In the spirit of the Twelve Days of Christmas as a time for quiet reflection and a turning inwards, we’d like to offer a gift of a recording of New York Arts‘s second performance event, held on June 1, 2013, at 7 pm, in connection with my own exhibition of photographs of Western Ireland at the Centerpoint Gallery in New York City: a reading/concert in which the acclaimed poet, Lloyd Schwartz, Senior Classical Music Editor of New York Arts, read poems by W. B. Yeats with interludes of traditional Irish music played by Dorien Staljanssens, flute, and James Cleveland, fiddle.
Moving is part of our cultural heritage. We are restless; we are adventurous; we move to find better opportunities or just to explore. We have pushed the boundaries of this country west and north and south. We abandoned farms in droves and moved into urban areas at the same time exiting cities to build rings of suburbs. We have forsaken homes altogether to live on the open road, inventing recreational vehicles and trailer parks. Recently, thousands of Americans with bad mortgages have been forced to give up their homes, clinging to their RVs like life rafts in a storm. In good times and bad, it seems, we are on the move.
When walking into Paris’s first retrospective exhibition of the photographs of Eva Besnyö at the Jeu de Paume, I was met with three mysterious images, visually linked by their askew perspectives. One is a self-portrait of Besnyö, who was born in Budapest in 1910 and broke free of Hungary’s provincial constraints to become a Berlin-based photographer at the young age of 20. The image of the woman in the portrait looks, in a word, contemporary. Unconventionally beautiful, Besnyö looks intensely into her medium format camera, hair tousled as her neck cranes above the view finder to which she is acutely focused, projecting an image of herself as an intense, slightly bohemian artist at work. Besnyö orchestrated this image of 1931 so that the viewer looks up to her from down below, and thus elevated before us is a powerful figure who directs our gaze and controls her own image long before similar strategies were conceived by feminist artists of the 1960s. It is from this point that the viewer commences into an exhibition of 120 prints by a photographer who has been given too little attention.
As part of the second annual Berkshire Festival of Women Writers, Orion and Gastronomica co-hosted a reading featuring renowned food writer Ruth Reichl, poets Ellen Doré Watson and Patty Crane, and fiction writers Francine Prose (finalist for the National Book Award) and Elizabeth Graver. Their contributions have now been posted on the new Gastronomica site as a Web exclusive.
The exhibition of Joel-Peter Witkin at the Bibliothéque Nationale is not a retrospective, but an arresting exploration of the photographer’s work over three decades. In collaboration with Witkin, the curators of Enfer ou Ciel (Heaven or Hell), on view until July 1, compare many of his most fascinating and well-known images to the library’s exquisite and significant collection of prints. Placed in an art historical context of similar imagery found in the prints of such artists as Albrecht Durer, José de Ribera, Rembrandt, Francesco de Goya, and Pablo Picasso, Witkin’s work is thus tangibly embedded within a tradition of symbolism and mythology, and the pondering of the human condition and its spiritual dimensions by great masters of Western art.
Although Photo Month in Paris is November, exhibitions of emerging and renowned photographers seem to take place regularly throughout the city. If you are traveling to Paris, here are a few that will take you off the hard worn museum path and are worth the exploration.
Perhaps the premier outlet for photography in Paris, and an important venue for experimentation in the medium throughout Europe, is the Maison Européenne de la Photographie. Situated conveniently between the Pont-Marie and the St. Paul metro stops, it is just a block’s walk north from the Seine. Through mid-June, there are a variety of solo photo exhibitions on each of the gallery’s floors.
To judge from the enormous queue in front of the Hôtel de Ville to get into this magnificent exhibition of Doisneau’s photographs, there remains a Les Halles shaped void in the Parisian heart. There is perhaps no real place in Paris which exerts such fascination as the memory of Les Halles, “le ventre de Paris.” Of all the wounds inflicted on the city during the same period, from the rive gauche expressway (1967) to the Tour Montparnasse (1973), perhaps none was so psychically damaging as the closing of Les Halles in 1969. There was something intimate about this particular blow; it was literally a punch to the stomach, a bureaucratic meddling with the primal, particularly in France, human need for nourishment.
Devant l’Hôtel de Ville l’énorme file d’attente pour cette exposition magnifique des photos de Doisneau atteste qu’il reste toujours un trou des Halles béant dans le coeur parisien. Probablement aucune autre lieu parisien soustrait autant de fascination que la mémoire des Halles, “le ventre de Paris.” Peut-être la différence entre la fermeture des Halles en 1969 et les autres blessures urbaines de cet époque, parmi eux la voie express rive gauche (1967) et la tour Montparnasse (1973), est sa qualité autant psychique que physique. Cette perte avait quelque chose d’intime, une véritable tape au ventre par les fonctionnaires anonymes contre le besoin humain de la nourriture.