Saturday, June 28, 2008

Pow Wow at the Guggenheim - COMING OF AGE. AMERICAN ART, 1850s to 1950s

Sunday, Women Drying Their Hair by John Sloan
(VENICE, ITALY) Last evening there was a Pow Wow at the Guggenheim -- a phrase coined by the artist, Ludovico de Luigi, for a vernissage where the whole town gathers for a bit of conversation and wine, based around an art preview. As one guest put it: "It seems like everybody is here. I don't even see these people on the street!"

Well, that's not entirely accurate because the heavy hitters were there the night before; plus, there were some regulars who were missing-in-action.

The theme of this Pow Wow was COMING OF AGE. AMERICAN ART, 1850S TO 1950S. Since the Guggenheim hasn't put up its English translation yet, we'll borrow a blurb from the E-Flux site.

"In the early 1900s, the prominence of American modernism grew so as to proclaim New York, and no longer Paris, the center of the artistic avant-garde. Proponents of American modernism such as Stuart Davis, Man Ray, and Patrick Henry Bruce defined abstraction in their use of bold, geometric shapes and colors to create an American vision deriving from European Cubism. On the other hand, Arthur Dove, Georgia O’Keeffe and others in Stieglitz’s circle were using reductive shapes and lines to create a modernism that held allegiance to organic forms. Artists such as Charles Sheeler and Edward Hopper, however, preferred representing scenes inspired by American city life, preserving in their works a link with modernism."

Still this war goes on between Paris and New York, exemplified by the battle over the Dogana. You can read about that in a New York Times article:,%20Tadao
I try to stay in the dematerialized zone. In fact, I hear that these days everybody loves each other.

As the artist, Lawrence Carroll, strolled by, someone I was speaking to said, "He's starting to resemble his art." It was funny because I was thinking the same thing! To read more about Lawrence, go here:

Then I spotted Ludovico de Luigi speaking to the new American Consul of the United States of America, A. Daniel Weygandt, who is based in Milano. The conversation went something like this:

"Cat! Cat! Here is the new American counsel."
"Ludovico, I had lunch with Dan about three months ago."

Ludovico and I are sort of like the battle over the Dogana personified except it's Italy vs. America instead of France. He has been married twice to American women (in addition to other nationalities) and they are now both in the grave. At my book launch he gave a raunchy discussion about how he met his first wife and their escapades in the Church of San Giorgio Maggiore.

An owner of an art gallery here in Venice was also part of the conversation, and he introduced me as "one of Ludovico's subjects." I immediately clarified: "The only thing Ludovico has ever painted of me are my blue eyes, surrounded by red feathers, hovering over the Grand Canal close to my apartment by the Rialto Bridge. Next to my eyes was a Campbell's Soup Can tipped on its side, tomato soup spilling into the canal, a limp hand dangling from the can, entangled with a fine gold chain. I asked him to at least give me some assistance from above, some Red Light from Heaven or something, but I don't think he ever did it."

Last year, Anny Carraro (whom I adore) won the New York Film and Video Festival Best International Director for Best Documentary for a flick she made about Ludovico called "Impossible Venice." To view more about Ludovico, go here:

In any event, I really like our new American Consul, Dan Weygandt. He came to us from Baghdad.* In fact, the car he drove was bombed shortly after he left. I am not sure he is much safer here.

Ludovico said he thought the exhibit was excellent, especially because Italians would realize that Americans played an important part in modern art. I went to get more wine, and when I got back, Dan was up on the stairs next to Philip Rylands, the director of the Peggy Guggenheim Museum, speaking into a microphone that needed amplification.

Later in the evening, I went through the exhibit with an Italian woman who specialized in Old Masters. She gave us a zippy commentary, saying that American art began with Edward Hopper, and that American artists were copying Europeans before that point. I ran that comment past Philip, and he emphatically disagreed. I wish I could remember exactly what he said so I could quote him, but I can't, so I won't, but it was clever. Philip Rylands is one of the few people on this planet who still have a sense of humor.

In my completely uneducated opinion, I will say that the Europeans seem to be more about Freud, whereas the Americans tripped onto Carl Jung. I was speaking to an Italian psychiatrist after I saw the exhibit, who was a Freudian. She said, "Jung is in secret code." I replied, "Jung is not in secret code. It is all a matter of one's personal level of understanding."

Disappointingly, the effect of the disastrous dollar is showing up even at the Guggenheim: usually we get some snacks to munch on, but last evening we only got nuts.

Ciao from Venice,
Venetian Cat - The Venice Blog

June 28 - October 12, 2008

Opening hours: daily 10 am to 6 pm (closed on Tuesday and December 25)

Peggy Guggenheim Collection
701 Dorsoduro
30123 Venice
Phone +39 041 2405411
Fax +39 041 5206885

*Correction: An earlier version of this blog incorrectly stated A. Daniel Weygandt's prior position was in Beirut.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

La Biennale International Festival of Contemporary Dance

I love La Biennale, the organization. I've worked, suffered and delighted with them for many years in their struggle to remain one of the most vibrant contemporary art festivals on earth. Most of you know about the Venice Film Festival, and the art festival. But there is also music, architecture, theater, and, for the last six years, dance.

Since La Biennale is contemporary, its energy hits directly against Venice's ancient structure, and there are many wars and battles fought to get each show on the road. Directors come and go, shaking their head in amazement that anything actuality gets up and on its feet.

Ismael Ivo is the Director of the Dance, and, in addition to being one of the most physically beautiful human beings on the planet, he always manages to put on a beautiful show. Because he is so striking, you are always aware of his presence. The Dance section of La Biennale is probably my favorite. I love to watch dancers move. Unlike other forms of "contemporary art," you actually must be able to dance!

I've only been able to catch two programs so far, mostly because they were at the Malibran, close to my house, not down at Arsenale. The first performance I saw was Stephen Petronio Dance Company from the United States, and the second was Ballet Preljocaj from France.

Here is part of the blurb about Stephen Petronio from the program:

"Music, visual arts and fashion all come together in the choreographer's performance, evoking landscapes of a markedly contemporary taste."

Stephen Petronio opened with Beauty and the Brut. I read the New York Times review by Roslyn Sulcas, and I have to disagree:

"In “Beauty and the Brut,” a commissioned score by Fischerspooner (the art-world-darlings music duo) offers a woman’s voice recounting, in English and French, a pickup on a beach. With its Laurie Anderson-like echoes and deadpan unfinished sentences (“My name is — whatever”) set over minimal electronic melodies, the score alone is a delight."

I think the United States and Europe are moving further and further apart, not only in terms of the disastrous dollar, but in culture itself. I found the score to be incredibly annoying. I LOVE Laurie Anderson, and to compare the Fischerspooner score to Anderson is... well... reaching a bit. Please tell me what is interesting about: "My name is -- whatever" over and over and over? And to hear this whiny American accent say that she is French... at first I thought they were joking. That would have been clever. It was a boring pickup on the beach, lacking any wit, with no point, light years removed from Laurie Anderson's original genius. Just that the performers could dance to the score should be applauded. Think of the wasted opportunity! What one could actually say or at least try to say with All That Time with those wonderful dancers in front of a live audience... and the bit of wisdom we get from America is -- "Whatever." It makes one understand Enlil's point of view about the state of humanity. After intermission, a good part of the audience did not return.

Ballet Preljocaj, on the other hand, I thought was brilliant, especially Eldorado. Here is the blurb from the program: "Angelin Preljocaj returns to La Biennale with the mystical yet carnal dance of Eldorado, inspired by the cosmic dance of Stockhausen's Sonntags Abschies, the last part of the great cycle dedicated to the days of the week, and with his historic piece, Larmes Blanches, a rigourous and sensual dance, contrapuntally constructed around the baroque music of Bach, Balbastre and Purcell.

So, while Americans are dancing to whiny girls on the beach saying "My name is -- whatever" over and over, the French are dancing to the music of the spheres.

I just read this on Wikipedia about Fischerspooner.

"As of May 2007 they have been released from their Capitol Records recording contract and are currently unsigned."

And it's not just the music. I see it in my own little neck of the woods, in YA publishing. America seems to be spitting out product at a frantic pace. After spending way too much time on Facebook, I can see why. Everyone is racing to capture the minds of the masses to consume, consume, consume. It is numbing.

Uummm.... why don't you guys, like, um... bring, like a -- book... umm... you know -- a book... yeah, a book -- to the beach...


Ciao from Venice,

Sunday, June 22, 2008

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Friday, June 13, 2008

Author Cat Bauer Takes Pride in PLHS Beginnings

Today, it's Shameless Self Promotion Day, or, rather, Guest Blogger Day, featuring an article written by a young woman from my former high school, aspiring journalist, Pauline Kitele. Pauline interviewed me for the 75th Anniversary edition of The Cardinal, Pompton Lakes High School's newspaper. Pompton has a vicious cardinal as their symbol -- very frightening on the football field. While I am happy that Pauline christened me "a superstar by her own creative merits," I have to clarify that although I might have a passion for the piano and the violin, I can't play them at all anymore, and I never could play them very well to begin with. I was, however, first clarinet, first chair in the orchestra after Debbie Fee moved out of Pompton, and I can still strum the guitar a bit. (Even though Harley can play the oboe in the new edition of Harley, Like a Person, I can't play the oboe at all.)

However, Pompton Lakes' BIGGEST claim to fame is that it was the setting for the quiet suburban town in the movie In & Out starring Kevin Kline. Even though it's supposed to be set in Indiana, with the magic of Hollywood, it was actually shot right in good ol' Pompton Lakes, New Jersey because, well, you really cannot find a more typically quiet suburban town in the entire United States of America -- that is why I set Harley there, too! In fact, perhaps in the future, Pompton Lakes will become a tourist attraction like Venice, Italy -- the Last Remaining Typical Quiet Suburban Town Left in the World. Then, everyone can go there to have a look, and the locals will get crazy, and...... Apparently the town is still quite upset because Paramount did not put them in the location credits at the end of the film, so we shall correct that situation right now!
I can't figure out how to increase the text size, so I'll leave that to you folks at home to adjust your view. And there is a little bit about Venice at the end, in keeping with the theme of the blog:) (After many attempts to format the article, there was nothing to do so you can read it but create a new blog called):

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Spiritual Jewish Music - Moni Ovadia and the Arké String Quartet

Sunday night, June 1st, I ran over to the Ghetto to catch the last presentation of the Jewish spectacular going on over there called Festival dell'Arca. This final show was called Kavanàh, Jewish Spiritual Stories and Songs, and it starred the renowned actor/singer writer/musician, Moni Ovadia. The music was by the Arké String Quartet, who are Carlo Cantini on the violin, Valentino Corvino on the violin, Sandro di Paolo on the viola, and Stefano Dall'Ora on the double bass (they forgot to put his name on the poster, so we shall correct that situation here:). They are all world-class musicians, and you can see by the pictures that they are completely In The Zone. Here's a little blurb I found about the group: "The Arke Quartet have shrewdly and musically lent an ear to a lot of world-music materials - from a softly singing microtonal quality reminiscent of Chinese violin music, to the rhythmic devices of Indian classical music and a Shakti-like Indo-jazz fusion, to a Celtic skip, an ambient tone-poetry sigh and much more." So, this night they were performing spiritual Jewish music and they were brilliant.

I love spiritual Jewish music. All those minor chords provoke sorrow and hope and suffering and joy at the same time; it is haunting, beautiful music. I weep when I hear it; it strikes a chord deep inside... it feels human.

[Did you know that the melody of the Israel National Anthem, Hatikvah (which I love) was originally an Italian Renaissance tune called La Mantovana? The controversial words, however, were written in 1878, and it did not officially become the National Anthem until November, 2004.]

Since I decided to go to the show on the spur of the moment, I arrived without a reservation. I was outside explaining who I was to the girl-with-the-list, who was not impressed. Someone overheard me, and then said, well, you need to speak to him, who turned out to be the fellow I know at the press office. We had never met face-to-face, and he said, "Oh, Cat, just go in there and sit where you like." (Hopefully, you regular readers are noticing how I use synchronicity to bumble my way through life -- the exact person I need to see manifests in front of me so often, it is difficult to chalk it up merely to coincidence -- and it was a good thing that he manifested because the Ark was sold out!)

The Ark looked exactly like the picture you see, sort of like a cartoon, but a real structure. Imagine that Ark -- only huge -- recreated in the campo of the Ghetto. Inside the Ark were uncomfortable bleachers to sit on. And once you were in, you were in -- there was no getting out.

The word, "Kavanàh," means focused prayer -- not just blinding repeating words by rote. Here is a definition I found on the internet by Rabbi Jeffrey Summit: "In the Jewish tradition, intention, kavanah, is an essential part of meaningful action. The term kavanah comes from the Hebrew root meaning to direct, intend, focus. The rabbis were very clear that living a meaningful Jewish life involves combining both the actions we do and the intention we bring to those actions. For example, the rabbis stressed that prayer was not just about the act of reading or saying the words of a prayer. If you did not pray with kavanah, actively thinking about the words you were saying, you have not fulfilled your obligation to pray."

So, I can state that I fully support Kavanàh.

Moni Ovadia was the leader of the show, and I am going to be very honest: I only understood about one-third of what he said. There were lots of jokes, with lots of slang that went right over my head. I believe he spoke about the Pope. I believe he spoke about Mary; about the Song of Mary. I know he spoke about the Holocaust. I know he made a joke with Nietzsche as the punchline -- not easy to do. There were complex subjects done with humor and I cannot make any sort of judgment at all, except that I watched the faces of the audience, and they seemed quite interested.

However, I CAN judge the music, because it is the universal language. I wish there had been more of it. These musicians are so great, collectively and individually, if you ever have the chance to hear one or two or all of them, take it.

Ciao from Venice,