Friday, November 19, 2010

New Math by Craig Damrauer

"Yeah, but you didn't." I can't count how many times I've stopped myself from saying something like that to those mumblers in museums! Craig Damraurer has done a number of prints like this one in a series called New Math. "Modern Art" takes the cake.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Hungarian Artist- Roommates, Chez Serge & Murakami at Versailles

For the past month, I've been lucky enough to share a gorgeous apartment in the 7th arrondissement on Boulevard Saint-Germain and Rue du Bac (belonging to an American businessman-turned-artist, Giorgio, whose lovely paintings, photographs and sketches adorn every wall) with Ariel, a friend from childhood also studying here in Paris at La Sorbonne, and a Hungarian painter/photographer, Lili Kisteleki. I thought I'd take a moment to appreciate the randomness of our colocation and also the beauty and depth of her artwork (not to mention her incredible cooking skills!!). Lili had two friends, also Hungarian artists, staying with us a few weeks, Babos Bertalan Szili and Lena Kùt. Szili creates incredibly detailed, colorful drawings and paintings, mainly of faces juxtaposed with other objects, while Lena's specialty is performance art (at their exhibition at Place des Vosges, which we attended a few weeks back, she unveiled a video piece of herself being splashed repeatedly with different colors of paint, in slow motion, against a bleak desert landscape). A few of Lili's pieces:

this piece, which is actually gigantic in real life, is ironically leaned against the wall across from me as I type:

And two pieces that Lili and Szili collaborated on, which currently live in the apartment as well:

It's been great getting to know Lili, Szili and Lena, and being in such close proximity with their artwork. Check out Szili's work on his website:

I've also discovered that I'm living right around the corner from late Parisian musical genius Serge Gainsbourg's old house on the Rue de Verneuil. (Side note: literally every time I wear my lace-up patent leather Repetto jazz shoes, at least one French boy compliments me on them, then reminds me that Serge used to wear them). Much like Oscar Wilde's grave, the house is covered in graffiti of the most loving kind-- which changes daily-- sketches of Serge and Jane Birkin, lipstick marks, song lyrics, lovers' initials.

Lastly, yesterday I paid a visit to the Château de Versailles with a few friends to see the Takashi Murakami installation. I've always had slightly mixed feelings about Murakami's work-- his colorful plastic animé sculptures hinge on kitsch and, in my opinion, don't offer a great deal of originality-- but it was interesting to see such utterly contemporary works set against the sweeping bay windows, marble statues, ancient ceiling tableaus, chandeliers and gold filigree of the Galerie des Glaces. You can see what I mean in the following pictures:

though most of the pieces in the exhibit explored the bounds of irony and juxtaposition, this piece worked a little better in my opinion, as Murakami completely outfitted the entire room in his (slightly creepy) grinning-rainbow-flower motif (notice the carpet?)

closeup on the lantern from the last shot

Suffice it to say that even though the weather has been absolutely horrendous for the past two weeks (nonstop pouring rain and wind), having all of this incredible art at my fingertips has lessened that concern!

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Paris Hodgepodge: Yeasayer at Le Bataclan, French "Halloween," & Pigeons

It's been a crazy few weeks. Midterms muddled with concerts, apartment-hunting, watching Guillaume Canet's
Les Petits Mouchoirs without subtitles (a daunting feat), discovering the discreet charm of the Passy bourgeoisie, inhaling wonderful new scents on the métro, witnessing more than a few grèves (strikes), learning new French slang-- for example, "c'est ta vie, mec" (it's your life, dude) is apparently a slightly kinder way to blow off a French guy than "ta gueule" (shut your fucking face) or "plutôt crever" (I'd rather die), etc. First of all, I finally got to see Yeasayer again! The last time I saw them was two years ago, at a slightly awkward, seated concert at NYU's Skirball Center. I can only surmise that it was before they had achieved a great deal of mainstream recognition, because everyone just sort of sat there and nodded their heads. To my great dismay, I missed them at Coachella this year... and so when I heard they were playing at legendary Parisian theatre and concert hall Le Bataclan, I was obviously ecstatic. This show was much different from the seated head-nodding ordeal at Skirball. Same eclectic electro-meets-world-music style, different phenomenal light show-- and people were actually dancing! And singing along! And cheering! Quelle surprise... Although we arrived a bit late (apparently, Parisian concerts start on time, unlike everything else here...) and missed Suckers, the opening band (who are actually great, download Beach Queen if you don't know them), we made our way to the front of the crowd and danced ourselves silly.

Next order of business: Halloween. Anyone who's lived in New York in the fall will agree with me when I say that New Yorkers don't mess around when it comes to Halloween. Parades, costumes, haunted houses, all-night, all-weekend parties, candy, fake blood, streamers & TP... Alors, malheureusement, c'est pas la même chose à Paris. Halloween fell on a Sunday, which is a bit of a buzzkill on its own... and I cannot say that I saw one person dressed up on the street the entire day! In fact (as is the norm on Sundays in France) there was barely anyone on the streets. Yet, Halloween being my absolute favorite holiday, I would not be deterred. After a slightly eerie afternoon romp in Père Lachaise cemetery (complete with cobblestone malfunctions and visits to the famed graves of Jim Morrison, Édith Piaf and Oscar Wilde), we made our way home. Though I hadn't planned out a costume as I usually do, I rifled through my suitcases and found all the necessary accoutrements to transform myself into the one, the only super-kla$$y all-American pop princess Ke$ha. Glitter, ripped tights, feather earring, half-dreadlocks, studded converse and all... in fact I was a little ashamed to discover that I could easily find everything she wears among my clothing. With two slightly less-conspicuously clad friends, I ventured out to a French friend's Halloween gathering. Though I was definitely the most dressed-up of the bunch, and I desperately missed my usual American-style Halloween bacchanalia, we did have a great time dancing and drinking and drawing/tagging/painting on the walls of the apartment we were in (it was being remodeled, so we had permission!).

leaves changing in Père Lachaise

sunset on Halloween night

Oscar Wilde's tombstone, covered in lipstick kisses

I guess this feels a little bit Halloween-y?

And now for something completely different to end this hodgepodge of an entry: I have noticed that pigeons in Paris have completely different personalities than those in New York. They are incredibly and almost freakishly bold around humans (sort of like the squirrels in Washington Square Park), and not only do they walk verrrrryyyy slowwwwlyyyy (like most Parisians, at least compared to New Yorkers), but they don't move skittishly out of your way when you walk towards them like American pigeons do. Also they have no problem flying directly at people, or dive-bombing people (I've seen it happen on countless occasions). My favorite Parisian pigeon incident was when one of the lovely little creatures found its way into Paul, a boulangerie/pâtisserie, and neatly wedged itself among the pain-au-chocolats and tartes aux pommes sitting in the window. Of course, as we American girls squealed and gasped by the entrance, the boulanger calmly grabbed the pigeon with both hands and showed it to the door, then (thankfully) tossed out the soiled pastries. Needless to say, that's the last time I'll be eating anything that appears in the window of Paul.