This posting will continue my reporting on what I saw and did in Paris last November as well as catch you up on what I’ve seen lately. To review, the purpose of the Paris trip was for my husband, photographer Bill Westheimer to attend Paris Photo 2015 at the Grand Palais. I was along for the ride. I love looking at art. I love critiquing art. I love learning about art. I love meeting fellow artists and when it comes to international creative events such as these, I love the people watching. Its where art, fashion and artists collide.
In my opinion, there was no better location than Paris, no better venue than the Grand Palais to hold this event. It was as if all the images displayed were slides tucked inside an enormous glass and green steel jewel box. The structure itself was worth the visit. I have been told, more than once by Bill, that the purpose of the visit was reconnaissance- for him to see what is out there and who is representing it; to make lists for future reference. It was NOT the time and place to shop work. Ok. Got it. Message received. I would keep my eyes and ears open and my mouth shut. We went twice: once to breeze through, say hello to a few friends working in the booths and get a lay of the land. The second trip would be a longer more day long affair, going from booth to booth, taking notes and gathering info.
To execute this feat I realized I needed something to do, some sort of individual purpose other than being the supportive spouse to keep me occupied, engaged and quiet. So I bought a notebook and a pen and I set about reviewing the work, the space, the food and what people were wearing, like an undercover reporter for a lets pretend magazine. In addition to planning the activity it was also necessary to plan attire. My very first entry in my Paris Photo notebook was:
How to attend an all day exposition:
-Dress in layers: wear comfortable shoes & clothing; carry a light weight shoulder bag to put things in and hang things from, like jackets and scarves;
–Immediately locate and use the bathroom;
-Put some cash in your pockets (wear clothing with lots and lots of pockets)
-Carry a cellphone, pen and little notebook.
-Keep your mouth shut if the reason you are here is for someone else;
-Carry lots of business cards in case you are here for YOU;
-Eat a good breakfast that will give you energy and not slow you down;
-Dress stylishly; to be noticed, in case you get separated from your party; (it pays to be tall by birth but alas I am not)
-Pick a meeting point and a time to meet your friends in case you get separated (meet you by the food every hour;)
-find a place to sit the minute you get cranky (this is important;)
-Don’t try to make dinner plans with every person you run into that you know;
-Try not to get jealous of the success of others on exhibit and don’t come from a place of low self esteem;
–Don’t monopolize the time of your friends working the booths;
-Network over lunch;
-Drink alot of caffeine;
-Don’t start drinking until early evening;
Thus dressed, fortified, informed and debriefed I made my way around the exhibits. Here are comments I made in my notebook: NOTE: My comments will appear in italics
Polka Gallery, Paris, booth A52
It’s hard for me to view photos like these because I want to know the story behind each one and they aren’t there, they’re just works of art;
Grids of photos: Bruno Roels (A palm tree is a palm tree is a palm tree)
Appropriation: Sherrie Levine: “After Man Ray Man and a Woman 2005”
Man Ray’s photo of a nude descending a staircase by DuChamp, 1920.
Delphine Balley- staged murder scenes “Les Choses de la Vie” at Suzanne Tarasiere booth C37
My favorite and I don’t know why:
Garry Fabian Miller
Katarzyna Mircsak (Polish) “Tools of the Crime Series, 2012″ at Eric Franck Fine Art booth C40
It was an amazing couple of days and we were so glad we went. Going to Paris for Paris Photo has always been a dream, and all of a sudden it was a wonderful reality. Ironically, we were there on November 12, 2015, the day before the shootings and bombings in the Bataclan and in the cafes, where many young spirited fun loving people had their lives cut short for no better reason than they were out living their lives in the wrong place at the wrong time. Ironically even more, since I remember feeling so free and so spirited at the event, thinking to myself, “isn’t it wonderful that we can be out in large venues again without fear of terrorism?” Oh my. Like all other public venues in Paris that terrible day, Paris Photo was shuttered and closed early.
February, 2016- my first visit to the new Whitney Museum of Art, New York City
If you know me you know I am not really a fan of the Whitney. I never liked the architecture of its original location on Madison Avenue. I tried, I really tried to like the artwork they have presented over the years. I give them points for exhibiting works by Marilyn Minter, and I never tire of seeing Calder’s Circus, but everything else usually annoys or confuses me, and it’s one of those deals where they actually want you to feel that way. Whatever. The Whitney is one of the few museums in New York City where I don’t have an annual membership. I rather choose to get in free by flashing my museum employee id from the Montclair Art Museum where I teach. This magical perk is a thrill. So far I’ve gotten in everywhere except The National Museum of Play in Rochester, NY (the nerve!) and the Denver Botanic Garden (even though the employees thought I should as they sadly made me pay.)
So when the Whitney moved downtown into a new light and airy structure with outdoor terraces on every floor with a killer view in all directions, designed by Renzo Piano, while flashing my employee id I gave going there another chance.
At least Calder’s Circus was still there, this time given a place of pride front and center instead of being tucked into a hard to access mezzanine like at the old location.
We started at the top floor and worked our way down, beginning with an exhibition of works by Laura Poitras: Astro Noise. To preface, I try to be as objective as possible in consuming another artist’s work. I realize that a strong negative reaction is just as successful as a positive one; artwork is not made with the sole purpose of making the viewer smile or feel loved. Rather, a very important part of making art is to bring difficult subjects often swept under rugs out into the open and visible to the masses. A critique of the exhibit by me would not be fair as my reaction to it is strongly subjective as the artist is delving into the surveillance, interrogation and wrenching cultural shifts brought about by the attacks on September 11, 2001. Having seen the second plane slam into the World Trade Center from my seat on the commuter train then being in lower Manhattan as the towers fell, smelling the burning, hearing the screams, seeing people covered with ash running for their lives, then being evacuated to New Jersey are forever seared into my psyche. They are now part of my DNA, like it or not. Anytime I view or experience video footage, audio clips, photographic montage of that day bring on horrific nightmares, so I need to consciously avoid venues like this. So, after viewing a couple light boxes in Disposition Matrix, I waited for Bill in the hall.
I must say that most works on the lower floors blurred one into another, except for a fabulous abstract film I enjoyed enormously entitled, Synchromy #4 Escape by Mary Ellen Bute which she made in the 1930’s. It is an abstract cartoon set to classical music. Just a few squiggles, lines and a few geometric shapes in primary colors on a black background dancing to the music. I loved it. Having been raised on Disney’s Fantasia, it’s just what I see in my head when I hear classical music. The rest of the floors were kind of a bust for me. There’s just so many times I want to see a Jeff Koons. Don’t even get me started on the art of the 1990’s. I just don’t see the point of it, other than the fact that is coincided with the commodification of art and the market was suddenly driven by investors looking to make a buck rather than a collector wanting something of aesthetic value. But hope springs eternal, I like DuChamp’s Fountain don’t I?