Tuesday, May 03, 2005

"the world has been empty since the romans"

yesterday being a "bank holiday" i went to the new tate. from where i am it's very easy, just walk down the hill, and there's the wimbledon train station. it's only 3 stops to waterloo, and from there you can walk down a beautiful park path along the thames to the tate and shakespeare's globe theater both.

the tate is directly across the river from st. paul's cathedral in an old power plant. they've obviously stripped the plant down to its steel girders and brick walls, which gives it a really new york feel.

they've planted a nice lawn in front of the museum with birch trees -- so you walk past this lovely white birch border into the old turbine room. the girders have been painted black, the walls are still red brick, the remainder of the space is painted dark graphite with highlights of a pale robin's egg blue, almost a tiffany kind of blue.

as you walk down the main ramp into the turbine room, a bruce naumann installation murmurs "thank you, thank you, thank you." then you're at the base of the escalators to go up to the 4 exhibit floors.

the place is huge but almost half of it is given over to money makers like a fancy restaurant -- to maximize the view -- smaller cafes, auditoriums, etc.

it's true that the pictures are arranged by theme: history, the body, monumentality, the art of engagement, interiority. at first i thought this was going to be annoying, because i wanted to see all what they had -- what picassos, what matisses, etc.

but some of the theme rooms work ok; most don't work at all. so it's a mixed bag.

they seem to date "modern" from monet's waterlilies, of which they show one panel. in fact, this is in a room with a morris louis, etc. which they liken in terms of pure space and use of light to waterlilies.

i'm not sure i agree with this. but they do seem to view the monet as being all about flat surface, not even shallow space, and pure light/color instead of any form. that's why the morris louis makes sense to them as an heir of monet.

they have a lot of silly conceptual art left over from the 60s, as well as too much surrealism, but they do have many paintings i particularly thought mr. right would like. for example, they have an entire room of lovely eggplant and maroon rothkos that i've never seen before and are so fantastic they alone might be worth the trip.

one the picasso front, the have the famous blue period "young girl," a piece of early analystical cubism called "fruit, violin, bottle" from 1914, a head of marie-therese walter both as a painting and as a sculpture, and a dora maar "weeping woman" pic. the blue period piece we new yorkers saw at the moma in queens during the matisse/picasso show.

also they have an entire room of those hilarious soviet posters with that trademark bold and inventive graphic design. my two favorites had taglines like: "i will vote for the candidate block of communists and non party members!" in really great russian type under the usual yearning, beaming face of a blonde girl staring into the coming glorious socialist dawn. (nina vatolina, election poster, 1946)

another one i liked a lot showed men swarming around a really streamlined, futuristic train. "the train has come from far away with precious gifts! hurry, comrades, the train won't stop for long. intelligent and truthful reading of lenin's precious words will light your way in the struggle for a better future!" (agitprop train, 1924)

on the matisse front, they have surprisingly little, only 3 that i saw, and only one "inattentive reader" was new to me. of the famous modernists, i would say in general they have only 1 minor example -- for instance they have a big but not very important rauschenberg, or in another example, 3 small and quite minor richters.

so in one sense, it's kind of a museum like the one in st. petersburg fla., -- one miniscule example of most major textbook modernist names -- but they do have some really nice pieces by newer artists that i'd never seen before.

for example, m. balka's "dawn," 1995, which might be the most beautiful piece of rust you've ever seen. it looks rather like a fireplace screen in basic form, but on a monumental and really great scale. it's transcendant, actually.

there's also a nice dan flavin in white called "monument," and since you know my love of light and glass, naturally i'm going to like that.

another piece i'd never seen before was great: "light dynamo," 1963, by heinz mack, a mechanical optical painting that results in an effect like a shimmering mercury lake. it's mesmerizing.

they do alas give waaay too much space to naumann's video work and other lesser video pieces. plus they rather fill up space with, to my mind, what are questionable light-weight brits like gilbert and george.

after all that art i stopped off at the espresso bar for a real illy cappuccino, not illy pod-water, and sat on the outside balcony watching the lovely fluffy spring clouds pass behind st. paul's dome.

the illy would have been quite good -- the person-behind-the-counter ground the shot fresh on a mazzer super jolly and pulled a 30-second shot on a beautiful fire-engine-red 3-group la marzocco -- if only the pbtc hadn't scorched the milk!

posted by fortune | 1:17 AM | top | link to this | email this: | links to this post | | 0 comments

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