Sunday, January 31, 2010

The Young Bithynian

"Antinoüs was the last sculptural type of male beauty to have been invented in the classical world – lush, melancholy and demure." Hadrian and the Triumph of Rome / Anthony Everitt

He lived from 29 November 111 to 30 October 130. After his death (by drowning, at age eighteen, in the Nile, under mysterious circumstances) Antinoüs was declared a god by his good friend the Emperor Hadrian. How short the life. How numerous the statues.

Images here.

Alphabetical Sonnet


Agnus Dei reliquary, arquebuses,
Awls and astrolabes, beads, bellows, buckles, breech-blocks,

Candle holders, collars, cords and crucifixes;

Dagger hilts and dishes; ewers, esmerils and flintlocks.

Gaiters, goatskins, goblets, gunner's rules and glasses;

Heddles, holsters; ingots, jug-spouts, keys; a lion mask;

Mallets, Ming, muskets; nails; an oriflamme of damask;

Pearls, pellets; querns, ramrods, rings, and silver tasses.

Spokes, shoes, shot, steelyards, shackles; two escudo pieces;

Toggles, tweezers, tambourines and taper-sticks;
Urns and ukeleles; vices, yokes, axes, adzes

Not to mention the admiral's medallion,

Nor the golden chalice, nor the Eucharistic pyx;

All these were found on board the foundered Spanish galleon.

From Ciaran Carson's Collected Poems, a doorstop of a book, thick and solid as a brick. First published in Ireland in 2008 and now in the U.S. by Wake Forest University Press.

S.F. Pairs

Am fond of this set of cobbled-together door-and-window overhang-contrivances. They can be found and admired on the north side of 17th Street near Dolores in San Francisco.

Am fond of these ficus trees marching down the sidewalk. They are growing out of their small squares of bare earth on Treat near 18th Street in the Mission.

Am fond of the art-nouveau flourishes on the fire escape of this anonymous concrete hi-rise. It is downtown on Post near Powell.

Am fond of these sheer drapes on Haight Street. Starbursts or chrysanthemums?

Am fond of this hand-lettered web address in a shop window on Haight (though not fond at all of the paintings displayed in the window and for sale on the site).

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Too Much Happiness

"The college library was a high beautiful space, designed and built and paid for by people who believed that those who sat at the long tables before open books – even those who were hungover, sleepy, resentful, and uncomprehending – should have space above them, panels of dark gleaming wood around them, high windows bordered with Latin admonitions, through which to look at the sky. For a few years before they went into schoolteaching or business or began to rear children, they should have that. And now it was my turn and I should have it too."

The quote is from Wenlock Edge, a story in Alice Munro's newest collection, Too Much Happiness. Throughout her career Munro's typical protagonist is a yearning, working-class child whose life is transformed (if not necessarily improved) by higher education. These characters read like myself to me, so it is only natural that I tend to find them exceptionally moving. Pictured above is the main reading room of Doe Library at UC Berkeley – where I arrived many years ago like any other Munro farm kid propelled from behind by a scholarship. In the same building a more intimate refuge was likewise available in the Morrison Room (below) – a dedicated space intended for pleasure-reading rather than paper-writing. I admired both rooms equally and divided my time between them back in those "few years" before I left the university for an adult job. The fact that my own adult job turned out to be in a university library can – it goes without saying – be traced directly back to the allure of these two rooms.

The First

I do not keep very good track of the calendar year. Meaning that I don't usually know what month different trees or shrubs can be expected to bloom in San Francisco, or how the weather here at this time last year compares to this year's weather, or which Sunday of which month every year the Gay Pride Parade takes place. But there is an exception. I know that some of the many thousands of small black-barked ornamental cherry trees planted along the city's sidewalks will begin to bloom by the end of January. This knowledge is narcissistic rather than botanical – because my birthday comes at the end of January, and it makes a Gigantic Marker inside my head. Yesterday on Hayes Street near Stanyan out in the neighborhood of the library where I work near Golden Gate Park (a cold and windy neighborhood, as a rule, and not conducive to early blooming) I saw this year's fist cherry blossoms, and took a picture of them.

That same day my daughter put up an impressionistic photo of a birthday cake for me (with merry burning candles) on our collaborative site, Silas & Eppie.

Friday, January 29, 2010

Eager Viewers

Ambitious & numerous pursuers of contemporary aesthetic stimulation (blurring in their haste) on a recent winter morning at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art.

Matthew Barney

(Formed and cast petroleum jelly decline bench, 1991)

Visitors to the 75th Anniversary comprehensive exhibition at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art are invited by the uniformed gallery attendant to enter a functioning walk-in cooler and experience the frigid temperature at which this sculpture – created almost 20 years ago – must be maintained to prevent it from spontaneously liquefying.

Bruce Nauman

(Single-channel video with sound, 1968)

A work from the Stone Age of video art, now resurrected and redisplayed on a tiny vintage television as part of the 75th Anniversary Show at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

SFMOMA 75th Anniversary

The newly mounted anniversary show at SFMOMA – a retrospective from the permanent collection – is so rich that the first visit can hardly be more than a scan. Return trips begin to permit something like an appropriate level of concentration on individual galleries:

Jeff Wall

Andy Warhol

Ellsworth Kelly

Jeff Wall

SFMOMA Men's Room
Anonymous Artist

SFMOMA Men's Room
My Reflected Feet

Gerhard Richter

Matthew Barney

Kara Walker

Gerhard Richter

Kara Walker

David Park

Matthew Barney

Andy Warhol

Andy Warhol

Reading the Wall