Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Oldenburg & Le Corbusier at MoMA + Summer Reading

On an insufferably hot and humid day (Tuesday, July 23rd) this past week, we lunched on 9th Avenue, in mid-town (@ The Ember Room; discussed in my April 25th blog post), now "reformatted" & reinvented as Obao Restaurant) ... and then proceeded over to MoMA (on 53rd, between 5th & 6th).  
MoMA - Rain Room, 2012
We consciously passed up the Rain Room, a popular installation housed just outside & west of the museum's main building. Featuring a "large-scale interactive environment," the exhibit (thru July 28th) consists of "a field of falling water that visitors may walk through and experience how it might feel to control the rain."  

Oldenburg - Giant Hamburger w/Pickle (MoMA)

We had, however, other things in mind:  a major Claes Oldenburg retrospective exhibit and (right next door) a large & commanding show examining the life, projects, thought & thought processes of Le Corbusier - displaying a broad, idiosyncratic & diverse career of architectural design & building, writing (30+ books), painting & more. Le Corbusier was, of course, an architectural giant & "big thinker" (there is an interview with him and a lecture on the philosophical underpinnings of his large body of work); and Oldenburg, you might recall, introduced the world to the possibilities of the commercial product and street-based refuse as viable forms of art - designing, and focusing in on, brightly painted sculptures & "sculptural reliefs" ... from a giant hamburger (see MoMA photo) to such subjects as lingerie, pastries, pies, eggs & omelettes, hats, suits, ties, jumbo sneakers ... focusing, that is, on all sorts of socio-cultural artifacts and, writ large and colorful, making them art!  Hence the title of the show: "Claes Oldenburg: The Street and The Store"(running thru August 5th).  

Oldenburg - Pastry Case, I
According to the museum's online curator-based discussion of the show, "... Oldenburg's audacious, witty, and profound depictions of everyday objects have earned him a reputation as one of the most important artists of the 20th century."  And the current exhibition, they continue to note, aims to reflect & penetrate the early phases of Oldenburg's career "... with an in-depth look at his first two major bodies of work: The Street (1960) and The Store (1961-1964)." And both components in Oldenburg's early & developing sculptural  idiom are, I should emphasize, equally fascinating, with the larger pieces - components of The Store - possibly the more audacious, memorable & fun.

Both of these shows - the Oldenburg & Le Corbusier ("An Atlas of Modern Landscapes"; thru September 23rd) - present, for the viewer-attendee, rich, complete, entertaining, complex (culturally, artistically), circumscribed environments and equally rich & entertaining experiences. You owe it to yourself to get over to MoMA and see one or both of these, well, major events before they close!
On another note entirely: I'd like to propose some summer reading material for those upcoming August, "dog-day" afternoons or leisure-laden evenings.
Andrea Camileri

First, let me propose the Andrea Camilleri mystery series (now in Penguin paperbacks, @ Amazon.com) in which the action is based in northwest Sicily. In some 12 or 14 books (translated efficiently, effectively & responsibly by Stephen Sartarelli), we follow Inspector Salvo Montalbano battling all sorts of crime of the most riveting variety - featuring daunting criminals, bizarre cases, and equally entertaining & oddly depicted cops. But the real pleasure is as much (or more) in the character, habits & interests of Montalbano, himself, as it is in the narrative & context of the case under investigation. For me, the fun is simply underscored by the allusions to the food and culture of Sicily that Montalbano concentrates upon & addresses, day & night, in a variety of matters, along the way. 

And, as I was saying to my ole friend, Leonardo L., just the other day, in an e-mail response to his letting me know how much he enjoyed The Shape of Water (volume #1 in the series), this detective series is full of humor & humanity; it is interesting and entertaining; positively rich in local "color" - culture & food(!) & books & Sicilian locales; somewhat light in texture & tone (but only somewhat); and full of ongoing philosophical probing and existential issues. You would do well to take a look at one of Andrea Camilleri's Montalbano mysteries!

My second suggestion for summer reading material (in this case rather rare and, possibly, out of print; consult ABE.com) consists in four novels by William Cooper, the British novelist (published in the U.S., beginning in 1950, by E.P. Dutton) who influenced the likes of John Braine, Kingsley Amis (think Lucky Jim!), Malcolm Bradbury, and, even, David Lodge. Cooper's lyrically comical novel series begins with Scenes from Provincial Life, focusing on, and tracing, the life of one Joe Lunn, narrator & would-be novelist - his life, loves, doings, involvements, friends, dreams, likes, interests, limitations - as he moves through adult life and through a series of three additional equally comic, lyrical novels - Scenes from Metropolitan Life, Scenes from Married Life & Scenes from Later Life. I suspect you'll be intrigued by this relatively obscure but influential novelist, and will agree with Library Journal in their abbreviated & pithy assessment of William Cooper's oeuvre:  "Finely crafted, witty, and highly civilized." 

Consider yourself set, now, for the remainder of the summer, through, say, Labor Day weekend, at the very least  ...

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