintings, everyone takes turns popping in coins for the lights to stay on.

As you cannot enter the chapel it is difficult to photograph both The Calling of Saint Matthew and The Martyrdom of Saint Matthew, as they are on right angles. The reason for the fuzziness of the images are due to correction of the parallax with photoshop. The vantage point also led way to the unwanted glare.

San Matteo e angelo (The Inspiration of Saint Matthew)

It is a shame that they are set so closely and the vantage point harder to see. Especially the The Calling of Saint Matthew, which is incredible in its darkness. Like a light out of darkness, Jesus stumbles into a den of dandies (check the get-ups) to call out St. Matthew, either drunk or afraid. The compressing of the action into areas leaving lots of space above, and the  gesture Christ’s hand already begin hands moving all over. Things learned from Leonardo and Michelangelo, and passed on to artists like Caravaggio and Andrea del Sarto.

Vocazione di San Matteo (The Calling of Saint Matthew), best I could do.

Vocazione di San Matteo (The Calling of Saint Matthew) (detail)

Notice how the two younger males at the right end of the table nearer to Christ, actually seem to move away from the table to open up space. Notice that face of the boy is probably Cecco at the back end. This is the face of Caravaggio’s apprentice and is seen in several paintings here, including , the angel in The Inspiration of Saint Matthew, as well as St. John the Baptist. He is probably also the boy in The Martyrdom of Saint Matthew. 

This is one painting in spite of the neutral background, where the colors the dandy’s wear, seem so outstanding. The tone here is less somber than The Martyrdom of Saint Matthew where everything is almost the same color and the figures more in a deeper space.

Martirio di San Matteo (The Martyrdom of Saint Matthew)

The space is more an indication of the work he will do beginning in Naples. A good link from the space created in Rafael’s work and eventually moving full force in the work of Correggio and Tiepolo.


Roma 17: At home and Rome

Unlike Orlando which bulldozes it’s history, Rome does not destroy its history.

Reflections on Rome and 10 great things about it:

1  Does not destroy its history.

2  Arts

3  People know how to move.

4  Food

5 Clean (not the Metro)

6  Remains open at night

7.Interactions among citizens

8. Walking city

9. Public transportation

10.Site specific neighborhoods

Only two complaints: more signage, often poof or obscure, and better pavements.


romALIVE 17: “Once upon a time. . . “

The holy father really got people out of their seats.

I am not a religious person, nor ever been mistaken as one. I don’t like dogma in any dish it comes in. I don’t like the meanness religiousness can sometimes take on. But I am not against religiosity, nor people who profess and show real religious conviction.

He is a resourceful and interesting man, in some ways worldly and cloistered.

This is my third time at St. Peters, and I finally am able to put it into words. I know about the pomp and ceremony, the tradition as well. This is a modern man, compared to some earlier popes. He is not one of position and power. Which is what makes him so attractive. And it is so different from how I feel about St. Peter’s church.

The one piece of art for me there that has a beautiful feeling.

There are many beautiful churches throughout the world. There are many beautiful churches in Rome, but this is not one of them. Bernini and anyone else who worked on this thing got so carried away, they lost the religiosity. There are signs of real feeling but they are few and far in between. Yes, it is a beautiful dome. Yes, the altar is exquisite. There is a ton of gold leaf. Raphael’s Transfiguration is there, a copy, eaten up by the overbearing scale. But it is all pomp. And perhaps no pope.

This is another one of those rare pieces.

Ancient Rome via Cinecittà

Set from The Borgias

What I am saying is make-believe should take on a different level. That afternoon of the same day, we travelled to the Cinecittà studios for a tour of another kind. Mussolini was instrumental in devising a modern movie studio, where he could deliver “his” message like a genie in a bottle. After the period of the white telephone films, and neo-realist discontent and defeat of Il Duce, Cinecittà went on to be the place for Americans to go for big extravaganza productions. Followed by Fellini, and modern Italian film.

Remember Anita’s Vatican dress?

It was great being at that studio for a tour, great seeing that it is alive and kicking today, a place where Americans, like Scorsese, go to deliver extravaganza’s like the Gangs of New York. If I need to be in make believe, this one makes me happier.

romALIVE 17: My Life in Ruins

A visit to Pompeii on day 5. The culprit, mass killer Vesuvio burned alive thousands!

The beautiful intact centaur and mosaic floor.

A prosperous coastal city, today it is the excavation point off the train. “Get your tickets, no lines to wait on!” When a simple walk to the entrance would have shown you this is not the Vatican Musei! Hucksters will greet you on site in Italy, try to avoid them! A guide, or an audioguide would have been helpful if you needed to see everything. But what you will see is a well laid out city pretty much on an orthographic grid.

You can see the good relationship of scale to people, very human.

The living and working space were integrated. You lived close to your neighbor, and it reminded me of Machu Picchu. The roofs of the structures are gone, there are lots of open spaces. There are civic spaces. Being of Greek origin meant something to the Romans, and the town, it was said was laid out by Greeks. It is a vision for anyone interested in city planning, how spaces were intergrated and how people might have lived their life. It was not confusing like Rome can be, for there is no coexisting of the present.

Stepping stones for when streets were flooded to clean.

Someones’ back yard with a grape vineyard.

An oven in a shop area.

Was this the way water was dispersed, there were several of these.

That beautiful way they grasped the human body.

I had wished there was more of this visible.

There are things you will not see, or can’t get to easily. There are maps with street names, but onsite these names are not listed. A bunch of kids sat on a wall near the atruim of one house I was in, the tour guide went nuts, and she said they would be closing because too many people were in the structure. Several things I looked for were locked up. Still even if you see only a little, it is all amazing.

We had a brief visit in the Lupanare, the ancient whorehouse. It had McDonald type menus on the walls (above). The concrete bed and pillow (below) made someones’ dreams come true.

Much of the interest in Rome is the things that were. We come to see the Foro, Colloseo, Vaticani, even Cinecittà. Our world of today is a vehicle we use to pass through yesterdays. To walk the streets of Pompeii, to sit in the Colloseo, to visit the Villa Guilia is to step into someone else’s time.

For a mere 35 euro train ride, 2 euro local ride and 13 euro admission, it was an easy day. It was interesting to contrast Napoli to Rome and to enjoy the beautiful weather which no one on the earth can argue with. This must have brought these peoples to this place overlooking the sea. You can also find the little old Italian ladies I remember as a kid, who still are here and are very willing to help when you are in a spot. These matrons of old Rome, who felt responsibility a duty and a pride.

Sfogliatella from Napoli and a Roman McDonald’s cappuccino is not a life in ruins.

romALIVE17: Day 4

Nighttime changes everything, even this icing cake confection.

A day of exploration of the Via Appia Antica, an ancient roadway, while exploring the possibilities of public transportation Rome. The Romans seem to enjoy these days with much passion, being out late into the evening. The cool evening weather contrasted with that of the hot, sunny day it followed.

Along Via Appia Antica, the great old road from Rome to Naples, still exists stones from the Ancient Romans. These stones and the Vespa being something new.

What you fail to think about, is on this road, still are things like a parish priest and Saturday duties among the catacombs.

This is where it actually begins, we saw it above, on the wall which separated Rome from the barbarians.

The ruins of the Baths of Caracalla, are incredible for scale. Check out the size of human to wall.

Many sights during the evening strolls.




RomAlive17: Ritorno

This little trolley was part of our morning commute on a third beautiful Roman day.

This is a return to a known city, and one as I remember thinking as I left, was that you could spend a month here and still find things to see. Rome, like New York, is alive and moving.  The people are living, knowing, yet moving forward not victim to their history. This time I notice other things, I did not notice in the trips before. And Rome is sitting mid-century, not grappling with catching up. Present and past co-exist.

Sometime images convey the spirit of a summer.

Out of Time at the Contemporary

I loved seeing this.

Many types of passions.

From Day 1 on, tourists one and all.

A race at the square which really is of of the people.