Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Champagne for pale blue eyes

3 May 2008

This may be an odd place to pick up my blogging quiver again; but then I only choose where I begin again, not where I leave off. Looking at my notes, I see a couple of half-edited post-Armory posts that never quite made it up which I may dust off and inset somewhere here another time. But I prefer to look ahead – or back only as far as the night or week-end just past (assuming the standard complement of libations, can anyone really be trusted to do more with any accuracy?).

Anyway I’ll spare you the details regarding my post-Armory virus – which in any case didn’t entirely stop me from going out [highlights – filtered through my feverish haze: the stunning LACMA Phantom Sightings show; not unrelated – Danny Jauregui’s show last week-end at Acuna-Hansen; an enthusiasm for Tim Ebner’s new paintings at Rosamund Felsen (which needs re-visiting post-fever); Martin Scorsese’s film of The Rolling Stones’ 2006 Beacon Theatre concert, Shine A Light].

So – just when you thought I’d had enough fairs for one season (or four) – last night, I found myself at the Modernism Show at the Santa Monica Civic – really not the most unlikely place for me to be. My apartment is a shambles; and I’m finally taking some serious steps towards renovation and redecoration. Of course I’m starting (logically or no) with re-hanging the art (always the most important thing for me, if not the most rational procedure; I know I’ll probably end up re-hanging it again). The second and third steps involve calling 1-800-GOT-JUNK and an industrial cleaning crew (they usually show up in full haz-mat regalia, ready for everything from bubonic plague to plutonium contamination, which for all I know may be present – gee, as if my DNA needed fresh damage). Anyway, I could use a new credenza, lamps, lamp tables, nightstands, rugs, etc., etc. (Though I could probably buy myself off with a nice cocktail shaker or bangle.) I was joined for the evening by one of my bi-coastal pals, Big-Penn, who, by contrast, has been on the prowl for iconic architectural properties. (If you think the market is depressed for these properties, think again. Neutra’s iconic Kaufmann house in Palm Springs, which is being sold at Christie’s contemporary sale on the 13th is expected – as many other art works to be sold that evening are – to fetch a record price.)

And so I headed straight for the art. Okay – not really – it’s just that the perimeters of these fairs (and not just Modernism or other decorative arts markets) tend to favor, if not fine art necessarily, at the very least graphic arts and prints (the splashier the better) and/or printed matter (art, shelter books and magazines and the like). So while Big-Penn seriously mulled over the very handsome pastel and pencil drawings, architectural renderings, and sketches of, among other things, iconic Neutra houses, at Edward Cella, I was diverted by the vintage movie posters (and an old acquaintance) at Walter Reuben, including a stunning Italian poster for the Leone/Grimaldi/UA Il Buono, il brutto, e il cattivo (very different emphasis from the American version which distinctly plays up Eastwood’s “Buono”), a Japanese poster for the DeLaurentiis/Paramount/Vadim Barbarella, which anticipates the craze-to-come for anime, and the psychidelic, eye-popping image for a poster for Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey, once intended to merely paper vacant walls and construction sites and now fetching a whopping $16,000. (Wonder what the poster for Buñuel’s Belle de Jour would fetch.) This is really not such a stretch for me: I collected movie posters long before I collected fine art (and – to judge from current market prices – apparently sold some of my best for a song), and still have several hanging alongside the paintings and drawings at home. (Hey – DNA is a powerful thing, even when it’s all messed up.) Big-Penn and I both noted a certain amount of fashion (and Hollywood-style glamour) photography about (including at Cella) – but there was something distinctly – I’m inclined to say, almost deliberately – unengaging about a lot of it – as opposed to what was exhibited, say, at photoLA. (Has there been a mood shift about mid-century American style photography?) By contrast, one of the most charming and thoroughly engaging of the booths was that of Vintage European Posters (Oakland), whose staff made a brilliant stand-up show of their truly magnificent vintage travel/tourism, arts and advertising posters. It was Champagne for the eyes and (in lieu of Cortina, Zermatt, Davos, Basel???), I really needed it.

So much of what catches one’s eyes at fairs like these are what might be called jewellery for the walls, ceilings, tables, etc. – and in between the jewellery was some actual jewellery that doubled as art: specifically pieces by, among others, Calder, Gabo, Rickey and Louise Bourgeois on display at Didier Antiques (London); also beautiful pieces (especially earrings – I tried on a fabulous gold and enamel pair that were beyond reasonable) at, among others, Kimberly Klostermann (Cincinnati), Summerfield Stanton, and Linda Goldberg (Beverly Hills). The real household jewellery was abundantly on display at Greg Nanamura (New York), who showed a magnificent Curtis Jere chandelier that looked like cascades of corroding metallic stalagmites in patinaed bronze and a beautiful scattering of patinaed brass disks, knobs and roundels (“Raindrops”) intended to decorate a wall. And there was that credenza and lamps I needed – bases that looked like Chinese characters with trapezoid shades flanking a slender chrome mirror on the perfect black credenza. (And more earrings to covet: a salesperson modeled a fantastic pair of Lucite drops by Monies (Copenhagen).)

Habite (San Francisco) showed a beautiful, almost Irwin-esque mirror – a chrome edged, beveled glass circle set slightly off-center onto a larger disk of pale blue glass – a pale blue eye poised not only to reflect, but to spring back into one’s eye – by Fontana Arte. (They are opening a store on La Brea here in L.A.) I wanted to linger on – but I kept losing Big-Penn who goes through these things like a shark.

We ended up at Bridges Over Time (Newburgh, New York), where I was admiring a beautiful, streamlined sculpted chaise and Big-Penn (between the shmooze) had his eye on a striking Wesselman-esque pattern study. Ed and Betty Koren made the space feel like a cozy living room in a house on the Hudson (or maybe New Canaan) and I didn’t think Big-Penn was going to be able to drag himself away without the Wesselman wanna-be (or myself, for that matter, without a beautiful, slender Italian brass tripod torchiere), but to my amazement, he did; and we proceeded to a very Dolce Vita (another movie poster I once owned) scene in John Baldessari’s neighborhood.

Aside from what I personally coveted, what lingers on (in addition to that Irwin-esque “pale blue eye”) is the art. In addition to the abundance of fine art lithography and prints, there were a couple of truly outstanding paintings (at prices commensurate with their value), including a truly magnificent Albert Gleizes Cubist figurative abstraction at Trigg-Ison (who put on that amazing Masson show last fall), and a marvelous painting by Bay Area figurative abstractionist Bruce McGaw, “Chemical Plant by Freeway, Emeryville” at Dennis Clark Fine Arts (Carmel). Either one would be a significant expenditure (the McGaw, for example was $125,000); but given the overheated auction market, might be considered an extremely reasonable investment for the pleasure alone.

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