Henry Gallery sits right on the University of Washington campus, it has a better put together show of Chuck Close and his work for $10, then shelling out over $25 at the SAM, for a show that seems made of attractive recyclables.
Visiting the goofy Troll in Fremont won’t cost you anything but bus fare. You can even stop and get a look at one of those Socialist Realist things they did back in the USSR, etc. long ago. As quick as you can say Putin, you’ll get your jollies back in the USSR and you can stop around the corner and get some dumplings at Tsars.
Seattle is not a brand new city, but an upwardly mobile one. Its industries are new and hip, and it shows those signs in downtown and places like Capitol Hill of a new wealth. The parts of the city I saw were full of small modern, restaurants and businesses, where young people, especially professionals, would generate to. New cities have interesting and fun things, generally with the vision that these will move on to even newer, better and more useful things in the future. But like other places like Washington and Orlando, there is a small army of homeless lurking in the shadows. These are victims of the new economy, over the past 30+ years. Unlike some other cities, people are both aware of this and compassionate.
Charles Gould was the architect for what was then, the Seattle Museum of Fine Arts. Today it was closed and waiting for a new reopening in 2019. It is now know as the Asian Art Museum, and looked to me reminiscent of the de Young in San Francisco, or the Moderne in Paris. It sits in Volunteer Park, a lovely set of walkways and lush green areas, bordered by old school mansions in one area and a cemetery that features Bruce and Brandon Lee. Gould also had a hand in the park.
The Frye Museum is small, but a good size exhibit area. They had a show on Alexander Archipenko. Internationally known, Archipenko was interesting for his sculptures of female forms back in the 20s. There is another small one of pen drawings by local Jim Woodring called The Pig Went Down to the Harbor at Sunrise and Wept, What seemed like a gimmick in the right person’s hands actually became some lovely drawings.
Lucky to have friends who live in a city you have never been to and don’t have enough time to research, but this is how it is this time. So everything is new and different. I have never been north of San Francisco, so Seattle is a far cry from the other side of the states, Florida. They share in the fact they are peninsula and water is a fact of life. Janene brought me out here, and her maid of honor lives here.
Alida and Coralynn in Queen Sheba, a great neighborhood Ethiopian restaurant.
Winter has passed, we arrived on the first day of Spring. It is as gray as was to be expected, but a new city leaves everything to be explored. This is the Northwest. We know Seattle from the Space Needle, Microsoft and Amazon. The future in ’62 looked into the new world. It was an early proponent of a lightrail system, and it also has enough old pioneer roots. It is known to be stylish and good eating, an early proponent of eat locally.
We went on a walk toward the Olympic Sculpture Garden which is part of the Seattle Art Museum (SAM). A big red Calder and a large Serra installation were in the mix. Very pretty along the shoreline on a gray afternoon.
I cannot think of an artist today alive, who has more active interest by the public at large than Dale Chihuly. He is an artist who began, I believe, as kind of a glass arts potter, and found his way into sculpture. There certainly is no colorist today who is having the kind of impact that his work has. He hails from this part of the world, and he deserves a who post, but today his work is included in these walks.
We also went to Space Needle, this is the landmark, and I remember how as a kid it set the tone for the World’s Fairs to come.
Contrast this form to the Geary Museum of Pop Culture and you are not too sure. Geary’s design looks like a drive by hurricane next to this. Very interesting urban planning to say the least.
I also like the Sonic Flowers across from Space Needle.
The first time I saw Vasquez’ work was at a show in the National Portrait Gallery in 2014, I thought the stuff was terrific. When OMA ran the show 2016 Florida Prize in Contemporary Art, I was pleased to see more of his work. It is large portraiture, very well painted, but arresting. Allure was one of the words used to describe his work, I just lifted it. The work, obviously, based upon photos first, nonetheless, makes color and form precise. Take a look at the color red, especially near the denim paints, in 275 North – OZ and Red below. Here is a guy who understands Rubens.
His technique, while photorealistic, is in the Close vein, but with an understanding of Pollack. The use of the modern photo with the finish, would be an interesting thing to see. Remember, Degas also was interested in the photo, shot photos, and in turn had a definitive effect on photographers. Here in Zombies, surfaces close up, are affected, but very well done. The guy understands paint, both as a wet drawing medium, but for color as well. It is like he studied up and close Delacroix brushwork in which one color visually from a distance, is can be up to three colors with specific pattern to brushstrokes.
The composition is Zombies, really is that good, he shoved the 4 principles into the upper right hand corner. The arm of one gang member stretches across, in a rich staccato of color The shirt of the member with the gun, is a cartoon full of rich images. The faces are modelled beautifully, once again use of paint and value. The color blends across the faces. He even blots out one of the faces, with the show of gang symbols, we have come to expect. He is post-Kehinde Wiley, in some respect, but the faces here in Zombies are powerful portraits. The gun makes it seem even more eerie.
The figures of War and Peace in Little Haiti (Rodd, Rick and James) work beautifully with the background he has created. While the background is less subdued, the faces of the figures are more subdued. As in Zombies, the hands are beautifully done, these are not the hands of warriors or athletes, these are hands of the average young men, The light coming in from the right beautifully brings up both faces and the hand gestures. Again the figure in the foreground seems to be drenched with paint.
I wanted to put these up in school during Hispanic Heritage Month, but figured I would be blasted down by some of the parents, not for ethnic reasons. The gun in Zombies would be the first no-no. These are beautiful, powerful images that Vasquez has created, and haunting in their content. But as portraits, he has immortalized groups of people some would not want to recognize. In a way Vasquez, is the Dorothea Lange, Walker Evans or Gordon Parks of our time. He is preserving a segment of the population we need to remember, to face later, in a more benign time.
Orlando has a lot of little museums. The OMA is the biggest and specializes in American Art. The Mennolo, which was a officially for the showing of Florida painter, Earl Cunningham, specializes in more folk or naive art. The Polesek, is a museum of the sculptor, who became sort of an installation in Winter Park, where the other two museums are. There is also the Cornell Fine Arts Museum (CFAT), at Rollins college, also in Winter Park. The last museum is the wonderful Louis Comfort Tiffany collection at the Morse Museum, also in Winter Park.
I had never been to the Albin Polasek Museum and Sculpture Gardens. This was one of those lectures with a local artist, in conjunction with their work. That the local artist was related to Matisse, actually his grandson, made it all the more interesting. That some of the work centered on cut paper collage, something I had recently taught might give me some insight for my students.
There was a nice gathering at the Polasek for Pierre Henri Matisse, The Other Matisse. As he was running late, with impending rain, we were allowed to see the exhibition on our own. Matisse is totally charming, funny, articulate and very willing to share. He abounds with energy for a man two years shy of 90. Amazing, when one remembers the state of his younger grandfather in the famous Cartier-Bresson shots.
But we have one artist at a time. Our Matisse, does paper cut collages and some interesting paintings done richly with a palate knife. He also has a design flair for presenting his work. His playful work reminds me more of another Fauvre, Raoul Dufy. Dufy’s work was more decorative, but with lots of rich color. The precision of Pierre’s work is quite beautiful and well done. Up close, very nicely done. I am surprised by that he was never approached (or was he?) by book companies for cover work, especially with the We’ll Always Have Paris series.
For more about his biography
I have gone through periods during my life of listening to music. Music has always been a driving force when I did filmwork. It has been an inspiration for graphics and writing. Music and lyrics form a foundation for explaining a language and sometimes a people. When I was young it was hours listening to Motown. Then the Beatles. Bessie Smith. Billie Holiday. Long periods of listening to no one in particular. Searching. Then along came youTube, and I started listening to show music. Yeah, show music. And I discovered the above recording of Bernadette Peters, doing Rose’s Turn in Gypsy.
I remember this nugget as a kid, as a crown gem in the Broadway Belter Ethel Merman’s repertoire. Merman was less a singer and more akin to hitters like Mantle or Aaron. She could knock that song right out of the park, no matter the pitch. There is no youTube recording of her in action, and I used the Peters version over Lansbury, Daly, or Lupone, because of her acting. And a Sondheim song needs good acting.
Considering Merman did not want him to write the score alone, Jules Styne was brought in, Rose’s Turn holds those elements so dear to the songs Sondheim has written for women. They are long, detailed, subtle, interesting pieces of music, which must be a horror to memorize. They have tempo changes, repetitions which are not simple. But they are interesting and powerful, they are performance based.
None could be better than Elaine Stritch. While Stritch became an icon on the stage, her talents were null in the movies, and television was a bit too small. She was probably out of time with a public geared to glamor, but Sondheim wrote her one of the classic pieces of music in Company. Ladies who Lunch becomes the centerpiece of Stritch’ career, and a lovely one at that. This video must have been more in keeping with the actual play at that time. Patti Lupone played the part recently on Broadway and also was at the birthday bash, where her powerful voice gives the lyrics a different slant.
One of my favorite lines to this song, and it puts the character, Joanne, who sings them exactly in context:
I was thinking about how Sondheim wrote a song about categories of different women of the same class. Written for a woman’s solo performance, this song is reflective of women writers, because they get the nuances in character so well. I was thinking of precedents of this song, and I am sure there are many, but Nina Simone’s Four Women came to mind. It was also contemporary as Sondheim and Simone both became installations in New York in those days. You could also see this circular theme with any good woman writer, Woolf, Stein or Parker, as well.
I ‘ve been listening to the 80th Birthday compilation of Sondheim on youTube. What is amazing is all the good songs out of Follies. I vaguely remember it as an interesting theater poster. I remembered Alexis Smith from The Late Show movies, Dorothy Collins from Hit Parade and Candid Camera, and of course Eddie Munster’s mom, Yvonne de Carlo. I have heard recently Sondheim based the song on Joan Crawford’s career resilience. Something in De Carlo’s career knits into it nicely, too. And I am sure Merman had to be in there too , as she already was a target, I believe, for Helen Larson character in Valley of the Dolls.
I’m Still Here, another “woman’s” song. Lots of words, three long stanzas. That interesting way of telling a story. Stritch does a great version, so low key and funny. De Carlo’s version here is post-production, it is said Follies was a financial flop. I am sure it was not for the book and songs, since it has had many revivals and originally at the West End, where it was always more popular. Elaine Paige played the part in the Broadway revival and did a great job too. There is also a great review of the original tryout period in Boston. The author was young and saw the play as depressing. Now a product of aging, I see a certain hooray in the way older performers, still have it, even past their prime. To watch in the video these old broads tapping away alongside the young ones is something else.
I had no idea this play even existed except for the movie. This is one case where lyrics and the actual lines in the play, criss cross over constantly, so there is confusion over which one actually may have come first. This is a great piece of acting by Peters, and the amount of words is a mouthful. The actress gets the right inflections, and her hands say just as much as her face. Peters has said she sings it just the way musically he writes it. Perhaps, that is why he like her as an interpreter of his songs.
Look how beautifully he puts words words together here in Last Midnight:
You’re so nice
You’re not good, you’re not bad
You’re just nice
I’m not good, I’m not nice
I’m just right
I’m the witch
You’re the world
I’m the hitch, I’m what no one believes
I’m the witch
You’re all liars and thieves
Like his father!
Like his son will be too!
Oh, why bother?
You’ll just do what you do!
Especially the last part, “I’m the hitch/I’m the witch” and “Like his father/like his son will be too/oh, why bother.” Sondheim takes the familiar and makes it interesting the way he strings words together, changing combination in rhyme. It is a fairy tales that extracts from the story the lyrics and gives them a specific context for us not to forget them. Children Will Listen, for example, knits certain key phrases used over again in the play, which brings things together. Sometimes, we miss the richness of text, because we only hear it once, especially in theater and film, with many distractions, so we miss it.
I had fun putting this video together and actually put it together with other music. I substituted Sondheim’s Beautiful Girls, and watch what happens, and it flowed like I don’t know what.
Sondheim is quite an interview, as he is articulate as his lyrics. “I’m an actor when I’m writing songs,” he said in one of his interviews, and he is right because the feeling he puts into his lyrics are not just words, but embodiments of characters. He has been writing for what seems like forever, but there is so much of him in the musical theater, your jaw just drops. And the revivals are historically remarkable.
Sondheim said, “Lyric has to be written in time. . .lyric has to be simple.” But there is nothing simple about what he does, he just makes it seem that way. What incredible subtlety, feeling, what humor and irony.
The lyrics for Children Will Listen are from three decades ago, but seem to be fresh enough for even today:
“Careful the wish you make
Wishes are children
Careful the path they take
Wishes come true, not free
Careful the spell you cast
Not just on children
Sometimes the spell may last
Past what you can see
And turn against you”