Friday, December 3, 2010

Winter is coming on

Glove on railing. 1:15 PM. Photo: JH.
Friday, December 3, 2010. It turned cold yesterday and colder at night, like winter is coming on.

I had lunch with Ronda Carman who contributed to the NYSD last week with a travel piece on visiting Provence and meeting Daniel de la Falaise, the chef.

Ronda was visiting a friend, designer Kathryn Ireland who works out of Los Angeles but has a house in the south of France, which is where she met Daniel. She knew nothing about him and when she asked him how he got interested in cooking. He told her his grandmother was a great cook. She asked him how he got started professionally, he told her he first worked for his grandmother’s brother who had a restaurant in London. What was the name of it? She asked. “Harry’s Bar.” That’s when Ronda realize just which de la Falaise family Daniel was from. Then she realized he was in that Madonna video (What Madonna video? Beats me; I’ve never seen the Madonna video.)

Christina Juarez, Ronda Carman, and Malcolm Kutner at John Rosselli's book signing for Patricia Metcalf and her biography of Syrie Maugham.
Ronda has a helter-skelter charmed life from the sound of it. And the capacity to work, and also to make it look like it’s just kinda goin’ along. American, Texas born and raised, she lives in Glasgow now with her husband of seventeen years, also American, who is a professor at a university there. They have a teen-age son. Her blog-work, however, has become, as the internet does, a very demanding smart child. She’s been traveling a lot lately. She figured out that she’s been on a plane 42 times this year. “And I don’t even like to fly,” she told me. It makes her think she should slow down a little. The problem is, as I know, to slow down on the web, is the same as quitting.

Ronda’s blog is called “All The Best.” She told me today at lunch that she’s been reading NYSD since its inception and was actually inspired to do her own blog because of it. All flattery is welcome.

Early last evening I went over to the Park Avenue Armory
to a preview of Peter Greenaway’s large scale interpretation of “Leonardo’s Last Supper” which opens to today and run’s through January 6th.

I am not an art historian, nor an art maven. I go to these things because in my view, it’s my job with the NYSD, aware that it’s for the reader’s interest, not my own. I do know when I like something visually, and have been around long enough to know that first impressions (disliking something for example) are only first impressions. The problem with modern and contemporary art for people like me is that its literalness is not apparent (or too subtle) to my uneducated, possibly insensitive (to the subtleties) eye.

I made it just on time for the third showing – there were three scheduled for last night, just as the great big doors to the Wade Thompson Drill Room where the installation had been set up.
I had no idea what to expect. It never even occurred to me that it was a multimedia event because I was not familiar with Peter Greenaway or his work.

From the moment I entered the vast hall, its edges darkened and it center emitting a glow from above and around the constructions of screens flashing color, I was swept up by the symphonic music accompanying the images on the screens. It didn’t matter that I didn’t know what to expect or what I didn’t know.

The “multimedia interpretation” suddenly distracts all your senses. You can’t leave because you’re surrounded by these images racing with the music, swelling, swirling. You’re caught in something much larger than the self.
It lasts about forty-five minutes. When finished, it seemed like forty-five minutes hadn’t gone by yet. I left the Armory wondering if I could write about the experience. When I got home, I downloaded the few pictures I took (I stopped because it seemed hopeless to try to capture the experience in a picture), and sent them to Jeff Hirsch for this Diary.

I had an email exchange to inform him what I was sending. I hadn’t told him where I was going, so it was the first he’d heard of it.
Our exchange:

DPC: I went to a preview tonight at the Park Avenue Armory of something called "Leonardo's Last Supper: A Vision by Peter Greenaway” which is a multimedia work. It's about 2 paintings – Leonardo’s the Last Supper and then Veronese's Wedding at Cana. It's a movie, sort of, so it's hard to explain because it's even hard to understand -- except you know the images you're looking at. However, I took a bunch of pix that I ftped that generally covers the 45 minute presentation from beginning to end (red walls mark the end). You can do what you want with them. Grid them. Run three or four; whatever. I'm not sure what to write about it because it was one of those art things that I cannot define literally for myself but only by the sensation it causes within my brain. For example, watching the part about the Leonardo, I found myself very angry all over again at the stupidity, the hopeless stupidity of mankind.

JH. Angry at the stupidity of the art or the content of the art?

DPC. No, angry at what the art in this multi-media presentation evokes. The crucifixion of the living creature and all that followed, like eventually The Church which ironically is just another version of the temple for the moneychangers as a functioning modern institution. It's astounding to watch though. It's one of those things -- for me anyway-- that is like that artfulness I've mentioned to you before where the viewer's experience defines the art, not the artist, but reflects the power of the artist -- which is also nature, like your photographs are -- since you don't regard yourself outwardly as an artist but are creating something with your photographs that is artful to the viewer.
JH. Sounds powerful and horrible ...

DPC. It is powerful but it's really beautiful, kinda overwhelming, like trying to take in every bit of a magnificent view. The Veronese is so beautiful and when explained (the voiceover) to you what you're looking at (and who you're looking at) and who they represent vis-a-vis the story of Christ and The Last Supper, it's actually awesome, that now beaten-up word that describes real wonder.
JH. You've actually explained it quite well - let's use this in the diary.

DPC. Oh good because I really don't know how to explain it. I feel quite uneducated about looking at art. I lack the eye for the artist's intention, the way it is described by art historians. I fell asleep in Art History while the professor was pointing things out with a stick directed to different parts of the screen showing an image.
JH. You ain’t uneducated so don’t let the 'art' intimidate you -- like you said this is your experience with it, and the beauty of contempory art is that it allows for more interpretation than a Veronese ...

DPC. I don't think so. I think Veronese was way ahead of us contemps. I was reminded of that visit we made to the Villa Barbaro with the Venetian Heritage group, where we were given a concert in rooms painted with Veronese's murals, and how they still stick in my craw as beauty, mystery, history, life, humankind but immortal. The Wedding at Cana will never look the same to me after tonight. It is magnificent beyond sight. The photos I took unfortunately tell you nothing of the experience of just standing there taking it all in. It's a little like you’re standing there in that scene when the spaceship lands in Close Encounters of the Third Kind. You’re the child.
DPC. It's a fantastic experience and it shows you something about us that is greater than we can grasp and baser than we ever want to acknowledge, with eternal leitmotif of hope.

Remember when you look at the pictures, you can see the tops of the heads of spectators looking up at the surrounding screens and in an atmosphere full of symphonic music, full like the wind. It's amazing.

I can see why the Park Avenue Armory is going to become the must-see destination in New York and how good for all of us.

“Leonardo’s Last Supper: A Vision by Peter Greenaway” will run through January 6th. Showings are on the hour. There is no late entry. Last showing is one hour before close.

Tuesdays-Sundays 12:00 – 8:00 pm
Monday, December 27: 12:00 – 8:00 pm
(Closed Christmas Day and all other Mondays)
For information and ticketing, please visit: or call (212) 933-5812.
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