Saturday, July 19, 2008

Perlman Center PMFA

I'm usually impressed by the shows at the PMFA . We go quite often, probably almost once a month. While there permanent collection is lovely, what's on display isn't enormous like say the Met. But they always seem to be tweaking and changing the installations to provide surprise and meat for regular visitors. There are also always small shows, tucked away little gems. Honestly these days I like smaller shows. A few healthy bites and then a coffee break to chew on them.

This visit there were two cool little shows in the Perlman building.

I was looking forward to the Calder Jewelry show and it more than delivered. I have never been a huge Calder fan. I guess his Mobiles were at on time surprising. Unfortunately they now strike me as nursery playthings from a Design within Reach catalog. I know that's not his fault, but as a viewer I bring me own baggage historical and otherwise and there you are. Sometimes you can't see the freshness in older work. Oh and the Stabiles are just not my monumental cup of tea. All that steel and public space. And those that are small strike me as maquettes. Can't argue with them but they leave me lukewarm. I'm just not a fan of big steel sculpture, (of course I adore Richard Serra).

The jewelry on the other hand is space and changing without losing it's gravity. You feel like you would be changed in some basic way by wearing a cagelike necklace or a huge animal brooch drawn in silver. The pieces appear simple and fundamental although they probably looked radical in the 30's and 40's. But you know like any elemental art that maybe you could copy the form, making such a drawing takes a lifetime and vision most of us lack. It's a must see show that made me see Calder freshly.

Hello! Fashion: Kansai Yamamoto 1971-73 is a crazy small installation, with a video 6 or 8 "dresses" by Yamamoto and a few background pieces by other Japanese designers. The other designers like Comme de Garcons et al. are all cool, black and Zen-y while Yamamoto is Pop and Kabuki. What sticks most in my quirky (and campy) memory is that this 1973 collection made it's American debut at Hess's in Allentown. I've was at that Hess's in the late 80's ( a long story) and there was absolutely no evidence of it having ever been a hot bed of fashion. Somehow I imagine that there's a story involving a socialite with a vision and the money to bring Avant Guard-ness to Allentown.

I didn't know of the designer and the work was great. There was a great crazy 1970's Samurai dress and headpiece (gift of Hess's....they must not have been big sellers). Also some pants and a dress that when they opened formed a full circle. A visual treat and inspiring little show.