David Needs a Bath

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When we see full frontal male nudity on the front page of the N.Y. Times, we know for sure there must be a damn good reason. Michelangelo's "David," which has been kept indoors at the Academy of Fine Arts in Florence since 1873, is making headlines again. Not bad for a glorious youth who's 500 years old. Italian restorers and scholars are fighting over the best way to clean the statue. Some suggest that the best way to do it is with soft brushes, gentle cloth and an eraser. Others believe in the "wet" method, involving a gentle solution with distilled water. Heated debates between scholars on both sides of the Atlantic ensue.

But this controversy is nothing compared to the scandal that erupted over restoration of Michelangelo's Sistine Chapel a decade ago. Many claim that it was over-cleaned. Since then, museum officials of the Uffizi Gallery in Florence and Louvre in Paris tried several times to organize very much needed cleaning of the Leonardo da Vinci masterpieces, but chickened out under the pressure of international scrutiny. Considering the superstar status of Leonardo's and Michelangelo's masterpieces, there is no chance in hell that scholars will be able to agree on any particular method of cleaning. As for me, I'm getting a perverse pleasure knowing that so many people are so passionate about works of art.

Speaking of passion, ArtNews Magazine just published its annual list of the top 200 collectors in the world. Among them, seventeen are based in California - 8 in Northern California and 9 in Los Angeles, including, surprisingly, David Bowie. Of course, it is no surprise to see Edythe and Eli Broad on this list. But I did a double-take when I saw their names were first on the list of the top ten collectors worldwide.

Laura Cooper and Nick Taggart: Exterior of Unconsciousness Now I feel it's my duty to find for you a couple of cool gallery shows not far from the beach. At the Angles Gallery there is an exhibition of Sleeping Beauty. Trust me on that. The walls in the largest room are covered with more than 2,500, mostly black and white photographs, depicting a young, beautiful dark-haired woman sleeping and sleeping, and nothing but sleeping. Her name is Laura Cooper. Her husband, Nick Taggart, makes these photographs, according to their elaborate plan, just a moment before she wakes up. Only one photograph per day. This project will continue until the natural demise of one of the spouses, or until they divorce, whichever comes first. I didn't expect to like the exhibition when I read the press release, but I found it utterly charming, challenging and poetic. It not only requires quite a lot of attention, what's more important, it holds the attention.

Sheltered Cove, Tojimbo, Honshu, Japan by Michael Kenna At the Craig Krull Gallery there is an exhibition of several dozens of black and white, small photographs of Japanese landscapes by Michael Kenna, famous for his exquisitely composed images of Versailles and other royal gardens. His new images, though, as always, impeccably composed, made me think that his art is in danger of becoming exceedingly tasteful and predictable.

Tree Branches in Snow by Robert Glenn Ketchum You want unpredictable? Go to the back room of the gallery. See for yourself an astonishing transformation of Robert Ketchum photographs. In the hands of Chinese embroiderers, his landscapes are recreated through translucent webs of silk stitches. And dammit, these embroideries look, from a distance, just like the photographs.

Angles Gallery
2330 Main Street
Santa Monica, CA 90405
(310) 396-5019

"Michael Kenna: Japan"
"Robert Glenn Ketchum: Transforming Light"

July 12 - August 16, 2003
Craig Krull Gallery
Bergamot Station
2525 Michigan Avenue, Bldg. B-3
Santa Monica, CA 90404
(310) 828-6410