A short trip to San Francisco I'd been contemplating for some time couldn't be delayed any longer. The retrospective of German painter, Gerhard Richter, at San Francisco MOMA was coming to a close. I definitely didn't want to miss the exhibition which, since its opening in New York last year, was praised as the best show of the year and the public responded in droves. Reluctant to admit it, but now that I've seen the exhibition, I'm joining the chorus. Richter is a remarkable artist of amazing versatility, painting simultaneously in figurative and abstract modes. Even more remarkable that he is equally effective in both. And judging by the crowd in the museum, his work - emotionally reserved and dramatic at the same time - seems to appeal to everybody. The only problem with my love for his art is that, though intense, it stays with me only as long as I'm in its presence.
Before leaving the museum, I made a quick dash through the galleries housing the permanent collection. A majestic canvas by Mark Rothko, installed to maximum effect at the end of a long corridor, left me speechless. I remembered that it took me quite some time to develop an appreciation for Rothko's brooding, elegant, minimalist art, but since that happened, his work has haunted me like the soliloquies of Hamlet. Without doubt, Gerhard Richter deserves the fame and fortune his art has brought him. But looking at his seductively elusive art, and reading about this exceedingly private man, I think of the character of the Great Gatsby missing part of his soul.
On my return I was stunned by the dramatic layout of the Los Angeles Times Sunday Calendar. Half of its front page was given to an excellent full color reproduction of Lucien Freud's portrait of David Hockney, for which our famous Los Angeles artist sat for more than 100 hours. One can "read" this portrait like a novel. The large, informative article continues with an even more dramatic two-page spread containing a fascinating, psychologically charged photograph of Hockney posing for Lucien Freud in his London studio. In a quarter of a century as an L.A. Times reader this is the first time I'm thinking of cutting out a newspaper photograph and framing it. It whets my appetite for the Lucien Freud retrospective coming to MOCA in February.
Almost two months ago I talked about a very interesting exhibition at LACMA devoted to Japanese theater. Among the rare artifacts are dozens of dazzling kimonos dating back to the eighteenth, and even the seventeenth century. Declared as national treasures, these fragile garments can only be exposed to light for no longer than a month at a time, according to stringent Japanese conservation standards. So in the middle of this two-month long exhibition, all the kimonos had to be removed and substituted with more kimonos especially brought for that reason. Don't miss this show that is ready to close on February 2nd. Even if you've already enjoyed it once, check out its new version.
"Miracles and Mischief: Noh and Kyogen Theater in Japan"
Through February 2, 2003
Los Angeles County Museum of Art
5905 Wilshire Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90036