Saturday, 28 June 2008

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

(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.

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