Friday, June 18, 2010

the spectacular gerome

A new exhibition just opened at the Getty Center, and I'm absolutely smitten. The Spectacular Art of Jean-Léon Gérôme is truly spectacular. I've always loved his exotic, erotic, orientalism, but of course he's been considered almost kitsch for so long. It's high time his work was re-examined, and that's exactly what this exhibition does. The man was prolific, to say the least, and his images have been incredibly influential, both in the visual arts, and in the film industry. You must go see this exhibition, and let it soak into your psyche.

Perhaps his images are overly romanticized, and some might even be considered racially or sexually inappropriate in today's hyper-politically-correct world, but how can you not swoon over the opulent colors and photographic details of Moroccan tilework and textiles? How can you not wish to be transported to that exotic land of beauty and leisure, noble death and dramatic flair? How can you refuse your imagination to run wild among images of gladiators, and crucified Christians being set ablaze in the arena while lions and tigers are released to devour the unfortunate martyrs in the center of the stage?

And then there's Napoleon. Anything involving Napoleon is awesome. I love the man! Here he is, facing down the Sphinx of all things, during his Egyptian campaign. What's not to love about this painting? The beauty, the drama, the historic impact, the romance. Sigh. Swoon.

What else can I say? I only had a chance to breeze through the exhibition this week, but I'm definitely going back for more. I want to read all about this stuff, buy all the books and souvenirs, make Gerome's exotic snake charmers and bath houses part of the secret happy place in my brain to which I can retreat when the going gets tough and I need a little escapism. Yum, yum, YUM!

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