Bearden, Cage, Dali and My Farmer Tan

Sunday, March 11th, 2012 | Art, Family, Travel

Yesterday I visited a show of Romare Bearden collages at the Tampa Art Museum, Southern Recollections. The exhibition examines how the South served as a source of inspiration for Bearden, years after leaving it, both celebrating and eulogizing a lost way of life. The imagery is nostalgic, full of archetypal depictions of African American life with many symbolic and ritual allusions. Much of the work focuses visually on the time of day before and after work, chillaxin, or on women’s work, wash days, bathing. Formally, they pulse with color, but visually flat, and where there’s no color, there’s a jazzy monochromatic harmony, leaning towards abstraction. The works are displayed in a looney almost haphazard fashion, loosely chronologically, but really, I couldn’t figure out the logic behind the arrangements, other than trying to visually approximate Bearden’s own use of collage.

Also on view was a John Cage piece, 33-1/3, from 1969, performed by my sister Carol and me. There are about a dozen record players arranged in a circle in the center of a large gallery. Carol and I selected several records to play simultaneously, and at different volumes: an acoustic album of various Nelson Riddle arrangements; Devo’s Are We Not Men?; Peggy Lee singing with Benny Goodman; Led Zeppelin; a John Cage album from the early 60s; some instrumental hip hop thingy; I can’t remember what else, but our cacophonous creation served as acoustic backdrop for the rest of our museum tour. And everyone else’s.

On to the new Dali Museum, where the crowds were dense like in San Francisco, only in flip-flops and sunscreen. I really love Dali’s early surrealist paintings, and stepping into his simultaneous id, ego and super-ego orchestrations. There’s all the sexual queasiness and anxiety of youth, so beautifully and meticulously painted, with such visual invention.

Today I’m off to the beach to bob around in the Gulf and even out this farmer tan.

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