Generally speaking, I do not have an addictive personality. Anyway, I’m not a smoker or heavy drinker. But when I feel like getting high, I head to the nearest museum or gallery, or at least grab an art book off of a coffee table.
However, in the interest of full disclosure let me admit that last night - before going to bed - I got smitten, seduced and, ultimately, obsessed while checking my email. A good fellow American, and a faithful listener of Art Talk on KCRW, sent me a link to a Vatican website with a 360 degree panorama of the Sistine Chapel.
For the next hour, wild horses couldn’t have driven me away from the computer screen.
Just imagine floating inside of this amazing sacred space and I mean it, literally floating. With a click of the mouse, you zoom in and out of Michelangelo’s Last Judgment and then, you fly all the way to the ceiling, saying hello to each and every gorgeous Sibyl. And that’s only the beginning of your journey, which will continue with numerous dives toward the intricate mosaic floor, and twists and twirls along the dozens of wall frescos painted by the who’s who of the Italian Renaissance.
I wonder what kind of effect this new Vatican toy may have on the person who has never before visited the Sistine Chapel. But speaking for myself, I have to confess that my actual experiences of being there several times pale in comparison with the drunken pleasure of the illusion that I can control these sacred chambers with the mere touch of a button. Be warned: You shouldn’t operate a vehicle after experiencing this latest Vatican website application.
With all that, let’s jump five centuries forward in search of frescos worthy of our time: something monumental, highly original and yes, very seductive. So how about the latest exhibition of frescos by the late Sol LeWitt (1928-2007) at LA Louver Gallery? His frescos, or as he preferred to call them, wall drawings, have been exhibited in hundreds of museum and gallery shows. And here, once again, we can experience the operatic grandeur of his vision and intricate control with which these wall drawings are executed. Each of the four geometric compositions is defined by the form of a cube and is painted in various rich, complimentary colors.
But here’s a secret: every time you enjoy the frescos of this famous American artist, what you are seeing is artwork which was conceptualized by him, but never touched by his own hands. Well-trained and trusted assistants follow the intricate instructions of the artist and the resulting wall drawing is, without question, as much an authentic work by Sol LeWitt himself, as let’s say, Disney Concert Hall is an original creation of Frank Gehry.
If you ever dreamt or fantasized of being a proverbial fly on the wall, here’s your chance. The gallery has a timelapse video on their website, documenting in fascinating detail, the painstaking process of a group of local artists carrying out Sol LeWitt’s specific instructions. Somehow, I am pretty sure that Michelangelo would be very much amused by this conceptual twist on the ancient art of fresco painting.