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As We Saw It – Part 7: Emotional Rome Streets, People, Architecture: A Personal Journey

Coming back to Rome is always emotional. It triggers pleasant memories of our days as students of architecture, of lifelong friendships, of great teachers, of great art, architecture, lifestyle.

To link the central theme of “As We Saw It,” ‘what makes a city great,’ with what we chose to document through film and photography, we focused on ‘the city’s emotional intelligence’ and its connection to our own emotions. To do that, we decided to record streets and piazzas rather than buildings, with few exceptions, such as the Pantheon, the MAXXI and the church of Sant’Andrea Della Valle.

View of Rome – Piazza di Spagna

Piazza navona

Formative Past: Architecture and Cinema

We were “adopted” by Bruno Zevi soon after we joined his History of Architecture class. Besides tutoring our theses, he also invited us to his home to have lunch with Carlo Scarpa and connected us with Edgar Kaufmann Jr. in New York, who opened for us the gates of Wright’s Fallingwater.

Our relationship with Pellegrin was also unique. He co-tutored our theses, and we worked for him on important projects: many competitions for schools, the University of Barcelona, Goree Island’s master plan in Senegal, Palazzo Aldobrandini’s restoration in Rome, and research on futuristic habitats.

Professor Bruno Zevi – Photo: Elisabeth Catalano

Architect Luigi Pellegrin

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

When we moved to Rome to continue our studies in architecture, going to the movies was an essential way of learning Italian fast. We were also lucky. In the vicinity of where we first lived, in the Parioli neighborhood, there was a cinema club at a church that showed every week movies followed by a Q&A with the directors. Among many others, we treasure having listened to Roberto Rossellini (Rome, Open City; Paisan; Stromboli ) and Gillo Pontecorvo (The Battle of Algiers; Kapò; Burn!)

After graduation, we moved to Rome’s Historic Center, minutes away from the Trevi Fountain and from Pellegrin’s studio. Our same-floor neighbor was Adriana Chiesa, who, at the time worked at La Medusa, one of Italy’s leading film distributors. We were friends when Adriana met and fell in love with cinematographer Carlo Di Palma (Divorce Italian Style, Red Desert, Blow-Up, Hanna and her Sisters, Radio Days.)

Carlo had a rich experience with directors like Michelangelo Antonioni (he shot Antonioni’s first color film, Red Desert) and with Woody Allen. He also worked for Bernardo Bertolucci, Lucchino Visconti, Roberto Rossellini, Francesco Rosi, and Pier Paolo Pasolini. I remember his comments about Igmar Bergman (“he worked like a scientist”) and about Federico Fellini (“a magician; he ‘hypnotized’ his actors, shooting without sound and talking to them while shooting.”)

The MAXXI – Museo Nazionale delle Arti del XXI Secolo

Coincidentally with our visit, Zaha Hadid’s-designed MAXXI held two exhibitions that we wanted to see: one dedicated to Zevi’s 100th birthday, titled “Zevi’s Architects. History and Counter-History of Italian Architecture 1944-2000.” The other, “Tel Aviv the White City,” dedicated to the Bauhaus architecture in the city.

As a historian and critic of architecture, Zevi’s influence in Italy during the second half of the 20th Century was impacting. He published several pivotal books, such as Architecture as Space, The Language of Modern Architecture, A History of Modern Architecture, Erich Mendelsohn, was the editor of the magazine L’Architettura for over fifty years, taught history of architecture in Venice and in Rome, and was militant in the Radical Party, which he represented in the Chamber of Deputies from 1987 to 1992.

Zevi brought Frank Lloyd Wright’s ideas of Organic Architecture to the Italian peninsula, which influenced many architects, such as Carlo Scarpa, Luigi Pellegrin, Paolo Soleri, Marcello D’Olivo, Giovanni Michelucci and Aldo Loris Rossi, to name just a few.

The exhibition on Tel Aviv’s Bauhaus architecture, although very compact, provided an idea of the city’s rich past, which includes over 1500 buildings of the period.

Rome’s beauty is the ultimate urban beauty because it has been shaped by time, uninterruptedly, over more than two thousand years.

Photo © R&R Meghiddo, 2018. All Rights Reserved.

'>As We Saw It – Part 6: Berlin 2 – Shifting Art Bits Fragments of Berlin's Contemporary Art Scene

Berlin is today “Land of the Free, Home of the Brave” for thousands of artists from all over the world. It is estimated 20,000 artists are living and working in the city. Why?

Berlin is home to hundreds of galleries and art museums that boast unparalleled collections. For the ambitious artist, this city is overflowing with opportunities for installations and exhibitions that could help put their work on the map. In fact, it is often the case that artists first gained notoriety in Berlin before moving to other cities like LA, New York, or London. They have been attracted to the German capital by cheap rents, masses of studio space and the city’s carefree, freewheeling spirit. There is a conceptual openness as well as a propensity toward the radical, rebellious, and the innovative that is unrivaled elsewhere, even in other cities with established art scenes like Paris. Cultural projects are generously funded and supported by many large and powerful institutions in the city. The ever-so avant-garde contemporary art scene is able to flourish in this environment.

Our first visit to Berlin had been “before the wall.” It was time for a renewed visit. Besides architecture, there was so much to see from the world of art, historical and contemporary, that we had to be very selective in our choices during the span of time available. With the help of our Parisian friends Bernard and Catherine Légé , and the orientation that our Berliner friend, artist Franka Hörnschemeyer, we only touched the tip of the iceberg.

Our visits included the Hamburger Bahnhof Museum, an original railway station from the mid-19th century, turned into an art museum in 1996;  the Berlische Galerie and the König Galerie; and the extraordinary end revealing German Historical Museum.

With an atmosphere buzzing with creative energy, no serious member of the contemporary art world can stay away from Berlin for long. It’s become an essential stop on the art circuit, acting as a junction between east and west.

As We Saw It – Part 4: Brushing Art in Paris Art as Integral to Urban Life Quality

Paris without art is inconceivable. The art world permeates the city at all levels. It impacts people’s lifestyle, what they eat and its aesthetics, their fashion, their filmmaking, their architecture.

As We Saw It – Part 4: Brushing Art in Paris is a potpourri of art seen during the summer of 2018. The focus was on alternatives to traditional tourist art-sites such as the Louvre and the Orsay museums.

The biggest surprise was the Palais de Tokyo. Sitting next door to Paris’ Museum of Modern Art, this place it has an intense program of avant-garde contemporary art that includes all media. In spite of its name, the artists – many women – shown are from many countries. We found remarkable the works of Anita Molinero, Caroline Achaintre, and Laure Prouvost

The Museum of Modern Art, besides its own collection, also has periodical shows. During our visit we so a retrospective of Judit Reigl’s fantastic work. She continues to be productive at age ninety-five!

The Centre Pompidou had a large exhibition on the Russian avant-garde in Vitebsk during the 1918-1922 period. Very well curated, it showed artworks by Marc Chagall, El Lissitzky and Kazimir Malevich.

The Picasso Museum was a surprise, not so much for the collection of the master’s work – that can’t match those shown at the Picasso Museum in Barcelona – but of Picasso’s own collection of other artists works, such as Miro and Modigliani.

We found the relatively small Musée de l’Orangerie collection exquisite for the quality of the works exhibited. Besides Claude Monet’s large paintings of water lilies, the show included first-rate works by Matisse, Soutine, Picasso, Modigliani, Renoir, Utrillo, and Pollock, to name some.

The Guimet Museum of Asian Arts has an extraordinary collection of Chinese, Cambodian, and Indian art. On both the Orangerie and the Guimet, the presence of children being taught about art was uplifting. Its renovation was sensibly designed by architects Henri and Bruno Gaudin. 

Other visits included the Grand Palais‘ retrospective on the work of František Kupka, the Petit Palais with great art from the late 1800s, and the new Louis Vuitton Foundation, by Frank Gehry, shown in Part 2: Paris Builds.

Street art in Paris has become part of the urban components, as in many other cities. Some are very good, like the works of JR.

 

Muhamad Bourouissa, Urban Riders, Musée d’Art moderne de la Ville de Paris, Paris (2018)

As We Saw It – Part 3: Paris Green Urbanity Green Open Spaces as Urban Design

Vision and political will are a good combination. This is the case of Paris 2018, looking into the future with pragmatic imagination.

Anne Hidalgo, Paris’ first female mayor

Stephane Malka Architecture, Paris

Parisians have a high consciousness level of sustainability and climate change. They are now led by their Mayor, Anne Hidalgo, who has decided to turn their city into a green capital of the world. Besides seven major projects under construction to transform famous squares into pedestrian and bike-friendly areas, urban farming has now new legislation that promotes growing vegetables on roofs and public spaces.

in the accompanying documentary, we have chosen three examples of green urbanity: the Parc de Bercy, the Parc de la Villette, and the Promenade Plantee. They show how building green, when integrated with urban design, architecture and public art, can be transformative.

PARC DE BERCY

Designed by architects Bernard Huet, Madeleine Ferrand, Jean-Pierre Feugas, Bernard Leroy, and by landscapers Ian Le Caisne and Philippe Raguin, the park is made of three gardens connected by footbridges: The “Romantic Garden”, which includes fishponds and dunes; The “Flowerbeds”, dedicated to plant life; and “The Meadows”, an area of open lawns shaded by tall trees.
In the north-east of the park stands the Cinémathèque Française (the former American Center) designed by Frank Gehry, and on the raised terraces are the 21 sculptures of Rachid Khimoune’s “Children of the World” installation, created in 2001 to honor children’s rights.
The park has also a covered skatepark and is adjacent to a major sports arena, the Palais Omnisports, with a sitting capacity of 20,000.

PARC DE LA VILLETTE

The Parc de la Villette is a 37-acre / 55 hectares area that houses one of the largest concentration of cultural venues in Paris. These include the Cité des Sciences et de l’Industrie (City of Science and Industry, Europe’s largest science museum), three major concert venues, and the prestigious Conservatoire de Paris.
The park was designed by Bernard Tschumi, a French architect of Swiss origin, who built it from 1984 to 1987 in partnership with Colin Fournier, on the site of the huge Parisian abattoirs (slaughterhouses) and the national wholesale meat market, as part of an urban redevelopment project. He conceived thirty-five architectural “follies“ to give a sense of orientation to the visitors.
In architecture, a folly is a building constructed primarily as an ornament but suggesting through its appearance some other purpose. One can only imagine what a system of follies could do for a city like Los Angeles, to provide orientation within its vast urban grid. Since the creation of the park, museums, concert halls, and theatres have been designed by several noted contemporary architects, including Christian de Portzamparc, Jean Nouvel, Adrien Fainsilber, Philippe Chaix, Jean-Paul Morel, and Gérard Chamayou. These include City of Science and Industry, ]La Géode, an IMAX theatre inside of a 36-meter (118 ft) diameter geodesic dome; The City of Music, designed by Christian de Portzamparc which opened in 1995 and it includes also a museum of historical musical instruments with a concert hall, also home of the Conservatoire de Paris; the Philharmonie de Paris which opened in January 2015 designed by Jean Nouvel.

PROMENADE PLANTÉE

The Promenade plantée (also called Coulée Verte – “Green Stream”) is an extensive green belt that follows the old Vincennes railway line. Beginning just east of the Opéra Bastille with the elevated Viaduc des Arts, it follows a 4.7 km (2.9 mi) (2.9 mi) path to the Bois de Vincennes.
At its west end, near the Bastille, the parkway rises above the surrounding area and forms the Viaduc des Arts, over a line of shops featuring high quality and expensive arts and crafts. The shops are located in the arches of the formerly elevated railway viaduct.
The design was created by landscape architect Jacques Vergely and architect Philippe Mathieux. The Viaduc des Arts was designed by architect Patrik Berger, who also designed the recently completed Canopy of Les Halles.
The project is an ultimate example of “walking urbanity,” with multiple experiences along its path. It includes different types of gardens, it traverses existing buildings, it crosses boulevards. Twenty years later, Promenade Plantee inspired the now successful High Line in New York.

The creation of a humane urban quality does not depend only on the quality of a city’s buildings. The design quality of open public spaces, way beyond landscape architecture, is critical. It the demands imaginative long-term thinking accompanied by political vision and will.

Photo © Rick Meghiddo, 2018. All Rights Reserved.

As We Saw It – Part 2: Paris Builds Recently built: Louis Vuitton Foundation, Foundation Jérôme Seydoux-Pathé, New Palais de Justice, The Canopy of Les Halles

The four recently completed architectural works that accompany the documentary “Paris Builds” send powerful messages of what is possible to elevate the quality of life in the city.

Side View

Gehry’s Louis Vuitton Foundation is not only an architectural masterpiece and a new icon in a city where icons abound, but it also brings an example of what is possible to cover urban spaces, an alternative to Buckminster Fuller-like geodesic domes.

Renzo Piano’s Foundation Jérôme Seydoux-Pathé is a hidden gem that exemplifies what is possible in a small site surrounded by historic buildings.

Paris’ new Palais de Justice, also designed by Renzo Piano, responds to a very complex program – ninety new courtrooms built vertically – while confronting sustainability and the creation of new green spaces on roofs.

Also, the Canopy of Les Halles, designed by architects Patrick Berger and Jacques Anziutti, sensibly responds with daring technology to an urban place crossed daily by tens of thousands of people, in a historic location that Emile Zola called “The Belly of Paris.”

The Louis Vuitton Foundation

Commissioned by Bernard Arnault, head of the LVMH luxury brand empire, the complex houses his collection of modern and contemporary art and hosts temporary exhibitions. Built on public land with private funds, it will be given as a gift to the city in 55-years time.

Inserted in the middle of Bois de Boulogne’s woodland park, the building is an assemblage of white blocks, so-called “icebergs,” clad in panels of fiber-reinforced concrete, surrounded by twelve immense glass “sails” supported by wooden beams. The sails give Fondation Louis Vuitton its transparency and sense of movement while allowing the building to reflect the water, woods and garden, and continually change with the light.

The ground-level entrance hall is designed as an active social space, featuring a restaurant and bookstore. The ample, multi-purpose space directly adjacent to the entrance hall may be used as an auditorium accommodating 350 persons, an exhibition space, or an event venue.

The upper floors accommodate straightforward gallery spaces. Of the 11,000 m2 across which the building spreads, just 3,850 m2 are exhibition rooms. More than 3,600 glass panels and 19,000 concrete panels that form the façade were simulated using mathematical techniques and molded using advanced industrial robots, all automated from the shared 3D model. The new software was developed specifically for sharing and working with the complex design.

The structure of the glass roof allows the building to collect and reuse rainwater and improves its geothermal power. Besides, the Foundation has attained its overall goal to reach HQE (Haute Qualité Environmentale) certification noted as Très Performant. The steps taken to achieve this level of certification could be considered equivalent to LEED Gold.

The Foundation Jérôme Seydoux-Pathé

The new headquarters of the Fondation Jérôme Seydoux-Pathé, by architects from Renzo Piano Building Workshop, is an unexpected presence, a curved volume glimpsed floating in the middle of a courtyard, anchored on just a few supports. It is complemented by a group of birch trees, a floral island set in the dense mineral context of the city.

This “organic creature” is located in the courtyard of a 19th-century block that includes a complex of historical Hausmann-era buildings. This structure houses the headquarters of the Foundation Jerôme Seydoux-Pathé, a foundation dedicated to preserving the history of the French film company Pathè and to promote cinematography.

The 839 m2 headquarters are located in Paris’ 13th arrondissement and their construction has been completed in September 2014. The clever use of the site includes a main entrance on a restored and preserved facade along the Avenue des Gobelins which features sculptures by Auguste Rodin. This stone-made building is not only a historical landmark, but also an icon and symbol for the Gobelins area of Paris.

New Paris Palais de Justice

Since the Middle Ages, Parisian justice has been dispensed from the famous building that surrounds the Sainte-Chapelle on the Île de la Cité. However, over the years an increasing shortage of space has resulted in many good offices having to be located in a multitude of locations spread out over all four corners of the city. The new Paris law courts at the Porte de Clichy will enable the judicial institution’s courtrooms and offices to occupy the same building.

The new law courts stand 160 meters high, has an internal area of around 100,000 m2 and accommodates up to 8,000 people per day. The building’s facades are fully glazed. On the three blocks of the tower, fine blades extend the glazing beyond the facade, exalting its verticality. The building’s primary structure, robust and orthogonal, ensures flexibility over the long term that will be able to accommodate future requirements and any changes in the way the justice system operates.

In developing the scheme, the architects sought to reduce the apparent scale of the building by breaking it down into four volumes of decreasing size.

50 desks within the reception areas minimize visitor waiting time, while three atria ensure that space is filled with natural light. A system of vertical and horizontal circulation routes lead to the 90 courtrooms above. The subsequent three volumes, which contain around ten-story each, include offices and meeting rooms: the second is the domain of the magistrates, the third of the public prosecutor’s offices, and the fourth and final volume houses the presiding judges.

The stacked system results in large roof terraces — around a hectare in total — which have been landscaped and planted with trees and other vegetation. From an environmental standpoint, the project employs a range of strategies including the use of natural ventilation, the incorporation of photovoltaic panels on the façade, and the collection of rainwater.

The Canopy of Les Halles

The long-awaited cultural center and metro station created by architects Patrick Berger and Jacques Anziutti on the site of a historic Paris marketplace is now a new urban reality. The design at Les Halles is known as the Canopy due to its enormous umbrella-like glass roof, which comprises 18,000 pieces of glass supported by 7,000 tons of steel.

Construction on the €1bn (US$1.42bn) project, funded by the City of Paris, began ten years ago following several architecture competitions to choose a design popular with both politicians and the public.

The completed Canopy and the center below replaces a deeply unpopular concrete shopping complex – nicknamed ‘the hole of Les Halles’ – which was built in the place of the market’s original 19th-century glass and iron buildings designed by architect Victor Baltard. They were demolished in the 1970s in an act many critics have described as cultural vandalism.

The new center features shops and high-end retailers, some of which are located underground, and these combine with leisure facilities such as a new library, a conservatory for the arts and a hip-hop center, all underneath the 270,000sq ft (25,000 m2) roof – described by Berger as a “translucent envelope”.

Explaining the design, Berger said: “The shape, its spaces, and its materialization arise from a confrontation between the state of things and the emergence of new energy to Les Halles. “The Canopy is designed as a substance. The ceramic glass material means that light diffuses in the day and it becomes a chandelier at night. It’s also a shelter at an urban scale against the weather, protecting a global space where one can travel at all times and in all seasons. The morphology of the architecture is the result of a balance between the building’s program and its dynamic location.”

Sustainability, Vanguard Art and Pop Music Two Trailers and a Music Video Share Time and Space

One: My Green Journey Trailer (2:30)

Two: Jasper Johns and Vanguard Art Today Trailer (2:30)

Three: My Believer Music Video (3:21)

The connection of three short videos on sustainability, vanguard art an pop music is time and space. They were all three produced during May 2018;  all three share space here. Why?

The trailers and posters for My Green Journey (17:48) and for Jasper Johns and Vanguard Art Today (35:34) were done in connection with my submission to several film festivals, as part of the required press kit (both films on Vimeo Private for now). My Believer, a music video, was produced in connection with an advanced video editing class that I took at Golden West College.

  1. My Green Journey

This documentary is a brief “autobiography of a vision.” It tells of Ruth Meghiddo’s path from architecture to urban farming and shows how sustainability can be improved by using the principles of permaculture design. Combining earthy pragmatism with futuristic visions, she shows how her concepts of permaculture and eatable gardens within our habitat may help to transform the world we live in.

2. Jasper Johns and Vanguard Art Today

What was supposed to be a short video reporting on Jasper John’s exhibition at The Broad evolved into a short documentary that illustrates Johns’ path from being an unknown artist in New York during the 1950’s to becoming one of the leading artists during the 1960s and 1970s. My research lead to the questions “what is vanguard art today? Who are today’s Jasper Johns working within the present reality? Is there an equivalent in architecture?” The documentary tries to establish a link between one of the most important artists of the 1960s avant-garde, and some of today’s avant-garde artists in multiple disciplines and media: painting, sculpture, film, video-art, choreography, architecture. It provides a stimulant example for the young generation of artists.

3. My Believer

My Believer is an experimental music video, my first and so far only one covering this genre. It is the result of my explorations during an advanced video-editing class that I recently took at Golden West College, taught by Thien A. Pham, a professional editor.

A long story short. In taking care of my “continuous education” in filmmaking, I enrolled in the class during the Winter semester of 2018. There were about students, out of which I was one of the few older than twenty years old and the only one above the teacher’s age. During the classes, we reviewed films’ techniques and special effects, and edited trailers, commercials, and segments of feature movies. Thien A. Pham, originally from Viet Nam, also gave us some insight on Chinese and South Korean filmmaking, which rarely reaches the American Public.

One of the assignments was to edit a music video. We were given the original music of “Believer,” created by Imagine Dragons, and also some clips produced by Adam Henderson, winner of the Adobe Creative Cloud’s Grand Prize.  We were asked to re-edit the visuals freely while covering the entire original recording. Although neither the music nor many of the clips on violence were “my cup of tea,” I took the opportunity to experiment.

Advanced Video Editing Class “selfie” by Thien A. Pham. May 22, 2018.

'>Jasper Johns in L.A. and Vanguard Art Today Who are today's Jasper Johns? What is really 'avant-garde' today in art and architecture?

 

Jasper Johns’ exhibition at The Broad, titled “Something Resembling Truth,” is revealing. It illustrates the integrity of a life-long research and provides a stimulant example to the young generation. At a time when art flows in all directions without clear distinction and criteria between serious or trivial, committed or casual, Johns shows us how one can be an explorer of meaning and forms of expression without falling into platitude. The documentary tries to establish a link between one of the most important artists of the 1960s avant-garde, and some of today’s avant-garde artists in multiple disciplines and media: painting, sculpture, film, video-art, choreography, architecture. 

The show raises some questions: What is really ‘avant-garde’ today? Who are today’s Jasper Johns? Are there any ‘Leo Castelli-like” art dealers around? Are today’s architects connected to the art scene, and artists connected to architecture?

Fast backward: the display triggered some memories. During the late 1960s we were students of architecture in Rome. Since the National Academy of Modern Art was next door to our school, we visited it frequently. The Gallery’s director, Palma Bucarelli, was a strenuous promoter of Abstract Expressionists as well as Neo-Dada, Pop, Minimalist and Conceptualist artists. It was during that time when we first came across some of Jasper Johns’ paintings.

In parallel, while working as apprentices at the studio of architect Luigi Pellegrin, we listened to time and again his insights on the new American art. Opening a publication illustrating contemporary American art, he would say “Look at this well: it is acid, it is crude, it is purposefully not-finished. It reflects our time.” The design of his house in via Aurelia carried some of these attributes.

When we traveled to the United States to visit and photograph Frank Lloyd Wright’s architecture across the country, we started our trip in New York. It was 1971, and we were in our twenties. At the time, Soho was the epicenter of contemporary art. Leo Castelli had just opened two branches of his gallery on 77th street, one on the second floor of 420 West Broadway, and an even larger one at 142 Greene Street. It was there we saw newer works of Jasper Johns, along with those of several vanguard artists of the time: Frank Stella, James Rosenquist, Roy Lichtenstein, Andy Warhol, Bruce Nauman, Sol LeWitt.

A month later, when having a private stopover at Phillip Johnson’s glass house in New Canaan, we visited, within his estate, Johnson’s ‘buried’ panting gallery and his underground sculpture gallery. They both contained multiple masterpieces of contemporary art.

Did we see any reflection of the art-of-the-times in architecture? Wright was out of all trends. The architecture of the establishment  “didn’t talk” to the on-going art vanguard. A rare exception was John Johansen’s Mummers Theater in Oklahoma City, built in 1970, outrageously demolished in 2014. Bruce Goff and Herb Green’s architecture were in-between organic and dissonant.

Fast forward to the present. The Broad exhibition of over one hundred Jasper Johns’ works, spanning sixty years of his career, is not a retrospective.  Works from different decades and in various media have been curated thematically, to demonstrate Johns’ career-long preoccupations.

And today? Art is breaking away from the confines of museums and art galleries. Perhaps the more strident example street art is the work of JR, which surpasses in scope that of Christo. He is not alone. There is a good number of forefront artists breaking new ground in film, video art, dance, sculpture, painting, music.

And in architecture? It is a tough call. Gehry led the way to liberate architects’ forms of expression, but the results come with many question marks about their social content. There seems to be an infatuation with the endless possibilities offered by new 3-D technology, but is… are these result also socially responsible?

'>Tangoing with Paul & Amigos A personal spinoff of Paul McCarthy's exhibition at the Hauser & Wirth Gallery in LA's downtown Art District

“Impacting” is what first comes to mind when visiting Paul McCarthy’s wood sculpture exhibition at the Hauser & Wirth Gallery in LA’s downtown Arts District.

The combination of crafted wood at a large scale and the integration of a Baroque language speaking a surrealistic critique of the contemporary world signals an art mutation
McCarthy titled his works “WS Spinoffs,” ”Wood Statues” and “Brown Rothkos.” The word “spinoff” is precise. In media, a spinoff is a radio or television program, film, or any narrative work, derived from one or more already existing works, that focuses in more detail on one aspect of an original work. In this case, the Snow White tale and Rothko’s paintings.
The gallery’s website includes a well-written description of McCarthy’s show, and also an 8-minute video presentation by Donatien Grau. See: https://www.hauserwirthlosangeles.com/exhibitions/paul-mccarthy-20170701
My reaction to the exhibition was more visceral than intellectual and so is my short documentary, “Tangoing with Paul & Amigos.” I made a sort of non-scripted “spinoff” that includes free association with like-minded artists and some memories from my Argentinean upbringing. The tango music is a metaphor of a dynamic nonlinear fluidity.
I tried to imagine the statues made out of white marble. The conflicts, sarcasms and subtleties they contain would become more evident, such as Bernini’s positioning the “Rio de la Plata River” sculpture in Piazza Navona as fearing that the facade of Borromini’s church of Sant’Agnese would crumble over him. Yet McCarthy’s choice of dark walnut wood is intentional. It makes harder to see the thematic at first sight. The eye is caught first by the craftsmanship and by the large scale as macro-layers of a complex composition.
Four Rivers Fountain, Piazza Navona, Rome

Bernini’s Four Rivers Fountain, Piazza Navona, Rome

The abstraction of the hanging Brown Rothkos, made of foam and sprayable polyurethane coating, resemble melting lava and brings a powerful contrast to the statues. They are both at an architectural scale.
Bown Rothkos

Brown Rothkos with Rothkos

Snow White Sculpture

Snow White Sculpture

Paul McCarthty

Paul McCarthy