Monday, January 09, 2012

Poem for Monday and Seeing Gertrude Stein

A Long Dress
By Gertrude Stein

What is the current that makes machinery, that makes it crackle, what is the current that presents a long line and a necessary waist. What is this current.

What is the wind, what is it.

Where is the serene length, it is there and a dark place is not a dark place, only a white and red are black, only a yellow and green are blue, a pink is scarlet, a bow is every color. A line distinguishes it. A line just distinguishes it.


While Daniel once again spent the day mentoring robotics students from his high school, we took Adam downtown to the National Portrait Gallery and Smithsonian American Art Museum, where we went primarily to see The Great American Hall of Wonders and Seeing Gertrude Stein. The former is a collection of art and illustrations of American ingenuity (or at least the belief therein) with an emphasis on "limitless" natural resources like bison and giant sequoia trees and on inventions like clocks and the transcontinental railroad, though there's plenty of ickiness like taxidermy and guns. The latter presents Stein mostly as a public figure -- much of the emphasis is on how she tried to control the narrative of her life, particularly with Alice B. Toklas, though also as an art patron and writer.

Devorah Sperber's portrait of Gertrude Stein is made of more than 5000 spools of thread, inverted through a glass globe.

This is how it looks from across the room, like an upside down abstraction of Picasso's famous painting of Stein.

Here is Gertrude Stein by Jo Davidson. The quote reads, "I was alone at this time in understanding [Picasso], perhaps because I was expressing the same thing in literature."

A room with portraits of Toklas and Stein's early private life together...

...uses the same wallpaper that Stein and Toklas had on the wall of their home.

The exhibit also has many paintings, sculptures, magazine covers, and other illustrations of Stein as well as her own books and theatrical productions.

This is Megatron/Matrix, a huge wall of video screens in the Smithsonian American Art Museum by Nam June Paik that shows images from Korea of both contemporary sports and ancient folk rituals.

And this is the Kogod Courtyard connecting the National Portrait Gallery and American Art Museum.

We picked up Daniel late in the afternoon (having arrived early, we tried to go to a nearby Starbucks but it was closed), then we came home for dinner, Once Upon a Time and the season two premiere of Downton Abbey (yes, I know everyone already downloaded and watched it but it was too many hours for me to deal with and I'm happy to support PBS). Other than Sybil, I still don't have much use for most of the Upstairs characters, but I like the Downstairs characters and am hoping things don't get too soap-opera-ish this longer season; I am enjoying the war storylines more than the romances, I must admit!

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