Sunday, September 20, 2015

Robert Ashley's opera "Perfect Lives"

By Charles Kessler

Yesterday I attended Robert Ashley's 1980s opera "Perfect Lives" – a day-long event that took place in seven different venues spread out all over Jersey City. It was presented by Con Vivo Music and Art House Productions, and enthusiastically performed by Varispeed

The opera was originally made as half-hour videos for television, but it was adapted and arranged by Verispeed for a live performance. As is typical of Ashley's operas, it was a rhythmically spoken-word score reminiscent of fifties beat poetry, with one or two narrators, a chorus occasionally interjecting, and the music more or less in the background. 

It was a thrilling occasion – a pleasure that got better and better as the day went on. Here are some photos:
11am, The Park (Bay Street at Newark Ave.).
1:30pm, The Bank (Provident Bank).
3pm, The Supermarket (Key Food).
5pm, The Church (St. Paul Lutheran).
7pm, The Back Yard (Harsimus Cemetery - Photo: Neil Glassman).
9pm, The Living Room (Barrow Mansion).
11pm, The Bar (Brightside Tavern).

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Picasso Sculpture at MoMA

By Charles Kessler

Opening Reception of Picasso Sculpture, Museum of Modern Art, NY. 
I was lucky enough to be invited to the opening reception of Picasso Sculpture at the Museum of Modern Art (through February 7, 2016). Lucky because I'm sure the show will be a lot more crowded once it's open to the public, and I met a lot of interesting people and had some great discussions.

I was blown away! By my count there are 159 sculptures in the show and only about twenty could be considered minor works, however delightful (engraved pebbles, small figurines, torn napkins, etc.). It seemed like a group exhibition of a dozen great sculptors. The guy was a monster – some kind of freak.

Here, chronologically, are photos of the sculptures I liked most (no one stopped me, so I guess it was okay) plus some of the more unusual ones (as if they all aren't). Unfortunately, the checklist does not contain the size of the works, so I'm approximating their height from memory.
Head of a Picador with a Broken Nose, 1903, bronze (Baltimore Museum of Art). About 9 inches high.
Figure, 1908, oak with painted accents (Musée national Picasso, Paris). About 3 feet high. It seems right out of Gauguin. 
Apple, 1909, plaster (Musée national Picasso, Paris). About 6 inches high.
Still Life, 1914, painted pine and poplar, nails, and upholstery fringe (Tate). About 12 inches high. 
Violin and Bottle on a Table, 1915, painted fir, string, nails, and charcoal (Musée national Picasso, Paris). About 15 inches high. 
I love the back views of Picasso's sculptures. About half the time he ignored the back and half the time he made some attempt to do something with it. 
Back view of Violin and Bottle on a Table
Seated Woman, 1929, bronze (Musée national Picasso, Paris). About 3 feet high. This is about as close to Matisse as Picasso gets in this exhibition. 
Then there are these two disturbing small reliefs that seem to have come out of nowhere:
On the left, Composition with Palm Leaf, 1930, cardboard, plants, nails and objects sewn and glued to back of canvas and stretcher and coated with sand; sand partially painted (Musée national Picasso, Paris); on the right, Composition with Glove, 1930, glove, cardboard, and plants sewn and glued to back of canvas and stretcher and coated with sand; sand partially painted (Musée national Picasso, Paris). Each about 10 inches high.

Bird, 1931-32, plaster (private collection). About 8 inches high. 
Crumpled Paper, 1934, plaster (Musée national Picasso, Paris). About 6 inches high.
Woman with a Vase, 1933, bronze (Museo Nacional Centro de Arte, Reina Sofia, Madrid). About 8 feet high. This reminds me of Jeff Koons for some reason.
The Orator, 1933-34, plaster, stone, and metal dowel (Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco). About 5 feet high.
This sculpture, more than most, needs to be seen close up to appreciate the textures.
Detail: The Orator, 1933-34. 
Death's Head, c.1941, bronze (private collection). About 9 inches high. 
Flowery Watering Can, 1951-52, plaster with watering can, metal parts, nails and wood (Musée national Picasso, Paris). About 3 feet high.
Again, this sculpture needs to be seen close up.

Detail: Flowery Watering Can, 1951-52.
Front and side view of Little Owl, 1951-52, painted bronze,  10 1/4  X  7 3/8  X  5 3/4 inches (Hirshhorn Museum, Washington, D.C.). 
Two very large, strange bronze sculptures were in the last room.
On the left: Little Girl Jumping Rope, 1950-54, bronze (private collection). On the right: Woman with a Baby Carriage, 1950-54, bronze (Musée national Picasso, Paris).
And finally, a set of late, fairly flat and frontal wood sculptures all titled The Bathers and made in 1956: