Archive for December, 2008

Daydream Voyeur

December 3, 2008

I don’t think I can be a native Philadelphian without eventually getting ’round to some of my favorite local hiding spots.  One such dark corner is tucked away in the modern wing of the Philadelphia Museum of Art.  I’ve forgotten the exact bragging right, but I think the museum has the largest Duchamp collection outside of Paris.  That may be wrong, but it sounds more exciting than saying the museum has two well-stocked Duchamp rooms….

The first room features several of his ‘greatest hits,’ including one or some of the versions of “Nude Descending a Staircase.”  …And I do like the painting, but I SWOON for Flamejob.  As far as I’m concerned, the painting is little more than the inspiration for the cheekily fabulous, “Naked Girl Falling Down the Stairs.”  Orgy in the museum! 

The second room is dark and empty.  Most people walk in and out without landing on anything of interest, but there is treasure buried out behind the back wall.  The room is bare, save for the door facade at the far end of the room.  Only the very curious (or ritualistic) visitor will bother walking up to the door to find the two little peep holes burrowed in the wood.  Behind, is an illuminated tableau that defies all expectations.  It is, at once, so saccarine and so perverse that there’s nothing to do but laugh. 

And yet, the entire piece, feels like the essence of cinema.  The visitor stumbles through the darkness to find a dirty little light at the end of the tunnel.  The act of watching is so inscribed into the piece that you are hyper-aware of your increasingly sick impulse to look through the peepholes and then look again.  What else is cinema if not a peep show?  So head over to the PMA and feed your curiosity with some deliciously sly art filth.

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Picasso Beauty

December 1, 2008

One of my co-workers recently directed me to Peor Impossible, a sweetly psychotic Spanish band of the ’80s.  I haven’t bothered to find out much about them, but I think they were part of the movidapunk scene in Madrid.  All I know for sure is that they have a bunch of really fun costume videos including that stunning study in animal print, “El Mutante.” 

As much as I love their Cramps-y style, their real appeal is the Rossy de Palma factor.  Rossy de Palma, the so-called Picasso-esque beauty from so many Almodovar films, just happened to have attended high school with my colleague in Majorca.  She was, apparently, quite the oddball, but I’m thrilled by my nearness to her and, by extension, to the whole Almodovar repertory collective.

I always loved the “Picasso-esque beauty” tag, but I was never sure if it was meant as a backhanded compliment.  To me, Picasso beauty is a celebration of asymmetries.  I’m sure his subjects had fairly regular faces and features, but his portraits bring multiple viewpoints and personalities to individual figures.  Figures and faces may be balanced, but they are seldom even.  I suppose there is a schizophrenia to Picasso beauty that fits nicely with de Palma’s punk persona, but this unbalance runs so contrary to conventional beauty standards that I wonder what is really meant by “Picasso-esque beauty.”  Is it a suggestive way of describing an unusual face?  An apt assessment of a complex actor?  Or just a poetic way of identifying continuity between different generations of Spanish artists?  It’s a term I prefer because it suggests all these things when applied to de Palma.  It’s occasionally applied to other people and works, but it tends to feel unearned in those instances.  Would that there were more such figures worthy of our fascination!