Saturday, November 19, 2011

Place/Setting: The Getty Center/LA

Ai WeiWei at LACMA

Ai WeiWei's bronze sculpture of the animals of the Chinese Zodiac, at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. According to LACMA, "The Zodiac Project is Ai Weiwei's first major public sculpture. For this monumental new work, Ai has recreated the famous twelve bronze animal heads that once adorned the Zodiac Fountain in Yuan Ming Yuan, the Old Summer Palace, in Beijing. Cast around 1750, the original heads were looted by Anglo-French troops who took part in the destruction of Yuan Ming Yuan in 1860 during the Second Opium War."
To that, I'd add that the sculptures are as witty as anything Ai has ever done, and he does have a great sense of humor. As always, however, there's more to this work than meets the eye. Ai is engaged in a fascinating exploration of how the past and the present interact and intersect, and much of his work engages in a potent critique of our (and specifically China's) failure to honor the past, and culture in general. Brilliant stuff on an intellectual level, and impressive as form, too.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

’41 Ford, Golden Gate Bridge

The ’41 Ford, parked in what must be one of the most overused photo locations on the West Coast, if not the U.S. or even the world. Given that the car's brakes would fail completely about 50 miles south of here, this photo represents what might be our last truly happy moment together. Note to self: Conduct thorough mechanical inspection and rigorous test-drive prior to start of 1,000-mile road rally.

’41 Ford at Alice's

After decades of riding sportbikes and a driving sports cars through the Santa Cruz Mountains, I never imagined I'd park a ’41 Ford Coupe at Alice's, nor that I'd drive it up Highways 9 and 35 to get there. I'm not sure I've ever made such slow progress up those roads, but the challenge was certainly entertaining.
The history of Alice's itself eludes me, but the area around it has an interesting past, primarily as a locus of the counterculture. During Prohibition, the Santa Cruz Mountains hid a number of illegal stills, and in the 1960s Ken Kesey lived in cabin just down the road in La Honda. This was during the epoch of what Tom Wolfe characterized as "The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test," though as Michael T. Lynch points out, none of the actual "Acid Tests" took place in La Honda.
Forty years on, the Santa Cruz Mountains retain their hippie-ish vibe, and I wouldn't be surprised to stumble upon a pot farm in the midst of the vineyards that are sprouting up here and there. These mountains also have some of the world's best driving roads, though they're better enjoyed in virtually anything other than a ’41 Ford.

Founding Fathers

Commemorated in bronze outside the Lucasfilms studios in the Presidio of SF: Philo T. Farnsworth, inventor of television, and Edweard Muybridge, creator of the first moving images. Suffice to say, these two men made modern entertainment possible. Without them, I'd never have been able to while away my childhood watching reruns of Gilligan's Island and Bewitched.