The Tenth Muse

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Many years ago, a great American performance artist, Laurie Anderson, famously said that talking about art is like dancing about architecture. The way I interpret her witty words is that unless one tries to experience a work of art first-hand, be it let's say a painting or a building,

then forget about it. I believe that words, even at their most eloquent, can only try to convey the physical appearance of the work of art, the artist's intention and the context in which the artwork or building can be experienced and understood. When I talk about art on this program I try to minimize the physical description of a work of art and instead try to elaborate on the emotional impact it had on me and any thoughts and ideas triggered by the encounter. What would it be like, I wondered, to be able to show images "on the air?"

My prayer was answered: now, with the use of technology, I can engage your eyes as well as your ears. The Greeks believed that there were nine muses granting artistic inspiration. I think we ought to add one more, the muse of digital technology. How else could I collect images of the artwork from the websites of museums, galleries, and artists? Have you checked out the KCRW website recently? Have you seen my Art Talk page where, thanks to the website wizards of KCRW, you can see images and find website links to the museums and galleries I mention in the program. Those who sign up to receive my weekly Art Talk email not only get the text plus images, but will have additional information such as dates, addresses and phone numbers... which is rather handy.

In response to last week's program where I mentioned the new Richard Serra monumental sculpture installed at the San Diego Museum of Contemporary Art, I got an email of images of yet another Serra sculpture that was recently installed in the new park belonging to the Seattle Art Museum. Five gigantic waves of steel loom over one's head as if pausing for a moment of deliberation--forever deciding either to crash or caress the viewer.

I definitely plan to see this work in person but still what a thrill it is to see the dramatic moments of installation captured on camera by Robert Wade, my correspondent from Seattle. Two more works by Serra are in the process of installation here in Southern California: one on the UCLA campus in front of the new Broad Art Center and another in Costa Mesa in front of the Segerstrom Concert Hall.

I guess all this activity is a kind of love song by Richard Serra to his native California. After all, his parents met here on a tourist boat to Catalina Island. During an interview for Politics of Culture a few years ago, he told me a

charming story about how his Spanish-born father wooed his Russian-born mother, both speaking not a word of English. But his father was playing the ukulele and she didn't stand a chance. Like father, like son: Richard Serra knows how to woo his audience. We in California simply don't stand a chance to resist his talent.