Saturday, August 11, 2007

I'm not the biggest Monet fan in the world. Maybe an early prejudice against certain painters I was "supposed to" like early on in my education is responsible, but I've never really clicked with his work. When I was taking Art 101 at Vassar, he was one of those whose works looked much better via color-saturated slide in a dark room than in the original. So I was a little surprised how taken I was with the above painting, seen at the McNay Museum in San Antonio a couple days ago. In this instance, the only image I could locate on-line, the reproduction is substantially off from the original, to the latter's detriment. It's too dark and the contrasts in the background between the various greens and browns are overstated. The red lilies, though looking ok here, explode out much more deliriously in the original. In fact, inevitably I suppose, I couldn't help but make analogies to certain strains of eai. In any case, a lovely painting.

That museum visit was pretty much the cultural highlight of the past week. I don;t get out much (at all) to middle American cities and perhaps it's typical, but downtown San Antonio was a weird experience for a New Yorker. First of all, it's much smaller than I would have suspected for such a large city (some 1.3 million), not significantly larger than Jersey City's. Second, aside from the River Walk, the place becomes virtually vacant after 5PM or so. We'd go out to find a place to eat and there'd be only handfuls of people walking around and almost no traffic to speak of. More bats flitting about than humans. Strange. That River Walk is a park/esplanade affair, sunken about 20 feet below street level, meandering along the San Antonio River, a waterway hardly worthy of the name as it's only about 50 feet wide. We call these things "streams". The central stretch is line with restaurants, bars and trees--nice enough though overly populated and semi-Disneyfied. The oldest architecture seemed to date from the mid to late 19th century, again fairly interesting in a Spanish/Texan way but not too striking. For a place founded in 1691, there didn't seem to be much from the earlier period. We (I went down with a geriatrician from Mt. Sinai) did happen upon a small house once occupied by O. Henry which was a little cool.

Some good eats including the obligatory BBQ and Tex/Mex but our favorite place was a small Japanese joint called, erm, Sushi Zushi.

Anyway, the McNay Museum of Modern Art was open late on Thursday so I cabbed out there. It's a former mansion, turn of the century or so I think, in Spanish style with an interior courtyard. About the size of the Frick all told, though the collection isn't up to that standard by a long shot. There are a number of fine pieces, though, including the Monet, a lovely Cezanne landscape sketch, and solid works by Picasso, Hopper, Larry Rivers and others. Special exhibitions included one by Keith's disreputable cousin, Reginald Rowe, a local artist who turned out 4th rate Rothkos and an odd series of drawings by David Hockney inspired by Picasso's "Blue Guitar". Rather surprisingly, the museum also house a couple of rooms devoted to Medieval and Early Renaissance Northern European works with a few beauties therein.

But the most fascinating find for me was in a space showing works in stage design and in particular, three watercolor and ink paintings by one Leslie Hurry done for a 1958 production of Tristan und Isolde. Small, intense whirlpools, dark but luminous with amazingly variegated bands of color. Really impressive stuff. Of course, I can find nothing on the web of these things and the only Hurry images I can locate aren't at all like these paintings (though whether or not the ones I saw were representative, I've no idea). Hurry was British, dies in 1978. Seems to have had a bit of a rep, wondering if Richard might know of him.

Listened to no music at all during the week if one discounts mariachi bands. Went to a small park one evening, though, found a bench equidistant between two man-made waterfalls (of differing sonic character) and enjoyed a soundscape that included train whistles, the water, kids playing and traffic hum.

Came home to a package from Tim Albro (thanks, Tim!) consisting of four items (a solo 3" disc, another 3" by a quartet calling itself Benito Cereno, an EP by Sympathizers and a collection of work by various folk under the title, Technicolor Hell, all of which are sounding pretty good to these music-starved ears this morning.

1 comment:

Richard Pinnell said...

No sorry Brian, I know nothing about Hurry other than what Wikipedia has probably also now told you... The Tristan and Isolde connection made me wonder if there was a Cornish influence on his work, which would interest me, but seems not.

I've never been a huge Monet fan either, although its always hard to not be impressed by the massive WaterLillies in the Tate Modern, London simply for its scale and overall impact. I'm never quite sure if I feel this way because of the painting itslelf though, or the creative manner in which it is hung, across the room from an equally sized Pollock, almost reflecting the opposite painting in its surface.