Sunday, March 21, 2010

Ancient Dudes, Then and Now

So much to blog about. Spring Break is over, back from New York; had a great time with my sons Danny and Andrew gooning around the city, which is a pedestrian place par excellence. Saw my niece Grace too, and we had a big hot pot feast in Chinatown, the four of us. If I can stay focused enough, I'll devote a little time to detailing the relevant itinerary and the associated insights. I am always nourished by the Met and by MoMA, although the latter post-renovation often seems a lot like a shopping mall with status. Cafes underfoot and within earshot seemingly everywhere, scads of people shooting pictures of themselves next to famous paintings, etc. But I had a few genuine glimpses of what moved my younger self, back in the day when I lived in that giant grey vertical burgh and sold jewelry at Sak's Fifth Avenue...another time.

Meanwhile lots to report on the teaching and rummaging front–a big day recently in a particularly good antique shop downstate, good pickings in postwar publications, especially–and distinguished drawing by former students and the like. More soon on that front, especially from Toby in Texas. But in the meantime, I had a blast in NY when I spoke as forewarned at the Parsons School of Design, which turned out to resemble nothing so much as a Washington University Communication Design alumni event, to my utter delight. One of the best parts of teaching, to encounter people you knew as doubtful, halting beginners that you very well knew would have something to show for themselves before long. There they are, employed, growing, acquiring the gumshoe gravitas of Brooklynish-Manhattanite trudging through early career stops. (Same for other locales, too.) It was really a treat, and genuinely touching, that so many came out for my modest little chat. We had a big time at a pizza place, shouting over a giant table. Our waitress was unamused, though I thought we were decent enough. We didn't buy any wine. That might have been it.

Anyway I did a little drawing at the Met. Six or seven years ago at the Vatican Museum in Rome I saw quite a striking rack of classical busts all lined up like tchochkes, but way bigger and heavier. It made quite an impression on me, and I've often wished I'd had a sketchbook and drawn those guys then and there. It lives on as an image in my head. Last week at the Met we passed through the Visible Storage area in the American Wing looking for the Sargents (the painting galleries are still closed in the giant renovation of same, now partially complete) and came across a rows of stacked busts, similar to my memory of the Vatican. I resolved to draw them, and this time I did have a sketchbook, having brought one to doodle through centuries. Andrew shot the sketch with his digital camera, which I subsequently fortified with some color shapes in Photoshop to enable projection. Ben Katchor, by whom I was introduced at Parsons (genuinely flattering, though just doing his job, really) was suspicious of the color and called me out on it. "What is that inhumanly flat color doing there?" he asked.

I did a little work on the page when I got back, as I liked the potential of the image. The revised worked up version appears at the top of the post.

More soon, I hope...

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