Friday, May 01, 2009

Cast in Bronze and Brooklyn

Having an unexpected hour to spare, before the Chin Music reading, I walked over to the Met, and wandered into the exhibition "Cast in Bronze: French Sculpture from Renaissance to Revolution." My instinct is to prefer marble to bronze as sculptural material. Marble is as pure as bronze is fussy. Stone, to my mind, is more organic than tin. Marble is to sculptor as metal is to engineer. Bronze, an alloy of tin and copper, was expensive during the period under consideration, and so brass was a frequent substitute. Many of the works were made using the "lose-wax" method. Different patinations were used, but a rich dark patina came to be preferred later in the French tradition. 

I like very much a bronze statuette of Hermes by Barthelemy Prieur (Berzieux, ca. 1536-Paris, 1611). The head, body and arms are tilted in opposing yet harmonious directions, as the god plays his missing flute. The French excelled in dramatic set pieces and seemed particularly enthralled by rape scenes. (Many examples of Pluto kidnapping Proserpine.) The set pieces looked simultaneously over-wrought and cool. There were funereal statuary, many busts of kings and nobles, more gods and goddesses, and a few examples of contemporary people, such as a woman milking a cow, which I rather like. The other work that drew me in stood near the end of the exhibition. It was a figure of "Winter," and I cannot remember the name of the sculptor. Winter covers her head and shoulders with a shawl, leaving her buttocks exposed. The simplicity of line is terrifically sensual. The sculptor withdrew his work from an exhibition when the organizers wanted to confine the blatant sexuality to a corner. 

I had a little more time, and wandered over to the European paintings. Matisse's "The Three O'Clock Sitting" was recently acquired by the Met. The artist painted his model-turned-student who is herself painting a female model. A small sculpture of a woman reclines at the top of the armoire. Between the student-painter and the woman model opens the Matisse window to the sea and sailboat. The top of a palm tree (a paintbrush?) could just be seen at the bottom of the window. Wallpaper with a North African design, and a carpet tilting perilously towards the viewer complete the room of the painting. 

I also saw Monet's sunflowers, which Gauguin compared unfavorably to van Gogh's. The latter disagreed with him. I like Monet's chrysanthemums even more than I like his sunflowers. The look of the flowers and the look of the style are so close that they reach the pitch of perfection. I must go again to see it.

The Chin Music reading, in Brooklyn's Pacific Standard Bar, was disappointing to me. I did not feel the kind of warmth I usually get from readings at my usual venues. Is it because they don't like the poems? not enthusiastic about gay sex? cold fish? I did not sell a single copy of Payday Loans, nor get any advance order for Equal to the Earth. The one bright spot of the evening was talking to Martin Rock, one of the readers, who was friendly, smart and cute. 

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