Sunday, April 25, 2010

The Art I Saw, and Want to See Again

Three rooms of European paintings at the Getty Center in Los Angeles, so high up in these yodeleehooooooooooooooooooooooo mountains that you have to take a tram to get to the museum. $15 for parking, and $49 for lunch for Mom, Dad, Meridith and me. The lunch was so worth it, with a $7.75 chicken burrito that actually looked like $7.75. It was stuffed that full with masterfully grilled chicken, black beans, lettuce, pico de gallo, shredded cheese, and rice. I've never seen a burrito made that quickly, not even at Taco Bell, and this person not only knew the routine, but seemed to care about the routine. There was still some inkling within her that's devoted to this museum. Not that I doubt how much she might like working for the Getty Museum. It may only be a job to her, but there was some pride in how she placed each ingredient. It was a ramrod straight stack that only fell apart a few minutes after I took the toothpick out of it at our table and began to reach the end of it. I didn't mind. I had utensils, and a cup of sour cream, and actually, a mini burrito salad on my plate. I scarfed the rest of it up, and after a yogurt parfait with granola and raspberries ($6.75, but also worth it), I sat satisfied. It reminded me of when we walked the outdoor grounds before we found the cafe. I looked at the people passing by, I admired the appearance of many of the women (inspiration can come from anywhere; simple, but I stick by it every day), and I wondered why my life couldn't be like this every day. I'm not going to badmouth Southern California here, because I've done it enough already and between this, and the new route for walking that I found in my neighborhood, I see it as a sign that we're getting the good things now that will possibly lead to Southern Nevada calling soon for my dad for a teaching position.

After lunch, we went to the Getty pavilion that housed the exhibits we wanted to see. Meridith had a yen for an exhibit of food photographs. On the table at lunch, I found a plastic, vertical rectangular ad block that pushed "Urban Panoramas," and I noticed one photo that was of an empty parking garage. I love those kinds of photos. I get more out of the tire streaks on a parking garage floor than from the painting "A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte" by Georges Seurat, which became the Stephen Sondheim musical Sunday in the Park with George.

When we got to the West Pavilion, we went to the second floor, where there was three rooms of European art. Mostly French. Some British. The only ones I really liked were the British ones, two in particular; one of a family torn up by one of their own being on trial, and waiting for a verdict, and the second one with the family in great relief after an apparent "not guilty" verdict. Reminded me of Dickens, and that's exactly what the writing next to the painting mentioned.

But that was it. I like some of Paul Cezanne's works, but I can't see having his work in frames on my walls at home. However, when we got to the exhibit I wanted to see (we saw the food photograph exhibit first, and the only two I really liked were a shot of a full pantry, and someone's freezer in the early '70s), I was stunned by the panoramas of New York City by Jeff Chien-Hsiang Liao. I never imagined photographs could be so alive. I've seen dramatic ones by newspaper photographers, but the major thing about Liao's photographs is that there are always people hidden. Not purposely hidden, but you look at what the photo is first. It's the entrance to the subway, the baseball stadium, a vantage point from Times Square. You see the immediate people, the trash cans, the big signs advertising the latest of what people should consume. But then you look further back. You see a gray-haired woman with a confused expression. You look at the photo of the storefront in Queens and you not only see the big standing box of watermelons next to the door. You see two people inside that store, still in that aisle you can see, waiting for their items to be rung up. There is always something to look at in his photographs, and the atmosphere to feel. Really feel. You can't know just by his photograph what it truly means to be in New York City, but you get at least half of that feeling. Maybe above half.

Right now, I'm looking at the photos on his website, including the ones at the Getty exhibit and also ones not featured there, and the impact is not at all there. I can't see the three guys very well who stand at the bottom right corner of the photo of the Iron Triangle (a kind of auto row) in Flushing, Queens. The guy I saw in that photo with the pen in his mouth? I recognize him by his shirt, but I cannot see the pen this way. At the exhibit, I said to Mom that if they had resized some of Liao's photos for bookmarks, I would buy them. I wouldn't. And I'm glad I didn't find any in the two museum stores we visited. These photos should stay as they are. Because of the lunch we had that was far better than most restaurants we go to, we might be back some time in May. I hope so, because the exhibit featuring Liao's work ends on June 6. I want to see those expansive photos again, and also be disappointed again that no personal photography is allowed in the exhibit. I wouldn't want to capture the photos directly, just the atmosphere of that room.