Thursday, May 31, 2012

Facebook in China

Facebook's spectacular IPO and its share price's fall, and the marriage of its founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg to an Asian woman, had generated much buzz in China, and I read much about Facebook in last two weeks when I visited its Manchurian metropolis Shenyang. One would think that Facebook was just as ubiquitous in China as it was in the US. Yet, Facebook was not available in China.

Facebook IPO Story on Shenyang Daily

Mark Zuckerberg's Marriage Story on Shenyang Evening News

Mark Zuckerberg's Marriage Story on Commercial Times

I asked a journalist friend if anyone in his newspaper had ever made any comments on such dissonance and the answer was a simple "No".

It was obvious that people didn't care, even amongst the people whose job was to be curious.

Yet, I felt it was unfair to dismiss Chinese people's seeming indifference, just at it was easy to dismiss them for caring for material wealth only. 

Then I remembered a story about a peasant woman who was tired by hard labor.  She mused: "I wish I were an empress, then I can just relax and command: 'Eunuch, bring me a pancake.'"

Chinese people were just like that poor peasant woman, who had no concept of what luxuries were out there.  The luxuries people in the western world had long taken for granted were not just material goods, which started to make way into some Chinese' life, such as decent food, housing, transportation, but freedom of speech, press, assembly, association, and demonstration, etc., though guaranteed by their constitution, was denied by their government in reality.

Many things they simply didn't know their existence, or the benefits of them, and I was in no position to look down at them for that, especially when we look inwardly and realize that in the US, though we have Google, Facebook and Twitter, etc., we cannot say with straight face that many of us care for true democracy and liberal values.

That made us even more pathetic.

Label: Shenyang, Shenyang Trip 2012

Monday, May 28, 2012

My Favorite Sculptures at Cimetière du Père-Lachaise, Paris

Named after Louis XIV's confessor, Cimetière du Père-Lachaise in Paris is reputed to be the world's most visited cemetery, attracting hundreds of thousands of visitors annually, to the graves of those who have made significant marks in history over the past 200 years.  Naturally, I couldn't resist such allure when in Paris.

The vast cemetery was incredibly beautiful, as comforting and pacifying as it should be for such a place - something in the Western culture I was truly grateful for, in opposite to what you might find, say in China, grim and gloomy.

There were many beautiful spots with incredibly monuments and sculptures marking the resting places of the famous and the nameless, solemn, comforting or sentimental.  I was particularly drawn to the resting spots of artists, dramatists, writers, musicians and performers.  The two most impressive ones I remembered well were those of Oscar Wilde and Eugène Delacroix.

The famous playwright and wit Oscar Wilde's tomb was a combination of a bit of a shrine and the living performing art.  His rather somber tomb, with a flying figure carrying huge amount of load, simple and attention seeking, often covered on its base with countless pink lip marks.  He was the personification of a certain love, perhaps, a love that dared not to speak its name:

Oscar Wilde, Cimetière du Père-Lachaise, Paris _ 8696

Like the one for Wilde, many sculptures, memorial and monuments there, from grandiose to humble, from flamboyant to serious, were often true works of art and commended attentions.  Yet, the other one truly gave me long lasting impress was very plain and simple, erected for the romantic French painter, Eugène Delacroix.

It was a solid black stone monument, in the shape of a simple sarcophagus, with polished but rich looking finish, sitting on top of plain granite base.  The painter's name was clearly inscribed onto the front of the black stone, filled with golden color, which contrasted with the black mass wonderfully.  More over, circling the spot, there were many tall trees with late fall colors, echoing the golden inscriptions and adding extra warmth to the site, and made this place magical and truly romantic: 

Eugène Delacroix, Cimetière du Père-Lachaise, Paris _ 8697

My Favorite Museum Collection Series

>> My Favorite Museum Collection Series 35: My Favoritate Sculptures on Karl's Bridge, Prague
<< My Favorite Museum Collection Series 33: My Favorite Paintings from Musée Picasso, Paris

List of My Favorite Artworks in the Museums I've Visited

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Cat's Many Haunts

Cats are very funny creatures and often irrational and that contributes to their immense charm.

Look at this particular one - she loves to be in boxes, in bathtub, on a bag or on rooftop - many unusual choices.  Anything about her was just adorable.

Cat in a Box 8664

Cat in Box 2809

Cat in Box 8660

Which Box is Better 8692

Cat on Bag 0551

Cat on Rail 0029

Napping Cat 2869

Le Penseur _0024

Cat in Bathtub

Cat on Rooftop _ 8673

Cat on Rooftop _ 8675

Cat on Rooftop _ 8678 Cat on Rooftop _ 8677

Cat on Rooftop _ 8679

Sunday, May 20, 2012

My Favorite Paintings from Musée Picasso, Paris

On the busiest day of my first trip to Paris, I "raided" five museums and was only able to visit four of them, since the fifth was closed for renovation.  One of those five museums was Musée national Picasso Paris, inside the Hotel Salé, located in the Marais, one of the historic districts of Paris.

There were works from many periods of Picasso's long career in the museum.  Being partial to his more figurative works, my top choices went to his portrait and his figurative paintings.  My top choice was a portrait, named "Olga pensive", which was marvelously understated, yet charged with inner tension, manifested by the angular angles formed by his bent head and arms.  The outline of the figure, particularly her left arm, was fluid, eloquent and engaging.  Her pale skin, setting off her maroon hair and the deep blue dress dramatically.  I also liked the way Picasso cast the shadows on the sitter's arms, neck and chin - gently gradated, and beautifully textured.

Olga pensive, 1923, 1933 - Pablo Picasso, Musée national Picasso, Paris
Olga pensive, 1923, 1933

The second piece was a dramatic curtain he designed for Diaghilev Ballet Russes.  It showcased two monumental women, with impossibly round and strong limbs and torsos, running in the most excited fashion and in impossibly wonderful poses.  I loved the sheer immensity of the figures and the weight they carried about.  They were the primal goddesses, the essence of the existence of the earth and the human race.

Deux femmes courant sur la plage (La course), (Two Women Running on the Beach (The Race)) 1922 (été)

My Favorite Museum Collection Series 

>> My Favorite Museum Collection Series 34: My Favorite Sculptures at Cimetière du Père-Lachaise, Paris
<< My Favorite Museum Collection Series 32: My Favorite Sculptures at Musée Rodin, Paris

List of My Favorite Artworks in the Museums I've Visited

Thursday, May 17, 2012

My Favorite Sculptures at Musée Rodin, Paris

Living in San Francisco Bay Area, one could easily see many sculptures by the great French artist Auguste Rodin.  But seeing his works in the place where he pursued his career as an artist had additional emotional punch.

Musée Rodin boasted not only many sculptures by Rodin, more readily celebrated or less so, but also his many drawings, sketches and works he collected during his lifetime.

My favorite there were more conventional this time; however, I don't believe that I need to apologize - convention often had reasons.

My first choice was Le penseur (The Thinker), 1903.  This sitting figure, with a height of 180 cm, was originally conceived in 1880, in smaller scale, as the crowning element of The Gates of Hell, and had the title of The Poet (Dante).

While remaining on top of the Gates of Hell, Le penseur was exhibited separately eight years later and became an independent work. It was enlarged in 1904 to current colossal scale and become an icon as easily recognized as that of Michelangelo's David.

This powerful man, sitting on top of a really tall pedestal, though pensive, was charged with tension.  His exposed muscles all tensed up, his head bent purposefully forward, and his hands, in unnaturally poses, were wonderfully evocative and full of readiness to spring into action.

Most wonderful thing about seeing it in situ was to see how it setting off the lush ground of the villa, in shifting angles.

Le penseur, 1903
Le penseur, 1903, H. 180cm.jpg

My second favorite was also situated in the trees on the villa ground - Monument à Balzac, 1898.  The sculpture itself, with the height of 270cm, was taller than the Le penseur; however, since it sat on the ground level, it was much more intimate and approachable, and precisely because of that, we had a glimpse of the humility of the great writer Rodin tried to emphasize.

This bronze Balzac, casually clothed in a shapeless robe with roughly suggested surface, stood solidly like an aged oak tree, full of ancient wisdom and understanding.  He had been reduced to the bare essence and only his facial features were modeled with recognizable details, and his hands were not visible.

It was said that after Rodin had completed his work, people marveled at and praised lavishly the hands he had given Balzac.  Feeling that the details had upstaged the work itself, Rodin decisively chopped off Balzac's hand(s).

Wonderful story.  True or false, it did reveal the innovative approach Rodin adopted towards this national figure and perhaps it partially explained why the commission was rejected and the sad fact that Rodin never saw his monument cast in bronze.

Today, one of the most satisfying memorial monuments ever created stood quietly in the tranquil woods, surveying La Comédie humaine.

Monument à Balzac, 1898
Monument à Balzac, 1898, H. 270cm.jpg

My Favorite Museum Collection Series 

>> My Favorite Museum Collection Series 33: My Favorite Paintings from Musée Picasso, Paris
<< My Favorite Museum Collection Series 31: My Favorite Art Works at Centre Pompidou, Paris

List of My Favorite Artworks in the Museums I've Visited

Sunday, May 13, 2012

My Favorite Art Works at Centre Pompidou, Paris

In Paris, the museum which collected the most modern works was Musee National d'Art Moderne, Centre Pompidou, of which I remembered more of the building itself than the collections within.  I remembered that the most contemporary works, particularly from Pop Art Movement onward, was not very engaging, while older works were much more satisfactory, such as the works produced between the Wars, and particularly those by the tortured German artists, with whom I seemed to have great affinity.

My first pick was a surrealism print by Max Ernst, dated 1929, with a French title as Reste donc celui qui spécule sur la vanité des morts, le fantôme de la repopulation, whose rough translation could be Remained one that speculates on the vanity of the dead the ghost of the re-population.

This prints depicted two figures, one bent and ancient, calmly consulted with a sitting ape-like character with an enormous belly and limping arms.  The convoluted title and the slightly domestic scene didn't diminish the strangeness and the grotesqueness.  Whatever the meaning the allegory was, it had an unforgettable imagery.

Reste donc celui qui spécule sur la vanité des morts, le fantôme de la repopulation (Remainsone thatspeculateson the vanityof the deadthe ghost of therepopulation., Max Ernst, 1929

The other favorite of mine was a painting by the great German artist, Max Beckmann, Der kleine Fisch (The Small Fish), a seemingly idyllic yet not without menace, with strong contrast between sun-bathed flat areas in pale and becalming yellow and blue hues, and the densely hatched patterns in domineering black strokes.

Three figures, in retro bathing gears, formed an up-side-down pyramid in the foreground on a seaside.  Two women were offered, by a suggestively smiling young man, a large, not small, fish, whose size, shape and position, had an unmistakable resemblance of a male sexual organ.

The women on the left, peeped at the fish not without curiosity, with her right arm poising to reach out to touch and feel the fish.  Her friend, shrank and hid behind her, face in shadow, was full of anxiety and anguish, yet her right index finger raised in the same way the fish's rising head, forming a mirror image and her finger could be seen either as a warning sign or a bargaining gesture.  Her left hand rested on the young man's arm holding the fish, her attempt to control the situation.  She looked into the young man's eyes, timidly and wearily, but the young man had eyes only for the other woman, who was obviously more receptive.

A quite innocent picture impregnated with amorous, even sinister innuendos.  A very economic and eloquent work.

Der kleine Fisch (Le petit poisson), Max Beckmann, 1933

My Favorite Museum Collection Series

>> My Favorite Museum Collection Series 32: My Favorite Sculptures at Musée Rodin, Paris
<< My Favorite Museum Collection Series 30: My Favorite Paintings from Musée d'Orsay, Paris

List of My Favorite Artworks in the Museums I've Visited

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Students' Show at Worth Rider Gallery, UC Berkeley

Last week, I attended the opening of another students show at Worth Rider Gallery, University of California, Berkeley.

The very talented students, again, triumphed with their inventive ideas and wonderful executions.  The excitement of confronting life and reality by these young people was palpable.  I particularly liked some installations and paintings, addressing current affairs either head-on or side-ways.

Worth Ryder Gallery, UC Berkeley, May 2012 _ 8638

Worth Ryder Gallery, UC Berkeley, May 2012 _ 8648

Worth Ryder Gallery, UC Berkeley, May 2012 _ 8653

Worth Ryder Gallery, UC Berkeley, May 2012 _ 8633

Worth Ryder Gallery, UC Berkeley, May 2012 _ 8647

Worth Ryder Gallery, UC Berkeley, May 2012 _ 8641

Worth Ryder Gallery, UC Berkeley, May 2012 _ 8655


Worth Ryder Gallery, UC Berkeley, May 2012 _ 8639

Worth Ryder Gallery, UC Berkeley, May 2012 _ 8659

Monday, May 7, 2012

My Favorite Paintings from Musée d'Orsay, Paris

If Musée du Louvre was most unbelievable institution in Paris due to its sheer immensity, Musée d'Orsay was one of the most enchanting one due to its unique loveliness and accessibility.  This museum, converted from a train terminal, had beautiful exterior and interior, and boasted a collection encompassing the period of impressionism and post-impressionism, which had become so popular with audience, that it was hard for modern-day audience to imagine the furore surrounded these movements' emergencies.

When I was in Paris for the first time, in early October 2000, the summer tourist season had passed, therefore I was able to enjoy many museums in a more leisurely pace and spent wonderful hours at Musée d'Orsay.  There were so many famous and wonderful works there and it felt almost criminal not to include in my top picks great masters such as Van Gogh, Cézanne, etc.  Yet, it had to be done.

My first choice was Le fifre (The Fifer) by Édouard Manet, a full-length portrait of a little boy in bold black, red and white band uniform, playing a flute, in front of an abstract almost flat muted background.  The boy was determined to concentrate in his music-making and stay in his own world, and despite of his facing the viewers, he utterly ignored our presence.  His pose, rather peculiar, lent certain liveliness to this rather static scene.  The somewhat melancholic mood contrasted strongly with his rosy complexion, adding another layer of meaning to this mesmerizing painting.

Le fifre (The Fifer), Édouard Manet, 1866

My second favorite was a painting full of actions - Les raboteurs de parquet (The Floor Scrapers), by Gustave Caillebotte. I always loved paintings depicting laborers and farmers, if they were not done for picturesque reasons.  Here, the painter lowered his gaze to the level of those laborers on the floor, and the bright back light gave them clearly defined and powerful silhouettes, and they reminded me of nimble and powerful leopards of all things.  Caillebotte had a masterful way of depicting different materials - paneled walls, wrought-iron balcony, wooden floor before and after being scraped, with varying sheen and changing reflections.  Yet, we always came back to those three working men, with their exposed upper torsos and outstretched long arms, clearly the focal points of the painting.  They were doing menial jobs, yet with great dignity.  They were also like willing offerings.  This painting, presented laborers in a way often reserved for noble characters in the past, therefore elevated those people to a new height, without being sentimental.  That was the eloquence of this masterpiece.

Les raboteurs de parquet  (The Floor Scrapers), Gustave Caillebotte, 1875 

My Favorite Museum Collection Series

>> My Favorite Museum Collection Series 31:  My Favorite Art Works at Centre Pompidou, Paris
<< My Favorite Museum Collection Series 29: My Favorite Artworks at Musée du Louvre, Paris

List of My Favorite Artworks in the Museums I've Visited

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Getting Ready for the "Supermoon"

Getting ready for the supermoon tonight!

According to San Francisco Chronicle, "the biggest and brightest full moon of the year arrives Saturday night as our celestial neighbor passes closer to Earth than usual."

"Saturday's event is a 'supermoon,' the closest and therefore the biggest and brightest full moon of the year. At 11:34 p.m., the moon will be about 221,802 miles from Earth. That's about 15,300 miles closer than average."

"That proximity will make the moon appear about 14 percent bigger than it would if the moon were at its farthest distance, said Geoff Chester of the U.S. Naval Observatory. The difference in appearance is so small that 'you'd be very hard-pressed to detect that with the unaided eye,' he said."

"The moon's distance from Earth varies because it follows an elliptical orbit rather than a circular one."

I was so impatient that I started to shoot photos last night - impatient for sure, but also startled by the natural beauty.  Get ready for the supermoon tonight!

Eve of Supermoon _ 8686

Eve of Supermoon _ 8688

Eve of Supermoon _ 8690

Eve of Supermoon _ 8687

Eve of Supermoon _ 8682

Thursday, May 3, 2012

My Favorite Artworks at Musée du Louvre, Paris

In jubilee year 2000, after completing my "Grand Tour" of Italy, I went to another art capital in Europe - Paris.  However saturated I was, I continued my greedy exposure to art and here comes a confession - I spent so much time in museums in Paris that the city failed to impress me in my first trip there.  It was only when I returned in six years' time that I truly fell in love with Paris.

Well, back to my Paris trip in 2000.  The most unbelievable institution was naturally Musée du Louvre, whose immensity, both the structure itself and its collection was sheer breathtaking.

My strategy of touring the palace was dividing the collections into three categories - I'd ignore one of them altogether, and walk by the second group very quickly, and for the third group, I'd spend more time to study objects I was more interested in.  Naturally, my impossible top two choices were from that last group.

The first pick was the dynamic La Victoire de Samothrace - Winged Victory of Samothrace (Nike of Samothrace), discovered in 1863, estimated to have been created around 190 BC.  This classical marble defied the material constraints.  Despite the fact that it was made of stone, it moved, its wings beat, its drapery flapped.  Sweeping yet precise.  Grand and delicate.  The mastery of this sculpture was most justifiably celebrated. 

In this damaged and incomplete form, one felt in the presence of divinity.


Winged Victory of Samothrace (Nike of Samothrace) at Louvre 1

La Victoire de Samothrace - Winged Victory of Samothrace (Nike of Samothrace), Musée du Louvre, Paris _ 8091 HDR 500

In contrast to that sculpture's monumentality, my second choice seemed quite fragile and humble.  But that was quite deceptive.  This self portrait by the great German painter Albrecht Dürer, dated 1491, though small in dimensions, was a window into a vast world and time.  The classical pose, haunting gaze, the faithfulness of  and melancholic and timeless air of the portrait, gave this intimate, somewhat narcissistic self-imagery a sense of encompassing the entire human history.

I was mostly drawn by the haunting beauty of this portraiture and the assured yet incredibly melancholic gaze of the sitter, who held the true and pitied us for the exclusion.  Was he the judge of the folly of mankind?

I had set myself up with the impossible task of choosing only two favorite works from any institutions, even as vast as the Louvre.  Yet, these two clearly deserved their exalted status.

Self-Portrait of Albrecht Dürer, Musée du Louvre, Paris

My Favorite Museum Collection Series

>> My Favorite Museum Collection Series 30: My Favorite Paintings from Musée d'Orsay, Paris
<< My Favorite Museum Collection Series 28: My Favorite Paintings at Galleria dell'Accademia, Venezia (Venice Academy)

List of My Favorite Artworks in the Museums I've Visited

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Caressing Sun

Definitely it's spring and flower season.  However, the most enchanting moments I had witnessed lately were in the morning and evenings when the sun lit the flowers and leaves almost directly, in the back, and showed off the delicacy of those lovely creatures.

First, the usual pretty flowers:

Back Lit Leaves _ 8588

Back Lit Leaves _ 8586

Then, rather unusual leaves:

Back Lit Leaves _ 8590

Back Lit Leaves _ 8591

Back Lit Leaves _ 8593

Back Lit Leaves _ 8595

Back Lit Leaves _ 8592