Saturday, March 31, 2012

Head studies

Here are today's head studies. Both paintings are oil on linen board, 9 x 12 inches. I was aiming for a combination of realism and abstraction using palette knives and brushes. Loosely inspired by Alyssa Monk and Andy Denzler. Getting there, I think.

My teacher said I should use these techniques with a nude figure on a much larger scale. Hmm, maybe. We do have a new pose next week. I might try that.

Friday, March 30, 2012

Schnittke, Dvorák, and Tchaikovsky

I bought another half price ticket to last night's New York Philharmonic concert conducted by Christoph von Dohnányi.

Frank Peter Zimmermann played Dvorák's Violin Concerto (1879) with much polish and sensitivity, though he perhaps understated the work's rustic character just a bit.

The orchestra also performed Tchaikovsky's Symphony No. 6, Pathétique (1893). As much as I love Tchaikovsky's ballet scores, this symphony has always seemed a bit whiny and sentimental to me. But Dohnányi changed my mind last night. His version was thrilling with propulsive phrasing and articulation especially in the first and third movements.

The program began with Alfred Schnittke's (K)ein Sommernachtsraum—Not After Shakespeare ({Not}a Summer Night’s Dream) (1985). It's a clever piece that subjects a perfectly Mozartean theme to the terrors and anxieties of modern life.

Listen to it here:

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Christian McBride & Inside Straight

My friend Joe took me to Birdland last night where Christian McBride's Inside Straight was playing. I'm not a big jazz fan though I do enjoy live performances on accasion. The vibraphonist Warren Wolf was amazing, and so were Peter Martin on piano and Christian McBride on bass.

Here they are performing in Tokyo in 2009.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

John Chamberlain

I loved the John Chamberlain show at the Guggenheim.

Made of crushed car parts and other materials, his sculptures looked like abstract expressionism in 3D especially when viewed across the rotunda (rather than up close). The artist had more range than I thought. His pieces from the 60s to the 80s looked best I think. Towards the end of his career his work lost some of its edge and became too slick.

The show runs through May 13, 2012.

Shortstop (1958)

Miss Lucy Pink (1962)

Miss Remember Ford (1964)

Sugar Tit (1964)

Lovin' Spoonful (1965)

Untitled # 7 (1966)

Ultima Thule (1967)

Hano (1970)

rFoot (1976)
Kiss # 12 (1979)

The Devil and the Deep Blue Sea (1983)
Glossalia Adagio (1984)

Lord Suckfist (1989)

Women's Voices (2005)

Peaudesoiemusic (2011)

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Henze and Schubert

A few days ago a representative from the New York Philharmonic called and offered half price tickets to the remaining performances this season. The offer was too good to pass up, so I attended last night's concert featuring the Adagio, Fugue and Maenads’ Dance from Hans Werner Henze’s opera “The Bassarids” (1964-65/2004), conducted by Christoph von Dohnányi.

The New York Times wrote:
Mr. Henze’s opera is based on Euripides’ “Bacchae,” with a libretto by W. H. Auden and Chester Kallman. The plot focuses on the tussle between the hedonistic cult of Dionysus and the abstemious ruler King Pentheus, who goes undercover in drag to spy on the debauched proceedings taking place in his kingdom. He is recognized and killed by the cavorting Maenads (Bassarid being a synonym for Maenad). 
The opera is structured like a classical symphony, with a sonata-form opening movement, a scherzo, an adagio and a passacaglia finale. In 2004 Mr. Henze made segments of the work into a concert piece for huge orchestra, with the vocal lines reassigned to instruments: a sensual, luxuriantly scored suite with echoes of Berg.
I was kind of dreading this, expecting some squeaky dissonant thing in the style of Webern or Schoenberg but the Henze piece actually turned out to be pretty accessible, sort of like a horror movie soundtrack with elements of Stravinsky. The orchestra was huge, almost Wagnerian, and some of the dynamics were so startling that I nearly jumped out of my seat a few times.

The second half of the program featured Schubert's Symphony No. 9 in C Major. It's an old favorite though I don't think I've ever heard it live. Dohnányi traded some of the grandeur for a fresh, dramatic pace and the lady in front of me was actually swaying and bobbing to the rhythms (so distracting though I caught myself doing the same thing). The fourth movement was particularly enjpyable with the recapitulation of themes and melodies of the earlier movements.

Here's Herbert von Karajan conducting the finale with the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Art Institute of Chicago

I spent two days at the Art Institute of Chicago. God, what a great collection. Here are some of my favorite paintings.

Fra Angelico
Saint Anthony Abbot (1440/41)

Workshop of Dieric Bouts
Mater Dolorosa (Sorrowing Virgin) (1480/1500)

Bartolomeo Manfredi
Cupid Chastised (1613)

Pieter Claesz
Still Life (1625)

Francisco de Zurbarán
The Crucifixion (1627)

Rembrandt Harmensz. van Rijn
Old Man with a Gold Chain (1631)

Adriaen van der Spelt and Frans van Mieris
Trompe-l'Oeil Still Life with a Flower Garland and a Curtain (1658)

Joseph Wright of Derby
Self-Portrait in a Fur Cap (1765/68)

Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres
Amédée-David, the Comte de Pastoret (1823-26)

Henri Fantin-Latour
Édouard Manet (1867)

Gustave Caillebotte
Paris Street; Rainy Day (1877)

Edgar Degas
The Millinery Shop (1879/86)

Georges Seurat
A Sunday on La Grande Jatte -- 1884 (1884-86)

Martin Johnson Heade
Magnolias on Light Blue Velvet Cloth (1885/95)

Vincent van Gogh
Self-Portrait (1887)

Paul Gauguin
Day of the God (Mahana no Atua) (1894)

Claude Monet
Waterloo Bridge, Sunlight Effect (1903)

John Singer Sargent
The Fountain, Villa Torlonia, Frascati, Italy (1907)

Henri Matisse
Bathers by a River (1909-10, 1913, 1916-17)

Pablo Picasso
Daniel-Henry Kahnweiler (1910)

Georgia O'Keeffe
Blue and Green Music (1919/21)

Grant Wood
American Gothic (1930)

Willem de Kooning
Untitled (1948-49)

Alberto Giacometti
Diego Seated in the Studio (1950)

Jackson Pollock
Greyed Rainbow (1953)

Gerhard Richter
Woman Descending the Staircase (Frau die Treppe herabgehend) (1965)

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

The Language of Less (Then and Now)

The Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago is presenting an exhibit of minimalist art called The Language of Less (Then and Now). 

I found the show very elegant and quite serene. I'm almost tempted to attempt minimalism but the rigor of straight edges and smooth surfaces might drive me nuts.

The artists include pioneers such as Carl Andre, Donald Judd, Sol LeWitt, and Richard Serra (through April 15), as well as contemporary artists such as Leonor Antunes, Carol Bove, Jason Dodge, Gedi Sibony, and Oscar Tuazon (through March 25).



Last night the Lyric Opera of Chicago performed Rinaldo, perhaps Georg Friedrich Händel's finest opera, in a witty, modern production by Francisco Negrin.

The experience was worth the trip to Chicago. The music was extraordinary and all of the arias, particularly Cara sposa and Lascia ch'io pianga, were like jewels strung on silvery, finely wrought Baroque orchestration.

The excellent cast included David Daniels as Rinaldo, Julia Kleiter as Almirena, Luca Pisaroni as Argante, and Elza van den Heever as Armida. The conductor was Harry Bicket.

Here's David Daniels singing Cara sposa from the 2001 Prinzregententheater production in Munich.


Monday, March 19, 2012

Enchanted Spring

Abstract watercolor study on Canson Montval Watercolor Block. 6 x 9 inches.

This was loosely inspired by Morris Louis and Helen Frankenthaler.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Gerhard Richter at Film Forum

Film Forum is showing a documentary about Gerhard Richter through March 27.

Even though I sometimes feel that his work can be sterile and mechanical the film is an absorbing look into his process and development. Definitely worth seeing. I realized that he's just an ordinary guy who likes to paint, just like the me.

Saturday, March 17, 2012


I finished this portrait from life at the National Academy today. The dimensions are 9 x 12 inches, and the medium is oil on linen board. It took three sessions, a total of nine hours.

I was aiming for a smoothly modeled face like Ginerva de' Benci with a rough background for contrast.

The painting still looks unfinished but my instructor liked the sketchy quality and suggested that I stop working on it. And so I did.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Beethoven and Hartmann

Last night the New York Philharmonic presented Beethoven's First and Third Symphonies conducted by David Zinman.

Due to my unpredictable work schedule, I don't have a subscription and usually book tickets a few days before the performance to take advantage of online discounts. I sat in the third ring side directly overlooking the stage where for the first time I could closely observe the woodwind and brass sections.

What a difference! The grandeur of Beethoven was heightened by the movements of the players and the Third in particular sounded truly heroic.

The program also featured Gil Shaham in Karl Amadeus Hartmann's Concerto funèbre for Solo Violin and String Orchestra (1939; rev. 1959). The piece was full of angst, which wasn't surprising since the composer was inspired to write it after Hitler invaded Czechoslovakia. From the program notes:

he sorrowed “for his country and countrymen and his foreboding of the fate that awaited them all.” Writing about his intense, emotional concerto to conductor Hermann Scherchen, the composer said that its structure was designed to reflect “the intellectual and spiritual hopelessness of the period... contrasted with an expression of hope in the two chorales in the beginning and at the end.”
It was a dark and deeply introverted piece which provided a nice contrast to the Eroica after the intermission. Here is the first section of Hartmann played by Karel Ancerl and the Czech Philharmonic Orchestra.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Parsifal preview

Next season the Metropolitan Opera will present a new production of Richard Wagner's Parsifal, directed by Francois Girard in a co-production with Opera Lyon and the Canadian Opera Company.

The cast will include Jonas Kaufmann in the title role, Katarina Dalayman as Kundry, Peter Mattei as Amfortas, Evgeny Nikitin as Klingsor, and René Pape as Gurnemanz. The premiere is scheduled for March 2, 2013. Daniele Gatti will conduct the first five performances and Asher Fisch will conduct the final two.

The theme is based on investment bankers searching for redemption. Just kidding (or maybe not).

Here's a preview from Lyon, courtesy of Opera Cake: