Wednesday, August 30, 2006

With Eyes You've Not Used Yet

Telegiornale RAI is on in my living room. This is humbling fun for my brain, since I don't speak Italian. I can eavesdrop a little, which is what I'm doing with the news. The carabinieri are very busy all over the peninsula, some parents locked up children in Palermo, and the soccer players are unfailingly hot. I hear words I recognize but it takes me too long to remember what they mean. Those exciting moving pictures in the background offer exciting context clues, as in: Oh. The soccer players are unfailingly hot. Italy's endless supply of hot soccer players is one of its most endearing natural resources - that, and delightful places a girl can stow her boning knife.

Today, I found a copy of the eviction complaint - whatever you call it - taped to my front door. When this is all over, I'm going back to the yoga studio to work the venom out of my Chi before I bite someone. Not in a good way.

On Monday, Siobhan picked me up and we drove through the Lincoln Tunnel, around the park and down Park Avenue to the Neue Gallery. Because we live in New Jersey and cultivate very different personal space desires than people who take subways everywhere, we parked across the street and found ourselves mildly in conflict with the gallery's narrow hallways and people on line to get into the four-star cafe. Far fewer were interested in seeing art than being seen with biscotti, which struck us as a huge waste of time. We found the elevator and went to the second floor.

We'd come to see Gustav Klimt's Adele.

It's a popular exhibit, and we arrived on a Monday, when other galleries are closed. There were people standing around art out of habit, which is sad in a city full of bright ideas. I was particularly excited by inventive German flatware, though I can't remember from which school. I didn't have the presence of mind to pick up a pamphlet. Ah well. But there are still things to say, and two paintings of Adele, each of which is about the same size as me. One is mesmerizing and confusing and churns up the emotions. The other is made of gold, doesn't photograph well and stops your heart. In both cases, the paintings themselves could give you a headache from all the thoughts you're trying to think at once. In both cases, a whole separate study of how exhibit attendees behave seeing these paintings might be interesting. I expected people to get down on their knees. I swear I checked for drool. In the next room, Siobhan and I found benches and sat down back to back. Then we shifted in quarter turns. On one wall: sketches of Adele. Immediately adjacent: erotic sketches by another artist. On the far wall: sketches and paintings by Egon Schiele, whose madness and passion I love - though I'd never seen his work before. He was an abstraction before, a lesson, a rumor. I have begun to miss him.

Upstairs, we found rooms devoted to Bauhaus, German Expressionist and another school I can't remember, and I should. One small Kandinsky made me feel warm all over, and it seemed especially charming to find a portrait of Kandinsky two frames over. Siobhan's favorite room featured a few of Mies van der Rohe's spare, airy furniture designs. I liked that people had obviously lived with and used them. The thing about seeing them now is they've been endlessly imitated, and it takes effort to consider the designs in their times and places when I could force myself into any craptacular Route 22 furniture retailer and see fifth-generation bastard children of the originals.

After a few hours, climbing in the car and driving home was a great idea.

Update: I always feel like Robert Stack narrating Unsolved Mysteries when I type that. Perhaps I'm developing a trenchocoat fetish. Anyway: Siobhan informs me that I misjudged.

Siobhan: Just read PIC - you're wrong. My favorite room was the one with the disturbing nudes by Otto Dix. More to think about, there.
Tata: Yeah, like how many times you turn down a drink at Otto's house before he whacks you with something. Ooh! I forgot about that tiny photographic portrait gallery with the weird half-lighting. We thought someone left a closet unlocked, remember?
Siobhan: You thought all the artists were wearing ties until we saw Klimt in a dashiki he probably painted himself. It matched the gold Adele.
Tata: Adele kind of blended into the chair she was sitting on. Maybe we were looking at truly innovative reupholstery.
Siobhan: They were wearing throw pillows with sleeves?
Tata: You're absolutely panting for me to make a frisky design joke about Gropius, aren't you?


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