Thursday, December 3, 2009

Philadelphia - Day 4

Day 4
- Quote of the day
- Museum of Art
- Donald Lipski studio visit
- Fabric Workshop
- Dinner at the top of the world

Marcel Duchamp: I have forced myself to contradict myself in order to avoid conforming to my own taste.

Another book recommendation: biography of Duchamp by Calvin Tomkins. Make sure you get past chapter 1, which is horrible. The rest is awesome! My take: Duchamp was THE artist of the 20th century, he led the way in all categories, there before the others. Didn't do a lot of work, what he did was truly inspirational to his fellow artists.

We start a bit later than usual, end up at the Museum of Art made famous by the Italian Stallion climbing the steps in front and waving his arms in triumph (see day 3). We get a tour of the small crafts and jewelry section by the curator, a very passionate and vibrant supporter of the field. She also gives us a tour of the items in the “stacks” below the museum. The most impressive site (and sight): an unfinished subway station below the museum that Gehry is helping to redesign and make useful. Shades of the ghost U-Bahn stations of Berlin before the wall fell.

Then we get a tour of the Duchamp installation, a famous work that took him 20 years to construct and you view it through a set of “peepholes” in a door that enables you to think you are seeing a vast expanse with the nude body of a woman in the foreground and bucolic scene fading off into the distance. The museum also has one of Duchamp’s glass pieces, another stunner.

While the group is lining up for the Duchamp peepshow, I head over to see the Gorky exhibit, a retrospective of his work, maybe 20 or so pieces, with a number of studies he made for each piece also on display. Not sure how great the work is, the exhibit is terrific because of the studies and the brief notes that accompany each room (mostly displayed in chronological order). A great example of how a curator can make the work shine when placed in proper context and lighting.

A mediocre buffet lunch at the museum, and then on to a visit with Donald Lipski, an artist specializing in installations and large public art. Of course my favorite piece of his is a very large take of an Arp sinuous bronze: his version is a gigantic slimmed down version of a baseball with large red seams, set on a pedestal in front of one of the minor league spring training fields near Scottsdale. Special!

He is working on a series dealing with milk in bottles, just not the normal bottles and not just normal settings. As his wife says, he seems to be attracted to the line between beauty and lethal.

- Donald with his art
- One of Donald's pieces

On to the Fabric Workshop, where artists of all media are invited to work with the Workshop staff to do something with fabric: a very loose interpretation of fabric. Two young project managers give us a tour of the current exhibits and work-in-process.

The event of the week: dinner in the penthouse of a couple who are major supporters of the Philadelphia art scene and major collectors. It is surreal: open decks to vistas of greater Philadelphia, glass works by Chihuly and Ruffner in the ceiling, special cocktails, fascinating appetizers, lobsters swimming in poles filled with water, lots of glass works (including one by an E-ville artist whose work is based on subtle play on light and shadows and movement – we’ve met her and like her work a lot, it’s been chosen for display in the E-ville’s city hall), then dinner for 40+ (many of the people we are visiting on this trip are invited as well, a very nice gesture by our hosts) on handmade plates and silverware: lobster puddin’, squab with heads and feet placed to make it look like an early dinosaur is pressed into the plate, and a series of desserts, some of which are served up individually as we tour the kitchen. The veterans of Oakland Museum art trips say that they had never experienced an event like this; it was definitely above and beyond, over the top, at the top, etc.

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