Thursday, January 5, 2012

Roses Redux and the Wonderful Weisman Collection

January 3, 2011
Up at 4:45 again today for a closer look at the Rose Parade floats. . . . Our buses leave for Pasadena at 6:15 again today, because at 7 a.m. the gates to the float viewing area are open just for elderly and disabled folk--so they can get a close look at the floats, then leave before they are trampled and stampeded by the general public arriving at 10 a.m..

We are amazed by how quickly three hours flies by.  We could have spent twice that long examining and admiring at all the intricate details of float workmanship—exquisite artistry that lasts just a few days before it becomes potpourri (sold to benefit charities), trash and recycled materials.  Even today, some of the flowers on the floats are already wilting and droopy, after spending all of yesterday in the piercing sun and warm temperatures. 

After looking at the surfing dog float from ground level, rather than from bleachers above, we have to admit that the artistry of the undersea murals along the sides of the float is really quite wonderful.  We won’t take back our assessment from yesterday, but at least we can understand how the judges might have come to their decision to give it the Extraordinaire Trophy.

Here are a few more views of the floats up close.  (We have over 500 float pictures between yesterday and today, so this is a just the tiniest sample of our vast archive.)

As we are rushing back to the bus, passing the floats for the last time, we hear a woman ask the classic question while looking at a finely wrought float element--"What is it made of?"  Her friend's response--"I don't care--it's made of magic." 

Well said, and a fine close to our Rose Parade adventure.

Our Road Scholar program is over as soon as the bus drops us back at our hotel, but we have booked an extra night there so that we can visit LA’s secret art museum, the Frederick Weisman Art Foundation.  The museum is in the Weisman home on a residential street in an exclusive neighborhood, where most of the homes are, like the Weismans’, hidden behind tall walls or hedges, protected by remote controlled gates.  The museum is open on weekdays by appointment only for tours at 10:30 and 2:00.  Our 2 p.m. tour had twenty people, which was more than our docent had ever led before.  When our friends Mona and David visited, they were the only ones on their tour. 

The purpose of the museum is to encourage people to live with art, which is why the paintings are not hanging in a museum with labels, but instead remain in the Weisman home.  Imagine having 400 works of 20th century art by 125 artists in your home!  (And what is hanging there is less than half of their art collection.)   Picasso, Magritte, Miro, Frankenthaler, Warhol, Lichtenstein—come up with a major name, and the Weismans probably have something (or many things) by that person in their collection.  They didn’t buy to invest—they bought things they liked, so they also have art by artists few people have heard of.  

Mostly, we really liked their art, which is saying a lot, since we usually don’t understand modern art, and often skip over it quickly when visiting art museums.  But, the part I don’t get about this place is the Weismans’ decorating sense.  They have exquisite taste in modern art executed in a variety of styles, yet their taste in furniture is dominated by large print floral chintz fabrics.  I can’t reconcile the combination of those two aesthetics in a room, and it made me a little crazy, but I tried to just ignore the furniture and draperies and enjoy the art.   (Too bad no photos are allowed inside, or I could illustrate this jarring phenomenon for you.)

Lots of pieces in the collection are memorable, but here is something that really captivated me--Mr. Weisman commissioned Andy Warhol to do a series of four paintings of him in the style of Warhol’s famous series of pictures of Marilyn Monroe.  How many people in this world have been immortalized by Andy Warhol--four times, no less?

Dick took some photographs in the front yard as we were leaving, and they give just the tiniest foreshadowing of the treasures that lie inside.

 This is one of the most unusual and eclectic art museums we have visited—we feel honored to have been guests in the home.  (And, we truly were guests—no admission was charged, no donation requested.)

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