Entries about photography

Bewildering Barcelona

The day after Christmas, I went to Barcelona on a whim. More or less. (Wait, Some background.) As an architecture student in the late sixties, when I discovered Antoni Gaudi, I was in awe. He was unbelievable. What a genius. In the sixties, the “Less is more” International Style was dominant and de rigor at my school–the University of Minnesota. As I recall, I found Gaudi outside the classroom. This made him more personal, more astonishing and maybe a bit forbidden. In August of 1967, I was in Spain as a midshipman. We were docked in Valencia and with the weekend free, I was looking forward to going to Barcelona and Gaudi. But the trains were completely full that day, so I went to Madrid instead and that lost opportunity lingered.

There are other reasons for choosing Barcelona on the last week of the year, but let’s move forward: Barcelona was marvelous. Though I did some homework, I was unprepared for my eight days in BCN. Have you been there? My friends who had been there were unanimously positive. In many ways I was lucky. A friend of a friend of a friend (I’ll explain later) offered to show me around. But, my luck aside, the city’s uniqueness and charm is exceptional, far more stimulating than I had imagined. When I came back, I found New York dirty, aggressive and mundane. That too was unexpected. (Could it be something about the Mediterranean?)

I didn’t have an agenda in Barcelona, other than to see Gaudi’s church — the Sagrada Familia — and some of his residential projects.

Hanoch-PivenWhere to stay? What to prepare for? (Everybody kept talking about pickpockets.) I knew one person in Barcelona, the masterful illustrator/artist, Hanoch Piven. He was going to be out of town, but he did point me to a hotel in the Old Town or Ciutat Vella, aka Gothic. (Names might get confusing here as somethings are referred to in English, Spanish or Catalan. I would explain, but let’s not make this longer than necessary.) Gothic is about one mile by one and a quarter mile, the size of the Financial District in Manhattan below Chambers Street. (see maps above) It was built by the Romans and defined by a protective wall that expanded into the middle ages. The Gothic area is ad hoc, organic town planning. I don’t know why that has always appealed to me. Maybe because it has its own intrinsic logic or because in my Midwest, it is unimaginable. The streets and squares just seem to happen. Most streets are quite narrow. This area still contains the city government but it is also a busy tourist destination. The best way to describe things is by comparison but Barcelona is different from anything I had experienced, notably Rome or Paris. Maybe that is why I was so impressed. I am still trying to understand what I experienced. I am no expert on Barcelona, nor intend to be, so I am doing some research now in an attempt to be somewhat accurate in this post and add to my limited knowledge.

kbs1563drawing900*Here is a page that talks about the walls of Barcelona. Fascinating. I realize one reason why I like the ad hoc streets so much, they exude history. Also, unlike the grid, your experience is always unfolding as you walk. And you do have to walk. I think all but a few streets are closed to cars in Gothic. I never took a taxi. BTW, the Metro (subway) was excellent.

While the Gothic was impressive, it was the Modernisme architecture that was most arresting. There must be an equivalent to Stendhal Syndrome for BCN. Yes, I went to see Gaudi, and he did not disappoint, but it was only a small part of what I saw and cherished. There are a limited number of Modernisme buildings in the Gothic. With the industrial revolution, Barcelona became wealthy in the late 19th century and the walls were torn down. The city expanded. I read that the name for one prominent Modernisme district – Eixample, means expansion. This is where I found three of Gaudi projects below.

“Modernisme is equivalent to a number of other fin de siècle art movements going by the names of Art Nouveau in France and Belgium, Jugendstil in Germany, Sezession in Austria-Hungary, Liberty style in Italy and Modern or Glasgow Style in Scotland, and roughly began in 1888 (the First Barcelona World Fair)” -taken from

Is that too much background for looking at some photos? It may be foolish to write this blog post in an attempt to understand and share my experience in Barcelona. The more I write, the more questions I have. So be it. Bear with me, dear reader.

NYC Art Scene, Newsweek & TDB

TDB Art BeastSince early last year, I have subscribed to The Daily Beast (TDB) newsletter, but with the glut of emails and web reading waiting in my queues,  I have not paid close attention. Until today. Today I saw a TDB headline about the 2011 Armory Show: “A Sam’s Club for Art?” It did not have the review I was hoping for (that’s why I did not add a link) but in searching for that link I did find two that I want to share and am posting here. ART BEAST: The Best of Art, Photography and Design looks like a great place to go for reviews and to stay informed of the New York art scene. In my analog life,  I looked at print versions of The New Yorker, the Gallery Guide, and The New York Times.  This may well be my internet equivalent. #Bookmark

Blake Gopnik on artIt seems Blake Gopnik does much of their reporting. His website  Blake Gopnik on art looks just as promising and his Archive is a great stop to scan the images, looking for what might interest me. Looking is so much faster than reading.

What about apps? MoMA has one that I use. And Flavorpill too. If you have any recommendations, please leave a note in the comments.

Having worked at Time magazine for more than twenty years, I have observed with great interest the demise of Newsweek and its merger with The Daily Beast. This past week I become aware that some of my Time colleagues have “gone over.” Once I would have considered this disgraceful, but since the disastrous downturn in publishing these past five years, I am more forgiving. It’s a jungle out there. As a designer and lay cultural anthropologist, I am very interested in seeing what this marriage looks and reads like. I will be giving updates to this blogpost as the roll-out takes place.

Galleries, NextGen Solution

I have been working on a new site for Margaret Roach that will be known as The Sister Project. It has greatly expanded my belief in blogging as the new publishing and WordPress as the leading software. I will be writing more about The Sister Project (TSP) after we launch in late November.

One of the five TSP blogs is Galleries where we will display curated submissions of poetry, prose, photography and art. The Galleries need software to organize and present the art and photography. There are many WP gallery plugins available but our research led us to NextGen Gallery. It offers a variety of options and seems to be well maintained–many plugins are not. As with many Open Source programs, the instructions and tutorials could be more thorough. After spending many hours “under the hood,” I think I know how NextGen runs but some things are still not clear. That is why I am doing this test post using paintings I made almost twenty years ago. I want my clients to be aware of this solution and it gives me a chance to post some paintings from one of my favorite series.

Below and in the sidebar are thumbnails of my Field Report art. Almost all of the drawings and paintings are based on one avocado plant that I grew in my apartment. Other works based on the direct observation of nature are also included as part of this series. This last week I went to the Morandi exhibit at the Met. I suppose Field Report is my “Morandi” statement.

(This is the navigation for the NextGen Gallery.)