Kandinsky and More Kandinsky

The Thing I’m Doing This Year #26

Over eight days in late July I took in two beach events in Long Beach and Milwaukee. Nice and warm in California, an event featuring all the superstars of beach volleyball. I got in early, left early and flew to Milwaukee for the Junior Beach National Championships.

IMG_5712In both places I utilized my YelpMaster skills to my advantage. But I also just get lucky. Sometimes I’ll just take a different route back to the hotel and run into something cool, like the coffee place connected to a vinyl record shop on 4th Street in Long Beach. Or the real-deal independent bookstore in the Milwaukee airport, Renaissance Books … wow, that place was awesome. The only drawback that I could see was the staff, three ancient dudes, which made me feel like I had gone to Gringotts to pick out a book. When I made my purchase I asked if they had a bookmark and the old, bald fart took the receipt, shoved it in the book and said, “There’s a bookmark for you.”

The book I got, Julian Barnes’ “A Sense of an Ending,” a book about memory, if I recall correctly.

Milwaukee was all kinds of cool, lots of interesting architecture, huge classic buildings covered in sculpture and ornate details; Colectivo, a cool coffee place in a restored 1888 former flushing station; Historic Third Ward with loads of corner bars every five feet, like The Wicked Hop; and a cool Italian restaurant in a house in a beautiful, sun-drenched neighborhood of Victorian houses.

I had a Midwest breakfast at a coffee place … scrambled eggs and toast.

On my day off, I visited the $100 million Milwaukee Art Museum, which was featured in a Transformers movie. The building looks like a ship and there are white wings covering the steeple-esque mast. At some point in the morning the wings/sails are unfurled to allow light to pour into the lobby.

Did you know that Georgia O’Keeffe was born in Wisconsin? She was. This museum had 22 O’Keeffe’s in one room.

The temporary exhibit was a study on Wassily Kandinsky, very informative, interesting and illuminating. His life and art spanned WWI and WWII, a pivotal, historic time for the artist and his Russian homeland. He is known for abstract expressionism, geometric shapes, bright colors and symbolism, mostly depicting the apocalypse.

kandinskyKandinsky: A Retrospective was organized and co-curated by the Milwaukee Art Museum with the Centre Pompidou Paris, which loaned the art. They have his art because his widow gave it to them and it included many of the artist’s favorite works because he kept them for himself. Over 100 work spanning four decades. Much like Marc Chagall and other artists, Kandinsky had to move several times due to the wars, but because of this he was exposed to art and artists from many places: Russia, Berlin, and Paris, where he met Surrealists Joan Miro and Max Ernst.

Kandinsky was also close friends with Hans Hofmann, who, like many creatives from Germany, came to America. Between the German and New York schools where Hofmann taught, he became one of the most influential figures in 20th century art. He taught Lee Krasner and later became friends with Lee’s husband, Jackson Pollock. I’m trying to expand my areas of interest, but usually when I go to a museum I want to see a Van Gogh, Rothko or Pollock. But I’ve recently added some favorites like Hofmann and Chagall.

I’m just a lucky guy. I probably should have taken a few art classes in college. Guess where a ton of Kandinsky works reside? The Art Institute of Chicago. I just visited that museum in June. When I was in Long Beach, I drove up to the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, one of my favorites and took in another special exhibit.

Vincent_van_Gogh_-_Peupliers_à_Saint-RémyExpressionism in Germany and France: From Van Gogh to Kandinsky is an exhibition that brings in idiots like me because they mention Van Gogh and Kandinsky in the title and then the majority of the art are by other artists. There were 135 works by German and French artists and maybe six of them are of Van Gogh and Kandinsky. But I’ve become an obsessive Van Gogh fan. I’d drive 100 miles to see a good Van Gogh and in this exhibition there was one … The Poplars at Saint-Remy from 1889, which was so clearly the best work in the show. It was mesmerizing and hypnotic to me.

They said no photos for certain paintings and that was one of them. BUT I COULDN’T HELP MYSELF. I visited and revisited this painting and got busted taking photos of it. I was compelled. If I stayed there any longer I might have tried to touch it. Steal it. I think maybe it was meant to be mine. I don’t know, but you really have to see these things up close and in person. They are alive.

It’s a good thing Van Gogh is dead; I’d probably kidnap him.

So if you need more proof what a small world we live in guess who LACMA partnered with in organizing this exhibition … the Kunsthaus Zurich, which I visited last October.

The next installment … “To The Camp”

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