Open Studio at Halle 14 in Leipzig

Here in Leipzig I met up with three artists from my University who have been doing a residency at Halle 14, a contemporary art center in town. I'll be curating their work in the spring at UPS. I got to spend my time here in the studio, learning about the work they've been doing, exploring the art center as a whole, and seeing a few of the sights and museums in town.

Read More

Fine art, ramen, rain and double espresso

My apartment here in Budapest is just off one of those main boulevards that every big city has. It is heavily trafficked by motor and foot alike. Along the wide sidewalk are hundreds of restaurants and cafés, almost all of them shit. Un memorable places lacking in character, quality food and creative cuisine. But they are flocked to by tourists because of their superficial appearance and most of all, convenience. I don't eat at those restaurants. Food is one of my biggest expenditures traveling, so of course I'll do it right. Plus, I've found that food offers a great way to explore a new city.

Read More

Székesfehérvár - Good Things in a Difficult Place

Art tends to be city centric, but during times of conflict and chaos, some of the most progressive and creative artists seek refuge in the countrysides and provinces, further from the reach of the centralized power. This was seen in World War 2 when numerous French artists spent time in countryside of the South of France, as the North including Paris was occupied. In the post-World War 2 Soviet era in Hungary, it was only outside of Budapest where contemporary art could truly flourish without the ideological control of the Soviet government.

Read More

Beauty and Shifts at the Hungarian National Gallery

I've begun the second chapter of this journey as all adventures should, by diving in rather than beginning with a taste of the waters. Yesterday I spent the day at the Hungarian National Gallery, meeting with the curator of the post-World War II section and exploring the collection. In talking with my contact at the Ludwig museum (more to come on that one), and Zsolt at the National Gallery, I’ve come to understand much more clearly the artistic system in Hungary, as well as the development of contemporary art in the last century.

Read More

Milano: Round Two of the Recommendation Conundrum

I wrote a while back about how the way we identify places, specifically travel locations is stupid and limiting. I dubbed this problem the recommendation conundrumnoting how we concentrate on one or two specific aspects of a place, making it a must-see. For example, Rome is a city for history, Paris for art, etc. I sincerely hope that i never end up spending serious time in a city that can be truly condensed so minutely.

Read More

Third Time is the Charm in Roma

Rome is one of those places that you can't get out of your head. Its history and buildings constructed in warm tones are pleasing for the wanderer, foreign as it may be, it is physically welcoming. Its grandeur is in its weathered nature, in battered buildings that have stood for centuries, and in the intricacy of its marble fountains and wild traffic patterns alike.

Read More

Take me down to Zagreb

Take me down to the paradise city, where the grass is green and the girls are pretty, oh won't you please take me home...   Guns 'N Roses - Paradise City

If Axel Rose sings truly, as many hardcore fans do believe, then there is not too much to a paradise city. Green grass and pretty girls. Not a bad list I must say, they are definitely necessary but in my mind not quite sufficient.

Keep the green grass, keep the pretty girls, but give me as well good food, plentiful art, nature in proximity and since we're talking about paradise city, let's keep the prices low.

The paradise city in question, is Zagreb, the capital of Croatia, situated in the North, not on the coast.

The Lonely Planet intro to the city was wishy-washy, in fact as it often seems, a load of horse shit. It posed the so-called eternal question of whether or not Zagreb is even worth visiting. Even though they end up with a positive answer, most readers already have so much doubt in their minds that they are fleeing for the beaches of the Adriatic coastline.

But we'd spent weeks on the beach, and weeks with Roman and Ottoman ruins and it was time for something new. It was time to get back to Modern Art. Cities have a spirit to them that small towns can't capture, especially those with tourists in mind. Due to the draw of Croatia's coast and to guide books like LP, Zagreb maintains a certain authenticity. Few places are crammed with hordes or tourists, and few places go out of their way to sacrifice their originality and coddle the tourists.

Obviously its not Paris, but I got a distinctly Parisian feel from Zagreb. Its the wide boulevards with fantastic buildings, classical architecture, art nouveau, a bit of everything - all of it making a statement. You'd be hard-pressed to compare the number of people sitting in parks vs. sitting in cafes, both are plentiful and seem to occupy nearly completely the lives of the locals.

So you sit in the cafe, on the sidewalk of course, or you sit in the park. Where the grass is perfectly maintained. Its a joy to be on grass so soft you can roll in it as if it were your bed at home. And on both the grass, and in the cafes, is the biggest amount of the prettiest girls I've seen in one place in my life.

But you can't lounge around all day, because that can be done everywhere, so luckily there's a lot of intellectual and cultural activities the city offers. From splendid churches and cathedrals to bountiful museums and galleries, it is safe to say Zagreb is thriving with contemporary art and beautiful historical monuments. St. Mark's Church in the old town is a stunner, with colorful tiles arranged on the roof to represent the coat of arms of Croatia.

A highlight was the Museum of Naive Art. Also roughly known as Art Brut (I've got research to do because it may lead to my thesis!), Naive Art is art by artists who are self-trained and don't belong to traditional stylistic schools. They are often characterized by simplification, strong coloration that can be arbitrary, flatness, the use of oil on glass, and a link to Henri Le Dounier Rousseau, one of my favorite French artists. The museum had a great collection of mostly Croatian Naive paintings, as well as a number from around Europe. Here are two of my favorites:

Big Autumn - Ivan Lackovic

Beyond that, its a city that is truly alive. Fueled by the sun and by the seemingly absurd amount of coffee consumed, people are everywhere, always. Its a good thing to see in a city. The cheap prices helped, beer was less than two euros a pint and we ate full dinners for less than five euros.

Zagreb is a great space, with wide boulevards nearly everywhere, great museums and parks, and beautiful people. Its truly a paradise city and I couldn't help but feel that it'd be worth learning Croatian to move there in the future. As if to reinforce that idea, we saw a group of bike racers ride by on our last evening. Its a city that truly has everything I guess.

Photos to come later when I find a working computer.

The Non Religious Side of Cathedrals

No matter how deep the extent of religious belief, no matter which vein of faith someone ascribes to, people are hard-pressed to enter a cathedral without an expression of disbelief, a "wow," or a jaw drop. The effects of the massive architecture, and combination of building, stained glass, sculpture, painting, gold work and marble are easily overwhelming. It could be said that cathedrals are among the earliest successful large-scale multi-media works. The combination of materials and of media is designed to create a lasting and powerful expression, the buildings stand as symbols.

Here I leave the stand path, for cathedrals are more than symbols for their own religion, they are symbols of artistic inspiration. What is it that could inspire man to push the bounds of technological innovation and artistic creation to create giant buildings so fantastic and lasting? The answer is belief. Not necessarily belief in the divine however, because artistically this can be simplified to strong belief in something.

While aestheticism is important, the best works of art have meaning. An artist conveys true meaning in a piece only if he or she truly has a strong belief, be it in a cause, idea, religion, philosophy or beyond.

For cathedrals this belief is obviously a religious one, and that is reinforced by their purpose and iconography. Despite lack of relevant religious belief to that of most cathedrals here in Europe, I can marvel at the artistic achievement both for the fantastic accomplishment and for accurate expression of intense belief.

Belief is a guiding factor in art, as it leads to sincerity and authenticity in artistic creation, as well as high levels of inspiration. Cathedrals seem to be some of the earliest examples, and it continues to this day. Here's some photos from that cathedral in Zagreb, Croatia.

Photos to come

On and Off the beaten path in Athens

By this point in my time abroad, it could be said that I am decently well traveled. I've seen a wide range of countries, cities and cultures. But despite the exoticism and fascination that comes with a new place, there is always consistency  - especially in cities. A city may be full of monuments, public art, intricate and unique architecture, yet from far away and from an exterior view - they often look the same.

Read More