Budapest

Budapest!

Budapest!

My cross Europe journey continued over the weekend into Hungary, specifically the capital, Budapest! Budapest is a beautiful city that I learned is actually two cities Buda and Pest, which are divided by the Danube River.

I got to meet up with some good friends of mine, two who live in Budapest and were our local tour guides.

Having a blast

Having a blast

We walked along the Danube, marveled at the architecture of the city, and climbed up the hill to the Buda Castle and church. You can check it out in my pictures.

The Danube at dusk

Danube at Dusk

Church in Budapest

St. Anna’s Church

Another church

Calvinist Church

Heroes Square

Heroes Square

Old castle, now a museum

Old castle, now a museum

Rawr

Rawr

Statue of Anonymus, an infamous Hungarian historian

Statue of Anonymus, an infamous Hungarian historian

American Psycho in the streets of Budapest

American Psycho in the streets of Budapest

The Eye of Budapest

The Eye of Budapest

Lion guarding the Chain Bridge

Lion guarding the Chain Bridge

View from the Chain Bridge

View from the Chain Bridge

Buda Castle

Buda Castle

Buda Coat of Arms

Buda Coat of Arms

Incline going up to Buda Castle

Incline going up to Buda Castle

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Buda Castle

Buda Castle

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Matthias Church

Matthias Church

Matthias Church

Matthias Church

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View from Fisherman’s Bastion

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View from the Fisherman’s Bastion

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Budapest was a blast, and it was great to experience Hungarian culture. Next stop, Prague.

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Amsterdam

Amsterdam, Netherlands

Amsterdam, Netherlands

Wow. What a city! I only got to spend two days in Amsterdam, but I did as much as I could while I was there. Right out of the train station I was met with an incredible view of the canals and buildings of Amsterdam. I stayed right along one of the canals and was within walking distance of everywhere I wanted to go.

My first stop (of course) was the world renowned Rijksmuseum, though on the way I ran into a good Dutch friend of mine. Maybe you’ve heard of him

Statue of Rembrandt

Statue of Rembrandt

This statue sits in Rembrandt Square and is modeled after his painting, the Nightwatch, which resides in the Rijksmuseum.

The Nightwatch by Rembrandt

The Nightwatch by Rembrandt

The painting is enormous. The figures are life size, yet they tower above you. I stood in front of that painting for a long time admiring the precise detail and various textures among the different clothes and objects in the painting. The play of light in the painting, which Rembrandt is especially known for, is very unique, and plays an important role in the painting. You’ll notice that two figures are illuminated: the girl at left-center and the man to the right. These bright figures frame the central figure, the general, who gives orders to the rest of the militiamen. Though there had been many previous paintings of groups of soldiers, Rembrandt was the first to create such a dynamic and active painting in honor of the guards of the city.

Though the Nightwatch is not a great example, Rembrandt was also one of the first painters to paint texturally. When you look at his paintings, you can see globs of paint that he built up on the painting. God I wish I could touch it!

Detail of a Rembrandt

Detail of a Rembrandt

The Rijksmuseum

The Rijksmuseum

After the Rijksmuseum, I meet up with some friends and wandered around the streets and canals to enjoy Amsterdam’s famous nightlife.

Nighttime canals

Nighttime canals

My second day of Amsterdam included the Van Gogh Museum, which I was most looking forward to, and the Stedelijk Museum, which houses modern art.

One of Van Gogh's many self portraits

One of Van Gogh’s many self portraits

I wondered how many actual van Gogh paintings the museum would have because there are so many throughout the world. Answer: a lot. And they are all amazing. You get to see his progression from muddled landscape painter to an artist who depicts all the highs and lows of the human condition. The museum also does a great job of incorporating the work of other artists, who both inspired and were inspired by van Gogh.

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A work by Jan Fabre in response to letters from van Gogh to his brother Theo.

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A Crab on Its Back, 1888

My favorite paintings in the museum were the ones above and below this silly writing. The pictures I have here do not do them justice. The colors in the crab and in the background are unlike anything I have ever seen before. Even after over a hundred years, the colors are electric. The subject itself is all too similar to the struggle of the artist, the struggle that van Gogh dealt with all his life. On the other hand, his painting Skull of a Skeleton with Burning Cigarette is hilarious. I love this painting. Its so goofy. I have no idea how Van Gogh thought to do this, but through this painting, he was able to bring the dead back to life. 

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Skull of a Skeleton with Burning Cigarette, 1885-1886

A Richard Serra sculpture between the museums

A Richard Serra sculpture between the museums

After the Van Gogh Museum, I went to the Stedelijk Museum nearby to see more contemporary work. The museum ranged from post-Impressionism all the way to performance art and work from the 21st century. My highlights were Max Beckman, whose paintings I thoroughly enjoy, Martin Kippenburger, whose work I had never seen in person before, and Roy Lichtenenstein. He paints comics, its great! The museum also had a special exhibition on Zero, a group of mostly German avant-garde artists who worked in the 50’s and 60’s.

Max Beckman Self Portrait with his Wife

Max Beckman Self Portrait with his Wife

Three Buildings with Slits by Martin Kippenberger (1 of 3)

Three Buildings with Slits by Martin Kippenberger (1 of 3)

Roy Lichtenstein

Roy Lichtenstein

The museum also had a special exhibition on ZERO, a group of mostly German avant-garde artists who worked in the 50’s and 60’s. There was much sculptural and minimalist work with a conceptual spin. Below, the artist fuses a TV and a stool into one worthless object via a fuckton of nails.

TV with Nails, Gunther Uecker, 1963

TV with Nails, Gunther Uecker, 1963

I got to see a retrospective on ZERO at the Guggenheim last year, where I was introduced to Yves Klein. He was a brilliant painter, sculptor, and artist in general. I was most amazed at his fire paintings, where he basically used a flamethrower to burn canvasses, which he presented as paintings. A video of this process was included in the show, and it was badass. Below is one of Klein’s blue paintings. He became famous for these paintings, which usually only included this same hue of blue and sponges, painted blue. In fact, the specific hue has been named International Klein Blue.

One of Yves Klein Blue Paintings with sponges

One of Yves Klein Blue Paintings with sponges

After the Stedelijk Museum, I took a quick rest at my hostel, then wandered into the hazy streets of Amsterdam and made some friends. Though I saw what I wanted to see, there is still so much for to do and see in that incredible city. Amsterdam, one day I will come back to you, and once again we will celebrate the grand mystery of life in a way that only you can provide, you crazy sonuvabitch.

Goodbye, Amsterdam

Goodbye, Amsterdam

And tomorrow (and by tomorrow I mean in five hours) I’m off to Budapest!

Den Haag

Girl with Pearl Earing by Vermeer

Girl with Pearl Earing by Vermeer

Today I spent the day touring Den Haag with a good Dutch friend of mine as a tour guide. I was able to see all that this wonderful city has to offer, try some authentic Dutch cuisine, and see some masterpieces of the Dutch Golden Age at the Maritshius Museum, such as Vermeer’s most famous painting, which you see above.

The Peace Palace

The Peace Palace

The International Court of Justice convenes in the aptly titled Peace Palace in Den Haag. Below is a picture of Den Haag’s parliament building.

Parliament

Parliament

Since Den Haag is a coastal town, there is an abundance of fresh seafood. I was lucky enough to try herring from one of the best seafood markets in of all Holland. Doesn’t it look tasty?

Mmmmm, herrings

Mmmmm, herring

Though the Maritshuis Museum is probably most known for having Vermeer’s “Girl with the Pearl Earring” (an overrated painting in my opinion)), I was especially excited to see some fantastic paintings by Rembrandt. My favorite was the painting “The Anatomy Lesson of Dr. Nicolaes Tulp.” Commissioned early on in his carreer, Rembrandt painted this for doctors who he included in the painting. Seeing the detail of the dissected hand gives a feeling similar to hearing nails on a chalkboard, but even more visceral. Proceed with caution.

The Anatomy Lesson of Dr. Nicolaes Tulp by Rembrandt

The Anatomy Lesson of Dr. Nicolaes Tulp by Rembrandt

Detail of The Anatomy Lesson of Dr. Nicolaes Tulp

Detail of The Anatomy Lesson of Dr. Nicolaes Tulp

I had a great experience in my first Dutch city, and I am off to Amsterdam tomorrow to see what else the Netherlands has to offer!

Exploring Berlin

Berlin!

Berlin!

On Saturday I spent the day seeing as much of Berlin as I could and taking pictures along the way. Highlights including the Soviet War Memorial,the East Side Gallery, and the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe. I will let the pictures do the talking.

Beginnings: Treptower Park & the Soviet War Memorial

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Across the River: East Side Gallery and Street Art

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Headed North: Mauerpark and Humboldthain

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Final Destination: Berlin Wall Memorial, Branenburger Tor, and the Jewish Memorial

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I will be doing some traveling through Europe this week, so stay tuned for more pictures and stories!

Art?

I was mindfucked by art.

Paul McCarthy

I have experienced similar feelings when watching movies that blew my mind and left me wondering who, what, and where I was, but today, it happened at a Paul McCarthy exhibition. I will tell you the story…

In early September, there were countless gallery openings for Berlin’s Art Week. I went to a few, but one that I missed was Paul McCarthy’s at the Schinkel Pavilion. I am familliar with his work, having seen his uncanny and offputting movie “Painter” (a clip) and recent “trees” that he displayed in Paris. I cannot say I ever really understood, appreciated, or liked any of his work. I can’t even say I’ve ever really even given his work a chance. I only accepted it as part of the institutional theory of art and know he was mentioned in more than one undergrad art class. But, I know I wanted to see his exhibition.

From what I had seen on the Schinkel Pavilion website (http://schinkelpavillon.de/exhibitions/current-upcoming/paul-mccarthy/), the show included a reproduction of the artist himself. Basically, Paul McCarthy made a copy of Paul McCarthy and laid him on a table, naked. That’s what I was going to see. That’s what I expected. Just a naked Paul McCarthy on a table.

This is what happened:

On a rainy Berlin Thursday, after leaving the school where I am teaching, I headed to Schinkel Pavilion in Mitte. Though the road is blocked by construction, I take a right onto Oberwallstraße and look for the entrance. I see a small sign that reads “Schinkel Pavilion <—–” pointing to the left. There is no door to the left. I keep walking between building and area blocked off by construction, and finally arrive at a door and a sign for the Schinkel Pavilion. This must be the place. The door is locked, so I buzz for Schinkel Pavilion. The door unlocks, and I enter. Unlike most museums or galleries, I am not greeted by white walls and a desk, but a winding staircase and an open door. I walk through the door, into what appears to be some sort of old, decrepit building, not the Schinkel Pavilion I had imagined. I proceed into a rotunda of sorts, with a table in the middle and TVs on the surrounding walls. There was no naked artist on the table. Only black lines that seemed to outline a body, and playing on the TV was a video showing men tracing a naked woman sitting and laying on the table. And she was laughing, hysterically, and for no reason. The room smelled like a sauna and was reminiscent of abandoned prisons. Through the window I could see a construction machine picking up garbage. It’s bangs and crashes added to the noises of the woman. On the other side of the room was a door. I walked through into the hallway you see above, and into a room in which hung neon close ups of a female face. The room was dirty and abandoned, in contrast to the gleaming photographs. There was a rusty sink and a spot where some sort of machine used to sit. It reminded me of a storage room in a carnival warehouse that I used to work at. Through this room I entered into an unlit hallway and peered into empty, dark rooms. Each time I was sure something was hiding inside, waiting for me. I walked through a room, through a swinging door, and back into the rotunda where the table sat and the videos continued to play.

The Rotunda

As a stood in the room, staring around at the different videos showing the same thing, a woman entered the room and looked at me, saying nothing. I was not sure who she was. A confused visitor? Part of the scam? Eventually she told me there was more upstairs. I followed her, where the naked artist and white-walled desk awaited like I expected.

One of the many definitions of art is that art is aesthetic experience, a situation where you become acutely aware of your senses. From the moment I started walking down the construction laden street of Oberwallstraße, I entered into the artistic experience. It lead up to entering what seemed to be an abandoned building, where I questioned if I should have been there, yet almost recognized it as if I already had. Art should challenge and confuse, yet excite and entertain. It should question, entice, arouse, and bemuse. All of this happened during my experience of Paul McCarthy’s show. All of this and more.