Monday, January 09, 2012

Artistic Consumption Log, Jan. 2, 2012 - Jan. 8, 2012

BROOKLYN, N.Y.—What at first looked to be a fairly quiet weekend in artistic consumption became a much more active one when, on Thursday, I received an email from the Museum of Modern Art reminding me that its blockbuster retrospective of Dutch-born Abstract Expressionist artist Willem de Kooning was ending Monday (today). That's all I needed to hear: I had to carve out time this weekend to go check it out.

Thus it came to be that I found myself wandering around MoMA's sixth floor on Saturday. I'm glad I went, finding the experience of touring through the various stages of de Kooning's artistic life positively head-spinning; the effect of seeing so many challenging works of art in one space is enough to give an attentive viewer a headache—a "good" kind of headache, I'd say. Boy, that de Kooning sure didn't stop experimenting, did he? Even his later, sparer works from the 1980s—at least in the context of this eye-opening exhibit—bear the signature of a man who, even in ailing health, remained restless in his creativity and expansive in his vision.

You know who else had as expansive a vision as de Kooning? Gustav Mahler—whose valedictory Ninth Symphony I got to see performed live that same day by the New York Philharmonic under the direction of music director Alan Gilbert. It was a less illuminating affair (Gilbert doesn't challenge Leonard Bernstein in the dynamism department when it comes to Mahler), but it was nevertheless a satisfying performance, with Gilbert showing moments of liberating interpretive freedom in some of this work's wilder passages (especially in its inner movements).

The other noteworthy highlight of this past week in artistic consumption: being so stunned into submission by my first-ever viewing of Robert Bresson's Au Hasard Balthazar—the opening film in a near-complete Bresson retrospective unfurling right now at Film Forum—that I felt unable to speak to anyone else after the screening. And yet how is it possible that a film with such depressing content can have the power to inspire its viewers to maybe be nicer to one's fellow man? I am already looking forward to seeing what other revelations Bresson has in store for me in this series.

Here's this week's log:

Au Hasard Balthazar (1966)


Greed (1924, Erich von Stroheim), seen at Film Forum in New York [second viewing]

Au Hasard Balthazar (1966, Robert Bresson), seen at Film Forum in New York
Les Dames du Bois de Boulogne (1945, Robert Bresson), seen at Film Forum in New York

Almayer's Folly (2011, Chantal Akerman), seen at Museum of the Moving Image in Queens, N.Y.


Kick Out the Jams (1969, MC5)
Back in the USA (1970, MC5)

Mahler: Symphony No. 9 (1984, Herbert von Karajan & Berlin Philharmonic) [umpteenth listen]
"Mahler's Ninth Symphony," performed by Alan Gilbert & New York Philharmonic at Avery Fisher Hall in New York

"Heroes" (1977, David Bowie) [second listen]
Just because it was Bowie's birthday yesterday. And because I wanted to make sure I didn't underrate this one in light of its predecessor, Low (I concluded that I didn't). Plus, the title cut is still pretty awesome.


"de Kooning: A Retrospective," seen at Museum of Modern Art in New York

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