Monday, November 7, 2016

November 7: Art and Science in London

Art is not what you see, but what you make others see. 
                                                               ---Edgar Degas

Mr Parris contemplates eggs and museum options.
After a good night's sleep and a good breakfast, it was Paul's day to choose the activity. "The Royal Institute of Art," said he. And so we were off to see an exhibit on abstract expressionism. Think Jackson Pollock and Mark Rothko. This is an almost exclusively American art phenomenon starting in the 1940s.  According to the information in the museum, the last time a collective exhibit of abstract expressionist paintings hit the UK was 1959 at the Tate.

The abstract expressionists are thought to have lived in an age of extremes and catastrophe heralded by two world wars, the great depression, the Spanish civil war and the cold war, as well as the US rising as a world power.  They are said to have had "a burgeoning tendency to allow paint to flow of its own volition."

Here are some of the works we got to see. One of the amazing things is the bounty of museums and private collections they were drawn from.

Arshile Gorky. DIARY OF A SEDUCER.  Originally from Armenia, Gorky immigrated to the US and lived in Connecticut. He had a fire in his home in 1948 and thereafter his work is characterized as "somber.' He hanged himself in 1948.

There were a wealth of Jackson Pollock compositions on display including this very famous and his largest work commissioned for Peggy Guggenheim's Manhattan townhouse:

Mural by Pollock. 1943. Being an abstract expressionist didn't bode well for longevity. Pollock died in a car wreck at age 44.

Willem de Kooning was a Dutch immigrant who lived in East Hampton, NY.  He did better than the two previous artists at longlife! He lived to be 93. He was fascinated with women whom he believed he painted as " satiric and monstrous, like sibyls."

Pink Angels. Willem de Kooning
Mark Rothko is a painter that Paul and I have encountered all over the world. His work, he said, was meant to embody human emotions. "Tragedy, ecstasy, doom..." His work is almost instantly recognizable.

Untitled. (but known as black on grey). Mark Rothko.

Clyfford Still is an artist Paul and I have no familiarity with. But I think you would have to live in Denver to really know him well as 95% of his works are housed there in the Still Museum.  He spent only 12 of his 75 years in New York and preferred to remain outside of it. Like Pollock, he hailed from the big expansive Western US.  He described the West as an  "awful bigness."  He apparently wasn't too friendly with many artists of the abstract expressionists except Pollock, who insisted that Still made the rest of the art community look academic.

Clyfford Still's massive art expanses at the Royal Academy.

We were also treated to the lovely sculpting of David Smith.

David Smith's Hudson Valley Landscape. It reflected a train journey he once took.

We were also treated to another artist we knew little about, James Ensor. Supposedly when Albert Einstein met him on a train once, he asked him what he painted and Ensor said, "Nothing." Ensor was painting in the late 1800s and his teachers were very disappointed with his focus and his methodology. He lived nearly all his life in Ostend, Belgium, travelling little, and defying his maestros by painting whatever he wanted. You shall see, it does NOT resemble "nothing." And it has a real depth of humor.

Paul loved this one called Bad Doctors. Wonder why I didn't think it was so funny??

The artist surrounded by evil

Self Portait of Ensor. There were many self portraits in different circumstances. Here he has a feather cap.

Two skeletons fight over pickled herring. Yes, that's the real name. Paul says when he sees this happening, he runs the opposite direction.

These exhibits at the Royal Academy were very enjoyable and if you have the chance, it's not that easy to get this group of artists in one place. The collection was quite large and this is just a taste of what we got to view.

From there we went to the Farraday museum, which is a science museum at the Royal Institute of Science. As Paul says, we take for granted that everyday things were discovered by people working tirelessly in labs.

Farraday's electromagnetism lab in the Royal Institute of Science

Many of the elements were discovered at the Royal Institute. Here are a few.

Royal Institute of Science.

This museum is very small, but it is free and fun for nerds like us.

From here, we walked amongst fancy shops along Albermarle. Oh my. We could barely afford to pass through much less buy anything, but it was good window shopping.

An entire shop dedicated to macaroons

Holy macarooni, batman!

Paul got interested in the vintage Rolex collection.

Shoes, anyone?

High end pens.

From here, we were off for a walk on the Princess Diana memorial path in Green Park.

Green Park looking not so green in the late autumn

We under and overgrounded our way back from here to Dalston Junction and had our dinner at the nearest pizza parlor. Our observation after 7.25 years together----there's hardly any pizza that's bad. We had ours at THE BITE. 

The back of the waitresses T shirt

Paul waxes serious over proscuitto, mozzarella, black olives, mushrooms and capers.

Then it was on to reason that we came.... the Necks at Cafe OTO. Night #2. Sold out show. These gents are a real pleasure, because they are the musical box of never know what you are going to get! And we got a very melodic hum for sure.  We sat near the percussionist and it's always a pleasure to observe his approach. 

In case you wondered...

Percussionist extraordinaire lair

Hands of a neck

Foot of a neck

Necks in motion

It's a little odd being at a live performance where 25% of the audience appears to be sleeping (and maybe 10% of them actually are), 25% are bobbing their heads,  25% have their eyes closed AND are bobbing their heads, and 25% are watching the band... and the other 25% who are either closing their eyes, sleeping and/or bobbing their heads. 

This band is so very talented and no two shows are alike because they are inventing the music as they play. That's a pretty special end to our London sojourn and we are grateful.

"...Entirely new and entirely now...They produce a post-jazz, post-rock, post-everything sonic experience that has few parallels or rivals. They may teach us to listen in a new way, but they communicate a fierce energy and warmth at the same time. Their music is a thrilling, emotional journey into the unknown. Like seeing a world in a grain of sand, The Necks permit us to hear a whole new world of music in a sliver of sound" THE GUARDIAN (UK)

Paul's Ponderings:  A bit of a brisk day out for our last full day here in London this time around.  The art exhibit we attended was really broad and deep and did a great job of bringing a bunch of threads together about Abstract Expressionism.   That was followed by a nice walk in Green Park, one of the larger green areas next to Buckingham Palace.   Tonight it was back for another round of The Necks!

We preceded the event by some great pizza at "Bite", accompanied by a salad....about 50 feet from our door, which was perfect.  

A great second show by The Necks!   We've seen four long pieces and as expected, none of them were the excellent variety of music this time around by them.   And a great end to our visit to London.   Tomorrow we fly home to real life.

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