Friday, May 09, 2014

a tale of two cities -- well, a city and a village

The life I live in Mexico City is not the life I live in Melaque.

Yesterday -- from start to finish -- is proof of that.  Not that one is better than the other.  They are simply not the same.

You already know that one of the reasons I came to Mexico City a week before I head off to Barcelona was for the final fitting of my formal wear.  I had visions of the final tailoring taking two or three more sessions.  That, at least, has been my experience with tailor-made suits.  Something always needs re-doing.

Not this time.  I walked in, tried on each item, and they all fit perfectly.  Even the waist of the pants felt comfortable -- and that is difficult with formal pants.

In just over an hour, I walked out the door with the full kit to put on my own production of Brideshead Revisited.  Of course, I have other roles to play this next month.

And then we had an earthquake.  But you know about that already.  (moving the earth)

I started to say the earthquake -- and the unseasonable rain -- threw off my schedule for the afternoon.  But I did not really have a schedule.  I have some places I want to see.  On the other hand, if I do not see them, I will see something else.

Most of the museums here close around 5 PM.  So, I picked the closest museum with the collection I thought would take the least amount of time -- the Museum of Modern Art.

I was wrong.  The museum proved to be fascinating enough that I may visit it again before I leave.

Everything I had read acclaimed the museum's collection of the Mexico greats: Orozco, Tamayo, Rivera,
Siquerios, Kahlo.  They were good painters.  But I have seen enough of their works.  I was hoping to see something new.

And I did.  Of the four exhibition rooms, one was closed for the installation of an exhibit, one was devoted to art in architecture, one was devoted to visual arts with an emphasis on photography.

It was in the last room that I expected to see the Mexican masters.  Instead, I had an entirely new experience.  The exhibit was entitled: "La Danza de Los Espectros."  Works by
Leonora Carrington, José Horna, Wolfgang Paalen, Alice Rahon and Remedios Varo.  Carrington was the only one of the group I recognized.

I am not certain how I missed Remedios Varo's work.  As you know, I am quite fond of Magritte's surrealism -- primarily because it forces us to ask what art really is.

Varo takes a different tack.  She is one of the many Spanish republicans who ended up as exiles in Mexico following the Spanish civil war.

I am not certain I have seen an artist weave the images of surrealism with pre-columbian attributes to create her allegorical paintings.  Paintings that are concurrently reactionary (reaching back to Hieronymous Bosch) and postmodern.

Take this piece.

It is immediately accessible.  Even with its odd blending of the floor into the woman's cloak, it is obvious that an eternal tale is being told.  The fact that she is almost indistinguishable from the mechanism she appears to be operating may be a clue to what the artist is telling in her tale.

She seems to operate the spinning wheel that operates the mechanism that condenses essence from the very air -- to be distilled into perfume.

What does it mean?  That, of course, as with all good art, is for the viewer to determine.  The artist merely tells the tale.

Or this 1960 work (just before she died of a heart attack), of a woman leaving her psychoanalyst's office.

Disposing of a rather obvious Freudian image.

While appearing to divest herself of a clinging mask.

And still carting a basket of Jungian archetypes.

The first thing I noticed were her detailed brush strokes along with minutely-defined details.

It turns out that Remedios began her career as a botanist who drew the objects of her study.  That appears to be the source of her penchant for fine lines and intricate details.

That piece of information came from one of my dinner partners last night.  The wife of a regular reader in Germany is working in Mexico City these days.  We arranged to have dinner to catch up on our lives since we last met almost three years ago. 

She invited a co-worker to join us.  It turned out that the co-worker is quite conversant with the Mexico City art scene.  That made for a very interesting evening.

While downing quiche, duck, and rice with squid at Bistrot Mosaico, we journeyed through various Mexican artists, why some very good words are dying as the art of reading recedes, what tickets might be available for events at the Belles Artes, the history of Mexico City's neighborhoods, Porfirio Diaz's impact on Mexico City's appearance, and more.

The Bloomsbury group and the Algonquin round table set would have been envious -- though Dorothy Parker would have been able to add an appropriate quip.

Because we did not start dinner until 9, I am writing this early on the morning of what is now today.  I almost made a big mistake by saying, I need to get to bed -- tomorrow is a busy day.

Only if I let it be.  The "Do Not Disturb" sign is on my door.  And my time is my own.

I am here to enjoy myself.  And that is something my life here and my life in Melaque have in common.

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