The non-football-loving Jews were all at “Handle with Care” to see Carol Lawrence in a role a long way from Maria in “West Side Story.” Cheekbones and sparkling eyes intact, Lawrence plays the dead grandma from Israel, whose body gets lost in Virginia (don’t ask). Okay, we see her alive in flashbacks from the day before.
Despite the presence, or loss, of the dead body, this is one delightful, sweet, thoughtful dramedy. It really doesn’t have to be handled with care. It reflects on whether we/the universe is guided by random chaos or a master plan, free will or fate. With a very light touch, we consider how to handle the people in our lives with care, no matter the philosophical underpinning.
The same can be contemplated about the ‘fresh’ piece pictured below, now at the Museum of Modern Art. Although the exhibit of Ileana Sonnabend’s collection centers on a controversial Robert Rauschenberg combine, my interest went elsewhere. The combine with its stuffed eagle is a beastly ugly piece, which the Sonnabend estate donated to MoMA to avoid the taxes on its $65 million worth.
How much more fun to contemplate the juxtaposition of materials of Giovanni Anselmo’s Untitled (Eating Structure) from 1968. So we have forever granite plinth with a temporal head of lettuce, strapped to the stone with wire. When the lettuce wilts, the small stone on top of it falls off. Well, I looked and looked for that stone. Shouldn’t it be obvious?
I asked one, two, then three guards. Where’s the stone? The third explained. This time, the wilted lettuce slipped out of the wire and fell on top of the stone, hiding it. Aah, I get it now. A bit of the chance element. They won’t touch the lettuce until tomorrow, when the art handler will replace the head. So you tell me: master plan or random chaos? Regardless, handle with care!
For a long time, I watched the 1972 piece by Janis Kounellis, Inventing on the Spot, originally commissioned by Ballet Rouses. The painting on the wall has snippets of Stravinsky’s Pulcinella, played by the violinist until he tires and improvised by the ballerina.
A mesmerizing act of free will, handled with subtlety and care, plus an experience for the senses–a synesthesia–that literally reverberates throughout the exhibition.
To get a sense of it, check out my little video:
I spent a lot of time with the divinely silly William Wegman video Stomach Song from 1970-1. You know, he of the witty Weimaraner photos. Here, he makes facial expressions with his chest and belly. The sound track is his body-face speaking, then singing a song. You don’t have to believe me…just take a look at the video.
So as you continue through this holiday season, whether along a master plan or swinging with freedom and chaos of it all, handle it with care, joy, and if at all possible, a laugh!