Friday, May 10, 2013

Metaphysics of Promise

It's a long way from a nude to a drum pad.

Step one was Bistro 27 where a 45-top (no, really) of middle-aged fraternity bothers were slowly taking over the restaurant.

All the women wanted chardonnay and all the men wore khakis.

'Nuff said.

I amused myself at the bar with Vinho Verde, the lamb kebab over chickpeas, walnuts, red peppers and eggplant and the new Virginia Living magazine.

Their best of issue was laughable.

Example: Best hair salon for women: Bombshell Brazilian Wax and Skincare.


Most challenging golf course? This was a magazine made for the fraternity set.

But enough of them.

Step two was the VMFA for Dr. David McCarthy's lecture, "Toward an American Nude" about the Tom Wesselmann pop art show.

I found a prime seat, front row, back section (where I can stretch my legs) and almost immediately saw James, my fellow nerd.

He and I only exist to each other at lectures, talks and the occasional show.

Today, we talked about missing Poetic Principles at the Library of Virginia and how eager we are for the Richmond Symphony's performances this weekend.

Bring on "The Rite of Spring," we agreed.

Nerd talk.

I'd barely sat back down when a favorite couple appeared and took the seats next to me.

All at once, she pulled a small white box with a "For the Love of Chocolate"  sticker on it out and handed it to me. "For you," she grinned.

It was a box of absinthe cordials, a thing I hadn't even known existed.

She said she hadn't either but the moment she saw them, she knew they had to go to me.

It was a lovely gesture and proved that she knows something about me that my mother doesn't.

Dr. McCarthy began by instructing us to shout if his voice began to drop and fade away, something he also advises his students to do.

His voice didn't fade and what was coming out of his mouth was a well-considered look at Wesselmann's place in history and art.

He suggested that the nude allowed Wesselmann, whom he called "a profound art historian who wore his debts on his sleeve," to get out from under the yoke of abstract expressionism by referring back to classical French painting.

Taken in the context of the post-war boom, McCarthy saw the nude series as hopeful examples of the great bounty available in this country during that time.

His exact term was the "metaphysics of promise," a reference to the quest for the good life, and abundance.

Domestic hedonism, that's what Wesselmann portrayed.

During the Q & A, he was asked why an artist who was considered a major force at the time is so little known now.

McCarthy had a whole slew of reasons, but what it came down to was this: Think of Wesselmann like a female artist of the time.

No matter how talented, it was just harder to get noticed.

My friend the candy-giver and I looked at each other and it made perfect sense.

Looked at in that way, Wesselmann's unjust plight was no worse than our entire sex's at the time.

We could relate. [Knowing nods at each other]

Step three was upstairs at Best Cafe for the Jack Winn-tet.

You'd think that would mean five musicians, not four, but as Jack explained, "Count me twice."

His group played classic jazz like "Take the A Train" to a rapt bunch of classic jazz fans.

I found a fellow music lover and got a cheese plate and headed out to the deck while the band was on break.

Chihuly's red reeds were lit and the lily pads in bloom, making for a picaresque tableau.

It was a soft, warm night and lots of people were in the sculpture garden and on the deck.

Nearby, I watched two young women artists talk to an older woman who seemed to be a gallery owner, or at least a curator, asking her for advice on how to get shown.

The older woman offered advice and encouragement.

One of the young  artists laid her cards on the table. "I could really use this show now," she said emphatically. "I could use something good to happen to me."

Kind of makes your heart hurt, doesn't it?

Step four required driving to Balliceaux for music and unexpected tequila tasting.

The first band was First Creature, a lo-fi '90s-sounding group with a girl singer and lots of guitar lines that worked for me.

They got off to a slow start but built with every song until I was seriously enjoying their simple psychedelia.

Meanwhile, two girls in black dresses and impossibly high heels were working the room, offering shots of Malibu Red, an unfortunate mixture of Malibu rum and tequila.

One sniff and I went back to my Cazadores.

On their next pass-through, it was Malibu spiced rum/tequila, which smelled an awful lot like pumpkin pie.

Back to my Cazadores.

After a long set-up of card tables, a red suitcase with knobs inside and a drum pad, Mutwawa took the stage.

In costume.

Percussionist Jason had on what looked like a chain mail headpiece and knob twirler Gary wore a hooded red robe.

It took them exactly two songs to get so hot they shed their costumes.

Their music had been labeled  live electronic spaced out tribal dance rhythms, about which my companion of a certain age observed, "Yea, we used to call that techno when we were doing it back in the '90s."

It was true, I had to admit to him, the music would have been far better suited to a dim warehouse at 4 a.m. on a Saturday night.

But absent that, where better to be on a warm Thursday night than listening to blips set to beats while women in black pawned off bad tequila products on an unsuspecting audience?

This is the domestic hedonism our forefathers made possible for us, damn it.

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