Saturday, July 12, 2008

Krazy at the Vancouver Art Gallery, with Bill Reid and good scallops too

The Vancouver Art Gallery has been featuring a show called Krazy! The Delirious World of Anime + Comics + Video Games + Art for a couple of monthes now. Ah, the riches of city life! As a long time fan of most of the things listed as "delirious," I expected a great show. With Art (Maus) Spiegelman as one of the curators, this had to be a great show. Or so I thought.
Although there were lots of thoughtful comments by serious and humourous folk about the subjects and a few large images on the walls, most of the subjects didn't really feel like they belonged in a musuem at all. A library, yes. Roy Lichtenstein's blown up comic images are museum images. Little drawings in books are not. I had just read new bio of Charles Schultz, whose Peanuts comic strip obssessed me as a kid. I read that there is a museum devoted to his work and I look forward to seeing it in an upcoming trip to California. The Peanuts characters were as siblings to me, a stronger reaction than I had to KRAZY's panoply of comic characters but their presentation is a factor of the this vast popularization of comic art, from Micky on my 7-year-old wrist to Snoopy on the moon. We've seen this stuff well presented elsewhere. Why not here?
The person who turned me on to blogging, Elayne, also turned me on to the graphic novels Persepoolis, 1 and 2, which I read at her place in 2005. When I learned that these books would be turned into a film, completing under the control of the author, I was ecstatic. Well, it was ok on a 50" tv. On a movie screen, maybe better yet. Did the small magazine image blown up to a tv image become a better image, or at least more accessible? Maybe not. I seemed to care less about the character now, when her story is well publicized than when it was new to me. No surprise there. But aesthetically, I was excpecting greater heights. Seeing comics go to the big screen magnificently, it is a drag to see great imagery magnified only graphically, not intellectually. The Southpark flick and to a lesser extant the Simpsons movie managed to keep what we love in the small and then go somewhere exquisitely new with the large. I thought Persepolis profoundly faithful to its graphic novel origin, but not transcendent, not yet mistress of its medium. I suspect its author will grow into her new fields of options, and great images will spring forth garden-like from her occular imaginings. Persepolis does a lot of good in bringing the individuality of Iranians in front of an occluding parade of Iranian missiles aimed at us. Does Dick Cheney really want to drop bombs on little girls wearing pro-American t-shirts? Doesn't America have enough enemies? A large proportion of the city I live in is now Iranian. That means more signs in a language I can't read in local stores, but much better local food. Which is more important? Hmmm.
Yes, movies are important. They impact public opinion. They protect us from bummers. Sometimes they prevent bummers. Its what story tellers have always tried to do.
I had the great privilidge of seeing Paprika in a theatre (instead of just on dvd)last year. Seeing a few minutes from it on a tiny TV screen just isnt the same thing. That's shrinking imagery that is supposed to be vast and full of information. Not a good idea. At the Tokyo history museum I went to last summer, there were extensive exhibits of manga, the Japanese "comic" books of the 19th century. You can look at dioramas of stores were workers slaved away making the wood block prints and selling them in the store windows and you can get a great sense of perspective. This KRAZY show had a few comic books (graphic novels) displayed as totem objects and also, copies at a library-like station to study them further. A few Japanese tv shows and bits of assorted animes. Maybe if I knew a lot less about this subject matter, I would have enjoyed the show more. I was expecting so much more. Delirious would be the last word I could imagine applying to this exhibition. Tedious, timid, uninspiring, poor use of wood. But at least, they, well, sorta, tried.
Next, I wandered over to the new Bill Reid Gallery . A very intimate space. You'd expect Bill to walk in at any minute. Very bright and airy, natural light really complementing the glistening jewalry. I've never been any more interested in jewalry than I was in sculpture before I first beheld Reid's Raven and the First Men at my university's museum of anthropology. Reid worked on small version of large works, or large versions of what was first jewalry, I'd have to look that up. It's interesting to see Raven and The First Men in all its forest-born magesty and right next to that, the same piece as a small gold sculpture. You can see Reid telescoping. If only they'd been able to do something like that in Krazy! Larger, not small versions of interesting visual ideas.
The scallops were smaller than I remembered at The Blue Water Cafe last May. Were they as good? I've been having terrible luck with scallops, not just this year but the later part of last year. West, C, and other restaurants that were reliable in providing declious scallops, have failed me. I needed to find out if The Blue Water's Galliano scallops were still good. Yes, they are, but! This is but fragments of scallop in panko (which I love) in a kind of tomato paste. I could probably make the same thing, and will try soon. I had started off with too spicy a cocktail called a Marley. Switched to a glass of Babich SB for the scallops and it helped liquidate the whole thing in my mouth. Was it as good as it was last May? Hard to say, because the scallop flavour was overwhelmed by the tomato sauce and panko. I'm going to compare to another scallop dish I'm fond of from a local restaurant and then a new thing on a menu overtown that sounds intriguing. It couldn't be that all the good scallops have been eaten, and we only get mediocre scallops now (what I felt about prawns in Japan last year, and mostly beef too) because of some change in the ocean or something. But no one has mentioned this in the local food press that I follow. Very mysterious.
For my entree, I was tantalized by the wagyu, the speciality of the day or perhaps longer. I was told that this was quite a catch for the restaurant, not something that would appear on thier menu regularly. Is it really good beef? Minimum 2 ozs, I decided to find out. They also added some shrimp (2 side prawn $6.00). A wonderful Dessert Hills Mirage 2005 made the beef even better. "Isn't this the best beef you've ever eaten?" the server asked? Actually I ate better beef than this daily from my local department store meat dept in the small Japanese city I lived in for a decade. But by Vancouver standards (and the vile quality beef sold in Japan has become) this was quite good. Though the Japanese anime presentation rather dissappointed me, a seafood restaurant's Japanese beef immitation is a sign that someone's looking up. We need to be inspired, in our galleries and our kitchens. Like Bill Reid looking at a tree.

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