The end of this year turned out to have a rather unexpectedly strong finish. After a crazy roller coaster ride like this one, I was delighted to have spent the fading days of 2017 in Paris. Who could not love Paris during any time or season? It was cold, it was rainy and still shockingly gorgeous.

Paris.

December 2017

For starters, during part of my visit I was fortunate enough to stay in a building that is also in one of my favorite works at the Art Institute of Chicago. I grew up gazing into this painting - Gustave Caillebotte's Paris Street; Rainy Day - 1877. (212.2 × 276.2 cm  - 83.5 × 108.7 in).  

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It’s impossible not to awe at the impact Parisian culture has had on the world - created through centuries of championed the high arts, cuisine, architecture, as well as urban planning and development. For the most part whenever I'm in town I spend my time wandering around with friends, admiring just about everything about its people and places, and checking out the latest exhibits. Almost too many to keep up with. 

Here's to 2018 and a continued commitment to learning, to travel, and an avid commitment to art. 

©2017 Byron Mason. All photo rights reserved. 


DADA AFRICA

Non-Western Sources and Influences

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Paris

October 18, 2017 - February 19, 2018

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Dada, a prolific and subversive art movement, first emerged in Zurich during the First World War, and then spread to centres such as Berlin, Paris and New York. Through their new works – sound poems, collage, performance – the Dada artists rejected the traditional values of civilisation, while appropriating the cultural and artistic forms of non-western cultures such as Africa, Oceania and America. The Musée de l’Orangerie is presenting an exhibition on these exchanges with African, American Indian and Asian works alongside those of the Dadaists - Hanna Höch, Jean Arp, Sophie Taeuber-Arp, Marcel Janco, Hugo Ball, Tristan Tzara, Raoul Haussmann, Man Ray and Picabia, among others.


Was strolling around town aimlessly when photos in a gallery window literally stopped me in my tracks... 

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MARILYN

 

La Galerie de L'Instant - Paris

December 7, 2017 - February 13, 2018

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Centenary Exhibition - Grand Palais Paris

September 21. 2017 - January 29. 2018


Turandot at SF Opera

Turandot

Saw this the other night. I do love Puccini...

Turandot—a cold-hearted but exquisitely beautiful princess who challenges her suitors to a deadly game of wits. Only Calaf, an exiled prince, is hot-blooded enough to crack her icy veneer.

Music by Giacomo Puccini | Libretto by Giuseppe Adami and Renato Simoni (1926)

September 8 - December 9, 2017


The November issue of The Art of Living, a Dutch online publication, features the design/architectural work of my friend Susanne Thijssen's renovation of a residence in The Netherlands.

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Interior Architecture by Thijssen DesignPhotography by Muriel Schouten.


LINES Ballet featuring Lisa Fischer

November 15-19, 2017 at Yerba Buena Center for the Arts Theater, San Francisco

In celebration of Alonzo King LINES Ballet’s thirty-five years of groundbreaking art-making in the SF Bay Area and around the world, Alonzo King and Lisa Fischer will team up for the return of The Propelled Heart for six performances only. This highly acclaimed collaboration premiered to record-breaking audiences in 2015.

Called “a phenomenal powerhouse” by The New York Times, Grammy Award-winning vocalist Ms. Lisa Fischer has shared the stage with musical luminaries of nearly every genre, including Mick Jagger, Aretha Franklin, Tina Turner, Beyoncé and Sting. In The Propelled Heart Ms. Fischer joins the dancers of LINES Ballet in a collaboration which achieves “rock star status” (San Francisco Classical Voice) as they pay tribute to the power of song. The piece is a voyage which explores the kinetics of the human voice, revealing the communicative potential of the body as an instrument, and also as a vocal chord.


Fred Lyon: San Francisco Noir

October 12 - December 30, 2017

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Photographer Fred Lyon Is 93 and Still in Love With San Francisco.  His current exhibition at the Leica Gallery consists of 63 photos, mostly taken between 1940 and 1960. Titled “San Francisco Noir,” like the book, the show reveals a moody and cinematic side of the city.

Following in the footsteps of classic films like The Maltese Falcon and The Lady from Shanghai, veteran photographer Fred Lyon creates images of San Francisco in high contrast with a sense of mystery. In this latest offering from the photographer of San Francisco: Portrait of a City 1940--1960, Lyon presents a darker tone, exploring the hidden corners of his native city. Images taken in the foggy night are illuminated only by neon signs, classic car headlights, apartment windows, or streetlights. Sharply dressed couples stroll out for evening shows, drivers travel down steep hills, and sailors work through the night at the old Fisherman's Wharf. Stylistically, many of the photographs are experimental the noir tone is enhanced by double exposures, elements of collage, and blurred motion. These strikingly evocative duotone images expose a view of San Francisco as only Fred Lyon could capture.

Fred Lyon studied under famed photographer Ansel Adams and has been called "San Francisco's Brassai." A lifelong resident of San Francisco, he has contributed to numerous fashion, home, and garden magazines. His work has been exhibited in San Francisco at the Museum of Modern Art, the Legion of Honor Museum, and the Leica Gallery, as well as the Art Institute of Chicago, and was the subject of a Life magazine retrospective.

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Spain 2017

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This month I got to spend time exploring Andalusia (Al-Andalus) in southern Spain, including Córdoba, Granada, Órgiva, Almuñécar and Málaga. For years I've been intrigued by the region's Medieval history and culture which have been influenced by native Iberians, Phoenicians, Carthaginians, Greeks, Romans, Vandals, Visigoths, Byzantines, Jews, Muslim Moors and Castilian Christians. This history is apparent everywhere, on buildings as well in the faces of it's people.

Starting in Barcelona I eventually made my way to the coast learning more about the long and interesting period of educational, agricultural, scientific, and artistic contributions of particularly the Moors, the fabled and elusive Arab/Berber/Africans who ruled the territory for over 800 years. At its height, Córdoba, the capital of Moorish Spain was the most modern city in Europe with well-paved streets and raised sidewalks for pedestrians. During the night, ten miles of streets were well illuminated by lamps. The Great Mosque of Córdoba is one of the architectural wonders of the world with its gold roof supported by 1,000 columns of marble, jasper and porphyry. In it's day it would have been lit by thousands of brass and silver lamps which burned perfumed oil. According to historians, no other land was "more admired by its neighbours, or more comfortable to live in, than a rich African civilization which took shape in Spain".

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Barcelona, Córdoba and Granada

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Björk Digital Barcelona

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June 14 - September 24, 2017

CCCB: Centre de Cultura Contemporània de Barcelona

Got to see this show while in town. Björk Digital is an immersive virtual reality exhibition that presents the digital and video works produced by collaborations between the iconic Icelandic artist and some of the world’s best programmers and visual artists. The Barcelona exhibition is the last stop on a global tour having visiting Tokyo, Sydney, Montreal, Reykjavik, London and Los Angeles.

Inspired by Björk’s own discography and especially by her latest album Vulnicura, the experience combines performance, cinema, installation, video and interaction and includes audiovisual pieces produced with the latest in virtual reality technology.


High up in the Hollywood Hills sits the Lautner Harpel House, an unrivalled example of signature Californian architecture. After acquiring the house in 2006, design restorer and Resurrection Vintage co-founder Mark Haddawy took on the mammoth task of refurbishing the house exactly to its original 1956 design.


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From a recent interior photoshoot of a Los Angeles hills residence.  ©2017 Byron Mason Photography


DESERT X 2017

From Feb 25th - April 30th California's Coachella Valley and its desert landscape become the canvas for Desert X, an exhibition of site-specific work by contemporary artists from around the world. Desert X focuses attention on and creates conversation about 21st-century environmental, social, and cultural conditions as reflected in the greater Palm Springs area. 

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African Modernism: Architecture of Independence

Center for Architecture, New York

February 16 - May 27, 2017

Between 1957 and 1966, 32 countries – almost two thirds of all African nations – gained their independence from colonial powers. In these budding nations, including Ghana, Senegal, Cote d’Ivoire, Kenya, and Zambia that are featured in this exhibition, technology and development became tools of liberation and instruments for expressing national identity. The daring and ambitious designs of new buildings, from state banks to convention centers and stadiums, mirrored the optimism and aspirations of the newly liberated states.

Presenting over 700 photographs, as well as archival materials, historical photos, newspaper clippings, postcards, videos, plans, and sketches, Architecture of Independence documents the ambivalences of decolonization, its contradictions, and inconsistencies, but also its ambitions, aims, and aspirations.

*Thanks to fResh.air.fRolics for turning me on to this exhibit.


The Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture Acquires Papers of Renowned Literary Icon James Baldwin

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APRIL 12, 2017- The Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture at The New York Public Library, today announced acquisition of the personal archive of literary icon and social critic, James Baldwin. The archive includes 30 linear feet of handwritten letters and manuscripts; handwritten and typed drafts of essays, novels, and short stories; unpublished and published creative works in their nascent and final stages; galleys and screenplays with handwritten notes and fragments; interviews, telegrams, personal photographs, correspondence and audio recordings. The comprehensive collection offers an intimate, in-depth examination into Baldwin’s creative life that spans the entirety of his literary career.

The Baldwin archive is a rich trove of manuscripts, typescripts, and audio tapes, the breadth and depth of which make it indispensable to understanding fully the significance of Baldwin’s career as a writer and as an engaged public man of letters. This archive will enable researchers to trace the textual evolution of virtually all of Baldwin’s writings across his whole career, from notes to his first novel Go Tell It On the Mountain to each of his other novels and essays.

His novels are found in many forms, including heavily reworked manuscript drafts or significant manuscript fragments, typescript drafts with his often copious manuscript annotations, and even dramatic adaptations of Giovanni’s Room. Draft manuscripts and typescripts of his poetry and his important reviews are also present. In addition, the archive contains reel-to-reel tapes, audio cassettes, and other audio media awaiting discovery.

This acquisition places the Schomburg Center as the premier institution for research into James Baldwin’s intellectual, cultural, and social life.

“We are more than excited to have James Baldwin return home to Harlem,” says Kevin Young, Director of the Schomburg Center. “Baldwin’s amazing collection adds to our ever-growing holdings of writers, political figures, artists, and cultural icons across the African diaspora. With the current resurgence of interest in Baldwin’s works and words, and renovation of our own spaces from the main gallery to the Schomburg Shop, the timing couldn’t be better for Baldwin to join us at the Schomburg Center. As a writer myself, I am eager for students, scholars and other writers—I count myself among all three—to have the opportunity to see his profound writing process up close.”

“Malcolm X, Lorraine Hansberry, and Maya Angelou all have collections at the Schomburg Center and Baldwin was their colleague. His papers not only complement theirs, but offer researchers a fascinating look at the Civil Rights and the Black Power movements, through the works of these seminal figures,” says Steven G Fullwood, Associate Curator of the Manuscripts, Archives and Rare Books Division.

Items from the Baldwin Archive will be on limited public display from April 13-17 as part of the exhibition The Evidence of Things Seen: Selections from the James Baldwin Papers. Photographs of James Baldwin from the Schomburg’s existing archive will be included in the display.

Highlights from the James Baldwin Archive and The Evidence of Things Seen: Selections from the James Baldwin Papers exhibition include:

  • The Amen Corner playscript with inscriptions and The Amen Corner Playbill with Signatures from the Cast
    The Amen Corner, first published in 1954, is one of two plays written by James Baldwin. Covering topics such as the Black church, poverty, and Harlem, inspiration for, The Amen Corner, was likely drawn from Baldwin’s real life encounters and experiences as the stepson of Harlem preacher, David Baldwin.
  • On Martin Luther King, essay
    In this insightful inscription, Baldwin, recounts his first, and last encounters with his dear friend and fellow freedom fighter, Martin Luther King Jr, one of the three subjects noted in the recent film, I Am Not Your Negro. Here, Baldwin, intimately describes the phone call he received while working on a never released screen adaptation, of The Autobiography of Malcolm X, with notable actor, Billy Dee Williams, the notifying him that King had been assassinated.
  • Letter to my Sister, Ms Angela Davis
    “Letter to my Sister, Ms. Angela Davis”, was written by, James Baldwin, in November of 1970, just one month after Davis’ arrest in New York City by FBI agents. In the letter, Baldwin, shares sentiments of solidarity with Davis, and recounts his then recent experiences speak out about her legal case on the radio, television, and in Germany.”
  • Just Above My Head
    These four handwritten notes provide insight into Baldwin’s character development process On these notes, Baldwin jotted down various ideas about, Hal, Arthur, Stanley, and Paul, such as their birthdates, dream states, and locations of birth. Notes on Beauford Delaney Noted Harlem Renaissance painter, Beauford Delaney, has been referred to as the “spiritual father” of James Baldwin. Delaney and Baldwin, first encountered one another when, Baldwin was 15 and fostered an artistic relationship that spanned several decades. Baldwin’s France home became Delaney’s, haven in the latter years of his life.

Exhibition Curator: Alexsandra M. Mitchell, Reference Librarian and Archivist