Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Goya in Miami and The Mir's Day Out

Francisco Goya was the most important artist of the late 18th century and early 19th century Spain. His methods and style, which followed a long and successful career, span from the late Rococo to Romanticism, and remain influential even today. He was particularly active as a painter to the Spanish royal court, and completed commissions for the church, as well as pieces for private collectors. He is perhaps best known for his paintings and series of prints depicting contemporary society, war and violence, including Los Caprichos and Disasters of War. His painterly style reflects his admiration for the painters Velázquez and Rembrandt.

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Yes, I felt up to an outing. Or, rather, the object of the outing gave me a boost of energy. 1. I finally got to go into the Freedom Tower in Miami, where Cuban refugees, like my family, got processed, a place my mother would pass with a sigh when we drove through downtown, and 2. I got to experience the work of a master artist on an autumn afternoon.

I had slept poorly and gotten only 4 hours of rest, but after a bit of prayer, after a bit of "should I, shouldn't I?" I washed my hair, put on some Gothy-blackness (and my most comfortable red suede flats) and headed out to the Freedom Tower with hubby and next-older sis to see GOYA!

Art has a way of getting me out of the house. Especially if I really, really, really wanna see it. I really, really, really wanted to see the Goya etchings. One, cause there is the fantasy-horror element in the Caprichos; two, cause I wanted to see "The Sleep of Reason Produces Monsters" in person, after so many years of seeing it in books (see pic above right) (above left is pic of my sister and me flanking "Sleep of Reason" with HunkyPoo's shadow on the glass protecting the famous etching); three, the era demanded the experience of Disasters of War.

Well, and...GOYA! Yeah!

So, fortified with generous quantities of anti-frizzing hair products (it was super-gusty and scattered showers threatened) and my medieval Goth top with embroidery and satin panels and a bottle of cold water and a red umbrella, off we went. (It is no coincidence this blog is black and red, btw.)

We actually chose a fine day for it. Few people were at the exhibit on a Tuesday at 1 pm. So, I could stick my nose as close as I wanted to see the details in the etchings.

The first large room had the Caprichos, which one can translate as "caprices" or "whims" or "flights of fancy":
Tiepolo and Giovanni Battista Piranesi had already created a series of such capricci. Under this title artists could permit themselves creative freedom, escaping the conventional themes and rules of art. Sense and nonsense, gravity and satire were all possible. Goya took out an advertisement in a Madrid newspaper and announced that in the Caprichos he was depicting human folly, prejudice, and deception. Obviously, he added, any similarity with living people was purely coincidental. Nevertheless, his contemporaries immediately recognized specific references in many prints. Biting social satire and demonic fantasy combine in the Caprichos to create a nightmare from which there is no escape.

Number 1 in the series is the self-portrait of the Aragon-born Spaniard himself: Franciso Jose de Goya y Lucientes ((March 30, 1746 – April 16, 1828). We, of course, took our pictures with the famous fella. Above left is my HunkyPoo with #1 Caprichos. (Sadly, they did not allow flash shots, so we had to take pics with the cell phone, ergo, iffy quality here. See a better Caprichos #1 at top of the blog entry.)

The first room, nicely lit with lots of tall windows on either end of its length, contained timelines and a printing machine (of the type used to make prints of the etchings) and all the Caprichos. These were of particular interest to me due to the macabre/fantasy/horror content, the snarky sarcasm of Goya (yes, if he were a blogging artist today, he'd be off the Snark-o-Meter), and the familiarity of some of the pieces. You can see some fine examples of the series HERE. The exhibit was suitable for a Halloween week visit, given the witches, monstrous bats and owls and such. A couple were very hard to look at, notably for me the ones showing people wearing the outfits for the auto-da-fe (robe and pointed hat), being condemned for nothing, like "Aquellos Polbos". Difficult for any person of faith, I would think.

The second room (or last, depending which way you chose to go next from the main salon) had either the bullfighting etchings--La Tauromaquia--or Los Proverbios:

~~La Tauromaquia--Bullfighting's not my cup of tea, though I remember my dad rivetted while watching the sport on television when I was a kid. However, three or four were quite outstanding and actually had me stop and study them a while. They actually started to tell a human interest sort of story, as you realize that the bullfighters you were seeing just there, now here are being killed in action by the fierce creatures. One, possibly my favorite or second fave, hard-pressed to say, was noticeably different in scenario (depicting the stands, rather than the ring action), and captured in Goya's lines for history the moment the mayor was gored to death by a rampaging bull, titled (translated) "Dreadful Events in the Front Rows of the Ring at Madrid and the Death of the Mayor of Torrejon."

~~Proverbios--I had hubby take two pics of me with pieces in this exhibit that I liked. This one with a tall, light character so like the "death figure" we use in our culture is called "Folly of Fear." (Bigger, clearer image below.) See others in Los Proverbios/DISPARATES series HERE.
The next one, with the winged contraptions, is called "One Way to Fly." This etching is another that I'd seen before. It was even the featured etching in one of the press releases for the Miami exhibit. We all dream of flying, I think, and all envy Superman a bit, and maybe even Icarus for those few glorious moments before the fall.

No pics were taken in the bright central salon that featured The Disasters of War--Los desastres de la guerra (1810-1815). It really was too sombre and too overwhelming. I actually got just very deeply moved and upset. Yes, I'd seen some of these before in books and online. But there's something about doing the circuit--seeing it build, one awfulness after the other. And the stand-outs for me--the mutilations, the rapes, the executions--how can you stand next to that and say cheese? No.

What I found especially moving in juxtaposition to the images was the way Goya titled these creations. "I saw it." "Is this what you were born for?" "Why?" "It happened" "This is still worse" and "What Heroism! Against Dead Men" are two that are particularly horrific and, yes, the latter is one I recognized. One turned darkly ironic by its title was "This is not to be looked at." You can view some selections HERE and HERE, if you are up to it. They will leave you with an urgent need to pray for peace.

I actually was pressing my hand to my chest as I walked out of there. No, we couldn't take pics. It would have felt like an insult to stand next to one of those and pose.

After we left the floor with the Goya exhibit, we visited another room up a flight of stone stairs from the lobby, which had an exhibit of sound art by Janet Cardiff called The Forty-Part Motet:
Cardiff's piece, for those not familiar with this well-traveled sound installation, is a recording of Thomas Tallis's polyphonic choral work from 1575, Spem in alium. Tallis's Latin text translates this way:

I have never put my hope in any other but in you God of Israel who will be angry and yet become again gracious and who forgives all the sins of suffering man. Lord God Creator of Heaven and Earth look upon our lowliness.

For this piece, Cardiff recorded each of the forty unique vocal parts individually. The installation consists of forty speakers arranged in an oval, each speaker playing back a voice of one member of the Salisbury Cathedral Choir. Cardiff's advanced recording and playback technology creates the experience of a live performance that typical two-channel playback cannot. The elliptical installation gives visitors the ability to move around and through the sound in a way that is not possible when the piece is performed by a live choir.

It was just the three of us in this room with dark gray Corinthian columns liberally arranged in the space, a vaulted ceiling reminiscent of monasteries or European old churches, and an aging and peeling bit of map wall art (sad that). Two dark benches set in the middle of forty speakers (go HERE to see what the speakers look like) and a dark floor. It was a moody setting, acoustically interesting. A very cool aural art experience.

Afterwards, with the wind whipping my hair into some crazy mass that kept wanting to hide inside my mouth--ptui!--we headed up Biscayne Boulevard and had a late lunch at The Gourmet Diner. Blew the diet with the luxurious French Onion Soup, double pork chops with roasted potato and steamed broccoli, and, er, chocolate mousse. But that mousee was worth every bit of saturated fat and sugar. Dang.

Goya and chocolate mousse, all in one day with my sister and my soulmate for company. Life is sometimes really good.

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