Friday, April 17, 2009

Tail end of The Third Mind

Halfway through a sixteen-mile bike day - my first of the season and first since the ankle sprain - I stopped off at the Guggenheim Museum to catch The Third Mind: American Artists Contemplate Asia, 1860–1989. (It closes on Sunday.) Unifying the exhibit is a site-specific work by Ann Hamilton called Human Carriage, which was created for the Frank Lloyd Wright rotunda. A silver rail runs around the outside of the spiral walkway to carry a little car made up of two temple cymbals draped in transparent fabric. Every so often, a participant in the work sets the carriage in motion from the top of the rotunda. It slides down the rail, nudging past occasional dampers that cause the cymbals to knock into each other and chime. At the bottom of the track, the carriage knocks a glued jumble of sliced-up paperback pages into a pile that has grown as the exhibit has been open.

Another memorable piece was Dream House by La Monte Young and Marian Zazeela. You enter an anteroom through a series of curtains, where you have to remove your shoes and are warned that the light and sound environment you're about to enter may alter your psychological state (no joke). The carpeted room is mostly dark except for pockets of red and blue light shining against abstract wall hangings. Several banks of speakers emit drones. The volume is just barely on the bearable side of annoying. I lingered for a few minutes and noticed how the drones sounded more static when I was standing still and more wavering when I stepped around the room. I had a flashback to the time I tried sitting and walking meditation at a place on the east side, on the suggestion of my massage therapist, back the last time when I was in physical therapy.

I also was drawn to The Recitation, a 1891 painting by Thomas Wilmer Dewing, on loan from Detroit. Something about the representational depiction of two figures in an otherwise very abstract natural setting captivated me. It got me even more than the Whislters in the room. And at the very beginning of the show, there is a massive five-sided room covered in curling gold leaf, which was just stunning to look at. The title? The Death of James Lee Byars.

Along my walk - from top to bottom: the opposite direction from what they recommend, I know - I spotted the coolest pair of earrings and I had to complement the girl who was wearing them. Turns out she made them herself. They were these Alexander Calder mobile-inspired pieces. She called them a prototype, but gave me her card anyway: Tia Kramer Jewelry. I gather from her web site that she was visiting from Seattle.

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