Why Do Something If It Can Be Done: Quoting Gertrude Stein # 75

Put on your running shoes and take a bag of patience: lines will be HUGE this weekend – the last days before Seeing Gertrude Stein and The Steins Collect close in SF (See my previous posts). These are the biggest shows ever at both museums (only Chagall beat out the Steins in SFMOMA’s history). Some 400,000 visitors, I heard from the administration. A record. The right time for a new look at modernism — modernism incarnate in Gertrude, Gertie, Gert. You’ll have to run far after Sept. 6 to still catch them: the next stop for Seeing Gertude Stein is Washington, DC — from Oct. 14 to Jan. 22, 2012 at the National Portrait Gallery (perfect place for a portrait of Stein). The Grand Palais in Paris is next for The Steins Collect, but if you can’t run across the Atlantic (no Jesus, anyone?) there’s New York! The Metropolitan Museum of Art will pick it up in February.
If you’ve missed Stein’s opera, Four Saints in Three Acts (with a good dozen saints and four acts), don’t despair. It wasn’t up to snap; it wasn’t exciting like Stein ought to be. The true modern excitement happened right next door, on the same floor at SFMOMA — the video installation called David Claerbout: The Architecture of Narrative. Clearbout works in a Steinian spirit of narrative, architectural narrative, unhinging the media of video and photography and, at the same time, he, too, warps the experience of time in the most fascinating asthetic ways. I sat, mesmerized, through the 24 minutes of “The American Room” (2009-2010), a piece that shows a singer’s recital in an intimate concert room at a place like the White House, surrounded by security guards, security cameras, and American flags. You can read an inspiring article by Kenneth Baker to get a glimpse: Claerbout uses ideas, formal principles and even language (he is “caressing” images) the way Stein used them. I will have to go back for a second look to write more about it before it closes on Sept. 6 as well.

Original vest worn by Gertrude, possibly created by Alice

If you miss all of it, you can still partake in Fashion à la Stein. My friend Shana Penn of the Taube Foundation recently pointed me to a French clothes boutique, Lilith, on Fillmore that carries a line of Stein-inspired gilets and hats and cuffs and other fabulous design inventions for girls who are boys and bois and girls and girls à la Alice. http://www.sanfranciscodress.com/records/page/850/lilith.html — have a look. It’s more expensive than the museums and catalogues, but looking doesn’t cost a penny!
Lilith is fun and will make you want to go right back to Paris, or at least to Midnight in Paris at a cinema near you.

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