Picasso–Multiple Images of the Master

Opening on June 11 and closing on October 9, the deYoung Museum in San Francisco continues to host an exhibition of more than 100 masterpieces of  Pablo Picasso (1881–1973) from Paris’s world-renowned Musée National Picasso. The Bay Area exhibition is made possible only because of the Musée’s temporary closing for extensive remodeling.  I have seen the collection in Paris, of which there are more than 5000 paintings, sculptures, drawings, prints, and collages, an almost overwhelming experience.   About two percent of that collection is now on view at the deYoung, demonstrating some but not all of the wide range of artistic styles and forms that Picasso mastered.  Missing are some of my personal favorites:  linocuts, woodcuts, and ceramics.  But the exhibit has much to offer.

The pieces, arranged chronologically, are presented in nine galleries covering every period of his career. Celestina (1904), from the artist’s Blue Period, is perhaps his most somber (certainly his most depressing) work:  a portrait of a one-eyed prostitute modeled after an actual madam in Barcelona.  The missing eye looks more like a dense cataract and the gender of the figure is ambiguous.  Other more familiar paintings and sculptures are displayed:  Portrait of Dora Maar (1937), six Surrealist bronze heads of the artist’s mistress, Marie-Thérèse Walter; the bronze Goat (1950); the six life-size bronze Bathers (1956); and the late self-portrait The Matador (1970).   One painting that fascinated me the most, however, is less known:  Massacre in Korea (1951), inspired by Goya, is a painting protesting the US involvement in the Korean War.  It reminded me of Jose Orozco’s furious murals depicting the Spanish invasion of Mexico.  US military personnel are shown in Darth Vader-like helmets with the Korean people reminiscent in style and emotion of Orozco’s Mexican villagers.  His bronze sculptures of individual men and women standing in rows are haunting.  The famous “Head of a Bull”, a minimalist sculpture of a bicycle seat with handlebars, has been made a focal point in Gallery 7.

Not to be missed is the complimentary guide for the show.   Co-written by the Seattle Art Museum and the deYoung,  this brilliant analysis of the painted feelings of Picasso is a study of his  infatuation with each of his lovers.  We learn how each of Picasso’s lovers transformed his artful composition of the woman’s figure. His early Cubist years were with mistress Fernande Olivier, his surrealist period with lover Marie-Therese Walter, his political transformation during the Spanish Civil War inspired by Dora Maar and his last two decades of playful experimentation and ceramics were with Jacqueline Roque.

Each of his artistic periods shifted dramatically in accordance with the lover muse with whom he was enthralled.  I can now imagine the rejuvenation of his art–from periods of seriousness (Blue), voluptuousness (Rose, Expressionist, Cubist), political courage (Surrealism), and playfulness through the eyes of Picasso as lover.  Picasso always claimed his erotic life was the stimulus for his creativity and expressiveness.  “Painting is just another way of keeping a diary”, is famously quoted but looking at Picasso’s portraits of his lovers tells all.

Go to http://deyoung.famsf.org/deyoung/exhibitions/picasso-masterpieces-mus-e-national-picasso-paris for more information.  Three other San Francisco exhibits are also Picasso-related–”Seeing Gertrude Stein: Five Stores” at the Contemoporary Jewish Museum (closing September 6) www.thecjm.org,  “The Steins Collect: Matisse, Picasso, and the Parisian Avant Garde” at the San Francisco MOMA (closing September 6) www.sfmoma.org, “Picasso’s Ceramics” at the Legion of Honor in the Bowles Porcelain Gallery (closing December 1), www.legionofhonor.org.

 

 

 

Perbacco Ristorante– “Good Times”

On our visit to San Francisco last weekend we decided to dine at Perbacco ristorante and bar, specialists in Northern Italian cuisine with a focus on the luxurious and lush regional cooking of Piedmont. Loosely translated from the Italian as something like “wow” or “good times”, Perbacco did not disappoint. We had a sumptuous food extravaganza of traditional dishes presented stylishly with perfection in seasonings and freshness of ingredients.

The space is large and elegant, a perfect choice for any special occasion or just a treat. For us it was our anniversary and we wanted an unusual menu. Perbacco’s menu changes daily–just what we wanted to challenge our palates. As major foodies who take lots and lots of photos of food wherever we vacation, we are not easy to please.

We ordered a lot of food. Our first appetizer was a pesce crudo (the Italian equivalent of sushi)–an Australian hiramasa (Japanese word for the yellowtail kingfish) on paper-thin slices of peach with a charred padron pepper sauce drizzled over it. The second appetizer was vitello tonnato: slow-roasted veal tenderloin with a lemon/albacore tuna sauce on a bed of capers and arugula. Both were works of edible art, delectable with every bite, created from produce, fish, and meats which themselves are natural wonders.

For our main course, we decided to share three unusual pastas: fusilli pepati, agnoli di coniglio and tajarin. Fusilli pepati is hand-rolled seven-pepper duck-egg pasta (like tagliatelli) with duck liver infused with the slightest hint of dark cherry. Agnoli di coniglio is a triangle-shaped pasta (like large tortellini but with the texture of ravioli), stuffed with roasted rabbit in a wine sauce. And last but not least was the tajarin, handcut tagliatelli in a pork sugo with porcini mushrooms. All three pastas were presented on a special plate subdivided into discrete sections. Because the pastas are quite filling, we shared an heirloom tomato salad with charred Tropea onions, basil, anise hyssop, and ricotta. An extremely generous salad to share–a feast of purple/green, red, yellow, green, and orange tomatoes. I think the only color missing was blue!

The New York Times columnist Mark Bittman also seems to be a huge fan of chef Steffan Terje’s pastas, calling the tajarin’s sauce ” the kind of sauce you sop up greedily and dream about later.”

This five-year old restaurant was still packed at 9:30 p.m. on a Thursday night, when we were about halfway through our dinner. The crowd is primarily young but diners were of every age in the spectrum.

We are definitely going back to this sensational Italian restaurant, 2011 recipient of the Birra Moretti Best Authentic Italian Restaurant in North America. Reserve a table, enjoy a fine bottle of wine–we loved the orange (yes, orange) 2009 Catarrato, a very dry Sicilian wine by Girgis. The imagination of the chef and the friendliness of the wait staff make this dining experience a delectable and sensuous delight!

Perbacco is located at 230 California Street (415) 955-0663. For more information, go to their website at http://www.perbaccosf.com and read about the owners at http://www.sfgate.com.

Absolutely heavenly!! If you think I am exaggerating, check out “Pasta Porn: 101 0f America’s Most Delicious Noodle Dishes” at http://newyork.grubstreet.com.

“The Fall” — A Mind-Bending Marvel

The visual splendor and breathtaking imagination of “The Fall” made me actually dream of some of the scenes, an experience I rarely have. Reality and fantasy blur into a magical realism that so dazzles the eyes, it suggests a psychedelic otherworldly, perhaps drug-induced journey. This movie is a magical, mystery tour–”The Adventures of Baron von Munchausen” meets “The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus”.

“The Fall” (2008) is two movies in one–and I don’t mean the story within a story that grounds the mind-blowing imagery. I mean the visual story: the sumptuous fantasy world of 1920′s Los Angeles. Filmed in Fiji, Bali, Brazil, India, South Africa, and thirteen other countries, I could have viewed this movie on “mute” and still have loved it! Captivating scenes of a butterfly-shaped island; a warrior shot so full of arrows he falls backwards on them like a bed of nails; an Escher-like staircase to nowhere; costumes with lotus-shaped headdresses and fan-shaped veils; russet-colored mountains with Crest-toothpaste aquamarine skies I thought were colorized; faces that melt into the mountainside, with faint, lingering shadows of eyes.

Genius for the understatement works its magic from the opening scene and continues through close-ups of a little girl’s hands, her vulnerability and innocence revealed by soft, seemingly boneless fingers. Footage of a massive elephant swimming in the ocean, with the cameramen shooting from underneath causes cognitive dissonance. The elephant had to be “animatronic”, not a living, breathing mastodon-sized pachyderm. But I was so wrong. Astounding, mind-boggling scenes trick both the eye and the mind.

But there is also an epic story to tell. Languishing in a hospital, stuntman Roy Walker (played by newcomer Lee Pace) is grievously injured from jumping off a bridge onto a horse far below. Not only is his body broken, but also his heart. To entertain the little girl Alexandra (the unforgettable Catinca Untaru, a six-year old with a soft whisper of a Romanian accent), Roy tells a fantastical tale of heroes, warriors, and a princess in scenes conjuring “A Thousand and One Arabian Nights”. However, his ulterior motive is not to entertain a little girl in a body cast, but to coax her to steal morphine so he can “sleep”. A free-fall feast for the eyes, Roy’s drug-induced stupor is recreated by the stunning imagery of the tale-within-the-tale. Alexandra’s imagination becomes the catalyst for Roy’s story, and her purity and innocence ultimately overpower him. Roy is her perfect storyteller, she is his perfect listener, and together they imagine a new world–one of beauty and art…and heal.

Catinca Untaru is the heart and soul of this movie! She is so natural as the wide-eyed innocent child, I thought her dialogue was unscripted. Only the out-takes convinced me otherwise. Colin Watkinson, the cinematographer, in some sense shares the director role with Tarsem Singh because his portraits of art in motion are a parallel universe as addicting as the morphine that Roy craves. “The Fall” is, above all, visual storytelling. Without Wilkinson’s evocative visual effects, the narrative would not have flourished.

Unfortunately, due to delayed and poor distribution, “The Fall” did not reach the wider audience it deserves. With less than $4 million worldwide in gross receipts, this is a gross injustice! Treat yourself to this cinematic work of art and relish in its marvel and splendor!

View the trailer