Friday, November 9, 2012

Park & Museum

On Wednesday, the most recent warm spell signaled the approach of its own end with an overcast day that yet remained more-or-less unseasonably warm. I walked into Golden Gate Park after finishing work at the library. Near the restored Victorian Conservatory of Flowers another dahlia-blooming season had reached culmination, as I discovered by chance. The oval plot devoted to these tall grotesque flowers was (as always) surrounded by asphalt and parked cars, but I contrived to banish that part of the truth from the picture. And did not pause long there in any case, pursuing my own path toward the De Young Museum – where I took a few fresh looks at a few old friends –

Mark di Suvero Che Faro Senza Eurydice (1959-60)

Larger-than-life marble sculptures of alluring Biblical females and grandiose 19th century landscapes in heavy gilt frames – a gallery of generous proportions devoted to the booty that formerly ornamented the mansions of local Robber Barons.

Showing art to babies is an excellent thing to do. In background, Sean Scully's Wall of Light Horizon (2005).

Cornelia Parker (b. 1956)  Anti-Mass (2005). Charcoal and wire. "This sculpture, Anti-Mass, is constructed from the charred remains of an African American Baptist church in Alabama that was destroyed by arsonists."

Group at left is Conversation Piece V (2001), three bronzes by Juan Muñoz, who died (far too young) in the same year these figures came into existence. A while back, I made a quite different-looking attempt here to photograph them at closer range. This current view was taken from inside the building, on an upper floor. Because of mild temperatures the autumn colors in San Francisco tend to be more muted than is ordinary elsewhere, an example being  the Japanese maples above (curated by the landscape architect with a high degree of tasteful asymmetry). 

Elsewhere in the De Young's sculpture garden, Claes Oldenburg's Safety Pin (1999) terrorizes a ginkgo hedge. This Chinese tree grows slowly and never blooms, but in this coastal Northern California climate is of all trees the most reliably vivid in autumn.Ginkgo leaves do their brilliant gold-coin color trick even if the weather doesn't get particularly cold.

Finally, a rather incongruous and leftover-looking memorial warrior (in Beaux-Arts mode) from the California Midwinter International Exposition of 1894 (an architectural extravaganza and source of mass entertainment and commerce that took place on this site, according to the inscription on the plinth).

The actual purpose of my visit was to see the Nureyev exhibition, currently on loan from the Centre national du costume de scène in Moulins. In fact I spent little time at this show. It depressed me, as though intended to prove beyond doubt that the living artist was really and truly dead, 20 years after the fact. How tacky stage costumes look off-stage, and how empty.