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Exactly Five Things from Farflung Places Seen in 2011
by Andrew Berardini

1: The Lonesomest Moai in Los Angeles

On top of a hill in Glendale, there's a cemetery special in the world, not only because it inspired Evelyn Waugh to pen a comic novel about it ("The Loved Ones") but because it has turned the theater of death into a distinctly California creation. Besides the largest painting mounted on canvas in the world with its own mock-church viewing theater and sundry themed stretches of plots, there is a museum hosting a coterie of odd, disparate objects all arranged with deadpan pride and a revolving series of exhibitions. Within that museum is one of the few moai to ever escape Easter Island. The whole of Forest Lawn cemetery deserves a field trip, but short of a very long trip to the very remote Easter Island, this is the closest you'll get to the stern face of one of these stone idols. 

2: The Revelation in Miami Beach

Unless you're buying and selling art, art fairs aren't about art really. That said, I did see something I thought was pretty revelatory. A video of a three blond sirens singing for six hours in the booth of his Reykavik Gallery i8. Even better, and this never happens, I found a clip online. 

3:  The Midnight Drive to Pomona

We drove along the 10 freeway past miles of concrete walls as sound barriers to surrounding neighborhoods, past El Monte and its people of paper and past places I've never visited, not even sights on a map but only forgotten freeway exits. We went to see "It Happened in Pomona," or rather the first edition of the show now in its second iteration. Michael Asher had kept the museum open for us, to witness some early stabs at artmaking by a number of notable names and mostly a phenomenology of perception, a lot of spiritual affect trippiness, and meditations on blue. The adventure hinged on the experience of trekking with a friend to a far-flung art museum late at night and have it be smilingly, wonderfully open. I wish all museums were open that late. I need art the most late at night.

4: The Museum of Art, Ein Harod in Israel

I can't exactly explain what makes this museum so special: the long ride through farm fields to arrive there, standing in front of it listening to the low of distant cattle and smelling the drifting aroma of fresh soil and fresher manure; and then, entering the museum itself, a piece of avant-garde architecture that feels so human in scale and execution, constructed of materials that feel like any kind of civic architecture made to endure, the library to the right as you walk in and its beautiful collection of books, the main gallery filled with new video work by one of the most important Israeli video artists. The museum feels to be imbued with a kind of feeling that its founders had when they built it in the last days of the British Mandate in what would soon become Israel. The kind of thing a bunch of European intellectuals who become farmers in the Middle East would think up. The space and spirit of the place are strange and beautiful, but a kind of museum that feels like every village should have a space so great, so comfortable, crafting significant exhibitions, whilst still being fully a part of the community and its history. Though the kibbutz movement by all accounts is sunsetting in Israel, this museum reminded me of the possibility of idealism and that we can carve out a space for art anywhere. 

5: The Sale and Remodelling (Closing?) of Clifton's Cafeteria

I just read the line about it from the George Pendel novel "Strange Angel" that seems wholly apt now that Clifton's seems to be gone: a "surreal sanctuary from a broken world." Or if not gone, than at least gone the way it was. Whenever I talked to a worker there, the guy was grinningly proud to have labored there for multiple decades amongst the trees of the sylvan themed eatery with its prayer booth and legendary pay-what-you-can policy. I don't know how many times I've been there, but a lot. It was a special place I took friends to initiate them into all the things I think are magical. I don't know what the remodel will do, probably nothing good, but part of the magic of Clifton's was that it never changed. I loved that there was a bear there who had spent all his many decades reaching for a fish he would never grasp. 


Andrew Berardini

Posted by Andrew Berardini on 1/3/12

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