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Alain Resnai’s Last Year at Marienbad takes the viewer through a hall of mirrors, filled with character doppelgangers, carpets and tapestries that trap and keep the sounds of dialogue only to release them later in another part of the hotel. The scenic Versailles-like grounds in which the action takes place further reflects the repetition found in the dialogue and Marienbad’s eerie score makes it feel like something out of The Twilight Zone.

The play that is being watched at the beginning of the film, actually takes place at the end, lends the film a “play within a play” feeling.  The play is entertainment for the guests of the hotel, who are actually furniture and only exist as the backdrop for the three main characters: A (Delphine Seyrig), X (Giorgio Albertazzi), and M (Sacha Pitoëff).

The inconsistencies of the timeline are used to make the audience uneasy.  If you simply try to enjoy the film, a bathroom break and blinking are out of the question.  The sense of urgency that begins to permeate throughout Marienbad via the lost sense of time, tricks the audience into thinking that any second all will be revealed, but that revelation just never comes.  The only quasi-revelation comes when the glass is broken down in the bar.  A screams and seems to fear that she has embarrassed herself by such an outward display of emotion.  It seems that she is more afraid that she has remembered her interactions last year with X.  She goes to her room and finds a drawer full of photographs, signifying a sort of reoccurring day.  Time finally matters toward the end of the film when the chimes are heard for the first time, signaling that it is time for A to leave with X and reinvent “last year,” in a sense.

Up LACMA’s stone steps, there lies a small corner of Asia.  A Korean morsel of cultural artifacts wrapped up in yellowed tapestries and lacquered boxes.

The exhibition centered on the gilt bronze Pensive Bodhisattva, which looked down from his glass-enclosed perch, first finger and thumb pressed together in a thoughtful mudra.  The Bodhisattva seemed to reign over this tiny nook of expansive LACMA. Two benches and corners filled with stacks of pillows pushed the suggestion to meditate to the forefront of the museum experience.  This statue looked almost too traditional, almost commercial, but more classically nuanced. It was, however, authentic and mystical all at the same time.  Hen and Chicks under Flowers, as well as Cat under Chrysanthemums were also traditional in appearance, but were flat and did not have enough life to evoke any sort of emotion.

The large mural to the left of the entryway above the inviting wooden bench was the beginning of a story about something, but it wasn’t quite clear what that something was, at least not initially.  The exhibit description proclaimed that the Korean culture is the “synthesis of international trends and indigenous creativity.”  As the gallery wrapped around, pieces of life as art were displayed:  the documentary painting of the Sixteenth Birthday Banquet for Queen Singjeong depicted on wooden panels, the brightly colored, quilted wrapping cloth, or bojagi, looked almost like a quilt that would be draped over a light-colored wooden bed in a country home, and the dark, richly cherry lacquered document boxes.

image via LACMA website

Two men’s hats made out of horsehair, lacquered and twined, reminded the viewer that Korean art encompasses everyday items and that those everyday items may become less ordinary and most definitely museum-worthy long after their traditional uses have expired.  This is exemplified by the three document boxes made of lacquer on wood with mother of pearl inlay, which evoke the sleek simplicity of antique luggage.  The gilded bodhisattvas, expressions of spirituality that is brought into everyday life and sprinkled throughout the home come to rest in protective museum cases.  The idea behind the the layout, the placards, the organization of the exhibition becomes clearer as the viewer walks through it.  Korean art permeates Korean life.  It is as though nothing that is used daily is without a sense of artfulness.  The art displayed is actually mostly artifacts.

The final work of art was a display put together by brothers Noritaka and Takumi Asakana.  Shards of broken ceramics from destroyed and unidentified kilns from the Goryeo and Joseon periods filled tiny boxes.  And yet painted tops of vases and bottoms of teacups appeared somehow intact in the confines of the exhibit.  On the opposite wall was a large mixed-media work, Untitled (Tea Bowls), with brightly colored squares reminiscent of a bojagi dotting the large canvas of grayscale teacups.  This work, created in 2008, was the thing that did not belong with the rest of the more traditional pieces in the exhibition, but it was still welcome for it transcended traditionalism and brings the viewer back to her own time.

I went to Bergamot Station by accident.  I received a facebook invite from a sort of college acquaintance alerting me to the Cordy Ryman “Hail to the Grid” opening at the Mark Moore Gallery.  I noticed that the gallery was located in Santa Monica, my neighborhood, so I decided that the event was a must.  Once I realized where I was actually going–Bergamot Station–I was incredibly excited.  This cluster of galleries is utter excitement for all of the senses.  Minus the funky parking lot, this outing proved to be well worth the night out.

I truly enjoyed the Cordy Ryman show, but the pieces did not have enough life to fill up the gallery.  I felt like I was at a show of an interior designer and not a truly talented artist.  His pieces packed the corners of the gallery with brightly colored painted wood sculptures.  I was intrigued and wanted to leave all at the same time.  However, I was in luck.  Several of the galleries located in Bergamot Station were open.  I wandered around the lot perusing this gallery and that.  I saw rather almost-offensive sexually explicit large-scale sketches and architectural, seemingly computer generated planes of space prints displayed in several different colors and sizes, but the gallery that seized my attention was Patrick Painter Inc’s East & West Galleries.  The 12 large oval abstract and whimsical Simon Bill paintings that made up Buttercups and Daisies were displayed on the four opposing walls and seemed to permeate the space that was encapsulated by them.

photo taken by Haley Greenwald-Gonella

Each different oval captured a sense of time or season.  Each one had an age and element of intelligence.  The space was filled with innocence and inevitable aging at the same time.  The oval with the green backdrop featuring pink rivers accessorized by 3-dimensional green leaves epitomized springtime and a sense of sexual awareness.  “Autumn Textures” featured a pumpkin colored center surrounded by winter white.  My personal favorite was the oval painted with various shades of white-on-white.  An artist friend of mine in college did a white-on-white study and I learned much about intricacy from it, so Simon’s white-on-white work adorned with sequins felt like a much welcomed throw back to me.  This gallery and show are jewels in a tucked away corner of Santa Monica and Bergamot Station is definitely a must-see.

October 8, 2009

I have been given a gift.  A gift of time–and one of travels and wanderings.  I was not able to attend the opening celebration for Victor Raphael’s show at USC’s Fisher Museum, but today I celebrated anyway.  Today, I was allowed to go out and find art.

I thought I would find it in the studios near the architecture school, but there was too much talking and explanation going on there for me to find anything of interest.  I traveled past the studios.  A large banner that read “open” beckoned me.

I consciously and carefully opened the right door and then I was freed.  Pen and notebook and a small gallery-of-a-museum.  I  felt like my mom should have been there–pointing out this work and that one.  I could almost hear my sisters complaining about  being dragged to yet another museum in the background, but then a single breath and I was back–unwrapping the gift of Victor  Raphael’s Travels and Wanderings 1979-2009.  I was pulled into his rich metallics of “unique iris on canvas” and the playful  landscapes of “Central Park UFO” and “Painted Desert UFO”.  I walked past Raphael’s less ethereal-looking “Floating World  Series” featuring Japan.  I was “[called] to prayer” in the largest synagogue in Istanbul by the Muslim call to worship, but for  much of the last hour, I was in space.

I felt at home in the white boarders surrounding the 20 majestic framed Polaroids in Raphael’s “Space Field Series”.  I was sucked into tiny black holes and miniature milky ways featuring barely-there gold-flecked planets.  I stopped reading the plaques detaining the materials used and I just enjoyed the art.  I wanted to sit on the floor and just stare at the work on the opposite wall.  I thought that this might be in poor taste considering the group of senior citizens who were utilizing wheelchairs while we explored (the) space together.

I crossed the hall into Malibu, found the Getty Villa–the “place [Raphael] uses as a refuge and resource for peace of mind.”  I met up with diminutive Venus de Milo and a silhouette of Winged Victory.

Raphael believes that “you have to leave room for the exceptional and extraordinary.”  And sometimes, on a day like today, you also have time for exceptional and extraordinary art.

photo taken by Hilary Scurlock

Ok, so it was my fault. I gave the wrong address–the Rabbit Hole gallery show was at 4423 W. Jefferson and I told the others going that it was 4223.  Instead, we all ended up at “Pancakes and Booze” at 4300 W. Jefferson.  The lighting was soft, the music was loud, and designer Timmery’s ’80s inspired bottle cap and repurposed-cassette-tape jewelry was the icing on the (pan)cake.

The gallery owners at 4300 W. Jefferson Blvd. in Los Angeles have figured out how to do a show just right, even though they are both filmmakers.  They search for local artists on Craigslist and always get over 100 responses from people vying for spots in their shows.  The art displayed at “Pancakes” was fun and relevant to the crowd there–hip and youthful.  Some of it was politically inspired, like the charcoal drawings that turned good ol’ Dick Cheney into a glasses-wearing mermaid.  Other pieces made you think, like the black, blue and white jokers that were almost kissing and were adorned by smaller versions of themselves. And the $5 entry fee we each paid because we were not on “the list” was completely worth it because of the do-it-yourself pancakes.  And yes, there was chocolate sauce.

We still made a brief appearance at “Rabbit Hole”.  I figured out why it was called that:  the art centered on a garish vaginal theme.  Can I say vaginal?  The lighting was too bright and the crowd was unwelcoming.  It was almost like being at a gynecological visit.  The artists, the gallery owners, and the bartender at “Pancakes” were as delightfully playful as the art, but at “Rabbit” the people who walked stiffly past us were, at best, uninviting.

The mood at “Rabbit” was not really my scene, even though the jewelry at this venue was more wearable.  The art was sparse and, though some of it was abstract–squiggly dark lines stretching across a pink dappled canvas suggesting the crux of femininity–other pieces were just gratuitous, like the photographs of three nude women who were smeared with paint here and there standing in beautiful, raw natural spaces with cardboard boxes over their heads.  It seemed like the artist just wanted to get a few girls naked and I, personally, took offense to that.  Luckily, I guess sometimes you travel down the rabbit hole and end up in a bed of pancakes and booze.

USC’s Fall Semester 2009 is over.  Oh yeah  🙂  I find myself at home, in Northern California–Modesto, CA to be exact, in a significantly colder clime than what I’ve gotten used to in Santa Monica.  Going home during a break from school brings with it the usual:  doctor appointments and a few trips to Merced, CA to visit my best friend and Noni, my little Italian grandmother.  Today (and tomorrow) I’m back to working with my dad, this time in a different capacity than my Administrative Assistant/ Foreclosure Specialist position that I held last year in my dad’s real estate office.  Today and tomorrow I’ve been given the opportunity to teach my dad’s real estate agents about utilizing social media sites and blogging in order to “go viral” with their brand.  I love teaching, today was great!