Thursday, April 16, 2015

Exhibition Hopping - Part IV

The evening calendar for my February trip to Toronto was a full one: two operas (Don Giovanni, Die Walküre) and Angela Lansbury in Blithe Spirit.  One theatrical hit, one operatic hit and one operatic miss that was was a hit musically but a total disaster theatrically - but I'm not a critic so what can I say.

The days were a bit cold (-24c) for much in the way of tromping around town but fortunately the hotel was within a short walk of the Art Gallery of Ontario (AGO).  It had been many, many (and I could add several more manys) moons since I had been inside the Gallery and though the big attraction was the Jean-Michel Basquiat exhibition my destination were two much smaller, but to my taste, more interesting installations:  Memory Unearthed: The Łódź Ghetto Photographs of Henryk Ross and Manasie Akpaliapik.

On December 11, 1939 the Nazi authorities commanded that all Jews wear a Star of
David on the front and back of their clothing. As Henryk Ross says of this photo: 
Even the scarecrows were made to wear the yellow star. 

The story of the Łódź Ghetto is a complex one that has given rise to books, essays and articles that tell the many sides of life in the second largest ghetto of the Nazi period but more importantly the  stories of the men, women and children who lived in this devastating page of European history.  I will simply say that the exhibition of Henryk Ross's photographs made me angry and it was one of those exhibitions that I left on the verge of tears.  And I say that as a good reaction to a disturbing but important display of both the inhumanity of man and the resilience of mankind.*

Manasie Akpaliapik - the Inuit artist.
The small exhibition of pieces by Inuit artist Manasie Akpaliapik moved me but in a different way.  Unlike the Ross exhibition they are contained in one space and brightly lit and in their own way show the history, the changes and, in many ways, decline of a society.

IK-PI-AR-JUK (Arctic Bay - the Pocket) Manasie Akpaliapik's birthplace on Baffin Island
is 3,300 kms north of Toronto and approximately 700 kms north of the Arctic Circle.
Akpaliapik was born at the northern most tip of Baffin Island - a hunting camp in IK-PI-AR-JUK (the Pocket) on Arctic Bay, 700 kilometres north of the Arctic Circle.  His parents, Lazaroosee and Nakyuraq Akpaliapik, were both sculptors in the Arctic Bay community; his adopted grandparents, artists Peter and Elisapee Kanangnaq Ahlooloo, and his maternal great aunt Paniluk Qamanirq began to teach him to carve when he was about ten years old.  He learned by watching them, and as they carved the elders would recount Inuit legends and stories. These stories were to influence his work as much as the techniques they taught him.

Traditional carving tools used to fashion Inuit carvings.  From the soapstone sculptures so favoured as
ceremonial gifts from our government to the works created by artists like Akpaliapik, who work in ivory, whalebone and
other media found in the far north, many of these tools are are still used along with more modern equipment.

At the age of twelve he was sent to a Residential School.  Suppression, sometimes violent, of the language (Inuktitut), the traditional culture and values of his people led him to leave school at the age of sixteen and return to Arctic Bay in 1971.   He began to examine his heritage and  to work on carvings that reflected life in his wider community.   He married but tragically lost his wife and children in a house fire in 1980.  He moved to Montreal and began to work in earnest using new techniques, varied materials and learning to refine the details of his work.  He considered the links between the traditions, those legends and stories of his family, life in the North and the mounting problems of alcohol,  unemployment, drugs and rootlessness experienced by the people of the Arctic.  Carving became a healing process for him and a way of focusing attention on the problems of his people.

The pieces on display at the AGO are from the Collection of Samuel and Esther Sarick, one of the most comprehensive collections of Inuit art in the world.  The Sarick's gifted the AGO with the collection in the late 1990s.

As I mentioned this exhibition was small - only twelve pieces of varying sizes - from a slender carving of a hunter riding (or perhaps being dragged by) a narwhal (left) to two large sculptures made from the ossified bone from the bases of whale skulls - I've created videos from the walk-around of these two extraordinary pieces.  Amongst the other materials he uses are ivory, antler, stone, horn, baleen and stone.  Unfortunately I didn't get all the information on the works on display so several of the photos have no identification as to title or materials used.  An e-mail to the AGO asking for information has gone unanswered so I will have to leave some things untitled.

Shaman Muskox
whale bone, ivory, bone, antler - 1995-96.

This double sided ivory carving shows the two sides of life for the Inuit:  one based on the traditions of the North, the other the influences from the outside that has destroyed many of those traditions.

There is a wealth of art created by Inuit artists working in both the traditional and the modern style that deserves to be explored.  This small exhibition opened my eyes to a small portion of what is out there by one artist.  On my next visit to Toronto in May I plan to spend some time at the Museum of Inuit Art at Queen's Quay - an attraction I must admit I had no knowledge of until I read two short pieces on the use of whale bone in Inuit carving:  I've Got a Bone to Pick and Let's Talk About Whalebone.

*I use both the terms man and mankind in their inclusive meaning and should that offend anyone then they do not know me and any flames will be extinguished immediately.

April 16 - 1910: The oldest existing indoor ice hockey arena still used for the sport in the 21st century, Boston Arena, opens for the first time.

Wednesday, April 08, 2015

mercoldi musicale

Okay the first day of Spring was over two weeks ago and temperatures are still coming in the minuses - we even had snow for Easter, try finding white Easter Eggs in the snow!!!!

However here are two of my favourite chantootzies singing the praises (???) of Spring!

The great cabaret and Broadway star Julie Wilson died earlier this week and here she tells us about  one of the more melancholy aspects of the Equinox.

The wonderful Blossom Dearie has a slightly more optimistic outlook on the season - perhaps one we should stick with, even if it takes to June to prove true.

Oh look the forecast calls for snow and -10 tonight! Spring Fever? I don't think so more like the winter flu!

April 8 - 1820: The Venus de Milo is discovered on the Aegean island of Milos.

Monday, April 06, 2015

Lunedi Lunacy

Napoleon the Pig - Animal Farm
Halas & Batchelor (1954)
Halas and Batchelor Cartoon Films was founded in 1940 by husband and wife team John Halas and Joy Batchelor; over the next 58 years they were to be one of the premiere animation studios in Western Europe.  Their output include 70 propaganda films during the Second World War, children's shows, full length cartoons (the first was Animal Farm in 1954 - unwittingly a propaganda film clandestinely funded by the CIA), musical shorts, educational cartoons and a series based on the popular books of Gerald Hoffnung - he of the Interplanetary Music Festival.

In 1961 they introduced Hamilton the Musical Elephant in two charming little shorts with soundtracks by British jazz great Johnny Dankworth (it was only later that he became the more formal John). 

You have to wonder why the little guy only appeared it two cartoons though perhaps the creators wisely thought there were only so many plot lines you could create for a trumpet playing forgetful elephant.

April 6 -1327: The poet Petrarch first sees his idealized love, Laura, in the church of Saint Clare in Avignon.

Sunday, April 05, 2015

For He Is Risun

Happy Easter - Buona Pasqua - Joyeuses Pâques

April 4 -1710: The Statute of Anne receives the Royal Assent establishing the Copyright law of the United Kingdom.

Saturday, April 04, 2015

That Ye May Believe

I posted this video last year on Holy Saturday but each time I watch it I am struck by the beauty of both the language of the King James Version of the Christian Bible and the reading by one on England's finest actresses, Patricia Routledge.

In her home parish at Chichester Cathedral she reads Chapter 20 of the Gospel of St John.

April 4 - 1147: First historical record of Moscow.

Friday, April 03, 2015

Chag Pesach Sameach

To all my friends who begin the seven days* of Passover tonight I can think of no way to better wish you the joy of the Festival than with something by my beloved Emanuele (Lele) Luzzati

 Have a sweet Passover / zisn Pesach / חג פסח שמח

* In some branches of Judaism the Festival lasts for 8 days - I found this explanation here.

April 3 - 2010: Apple Inc. released the first generation iPad, a tablet computer.

The Music of Good Friday

Frequently on past posts I have spoken of the strong role that music played in Holy Week observances in my old parish of St Thomas.  From the Hosannas of Palm Sunday to the Hallelujahs of Easter Sunday it was music rich in both the traditional and the modern.  On Good Friday when the sanctuary was stripped of all ornaments, the redos hidden by a black drape, the clergy, acolytes and choir robed in black cassocks and the organ silent the words and music of the liturgy of the day took on a more important role. 

Though much of the sung liturgy was restricted to plainsong the setting of the Improperia, central to the liturgy of Veneration, was varied and ranged from Stanford to Sanders to Vittoria.  However I don't recall the Palestrina ever being sung.  Though Palestrina had been released from his job as cantor at the Sistine Chapel when Paul IV enforced the rules of celibacy for the Papal Choir his setting of the Reproaches from the Cross were used  there continually on Good Friday from 1555 until the present day.

The photographs that I used in this video were taken on one of our several visits to Barcelona and Antoni Gaudi's miraculous Sagrada Familia. The Passion Facade was unfinished at the time of Gaudi's death but a design was found in his pocket when he was taken to the hospital after being hit by a tram on June 7, 1926. Because he had no identification and was poorly dressed it was assumed he was a drunken vagrant and he was neglected both at the scene of the accident and later at the hospital. By the time the Chaplain of Sagrada Familia recognized him it was too late and he died on June 10.

The work on his masterpiece continued intermittently after his death and continues to this day with a projected completion date by 2026 in time to commemorate the centenary of Gaudi's death.  The work on the decoration of the Passion Facade was begun in 1987 by Josep Maria Subirachs and is in stark contrast to the joyous Nativity Facade and has proven to be controversial in both the arts and religious communities. Though it may be the complete opposite of Gaudi's florid style I find it still fits into the grand design of this miraculous piece of architecture.

This design for the Passion Facade was found in Gaudi's coat pocket when he was taken to
hospital after being hit by a tram.  The accident was to prove fatal: his appearance suggested
that he was just another homeless beggar and he was neglected both at the accident scene
and in hospital. He died two days later.

Josep Maria Subirachs' design for the Passion Facade received much criticism as being
the antithesis of Gaudi's style.  He began work on the facade in 1987 and continue until
his death in 2014.  A right click will take you to a larger version which can be enlarged
for a closer look at the detail.

April 3 - 1922: Joseph Stalin becomes the first General Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union.