Marina In Murals

Abramovic Artist is PresentLooming large in the neighborhood of Milan’s Largo la Foppa, in the Italian city’s Corso Garibaldi district, is a massive likeness of legendary performance artist Marina Abramovic, whose 2010 project The Artist is Present is the inspiration for one of several Gucci-sponsored “ArtWalls” that currently appear in cities around the globe, promoting an upcoming exhibit curated by the artist Maurizio Cattelan. The reimagined Artist is Present exhibition was conceived as a means of “highlighting the practice of appropriation in the many forms it takes in contemporary culture.” Featuring site-specific and existing artworks from more than 30 Chinese and foreign artists including Damon Zucconi, Christopher Williams, Ma Jun, Aleksandra Mir, and Sayre Gomez, the event is scheduled to run from October through December at the Yuz Museum in Shanghai.

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Faux Frozen

ice cream art
Happy Ice Cream Day (Kind Of!)

Don’t be fooled by the luscious appearance of these mouth-watering ice cream cones…alas, they’re not quite ready to be consumed. Born of the imagination of artist Jourdan Joly, they are actually plastic sculptures, originally cast in urethane in silicon molds. Joly, who began his ice-cream creations in 2012, says, “I like the slight surreal aspect to it – it always makes people wonder how it was done. For me as an artist this feels like success.” Designated in 1984, July is National Ice Cream Month, with the 15th set aside as the confection’s special day. As good a reason as any to (over) indulge — in the real thing, of course.

Mood Wimbledon

Wimbledon

An atmospheric shot of Court Two on the hallowed grounds of tennis’ grandest event, taken with an infrared camera by photographer Tom Jenkins for the English newspaper, The Guardian, in 2017. All eyes this week are on the veteran champions Roger Federer and Serena Williams (back from maternity break) as they seek to further cement their places as the greatest players of all time.

Deerly Beloved

bird and deerA favorite image from the past week is that of an intrepid feathered creature astonishingly perched atop the head of a white-tailed deer, taken in San José Villanueva, El Salvador.
Nature, perfectly composed.

Photo: Marvin Recinos/ AFP/ Getty Images

Sliding into Florence

florence palazzo strozziArt meets science in a most intriguing fashion this summer, as a Renaissance palace doubles as a science lab in the Italian city synonymous with magnificent art.

The Florence Experiment,” an interactive installation at the famous Palazzo Strozzi, was conceived by German artist Carsten Höller and plant biologist Stefano Mancuso as a way to analyze the impact of human emotions on plants — in this case, wisterias. Participants are invited to slide down the two stories from terrace to courtyard with a plant sample strapped to their chests; as they travel down the spiral slides that span 30 meters, their real-time reactions — fear, elation, etc. — are recorded for “live analysis” by on-site scientists immediately thereafter, in order to determine the effect of those emotions on the growth trajectory of the plant.florenece experiment lab
It all has to with things like “volatile molecules” and “photosynthetic parameters” and for the biologist Mancuso, further evidence in his quest to prove that plants harbor intelligence. Adventurous visitors to Florence this season will play a part in advancing that knowledge.

The Florence Experiment is at the Palazzo Strozzi through August 26.

Pop Culture Musing for a Thursday 3/1/18

shape of water
“The Shape of Water”

If there’s anything that can be said with almost near certainty, it’s that there will be no surprises in the acting categories at the Academy Awards this Sunday. And that’s not a bad thing; all of the actors are more than deserving. To wit: Gary Oldman, for his masterful mix of bravura and benevolence as Winston Churchill in The Darkest Hour; Frances McDormand’s steely determination as a mother robbed of her violently murdered daughter in Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri; Sam Rockwell as the racist cop turned unlikely comrade-in-arms to McDormand in the same film; and finally, Allison Janney as figure-skating’s mother from hell in the Tonya Harding biopic, I, Tonya.

Though there may be no mystery in who’ll be receiving the top acting accolades, I did find some surprises amongst the other nominees (and one shockingly overlooked performance) featured in the most acclaimed movies of the year.

vicky krieps
Vicky Krieps in “Phantom Thread”

Luxembourg-born Vicky Krieps was an actress previously unbeknownst to me – and to most, it’s safe to assume – yet what a revelation she is as partner to Daniel Day-Lewis, who plays the tyrannical fashion designer in the moody and evocative period piece, Phantom Thread. Just the fact that she more than holds her own with the titanic talent that is the three-time Oscar winning British thespian (in possibly his final film performance) is sheer marvel. To crib from an Eminem lyric, he’s the tornado meeting the volcano at the heart of Kriep’s character, both patching into each other’s less-than-healthy neuroses in a way that (hey!) works for them.

Krieps’ co-star Lesley Manville, in the role of Day-Lewis’ sister (and crisp as a Scarlatti sonata) grabbed the nomination for supporting actress, but it’s grand theft that she and Krieps could not have at least shared the glory.

Timothée Chalamet (Call Me By Your Name) and Daniel Kaluuya (Get Out) will also come away empty-handed, but both left their indelible impact in vastly contrasting fashion — Chalamet’s by way of his soft and wondrous exploration of a young man’s coming to terms with his newly found and ambivalent sexuality; Kaluuya in a riveting turn that’s captured in an image as iconic as Macaulay Culkin’s “scream” visage from Home Alone.

In the male supporting category, I was most moved by the magnificent veteran actor Richard Jenkins, whose lovely effort as the lonely best friend to Sally Jenkins in The Shape of Water was just one of the highlights of what I’m hoping will come away with the Best Picture honors. Director Guillermo del Toro’s exquisite panoply of fantasy and pathos reminds us of the unbounded geography of love, in stunningly visual and emotional terms.

If the acting winners look to be set in stone, the main prize is totally up for grabs, and with any luck, the artistic achievements of Water will come out on top in the end (though Three Billboards is giving it a mighty race for the money).

Here’s rooting for the Fish Man!