Sunday, February 06, 2011

What I Saw And Learned Today in Cleveland

The Houses of Parliament along Westminster Bridge by Alain Derain

First of all, I saw some amazing art today at the Cleveland Museum of Art, including some NYC collages by an artist called Red Grooms.  I made a brief visit, just before closing. It's a very grand, august museum, just like the Met or MOMA, but in Cleveland. One of the old Betty White-esque ladies on the front desk of the museum kept me waiting at the entrance with a long story about her hip replacment surgery next week. I was going to tell her my joke about the two coolest cats in any hospital being the "ultra-sound" guy and his stand-in, the "hip" replacement guy.

Monet's The Gardener's House at Antibes

East Cleveland is the dirtiest and poorest and saddest part of the U.S. I have seen to date (and that includes my West 19th Street cave in NYC, where I never wrote the Great American Novel, but I did ponder a Great Irish Navel). East Cleveland is also home to the Cleveland Clinic, one of the world's greatest and best medical surgery facilities, and the Clinic's glacial main complex resembles a UFO that has just touched down in shimmering, majestic, concentric, faintly humming splendor. You can get almost every major human organ replaced apart from your brain, but including your wallet. The clinic has, deep breath, the fourth largest police force in the state of Ohio, and as my friend and I went inside to the Starbucks (the reason for our visit), a bright yellow Cleveland Clinic helicopter bizzzzed lazily overhead, probably carrying fresh frozen brains and wallets. Inside, the Clinic is a cross between an airport terminal and a bank HQ.

Self-portrait with Hat, by Karl Schmidt-Rottluff 

I also had time today to visit Case Western Reserve University law school, which had in its lobby a whole stack of info for LGTB people interested in law school, so this was a happy coincidence. However, the school name makes me think of standing in a liquor store and saying, "May I have a Case of your finest Western Reserve?"

Sniper by Luc Tuymans 
My friend and I shopped for food today, at a cheap grocery store in East Cleveland, spending about $40. By a dollar and change, the most expensive item we bought was the least processed -- two pounds of McIntosh Red apples at $2.50.

Bring Forth the Fruits of Righteousness from Darkness, by Damien Hearst

It's a funny old world indeed. As if to underline the extremities of wealth and poverty which I saw today, the Cleveland Museum of Art has on loan, the above triptych by Damien Hearst. Like gorgeous, somber windows in a mighty cathedral, each tiny, symmetrical blaze of color is in fact the wing or wings of dazzling bright butterflies, carefully stuck in splendorous rhythm on a background of black paint. It's done with exceedingly great care, but the effect is quite casually, as though by some insanely rich, dexterous insect-tearing monster child. Up close, its callous beauty took my breath away.

 Homer by Pensato

Observing nervously from nearby in the same gallery is Homer, above. I say nervously, but in fact the instantly-recognizable cartoon countenance of Homer Simpson seems to ooze sweat in a state of utter terror.

 Fire Screen by Feher
Though they come towards the end of this posting, these last images are no less powerful or beautiful, or both. The Fire Screen, above: beautiful.

I guess I liked the Monet, because of my instant idiosyncratic interpretation of it: it made me think of a certain view of distant lower Manhattan which one can see from a part of Jersey City, NJ -- you can see a couple of tall buildings in the painting in the distance to the left, with open water in between -- the Hudson River, it could be, as it passes Manhattan's southern tip and widens into upper New York Harbor.

And the Hearst butterfly massacre was gorgeous yet made me queasy, equally: all those dead insects! Sniper is a painting from a photo of a view of Baghdad in this past decade, the photo taken through an American soldier's rifle sights. It's an ugly, smudgy, bleary, deadly image, full of foreboding.

Perhaps Lot's Wife, by Anselm Kiefer, below, was my favorite, but I am now too tired to say anything about it!