Monday, April 30, 2012

Guggenheim Collection: The American Avant-Garde 1945–1980 at the Palazzo delle Esposizioni - Closing soon!

Richard Estes: The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, Summer 1979
After visitors at this season's blockbuster show at the Palazzo delle Esposizioni have been taken on a whistle-stop tour of all the major developments in American art in the years immediately following the Second World War, by way of sixty iconic works from the permanent collection of the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York, as well as pieces from the Peggy Guggenheim Collection in Venice, and the Guggenheim Museum Bilbao, in the final room they are greeted with a surprisingly lovely architectural portrait of the New York museum, painted in the summer of 1979 by photorealist artist Richard Estes.

Robert Motherwell: Elegy to the Spanish Republic No. 110 
Whilst the previous exhibition rooms chart the Guggenheim Collection's history from its beginnings as a small window on European abstract painting in New York, to becoming world famous through its championing of primarily American movements - Abstract Expressionism, Pop Art, Minimalism, Post-Minimalism, Conceptualism, and finally Photorealism - Estes' painting of Frank Lloyd Wright's cylindrical building is pure 17th century Vermeer, a gentle reminder of the European roots of the modern art movements of the last century. Indeed, the opening rooms focus on the early works of European émigrés to New York and the rise of Abstract Expressionism through the works of Dutch American Willem de Kooning, Russian-American Mark Rothko, and German-born American Hans Hoffman, which are shown alongside US-born contemporaries such as Jackson Pollock, Ellsworth Kelly and Robert Motherwell.

Frank Stella: Harran II
Agnes Martin: White Flower
The high ceilings and the cathedral-like floor plan of the Palazzo delle Esposizioni with its seven chapel-like galleries set around a central rotunda, afford long views to the end walls of each gallery across the entire length of the building, and is the perfect setting for these works. Agnes Martin's exquisite, almost monochrome, minimalist White Flower painting from 1960, for example, faces Frank Stella's fluorescent Harran II (1967) on the far wall of the opposite side of the building. Robert Motherwell's starkly imposing Elegy to the Spanish Republic No. 110 (1971) is also, thankfully, given end-of-gallery pride of place (hung behind highly reflective glass it is difficult to view comfortably as one gets nearer to it).

Andy Warhol: Orange Disaster #5
Poster-boy for the exhibition Jackson Pollock, whose 1950 painting Number 18 is being used to advertise the show all over town, is represented on the other hand by unexpectedly small works – don't expect to see any huge drip paintings at this show – although the aforementioned Number 18 and Untitled (Green Silver) from 1949 are both dazzling.

It isn't easy to chose favourite works in such a hugely enjoyable show, but certainly Andy Warhol's chilling Orange Disaster #5 (1963), with its electric chair repeated 15 times, Roy Lichtenstein's humorous Pop Art growling dog Grrrrrrrrrrr!! (1965), and Kenneth Noland's gorgeous 1969 colour field painting April Tune, stick in my mind.

Roy Lichtenstein: Grrrrrrrrrrr!!
The show closes very soon – well worth a visit!

Guggenheim Collection: The American Avant-Garde 1945–1980 is curated by Lauren Hinkson and continues at the Palazzo delle Esposizioni until 6 may 2012.

Copyright on paintings © Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York (web-resolution, fair use rationale).

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Star-studded Red Carpet at 'The Avengers' Rome Premiere

Some days ago a giant poster advertising The Avengers - this season's most hotly anticipated superhero movie – appeared on a billboard on the street below my home. On a personal level the ad campaign seems to be working, as I now can't wait to to see this film! Directed by the immensely talented Joss Whedon, the film is already garnering rave critical reviews prior to its opening next week, whilst its Italian premiere was hosted in Rome yesterday evening in a traffic-stopping star-studded event in Piazza della Repubblica.

Hundreds of fans started gathering early in the afternoon for a chance to see cast members appear on the red carpet and on the specially created stage outside The Space Cinema Moderno, and I'm delighted to report that all four stars in attendance - Chris Hemsworth (Thor), Scarlett Johansson (Black Widow), Mark Ruffalo (Bruce Banner / Hulk) and Tom Hiddleston (Loki) – made it worth the wait, signing endless autographs and posing for photographs, and appearing on the elevated stage together so that even those at the back of the crowd got a chance to see them. A fun evening!

To get a flavour of the event watch the video below or click here to watch it on YouTube.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

An Encounter with Roger Corman at the Palazzo delle Esposizioni

Movie-buffs and fans of Gothic horror films were in for a rare treat at the Palazzo delle Esposizioni yesterday evening at the very special opening event of An outlaw in Hollywood: The world of Roger Corman, a film retrospective dedicated to the legendary director and producer. Prior to the screening of his 1961 classic adaptation of the Edgar Allan Poe short story The Pit and the Pendulum, starring a wonderfully histrionic Vincent Price, the undisputed King of the B-movie Roger Corman appeared in person before a packed audience, who warmly applauded his entrance before any introductions were necessary, joining Mario Sesti on stage for a relaxed and fascinating conversation.

A phenomenally prolific independent filmmaker – Corman has either directed or produced over 400 titles – it would be hard to sum up such a long and successful career, yet through a series of pertinent questions from Sesti and generous answers from Corman, yesterday's encounter managed to do precisely that. Starting with his beginnings as a runner at 20th Century Fox, through anecdotes about taking LSD with Dennis Hopper, Peter Fonda, and the then-screenwriter Jack Nicholson, as preparation for the 1967 drugs movie The Trip (“as a conscientious director I thought I should take LSD and find out what it was like so that I could interpret the experience in the film”), right up to his latest project, a collaboration with Las Vegas film students on a heist movie with a twist called Stealing Las Vegas, this was a rewarding introduction to his work.

When asked by Sesti if it was true that The Little Shop of Horrors was made in only three days, he added that he had, in fact, pulled it off in two days and one night! Making use of a free studio, director and crew approached the film as “a joke as well as a challenge” confessing that nobody took themselves seriously on that film and that the spirit on set had positively affected the finished film. Confirming another much quoted comment from Corman, that he had never made a film that was the film he had intended to make, he went on to clarify in typically modest fashion, that a film always changes during shooting because of the input and thoughts of everybody working on the film – Corman always encouraged a camaraderie on set which helped to create new ideas, concluding that “it's director's job to pull all the thoughts together”.

The roll call of directors who were given their first big breaks thanks to Roger Corman consists of names that are now part of the Hollywood aristocracy - Francis Ford Coppola, Martin Scorsese, Ron Howard, Peter Bogdanovich, and Jonathan Demme were just some of the names mentioned yesterday evening. Linking film studios to a long tradition starting with the Renaissance artistic studio system whereby students of great masters might eventually go on to become great artists in their own right, Corman was also at pains to stress that these great directors would have always found success even without his involvement, because of their extraordinary talent, conceding only that “it just may have taken them a little longer”.

Generous to a fault he then signed autographs and posed for photographs for the numerous admirers who surrounded him at the close of the talk, before leaving us to enjoy one of his most iconic movies. A wonderful evening – thank you Mr Corman!

An outlaw in Hollywood - The world of Roger Corman continues at the Palazzo delle Esposizioni until 29 April 2012.

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