Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Valencia does Calatrava in a BIG way!

Valencia is on the Mediterranean Sea on the east coast of Spain. Milwaukee is on Lake Michigan on the east coast of Wisconsin. Valencia and Milwaukee, with metropolitan areas of about 1.5 million, are approximately the same size. Aside from those two facts, the two cities have almost nothing in common. Oh, except we do have Calatrava.

The difference is, while Milwaukee is justifiably proud of its iconic Calatrava-designed art museum, the suite of buildings that world-renowned architect designed for his home town make our single structure look downright puny. Yes, there are people in the photo of the Science Museum above to give it scale, though you'll have to look closely. The Milwaukee Art Museum's Calatrava wing could fit inside this building--with its wings open--and there would still be room to spare. But wait! There are four more buildings in what is known as the City of Arts and Sciences--along with two bridges.

The opera house (above) looks like some kind of alien spaceship out of Star Trek has landed in this medieval city. In fact, nothing in Valencia--or pretty much anywhere else--prepares the unsuspecting visitor who happens upon this futuristic assemblage of structures. Allow me to take you on a tour...

Panoramic view with the Planetarium in the left foreground and the double arcade called L'Umbracle on the right.

The Agora, a concert and exhibition hall, seen here through the cable stays of one of two Calatrava bridges that cross over the complex, which is in a park setting that is below the surrounding city.

The dome of the Planetarium seen from the promenade of L'Umbracle.

The open arcade of of L'Umbracle, which sits atop a parking garage, is a rigorously ordered botanical garden...

...and the promenade doubles as a showcase for contemporary sculpture. The installation on view when I was there was by an artist named Rogério Timóteo. Behind the sculpture you can see (left to right) the Science Museum the Agora and the asymmetrical cable-stayed bridge.

L'Umbracle at dusk.

The Science Museum after dark.

And the opera house... whew! I was there and it's still hard to believe it's real.

Stay tuned. These Calatravas in Valencia were spectacular, but Barcelona has Gaudí. I'll show you those soon.

Meanwhile, if you missed my review of the Miró Museum, click here.

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

A visit to the Joan Miró museum in Barcelona

Galatea, 1976
 As a young man Joan Miró adopted a highly personal style within the extended family of Surrealism and an anti-bourgeous attitude characteristic of his time and artistic calling. In 1968, when he was 75, he established a foundation that would build an architectural monument dedicated to his work. The clean white Modernist museum stands on Montjuïc, a mountainside overlooking his native city of Barcelona. His attitude towards society may have shifted, but the collection housed in the museum demonstrates that his distinctive style remained largely consistent throughout his life.

Painting (for Emili Fernández Miró), 1963
Miró's idiosyncratic manner of working has been called "a sandbox for the subconscious mind." His childlike forms have appealed to me for as long as I've known about him. When I had the great fortune to visit Barcelona recently the Fundació Joan Miró, Centre d'Estudis d'Art Contemporani (Catalan for Joan Miró Foundation, Centre of Studies of Contemporary Art) was one of my primary destinations. I was not disappointed.

The permanent collection includes works from throughout his long career (he lived a cool 90 years, from 1893 to 1983), and although he is among my favorite artists whose famous works are quite familiar, most of the paintings and sculptures on display were new to me. A lovely opportunity! Here I share a selection, just a small fraction of what can be seen at the museum.
Village and Church of Mont-roig, 1919
This early painting is done in what is called his "detailist" style, which was influenced by primitive and Japanese art, according to the wall label.

This one, from 1935, is titled "Man and woman in front of a pile of excrement" just in case, I suppose, you might not catch that detail. It is from a series known as the "savage paintings."

 Most of the early work is modest in size but later paintings and sculptures assume a much larger scale. A few vertical ones, such as "Woman, Bird 1" (below) and one of his monumental tapestries (that I didn't manage to capture on my iPhone) take up entire high ceilinged rooms.

The rooftop provides ample space for sculptures as well as panoramic views of the city below.

This triptych, mounted in an alcove, is titled "Painting on a white background for the cell of a recluse, I, II, III" (1968). The wall panel explains that the alcove reproduces the placement of the triptychs in the artist's studio and quotes Miró: "To me conquering freedom means conquering simplicity. At the very limit, then, one line, one color can make a painting."

Burnt Canvas 1, 1973
The wall panel accompanying this painting, the first of a series of canvases Miró attacked with a blowtorch, claims that he was trying to "taunt the art market." In all four languages used throughout the museum on its labels someone had written in pencil on the wall next to the panel, "It is easier to taunt it when one's position is either safe or desperate. The rest are in far more complex positions."

While the majority of work on view is by Miró himself, there are others as well. This complex temporary installation is in a gallery devoted to contemporary artists. It is titled: Plural Being. I am the Others, the Others are Me by artists identified as Momu & No Es.

Of it the website says this: "Plural Being. I am the Others, the Others are Me reflects the constant search for calm in a hectic society. Through a theme park scenario, the exhibition attempts to answer a series of questions about the times we live in, the things we yearn for, and the rewards we expect in return for our day-to-day efforts.

"Momu & No Es present a new installation that recreates a phantomscape through a series of sculptural elements, mantric sounds, suspended images and performative elements that plunge visitors into a space of sublimation and estrangement. A reflection on personal space and on the body as testing ground that questions the human condition in a hyperconnected era."

Woman, Bird 1, 1973

Other sights and scenes from my visit to Spain--including La Sagrada Familia and several other amazing feats of architecture by Gaudí--can be see on Flickr.