The prettiest, most delightful pieces at Villa Toronto are Zeke Moores' golden dumpster and silver portable toilet (Diaz Contemporary) but what I found myself thinking about later were the aluminum-covered branches by Tony Romano, a nod to Stendhal’s theory of love: Austrian salt miners used to take a tree branch with them down into the mine. Over many months, salt crystals would accumulate on the branches, and the miners would give them to their wives and girlfriends, as objects of beauty. Love is about making something ordinary transcendent, Stendhal wrote: 'From the moment he falls in love, even the wisest man no longer sees anything as it really is.'

Villa Toronto & Stendhal's Theory of Love


"They suffer twice - first from grief and then from a tyranny of shoulds: 'I should have pulled myself out of this,' 'I shouldn't be so angry,' 'I should have moved on by now,' and so forth. There is little room here for emotional exploration or understanding. This way of being leads to self-loathing, despair, depression...My experience is that closure is an extraordinarily compelling fantasy of mourning. It is the fiction that we can love, lose, suffer and then do something to permanently end our sorrow. We want to believe we can reach closure because grief can surprise or disorder us - even years after our loss."

The Examined Life by Stephen Grosz


"The whole exchange seemed both deeply fraudulent and profoundly true, as though such words as emptiness and meaninglessness had stimulated some remembered emotion which attached itself to this occasion and person."

Faithful and Virtuous Night by Louise Gluck


"'If we just connect to the art, we're not finished. We haven't heard the full lesson. Because he says that after that, we need to disconnect, right? We have to cut the connection that ties our attention to that particular delay. Because in the end, a delay is just like a kind of decoy. Right? Do you see that? We stop, we attend, and when we do, we eventually come to realize that we didn't ever need to stop at all.'"

The Bride Stripped Bare by Her Bachelors, Even by Chris F. Westbury


"In those days, I was pursued by nostalgia. I always had been, and I didn't know how to free myself so I could live in peace.
    I still haven't learned. And I suspect I never will. But at least I do know something worthwhile now: it's impossible to free myself from nostalgia because it's impossible to be freed from memory. It's impossible to be freed from what you have loved.
   All of that will always be part of you. The yearning to relive the good will always be just as strong as the yearning to forget and destroy memories of the bad, erase the evil you've done, obliterate the memory of people who've harmed you, eliminate your disappointments and your times of unhappiness.
   It's entirely human, then, to be engulfed in nostalgia and the only solution is to learn to live with it. Maybe, if we're lucky, nostalgia can be transformed from something sad and depressing into a little spark that sends us on to something new, into the arms of a new lover, a new city, a new era, which, no matter whether better or worse, will be different. And that's all we ask each day: not to squander our lives in loneliness, to find someone, to lose ourselves a little, to escape routine, to enjoy our piece of the party."

Trilogía Sucia de La Habana by Pedro Juan Gutierrez


"I led the little orchestra and I felt as if I was standing near an open window, watching the curtains shift. As the music rose up, it also vanished. Sometimes it is like this, listening to music: the steady bars let you separate from your body, slip your skin, and you are standing before the shuttering slides of memory. Shades of light, skies filled with cloud, old faces."

Us Conductors by Sean Michaels


The Results of One
Statistical Study 

            People who were more conscientious
            as children
            lived longer.

Can't and Won't by Lydia Davis


"There are two types of women in particular who inspire my envy. The first is an ebullient one, happily engaged from morning until night, able to enjoy things like group lunches, spontaneous vacations to Cartagena with gangs of girlfriends, and planning other people's baby showers. The bigger existential questions don't seem to plague her, and she can clean her stove without ever once thinking, What's the point? It just gets dirty again anyway and then we die. Why don't I just stick my head..."

Not That Kind of Girl by Lena Dunham


Michelangelo never intended his sketches to be put on display, but 30 of them appear here with a steroidal curatorial heft: the theme is creative disappointment. This is an enlightening and peculiar lens through which to view a master. It's also disappointing itself, since it implies that the best way to get modern audiences to relate to a long-dead genius is to show his biggest flops. He's just like us! Big dreams collecting dust! The curators must have felt this sense of smallness too, otherwise why the random addition of a couple Rodin nods? 

And yet it does work, on the level of enrichment; Michelangelo's activity as an architect of military fortifications isn't well-known outside of academia. One leaves the exhibit having learned the breadth of his artistic practice and having a larger sense of his devotion to creating art, so much of which never came to fruition. Here are all the projects he thought up and worked on, all for nothing.
It's also mildly breathtaking to behold hand drawn sketches that have lasted for over 400 years.

Compared to the magnificent, exhaustive Colville show next door (admission is the same price to both - whoever is pricing these shows needs a performance review) the Michelangelo exhibit is overpriced. And again the viewer is dragged along by an overbearing curatorial presence, this time with such insistence it's embarrassing. Do we need to link Colville to Wes Anderson to prove he's still relevant? Do we need sound art 'modern responses' to Colville to celebrate his importance? I say no.

Michelangelo & Creative Disappointment at the AGO to January 11, 2015


"I will not be placated by the mechanical motions of existence, nor find consolation in the solicitude of waiters who notice my devastated face. Sleep tries to seduce me by promising a more reasonable tomorrow. But I will not be betrayed but such a Judas of fallacy: it betrays everyone: it leads them into death. Everyone acquiesces: everyone compromises.
                            They say, As we grow older we embrace resignation.
                            But O, they totter into it blind and unprotesting. And from their sin, the sin of accepting such a pimp to death, there is no redemption. It is the sin of damnation...The pain was unbearable but I did not want it to end: it had operatic grandeur."

By Grand Central Station I Sat Down and Wept by Elizabeth Smart (1945)