Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Gerald & Sarah Murphy at WCMA

If I could vaporize and immediately reappear in a far-away place, I'd spend today in Williamstown, Mass. at the Williams College Museum of Art. I read in the New Yorker about a small exhibition there that sounds really fantastic: The Art and Style of Gerald and Sarah Murphy.

The Murphys were an incredibly stylish couple living in the most stylish cities during one of history's most stylish periods: the 1920s. They ooze a certain panache that is so intriguing. I've always been kind of obsessed with the art and style of the 1920s, particularly in New York and Paris, so what I'd do to be Sarah's gal-pal for a day! I really need to figure out that vaporizer time-travel thingy.

Gerald was a terrific artist who truly captured the flavor of the era, but he didn't take painting very seriously as a career, and only 7 of his paintings survive to this day (including these two: Wasp and Pear from 1929 and Razor from 1924. All of the remaining works appear in the show, alongside works by contemporaries and friends Picasso, L├ęger, Gris and several photos of the Murphys and other ephemera from their friendships with luminaries with big names like Hemingway, Fitzgerald, Parker and Braque.

Click here to read Peter Schjeldahl's review of the exhibition in the New Yorker, and here to view the New Yorker's great slide show of Gerald's remaining paintings, and snapshots of the Murphy's fabulous world.

The show runs through Nov. 11 at WCMA then travels to Yale University Art Gallery from Feb. 26 to May 4, 2008, then to Dallas Museum of Art (my alma mater) from June 8 to Sept. 14. Looks like I'll be dragging my Dallas family there next summer!

House of Cherubs in BA

We've already been back a week and I'm just now writing about our final stop in Buenos Aires, the House of Cherubs. It's a safe house for kids whose parents are in prison or otherwise unable to care for their kids. The children aren't up for adoption, they're just being kept safe and sound until (hopefully) their parents get their act together.

We benefitted the HOC at an International Progressive Dinner Party last year. We were introduced to them through our friend John Matson, who lived in BA for a while and was involved with the home.

If Eric and I hadn't first visited the comedor, this would have been a somewhat sad visit, knowing these children had to be taken from their parents for all sorts of reasons, and now live with a dozen other kids in a not-too-large house. But in comparison to the situation at the comdeor, these children have it pretty good. They're fed well, have warm comfy beds, and are surrounded by cheery, lovely women who are just oozing love for them (you can see them here). The home is tidy and well-kept, and it's in a lovely neighborhood (we heard it's the same neighborhood where the Argentine President lives!). We were asked to not post photos of the children, so here's a little morsel. We brought some crayons, markers and paper, and the girls were so thrilled to draw, creating beautiful little landscapes with happy balls of sunshine. That little girl just loved Eric.

A big shout out to Sarah, Marita, Nicolas and Russel for the amazing and illuminating time in lovely Buenos Aires! They're a special group (and muy international!), and we were so lucky to reap the benefit of their kindness - and translation help!

Sunday, August 19, 2007

The Comedor

Yesterday was very intense. We went with Marita and Sarah to a comedor, which is basically a government-funded soup kitchen that provides daily food to some children who might not otherwise eat. Marita, Sarah and Russell have been involved for some time with this comedor, providing it with gas for the stove, clothes, plates and cups, and even food, since the subsidized food basically consists of only lentels, beans and other bare necessities.

Marita prepared gift bags all week for the 100-plus kids - a pair of socks and some candy for each. Yesterday (Saturday) the comedor was celebrating "Dia de los ninos," or kids day, so there was to be a special meal. Marita and Sarah planned to attend and deliver the gifts and invited us to join. We hesitated at first, pretty much just because we're selfish vacationers and didn't want to commit to what would surely be a heartbreaking day, but after watching Marita lovingly prepare the gifts, we decided we shouldn't pass up such a special invitation.

The comedor is about 45 minutes outside central Buenos Aires, but it may as well be on another planet. The entire area around the neighborhood serviced by the comedor is awful. There is trash, literally, everywhere. Piles of burning tires send black smoke into the air, and the streets teem with malnourished and mangy dogs and horses. The air pollution is terrible, and it stinks. The kids' neighborhood has no paved roads, and absolutely nothing beautiful - no flowers, no grass, nothing but rundown homes, filthy air, dogs and garbage. It's unclear how many of them even have plumbing. This is the setting for the comedor, which at last has a gas stove (until recently they cooked with wood), but still no sink or toilet.

The special meal for the kids consisted of a burger patty, some sliced hard boiled egg and mayo on a bun. Plus some soda pop. That was it. No fries or chips, much less fruit or vegetables. There were balloons and Marita's gift bags, and Argentine music blaring out of a jam box (then, inexplicably, REM's "Everybody Hurts" came on). It was so depressing, particularly knowing this was a "special" day. The kids were so beautiful, and so happy to get their socks and burger. The ladies feeding them worked so hard to bring a little lightness to the kids' lives, but the squalor they have to live/work in just made it all so difficult to understand.

Eric and I spent the rest of the day and all dinner talking about it. How can we help? Where can we begin? How can we get that one darling teenage girl to college? Just trying to comprehend the obstacles that face these children, how unlikely it is the any of them will climb up even one step on the socio-economic ladder, makes me want to cry. And when you think of how many millions of children around the world live like this - or worse - it's so daunting. We definitely plan to hold a Progressive Dinner Party to help, perhaps to buy a new building that has a real kitchen and bathroom. One step at a time, I suppose. When I figure out how to post videos you can see some of the kids in action. Over and out for now.

Friday, August 17, 2007

BA: Empanadas Galore

The loft is maintained by the sweetest lady on the planet, Marita. She's here every morning, making breakfast for us, offering to do our laundry, etc. We're planning to pack her into our suitcase, as we're not sure how we ever lived without her. She made these gorgeous empanadas for us. They're stuffed with ground beef and are so yummy. Marita has spent a lot of time this week preparing gifts for the children at the local soup kitchen - the loft is full of candy and clothes for the ninos.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Dia Tres in BA: TANGO!

At last, on dia tres, we see TANGO! On our friend Jon's reco, we took another harrowing taxi ride (the drivers here are on some kind of mass death wish with their driving, ignoring lane dividers and threading needles between other cars) to the Esquina Carlos Gardel, a totally fabulous, old-school, somewhat Hollywood-ized tango mecca. Walking in the door itself is an experience: you're greeted by some of the most gorgeous people you've ever seen, men in tuxes and gals all kinds of decked out in sequins and feathers, and quickly ushered to your special, red-leather-clad booth for two. It's totally hysterical. We even had our picture taken with two of the dancers - I literally turned beet red when my "partner" instructed me to hike my leg up over his extended leg - but when they tried to charge us $20 for the pic, we declined.

But the dancers - OY! And the band - perfecto! The little tango orchestra was suspended up over the dancers, as though the dancers were dreaming up the music. And the dancers were really amazing - you could tell this was a young generation, they looked early 20s, and many of them brought a bit of a rock and roll or even punk sensibility to this already incredible dance. At any rate, they were amazing...it was like they were fitted with extra-charged batteries, they moved so quickly and with such precision. And they were all GORGEOUS. There was a shy couple and goofy couple and a sexy couple...each had a little narrative that they acted out via tango. It was so cool. Oh and we had a fabulous dinner and were waited on by handsome sweet men in tuxes.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Dateline: Buenos Aires, day one

Hola from South America! There's something really thrilling about being on a continent for the first time. Just flying here was cool - I wish they would have showed us on a map what we were flying over...Mexico, then Central America, at some point Bolivia. Just seems strange flying straight south instead of east across an ocean. And now that we're here, I keep having to remind myself that we're in South America, since Buenos Aires is so thoroughly European.

It was an epic series of flights totaling more than 18 hours of travel, but it actually went pretty smoothly. Then at BA airport, Nicolas, the lovely Russian neighbor of Russell (whose loft we're staying in), kindly picked us up and spirited us away to the loft (check out the loft in the pic, it's fabulous!). It was a somewhat chaotic scene at first - guys packing up the film crew that had apparently been filming here for several days, a couple of gals cleaning, and really loud American pop music on the speakers. Funny stuff. But it chilled out quickly and then Sarah, Russell's American assistant, showed up and gave us the low-down on the city, and a ton of maps. So we hit the town.

We didn't do anything in particular, stopped at several different wine bars and tried many, very nice Argentine Malbecs. So tasty! Love the peppery ones, and I'm officially a fan of Tempranillo. We wandered over to the Puerto Madero, a former port area that's now all swanky and trendy, and is accented by a really fantastic Calatrava bridge. I'll have to find links for all these things and places at some point. Jet lag kicked in and we made our way back to the loft, where we watched some Deadwood (brought the DVD!) on the huge movie screen from the loft's bed, sipping Malbec.

The city is very interesting, a fascinating blend of Rome (lots of Italian immigrants here, accounting for all the pizza and gelato), Madrid (reminds me a LOT of Madrid, just not as old) and Mexico City (the super-jam-packed-ness of it). But it's lovely, the people have generally been super nice, and it's CHEAP. Russell's wonderful right hand woman is Marita, and she arrived to make us breakfast this morning, and now we're listening to an amped-up, electronica-ish version of Tango music with her. Tonight, the triple threat: Tango, Steak, Wine. Life is good!

Saturday, August 04, 2007

Yun Bai at Bert Green

Back to Downtown LA we go, to that corner of Main and 5th that has become quite a hotbed of yummy contemporary art. On the northwest corner is one of my faves, Pharmaka, and on the other side of 5th sits Bert Green Fine Art, a very cool gallery that always has some really challenging work. Bert himself can usually be found at the reception desk, and he's a great little repository of contemporary art knowledge.

Bert reps several terrific artists, including David Meanix (the guy behind Claire's celebrated art on "Six Feet Under"), John Scane (whose donkey series is on BG's site, but I really love Scane's abstract work, which you can see here) and Yun Bai, whose piece The Beauty of Life Is Its Incompleteness is shown here. Her work is so beautiful, it makes me dizzy.

There's not currently a Bai show, but Bert always has several of her works hanging around the office. They are so striking, with bright, playful colors, and depictions of flowers in a somewhat Asian-inspired design, reflective of her Chinese heritage. But upon closer inspection, the flowers are made from images culled from commercial pornography. Whaaa?? Yes, once you get up verrry close to the work, you'll see the petals are comprised of images that are probably inappropriate for me to describe here. At first they are all sweet and innocent, then you discover imagery that is really kind of difficult. They're really challenging, and I love it!

Of course this is influenced by events in Bai's life, circumstances that led her to be involved in the port industry while a college student. Click here to read more about Bai's story. There's also a great interview with Yun ("Yunny Bunny") at White Hot Magazine.

Bai does have an upcoming show at BGFA - Sept 13- Oct 28 - I don't know if she's showing new work for the "Porn Flowers" series, but whatever her new work is, it'll get me back to that corner of 5th and Main.