June 22, 2006

Barcelona Overnight


I stopped in to Miguel Marcos' Gallery to check in and pow-wow for the upcoming show. The time frame is bloody tight and our discussion makes these days of preparation (travel, material delivery, panel construction, various have-to-do's) time expensive. Miguel's time was tight too, as he was making ready to travel to Sicily. Do I have the time for lunch? Yes, of course. Would I like to go to MACBA (the contemporary museum in Barcelona) with Alberto (Miguel's Number One in the gallery) while Miguel gets cleaned up? Of course. Alberto rolled a cigarette and we dropped into Carrer de Jonqueres to walk across the Old City, through the Barri Gotic and into the Raval towards MACBA.

Alberto is a few years older than I: amiable, charming, intelligent. We talked of cigarettes and his history (he used to be a graphic designer) and how he likes the old city so much better than the modernized Cerda Plan a few blocks north. MACBA was designed by Richard Miers and I expressed my view that it was a fine expression of the architect's vision of a Corbusier 2.0 vocabulary and especially in the antiseptic palette of white porcelain panels, metal and glass. I think that Miers stumbled badly in the creation of the Hilltop Getty in Los Angeles when he caved in to pressure to change up his material palette. (You should see the PBS special on it, with Robert Irwin blowing his top and Miers getting browbeat miserably.) Alberto thought the building was totalitarian in the rigidity of its design, mean in its accommodation of function (the exhibition spaces take up probably less than a quarter of the plan, probably even less by volume). "Un dictador." said Alberto and I noted the irony that it was built early in the Post-Franco years... probably too early for the Catalan national consciousness to wake up fully by that time. I recalled the articles that I had read recently, assessments of the vision of Corbusier as a fascist one, specifically an indictment of his Radiant City and the creation of the suburban housing blocks that warehoused immigrants into ghettos in the banilieus, great boiling urban apartheid stews of resentment.

Inside the museum, an exhibition of Spanish graphic art, vinyl record album covers. Blue Note stylin'. Alberto shook his head in a withering critique of how the computer destroyed the sensibility of graphic artists, that aesthetic choices became actions limited by pre digested menus and the connection to material and the wisdom that came from an acquaintance of the realm of pencil, pen and ink, and tape and glue et al.... was lost to this generation, that there was a dimension that came from traditional mediums that is lost when we tossed all that out in favor of electronic media.

By that time, I recieved a phone call from Gerry Smulevich, my friend and former colleague when I was an architectural studio instructor back in the day. Could Paul Groh come along? Sure, I said, not knowing if this would disrupt Miguel's plan for lunch. The risk paid off as we got together in a local eatery and Miguel engaged my friends in a spirited conversation in Spanish. Gerry was raised in Argentina and Paul is self taught, and since he's pretty brilliant, he did a good job with his second language. I however, was hanging on by the slenderest of threads. When Miguel and I are alone, I can pause tape, ask for definitins and decode the mysteries of Castellano. Now, with these three, the best I could do was to survey the topology of the conversation, the boat running too fast to ping the depths of the arguments traded back and forth. Later as Miguel parted for his journey, I asked my pals for a debriefing to fill in the massive gaps in my comprehension. Along the way, they found Miguel's thought process to be remarkable in that he was inventive with his language bordering on the surreal, playful in his taunting humor.

My pals had to get back to their students. They were the maestros of a summer abroad program for Woodbury university. The students, outfitted with laptops and the instructors equipped with the latest in portable digital projectors and a battery of other electronic equipment (and an electric guitar and portable amplifier), they rented a floor of apartments off the Diagonal and transformed the place into an impromptu architecture studio. The kids had two days to go until their review and I was invited to be one of the visiting critics.

I hoofed over to the local art store to buy as many gallons of matt medium as I could. Barna Art was a few blocks off Carrer de Sant Joan. It was wonderful to walk these distances again, something impossible in Los Angeles. Finally, Barna had to order the material i wanted. I left my contact information and crossed my fingers that this important piece of my preparatory puzzle would fall into place in time.

By this time, I missed the bus for the return to Tossa, Gerry offered his couch to flop out in. We spent the night watching Argentina in the World Cup at a local French themed bar and later with tapas and conversation that took us into the wee hours on the sidewalk of the Passig de Gracia watching Spanairds stroll home.

Posted by Dennis at June 22, 2006 7:07 AM

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