Every two weeks, Critical Mass will feature one Philly love note in its collaboration with blogger Emma Fried-Cassorla of phillylovenotes.com.
LOVE NOTE RECIPIENT: Duchamp's Étant donnés (Given: 1 The Waterfall, 2. The Illuminating Gas, French: Étant donnés: 1° la chute d'eau / 2° le gaz d'éclairage) in the Philadelphia Museum of Art.
I AM: Scientist, artist, sometimes writer about science and art, distractable weirdo, slowsee-er
MY LOVE NOTE:
Dear Duchamp's Étant donnés,
Probably what I love about this piece is its hidden badassery. Duchamp, obviously was a complete badass, and he gave up the art world (somehow convincing everyone he had devoted his life to chess), to work on Étant donnés. He worked on it in semi-secret, maintaining the chess charade, for decades, (1946-66), and it wasn't unveiled until after his death.
So it is a secret piece and he made it for itself, and never had to confront a critical reception to it, though he did make it to be on display at the PMA. And obviously, looking at it — you realize that it's the work of someone completely obsessed. There is something weirdly tangible about that kind of stalker-y intense love produced in making something while obsessed by it and this piece, which I called "fucking-crazy-secret-naked-dead-waterfall" when I first saw it — and Étant donnés totally has it.
I stumbled on it in 2005. I knew about it, but somehow didn't realize it was at the PMA till my mom (my mom! of all people!) took me into this secret back room in the Duchamp section (thanks to Anne d'Harnoncourt the museum has one of the best Duchamp collections in the world) and pointed me to this mysterious door with strange peepholes ... and ... well, just total weirdness. One person at a time has to peep through the door, and of course you are instantly trapped in this bonkers voyeuristic scene. OK, so there's the mysterious Laura Palmer-y nude (there is a rip near her belly, btw. Check it out, poor thing), but the whole tableau is so weirdly composed and unbent at the same time: the landscape, the perfect, glitttery waterfall, the upraised lantern. It's so still, but it just seems like it's going to degenerate into chaos at any minute. The whole scene is full of untold stories. I don't know what to say. It's strange and brilliant and secret and it was made for here. This thing is a fucking treasure! I love you, Étant donnés.
Love, Alison Dell
P.S. The world should know that the PMA's upcoming "Dancing Around the Bride," celebrating Duchamp's influence on John Cage, Merce Cunnungham, Jasper Johns and Robert Rauchenberg, is going to be pretty great. It opens October 30.
Have a favorite spot you'd like to write a love note to? Send it to the author at firstname.lastname@example.org.
This past weekend, the Academy of Natural Sciences hosted their fifth Bugfest, a kid-filled but all-ages-welcome event filled with live critters, informational talks, insect-related crafting, beetle pining and chocolate-chip cricket cookie eating, among other activities.
This year's theme was butterflies, so cases and cages of monarchs, swallowtails and the like filled the museum's rooms. Curatorial assistant to entomology Isa Betancourt says the festival draws more vistors than other weekend events, perhaps because insects are inherently interactive and hands-on. "Being able to touch them is so much more of an experience," says Betancourt, than having patrons simply look at photographs. City Paper took some photographs on the scene.
The Philadelphia Museum of Art is now offering a $5 discount to its current special exhibition "Gauguin, Cézanne, Matisse: Visions of Arcadia" for all visitors to the recently debuted Barnes Foundation. Special exhibition tickets will include access to Main Building, the Perelman Building and the freshly spruced-up Rodin Musuem.
The offer stands until Sept. 3, the last day of "Arcadia," and is being held "in celebration of the opening of the Barnes Foundation on the Parkway and the shared artistic vision between the Barnes and the Philadelphia Museum of Art."
Inside Butch Cordora’s Washington Square West studio, the local conceptual artist shows me the large, yet-to-be-framed mugshots that now comprise his latest exhibition, "Hot and Busted."
Cordora searched thousands of photographs (2,219 to be exact) on the websites of correctional facilities across the country until he found subjects meeting his aesthetic specifications: “Piercing eyes, square jaws — that kind of soap-opera beautiful, like 'Oh my God, you’re so hot.'” Oh, and they’re all Caucasian.
“I had wanted white guys on purpose,” Cordora explains. When browsing the different websites, he focused on the areas of the country where there would be a larger selection of light-skinned beauts. It would be “too easy,” he says, to add African-Americans, a race he notes is all too often associated with crime and punishment in the U.S. “For the white, straight, handsome male,” however, “the world is their oyster.” These are the kind of faces that HHo
One of the men resembles a young Brad Pitt, with a firm jaw and a faint smile. Some, however, have a more haggard appearance. One looks up with tourmented eyes from a head angle that’s reminiscent of Anakin Skywalker in Star Wars: Episode III. With tousled hair and pallid skin, his beauty hovers just beneath the surface of obvious strain.
These photographs seem more mysterious and profound than the pop art-y paintings of Cordora’s last show, “Absolution Lab,” and his popular 2010 calendar “Straight and Butch” in which he posed nude with an assortment of naked heterosexual men.
The inspiration for “Hot and Busted” stems from Cordora’s visits to a friend in jail. Though the man in question will not be featured, Cordora claims his mugshot is equally captivating. “You look at him, you’d think he has the world by the balls,” says the artist. However, after 2 DUIs and a house arrest broken on account of soy-related cooking, Cordora’s friend was locked up for six months. The artist visited him every week, and “I just became fascinated – with jail, with the booking process, with the whole idea of taking your freedoms away.” Each mugshot in the show reflects the emasculation and defeat up to the point at which the photograph is taken, explains the artist. Each portrait is therefore not only a face but also a depiction of the harrowing experience of arrest that recalls the mistakes of his friend. “Hot and Busted” is about this push and pull between an attractive face and a crushing experience.
But who are these Luciferan adonises, the focus of the show?
Cordora refuses to reveal names or origins, and he’d prefer you guess their crimes – the list includes everything from armed robbery to failure to possess a saltwater fishing license. Similarly, these convicts and would-be convicts have no idea that their likenesses are being blown up to two feet by two feet and hung on a gallery wall. Questions of morality and legality tossed to the wayside, Cordora cares only that the viewer share his fascination with prison and the contradiction embodied by its most beautiful.
opening reception Fri., July 6, 6 p.m., through Sept. 2, Ven and Vaida Gallery, 18 S. Third St., 215-592-4099, venandvaida.com.
There's a lot going on at Philadelphia Museum of Art — soon the restored Rodin Museum will accompany the Main Building, the Anne d'Harnoncourt Sculpture Garden and the Perelman Building. And starting July 1, general admission will increase from $16 to $20 and will cover two days of entry to all facilities.
In addition, there will be a free shuttle service offered between the three buildings to ease the art viewer's travel time. Don't fret, the tried-and-true pay-what-you-wish admission policy will remain on the first Sunday of each month, and is now available on Wednesday evenings, along with extended visiting hours.
Although the admission prices are higher, so too is the "commitment to ensuring the Museum remains accessible to a wide public," says director Timothy Rub. Well, that and increased revenue.
With Memorial Day over, so ends the new Barnes Foundation’s 56 straight hours of free opening festivities, readying it for its new life as a titan on the Parkway. I was one of those with a ticket that got me in during the wee hours of the night, 3 a.m. on Monday to be exact. As we approached the Museum, I strolled past Ellsworth Kelly’s Barnes Totem that overlooks a pool and path surrounded by Japanese maples: Not the same as the idyllic suburban location in Merion, but still tranquil enough to usher transformation from busy city into a peaceful park space.
Once inside, I noticed the lower level hosted the usual museum amenities — a coat check, gift shop, classrooms, auditorium and waiting areas. The upper level of the expanded space provided a special exhibition gallery that was dominated by a number of Barnes’ letters and other writings for those who desire a glimpse into the long-deceased curator’s thoughts.
Grand bronze doors greeted the stream of patrons moving into the principal museum area that holds Dr. Albert C. Barnes' impressive collection. One is immediately overwhelmed by the scale of the center gallery, the sheer number of pieces crammed into one room and Barnes’ idiosyncratic layouts. The figures from Matisse’s colorful mural The Dance II invite viewers to avert their eyes upward and then around at equally awe-inspiring pieces by masters like Cezanne, Picasso and Renoir.
Having visited the original location in Merion in 2004, the new space lived up to my memory of what once was. Among the notable changes was Matisse’s Joy of Life being moved from a staircase to a small room upstairs facing the aforementioned mural. While I can appreciate the eccentricity of Barnes’ gallery plans, I often found myself wishing I could look at some of the pieces at eye level. In the current space, general admission is $18, galleries are limited to 250 patrons at a time and there is enough on display to keep casual viewers busy for a couple hours — even if it's at the ass crack of dawn.
Impressive permanent collections may have put our area museums on the map, but it's the rotating exhibits that keep visitors coming back. Every Thursday, Abigail Minor updates you on the newest and most browse-worthy. This week: electricity tubes, salty endings and a jazz oasis.
“Tempus Fugit” at the American Philosophical Society Museum
What better way to reopen after a long hiatus than with an exhibit on the complexities of time? The American Philosophical Society Museum is back with “Tempus Fugit”, featuring select items from its collection interspersed with the appropriate pieces of Chicago artist Antonia Contro, many of which, through video and sound installations of rapidly flipping pages, reflect the dwindling beauty of printed books. Contro is the first artist to compile an exhibit within the Museum’s walls, and she does so by titling the divided exhibit cases after musical terms such as “adagio (slow movement)” and “aeon (eternal time)”, within which are her responses to: the ancient pages of the Book of Hours, an illustrated documentation of the seasons and holy day devotions, a static electricity tube reminiscent of Benjamin Franklin, and scattered items such as shattered glass left behind by General Electric founder Elihu Thomson.
Fri., April 13-Dec. 30, $1, American Philosophical Society Museum, 104 S. Fifth St., 215-440-3442, apsmuseum.org.
Impressive permanent collections may have put our area museums on the map, but it's the rotating exhibits that keep visitors coming back. Every Thursday, Abigail Minor updates you on the newest and most browse-worthy. This week: Little Saigon, faceless rag dolls, and mountain racers.
“Exit Saigon, Enter Little Saigon” at the Asian Arts Initiative
“Exit Saigon, Enter Little Saigon” is a Smithsonian-originated exhibit, brought to Philadelphia by Boat People SOS, celebrating the progression of Vietnamese America from 1975 to the present. Photographs document the Vietnamese journey from black and white cramped refugee camps in the Philippines and Japan to the freely colorful celebrations in Little Saigon – the name of the Vietnamese community in California, as well as a term for any Vietnamese oasis. Expressive photos not only take you through Vietnamese Americans’ tumultuous history of escape from war, but also through their artistic and societal strides through images of movie posters and life-sized cutouts of Vietnamese American icons.
Opening reception, Fri., April 6, 6 p.m., exhibit through June 1, free, Asian Arts Initiative, 1219 Vine St., 215-557-0455, asianartsinitiative.org
Impressive permanent collections may have put our area museums on the map, but it's the rotating exhibits that keep visitors coming back. Every Thursday, Abigail Minor updates you on the newest and most browse-worthy. This week: Kentucky spice, erupting felt, and dyed uniforms.
Cynthia Norton at the PAFA
Bringing a little Kentucky spice to the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts is spunky artist Cynthia Norton. In the current exhibit, "Freedom Rings Placed Within," feminist Norton interacts with the historical paintings found within the Academy’s walls, responding to centuries-old artwork in her own quirky statements, such as her bright self-portrait in reply to the tame depiction of the “ideal woman” in William Merritt Chase’s Portrait of Mrs. C. She seeks to interact with art in the way only artists can: by creating more.
Through May 27, free-$15, Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, 118 N. Broad St., 215-972-7600, pafa.org
Impressive permanent collections may have put our area museums on the map, but it's the rotating exhibits that keep visitors coming back. Every Thursday, Abigail Minor updates you on the newest and most browse-worthy. This week: bicentennials, earthquakes and mysterious cannonballs.
"The Nature of Discovery" at The Academy of Natural Sciences
The nation’s oldest natural history museum is celebrating its bicentennial this year with The Academy at 200: The Nature of Discovery. Themed rooms figuratively set in a Bahamas coral reef, a tent for bird skinning in the middle of a Southeastern Asian jungle, a Mongolian yurt and a soggy Philadelphian marsh immerse visiting explorers in the Academy’s past and current scientific strides in avian, paleontological and climate studies. Available for touching is a marine reptile fossil cast, meteorite and brain coral fragment. The opening of this exhibit is accompanied by a two day weekend extravaganza of an outdoor light show, a wandering Barbershop Quartet, and the science tune-singing Diggity Dudes.
Sat.-Sun., March 24-25, 10 a.m.-9 p.m., exhibit through March 2013, $10-$12, The Academy of Natural Sciences, 1900 Benjamin Franklin Parkway, 215-299-1000, ansp.org.
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