Art on the Road

Art on the Road: Kollwitz in L.A.

At the Fortress on the Hill that is the Getty, an expansive overview exhibit gets to the grit of the great German modernist's life and work


STORY AND PHOTOGRAPHS BY FRIDERIKE HEUER


Husband: “You really are drawn to dark art, aren’t you? Who is she?”
Me: “What do you mean? We have a print of hers hanging on your side of the bed.”
Husband: “Print? What print? ”

Thus I offer you a slice of typical conversation overheard in our household, while dragging my beloved to a striking exhibition of works by Käthe Kollwitz (1867–1945), one of the icons of German modern art, at The Getty in Los Angeles.

Entry to the Exhibition with an enlarged excerpt from Charge (between 1902 and 1903).

While he was muttering about the absence of visual memory, my brain was frantically searching for a translation of an untranslatable German term that is often – and mistakenly, oh so mistakenly – cited in connection with Kollwitz’ art: Betroffenheitskitsch. Betroffenheit can be translated as shock, dismay, consternation, sadness. But in this context it is probably meant to describe too much empathy verging into kitschiness.

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Art on the Road: Colors of India

Angela Allen takes a photographic journey to the world's second most populous nation, discovering a unique sense of color along the way


STORY AND PHOTOGRAPHS BY ANGELA ALLEN


“Its unique sense of color,” the late Indian photojournalist Raghubir Singh said, was India’s primary cultural contribution. 

Singh was mainly a street photographer who shot color film in the mid- and late-20th century when black and white reigned as the photojournalist’s and art photographer’s choice. He called India “a river of color” and published a book in 1998 with that title. (He died in 1999 at 57.)  He captured the crush of people in a country of 1.06 billion, the streets’ cacophony, the jumble of creaking rickshaws, overflowing buses, unruly motorcycles — and camels. Always, movement is relentless among the saturated colors. Singh’s photos didn’t always have a focal point, in the linear Western way. He went after fluidity and continuity.

When I traveled with a group of photographers last year with our cameras to Rajasthan, Singh’s birthplace in northern India, color and movement were easy to find. Life is forever in motion, though admittedly, I often sought out calm rather than chaos. Some say India is an assault on the senses. Traveling through the country is a sensuous experience like none other, photographically and personally. It is never boring.

We made our way through Rajasthan (Jaipur, Jodhpur, Udaipur, Jojawar and smaller villages ) and then to Uttar Pradesh, where the holy city of Varanasi seethes with energy on the Ganges River. Hindus journey there to die, believing that sending their ashes down the river will lead them on to the next life. They also bathe and play in the river, celebrate festivals and holidays, wash their clothes, boat, do business, water their animals, pray. The Ganges, too, throbs with life  and with death’s ashes. We were warned not to take photos of cremation ceremonies, out of respect, so you won’t find any here.

This photographic journey begins backwards from our route. My pictures start at the Ganges, not the world’s largest river but the one with the most spiritual currents, and end with moments in villagers’ and farmers’ lives.

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Early in the morning in Varanasi, people wash, do their laundry, swim, cook, sell, fish, worship, socialize, and usher their dead into the next world along the 1,569-mile-long Ganges River.

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Art on the Road: Slovenia

In Ljiubliana, the nation's capitol, monuments reflect historic strife and a contemporary art museum shows work that comments on the past

At first glance Ljublijana, the capital of Slovenia, appears to be one of the most picturesque, hospitable and laid-back places to be found in the Balkans. Situated near beautiful mountains, divided by a clean and slow-flowing river, the award-winning city prides itself for being “green,” both in the sense that it is shaded by trees and offers a vast number of parks and green spaces, but also in the sense that it has car-free zones all over the place, runs its buses on methane and has devised an underground system of garbage collection that leaves streets clean and encourages recycling (at one of the highest rates in Europe.)

The architecture is stunning for the perfectly restored blocks of art deco houses right next to baroque churches, all situated below a majestic medieval castle. The city owes much of its uniqueness to architect and city planner Joze Plečnik, who was given free reign in the 1920s to create a homogenous, distinct look for many of the city’s public buildings, squares, bridges, and market halls, their bright materials reflective of light and providing clean lines and a certain calmness against the huddle of the 17th century buildings. He also implemented sustainable solutions before anybody else talked about them. He was known to walk the city streets to create designs that focused on pedestrians – something the city’s current Vision 2025 plan is still following up on.

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Art on the Road: Trieste pilgrimage

Hordes follow James Joyce's trail to this Italian city. A fascinating pioneer of art history and archaeology has his own Trieste tale to tell.

TRIESTE, Italy –

Scores of people come to this ancient seaport town each year to pay homage to James Joyce, who wrote his Ulysses here. The city accommodates them by putting up plaques at about every corner, bridge, staircase, churchyard ever touched by his foot, seemingly not a millimeter of Trieste not once traversed by the master.

My first-day pilgrimage, though, honored a different man – one who is a serious contender on my who to take to a deserted island list. (Remind me to do a week of blogs about the rest of them.) Johann Joachim Winckelmann, the founder of art history and art criticism as we know it, and known as the father of modern archaeology, is buried here.

The man’s life reads like a Russian novel. Born into extreme poverty in Prussia, his father a cobbler, he dug his way out by his wits. Scholarly excellence landed him at a number of universities, studying first theology, then medicine, but ultimately falling in love with ancient languages and developing a passion for Greek art. He devised a system of learning new languages in what is claimed six weeks, eventually able to converse in 12 of them. He was appointed to ever more prestigious posts as researcher/librarian/envoy for German aristocrats and then various Italian cardinals who opened their ancient art collections to him and enabled him to participate at the digs of Pompeii and Hercanuleum. As papal antiquarian and later secretary to Cardinal Albani he had found a space that allowed for his intellectual acumen to blossom. And, one might add, his homosexuality to be silently tolerated.

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