Sunday, April 3, 2011

Random Musings 6

The Royal Academy in London has been in existence since 1768, its first President being Sir Joshua Reynolds and including among its famous members J.M.W. Turner and Frederic, Lord Leighton. It has had the cachet of being the leading institution for British art since its foundation, although naturally over its history there have been groups who challenged its principles and teachings, such as the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood in 1848. In spite this paradigmatic position, to be elected a Royal Academician, one of the 80 "eminent practising artists" active in the United Kingdom, is an incredible honor and says much about your position in the world and history of British art. So you can imagine there was some surprise when news broke that Grayson Perry, the 2003 Turner Prize winner (the first transvestite to win that prestigious award), was elected to the RA. The image you see here shows Perry as his transvestite persona Claire in a gallery beside one of his vases (image: London Evening Standard). I'm a relative newbie to the career of Perry, only having begun following his work last fall when I was in the UK (and I must credit CC with pointing his ceramics out to me and thus leading me on my journey to know more about him). Since then I've been fascinated. His vases are beautiful amphora-like objects, but the images on them reveal very personal childlike sketches that frequently depict graphic scenes on subjects such as war and sexual violence. There's something about the images that make me think of Edward Gorey, but with less wit, more visceral realism. His work has helped reinvigorate an interest in ceramics for many, in part because of the subjectivity that appears on works that historically have been decorative or functional objects. The RA, however, doesn't elect decorative artists, so what is interesting with this story too is that they elected him as a printmaker. I'm less familiar with his prints, but the implication from the article in The Art Newspaper is that his work in printmaking was a veiled attempt to acknowledge his achievements without having to bend the rules of election to the RA. The best bit in the article has to do with Perry himself: "On 22 March he was the guest speaker at the RA Schools annual dinner, and although it was a black tie event, Perry added some colour to the night and came as his usual female altar-ego 'Claire', rather than hire a tired Moss Bros suit."

On this side of the Atlantic in NYC, I've been raving about the Stieglitz, Steichen, Strand photography exhibition at The Metropolitan Museum of Art. If you haven't seen it yet, you've got one week before it closes. Opening this week is Rooms with a View: The Open Window in the 19th Century exhibition, which promises to be a delightful show. Inspired by Lorenz Eitner's insightful article "The Open Window and the Storm-Tossed Boat: An Essay in the Iconography of Romanticism" published in The Art Bulletin (December 1955), this exhibition showcases a number of jewel-like pictures by mostly German, Austrian, and Danish artists from the early 1800s who were infatuated with photorealistic interiors and views outside their windows.

In non-art news, The New York Times has done another incredible job using Internet technology with its latest interactive tool (thanks to PR for sending this to me). Using census data, "Mapping America: Every City, Every Block" allows you to type in a zip code or a city name, and you can see the ethnic/racial population breakdown for neighborhoods, as well as information about incomes, education, and family structures. When I did a search for my own largely Italian-American Brooklyn neighborhood, I wasn't surprised to discover it's 61-66% White, but I was surprised to discover that the Asian population was 11-12%. I was actually more surprised to discover that 3-4% of the population in my neighborhood define themselves as same-sex couples, because I was convinced until now I was the only gay in the village. (Definitely click on that link if you've never seen the hilarious BBC comedy Little Britain.)

The new season of Torchwood is set to premiere on July 8th. While I'm glad that John Barrowman and Eve Myles will be part of it, at least for some of the episodes, I'm still annoyed that it's going to be on Starz Network, which I don't think anyone I know actually gets as part of their cable system. I guess we'll have to wait for the DVD.

Speaking of DVDs, if you didn't catch Jim Carrey and Ewan McGregor as prison lovers in I Love You Philip Morris during its limited-run release, you absolutely must see it on DVD, which is being released in the US this week. It is a fabulous dark comedy that will make you squirm, jeer, cry, and laugh out loud. Ewan as a naive blond Southern just wanna eat him up!

And, last but certainly not least, remember that April is Prevention of Cruelty to Animals month, sponsored by the ASPCA. This year is the 145th anniversary of their charter, which was signed here in NYC in 1866. Click here for my past post about the group's history. Go orange and remember We Are Their Voice!


Sherman Clarke said...

As usual, your musings have provoked thoughts, visits to the stacks, and further web browsing. I am looking at the 2004 Grayson Perry catalog from the Victoria Miro Gallery and am amused that the Lisa Jardine essay is entitled "Grayson Perry -- very much his own man." I look forward to reading it and thinking about the gender of the personal pronoun. Looks like "he" and "his" and "him" throughout.

bklynbiblio said...

Sherman, it's funny because I too thought about the pronoun situation and wondered which way to go. It's probably safest to say 's/he' in the case of Perry, but I was following the lead of The Art Newspaper's article, which of course isn't necessary the right way to go either. If we called Perry 'Claire' all the time, I guess I would have gone with she.