Friday, November 8, 2013

Moments of good fortune

Sometimes when you're travelling you have moments when you just stop and marvel at your good fortune. I had one of those moments earlier today in Dallas, Texas when I visited the Nasher Sculpture Centre. The Nasher had been mentioned by various travel guides, but had also been recommended by some locals when I asked what I should visit in Dallas. But I hadn't envisioned that it would be probably the best collection of twentieth and twenty-first century sculpture anywhere in the world. The Centre is housed in an elegantly simple Renzo Piano building whose galleries open to a most pleasingly designed sculpture garden. I wasn't able to take photographs inside the galleries which brought one pleasure after another - Miro, Noguchi, Matisse, Picasso, not in ones and twos, but multiple pieces. Most exquisite of all were the Giacometti works, particularly a series of busts of the artist's brother.

Today in Dallas was crisply cool and clear - perfect for the sculpture garden.

Nasher Sculpture Centre

That's a Barbara Hepworth sculpture in the foreground and a Henry Moore work from 1968 in the left backgound. [There's a story about Henry Moore that I love and may well have told previously on my blog - I have a limited number of stories and I expect I tell and retell them! When my friend Marea Gazzard, whom I wrote about in my last post, was developing a work for the then-new Parliament House, she wrote to Henry Moore to ask about the patina he had used for a piece that's now outside the Art Gallery of NSW. Moore wrote back in the kindest terms and gave the recipe for the patina. I think such generosity becomes a great artist.] There are many wonderful works in the garden, but one that I particularly like is Magdalena Abakanowicz's 'Bronze Crowd' from 1990:

Nasher Abakonowicz

The artist has written of her work 'A crowd is the most cruel because it begins to act like a brainless organism'. I also liked Antony Gormley's 2000 sculpture, 'Quantum Cloud XX (tornado)':

Nasher Sculpture Garden 3

There's actually a human-shaped figure at the centre of the delicate welded steel bars - Gormley says most of his work explores the fine balance between people and their environment. You can see the glowing golden stone of the gallery's built structure surrounding this work.

I've has other moments of wonder earlier in my brief trip to the USA - at the landscape, its history, and its people. But I've started this post with the delight of artworks I've seen (and heard) so I'll continue. In Los Angeles I wanted to see the Walt Disney Concert Hall which was designed by Frank Gehry and is just celebrating its tenth birthday. It's one of those buildings that fills you with joy - all sparkling, intersecting shapes, at one point all angles, and at another soft, rounded folds.

Gehry building LA
Gehry building exterior LA

I'd planned to go on a tour of the building, but was fortunate enough to have my brief visit coincide with a concert in which eminent violinist Itzhak Perlman was playing two of the Vivaldi 'Four Seasons' pieces and then conducting the LA Philharmonic in a grand symphony by Berlioz. The Berlioz required eight double basses, six percussionists, four harpists, ranks of trumpeters, trombones and French horns and innumerable other instrumentalists. It was a huge sound that filled the grand hall and thrilled me.

Gehry concert hall LA

Thanks to the practice of a number of wealthy Americans of making bequests and adding to the collections of public galleries, LA is the possessor of a number of wonderful art galleries. I visited my favourite, the eclectic but astounding Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA)


which you can't miss if you take the 720 bus along Wilshire Boulevard (a most interesting travel experience in its own right - almost deserving of its own post) because of the serried ranks of old LA lampposts that are ranged outside its front facade

LACMA Light Poles

I was delighted to find a corner of the modern section of the galleries that had a luminous Rothko painting flanked by some small Jackson Pollock works.

LACMA Rothko & Pollock

As I had found this pleasurable, imagine how gob-smacked I was when the following day I visited the lesser-known Museum of Contemporary Art and found myself in a room surrounded by no fewer than eight expansive Rothko paintings:

LA Contempory Art Gallery

Finally, what's the best way you've ever travelled to visit an art museum? I know what mine is. In San Antonio I took the river taxi to visit the San Antonio Art Museum. It's not really a taxi but a passenger barge that travels along the San Antonio river, which is now edged by a wonderful Riverwalk. The barge chugs along gently, picking up and setting down passengers at destinations along the river, and even occasionally stopping to exchange passengers with a barge travelling in the opposite direction. If you're not in a hurry it's the perfect way to travel.

San Antonio Riverwalk

By the time I'd finished my visit to the gallery (whose best collections are of ancient Latin American art and artifacts) it was early dusk, and the 45 minute return river journey was magical. By the time I'd reached my hotel the cafes that line the Riverwalk were filled with people and mariachi music from roving bands ebbed and flowed as we passed restaurants.

San Antonio Riverwalk at night

Another of those moments of wonder at my good fortune.


Sel and Poivre said...

My goodness after reading this wonderful post I feel like I've had a little mini vacation myself! Thanks so much for this.

It seems odd to think of you as being so relatively "close" by!

DrK said...

as usual, you manage to find the most fortuitous 'happenings' in your travels. what an amazing set of pieces. i am always amazed by the quality and diversity of the art in the US, i dont think people realise how much of that philanthropic tradition has gone into creating some amazing collections. you know i sobbed in envy at the rothkos :) look forward to the next installment xx

Rose Red said...

You have the BEST holiday experiences ever! Thank you for sharing them with us again.

Unknown said...

Your travels are so well told. I LOVED hearing about the train trips, the landscape and the detail of the inside of the train. Your historical references enrich the story, and then there are things like the quilts in the hotel. THANK YOU! Barb