art

Madrid’s Life-Affirming Slaughterhouse

Part of the Klimt installation at the Matadero

Today, I went to a slaughterhouse in Madrid. Called “Matadero” in Spanish, the site is an architectural wonder the city has transformed into an innovative cultural center. https://www.mataderomadrid.org/en/discover Before I arrived, I wondered whether I would feel the ghosts of the center’s past. Instead, I felt joy and gratitude.

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Bilbao Wow

I just arrived in Bilbao near Spain’s northern coast. Bilbao is the capital city of Basque country and it’s beautiful! Part of its charm is how it seems to have been engineered for humans. Walkers and bikers enjoy the wide path along the tree-lined River Nervion. The city’s mix of old and new architectural styles seem to complement each other, as if to say “of course we get along — we’re all Spanish.” Lots of public transportation, no traffic, sidewalk cafes everywhere. But the real stand-out in Bilbao is the Guggenheim Museum, designed by Frank Gehry. There are so many reasons to love this museum!

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Lavapies, Madrid

On Friday, I went on a walking tour to see the murals in the neighborhood of Lavapies with Mimi and Gerardo, both artists themselves. I loved the mural behind them for its playfulness. You can see the reference to Matisse’s dancers in the top mural. Below, the mural is taking a poke at itself: the word “Spectaculum” means a place of entertainment and refers to the way street art can gentrify a neighborhood. So far, Lavapies retains its international not-gentrified character, and is full of immigrants from all over the world with a very strong sense of community.

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“Worldly and Nude, Freedom Against Oppression” at the Museo Reina Sofia

The Reina Sofia is Madrid’s modern art museum, with works by Pablo Picasso, Juan Gris, and George Braque, among many others. One of its current exhibits relates stories of the murderous oppression in Latin America during the past 100 years. You can read more about the exhibit here. https://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/2021/jun/16/madrid-reina-sofia-latin-america-artistic-boom-enemies-of-poetry This painting by Roberto Matta appears to depict relief from the trauma of war by placing its ambiguous characters in a field of appealing colors, with a sense of balance and what appears to be a spot of sun. The painting is certainly a reference to Picasso’s “Guernica,” on display a few rooms away, which portrays only tragedy. You can read more about what inspired “Guernica” here. https://www.nationalgeographic.com/history/history-magazine/article/pablo-picasso-guernica-painting-history

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“Las Meninas” at the Prado

So….instead of writing my usual travel postings, I’m going to post one photo a day with a a little bit of context. Today’s photo was taken in Madrid’s Prado Museum. The painting is “Las Meninas,” by Diego Velazquez. It’s a very complex portrait of a Spanish family that creates an uncertain relationship between the viewer and the figures in the painting. I loved it even more after seeing the many ways Picasso deconstructed it in paintings that are exhibited in Barcelona. You can learn more about them here https://kimmie53.com/2020/03/07/catalunyas-many-free-spirits/#more-13292 or here https://www.infobae.com/cultura/2020/10/07/la-belleza-del-dia-las-meninas-de-pablo-picasso/.

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Bird Box

If you are a Norteno living in San Miguel de Allende, you either know Susan Page or you will at some point. Susan put San Miguel on the literary map when she founded the San Miguel Writer’s Conference in 2004. She and her husband, Mayer, also travel all over Mexico to collect Mexican folk art. This is the story of a wooden box I saw in one of their galleries.

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