Thursday, April 27, 2017

Jacqueline Woodson - 2017 American Library in Paris Fellow

On Wednesday, April 19, a standing room only crowd gathered to hear Jacqueline Woodson speak at the American Library in Paris.

Woodson is the Library's 2017 Visiting Fellow. She is the ninth in a line of distinguished professionals who have come to Paris since 2013 to pursue a book-writing project (fiction or non-fiction) or the making of a feature-length documentary film that is consistent with the Library’s Franco-American tradition and interests.

When she took the podium, Woodson unabashedly took photos of the audience to share with her family.

Jacqueline Woodson taking a photo of the audience for her family
© Discover Paris!

She then expressed her excitement and gratitude for having the opportunity to visit Paris and work on her project, which she described in a blog post written especially for the Library as being about "movement and resistance."

Woodson giving a "thumbs up" to the audience
© Discover Paris!

In a completely unassuming manner, she spoke candidly about her creative process and shared intimate details about her life and that of her family. Her reflections about her belief that books should present readers with mirrors and windows - places where they can see reflections of themselves as well as step into the lives and environments of others - was especially powerful.

Woodson read from two of her books - Brown Girl Dreaming, a memoir, and Another Brooklyn, her first adult novel in twenty years. She described the latter as a "biography" of the Brooklyn neighborhood of Bushwick, where she grew up, and spoke of how one has more freedom to "play with time" when writing for adults compared to writing for children.

Woodson considering her words before continuing her story
© Discover Paris!

During the evening's Q&A session, Woodson held the audience's rapt attention as she fielded questions about how she views cultural appropriation, how she dealt with writing about her family, how the writings of James Baldwin influenced her life and her own writing...

Another Brooklyn was available for sale and signing after Woodson's presentation and the line of buyers was quite long.

Woodson and a happy book purchaser
© Discover Paris!

During and after the book signing, attendees gathered at a lively reception on the lower level of the library.

Reception on lower level of library
© Discover Paris!

Woodson has written more than 30 books, mainly but not exclusively for young adults and children. She has received numerous award for her work, including the National Book Award, the Coretta Scott King Award and several Newbery honors. Some of her best-known works include Miracle's Boys and her Newbery Honor-winning titles Brown Girl Dreaming, After Tupac and D Foster, Feathers, and Show Way - all of which are available in the Library's collection. She is in Paris for the rest of the month of April.

For more information about Jacqueline Woodson, click HERE.


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Thursday, April 20, 2017

Picasso at the Musée du Quai Branly - Jacques Chirac

Organized by the Musée du quai Branly - Jacques Chirac in collaboration with the Musée National Picasso-Paris, Picasso Primitif endeavors to examine the relationship between "primitive" art and the art of Pablo Picasso. The exhibition consists of more than 100 works by Picasso, as well as numerous documents (letters, post cards, photographs...) that reveal details of his life and the times in which he lived.

Exhibition curator Yves Le Fur led a group of bloggers through the Garden Gallery at the museum last Thursday evening, presenting numerous works and explaining his concept for the show.

Curator Yves Le Fur
© Discover Paris!

The first part of the exhibition consists of a chronology of Picasso's life in Paris and introduces visitors to his first encounters with non-Western art. The timeline begins in 1900, when he moved to Paris, and ends in 1974, one year after his death.

Throughout this section, documentation clearly indicates that Picasso was an avid collector of African and Oceanic art. According to the information posted, he purchased his first works in 1907, shortly after having completed Les Demoiselles d'Avignon. He frequently loaned pieces from his collection to prestigious art shows. More than 200 previously unknown works were found in his Cannes studio after his death.

Photo of works discovered in Picasso's
Cannes Studio after his death
© Discover Paris!

The subject of Picasso's infamous quote "L'Art Nègre? Connais pas !" (Negro Art? I don't know it!) is addressed in this section of the exhibition. Le Fur opined that the statement, which was made in 1920, has been taken out of context and indicated his belief that Picasso was comparing his level of knowledge of this art form to that of experts such as Guillaume Apollinaire.

Another explanation for the statement is found in an information panel for the year 1923, where Picasso indicates that his interviewer attributed those words to him without Picasso actually having stated them:

Information Panel - 1923
Picasso's clarification of l'Art Nègre quote
© Discover Paris!

"I already told you that I didn't have anything else to say about 'Negro art.' You responded for me, 'Negro art? I don't know it!'"

Yet the artist clearly expressed his debt to African art when he made the following statement after visiting the Trocadéro Ethnological Museum in 1907:

At that time, for most people, an African mask was only an ethnographic object. When I went to the Trocadéro Museum with Derain for the first time, the smell of mold and abandon caught in my throat. I was so depressed that I wanted to leave right away. But I forced myself to stay, to examine the masks, all the objects that men executed for a sacred purpose, magic, to serve as an intermediary between them and the unknown, hostile forces that surrounded them, trying to overcome their fear by giving it color and form.

And then I understood that this is the very meaning of painting. This is not an esthetic process; it is a form of magic that is interposed between the hostile universe and us, a way to seize power by imposing form on our terrors as well as our desires. The day that I understood that, I knew that I had found my path.

Picasso revisited his painting Les Demoiselles d'Avignon because of what he experienced at the museum. He was quoted by Cultural Affairs Minister André Malraux as calling the painting his first "exorcism canvas".

The second part of the exhibition is called "Corps à Corps" ("Face to Face"). It looks at various themes found in non-Western art that are echoed in Picasso's art - the use of simplified forms as a means of representing the essence of the human body (Archetypes), the combination of human and animal forms (Metamorphoses), and the deconstruction of the body to reveal the inner character housed within (The Id). The non-Western works shown in this section are displayed in proximity to Picasso's works to illustrate similarities of inspiration and form, but not necessarily to indicate that they directly inspired the Picasso works located nearby.

Picasso's Jeune garçon nu with several anthropomorphic sculptures
© Discover Paris!

Some non-Western works that were acquired by Picasso are also on display.

Détroit de Torrès Mask
19th century
Sheet metal, Casoar feathers, shells
© Discover Paris!

Picasso Primitif runs through July 23, 2017.

Musée du quai Branly - Jacques Chirac
37, quai Branly or 217, rue de l'Université
75007 Paris
RER: Pont de l'Alma (Line C)
Hours: Tuesday, Wednesday, Sunday - 11 AM to 7 PM; Thursday through Saturday - 11 AM to 9 PM. Closed Mondays.
Entry fee: 10€
Reduced fee: 7€


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Thursday, April 13, 2017

Name Change for an Historic Afro-Caribbean Night Spot

In September 2016, I wrote about the impending relaunch of the Bal Colonial, which was commonly known as le Bal Nègre.

The club was scheduled to reopen on March 21, 2017 with the name "Le Bal Nègre." But protests caused the owner to rename the club "Le Bal de la rue Blomet," after the street on which it is located.

Le Bal de la Rue Blomet
Header at Le Bal Blomet's Web site

Le Bal Blomet façade
Press photo from Le Bal Blomet Web site

On the Web site, an open letter to owner Guillaume Cornut expressed outrage at the selection of the name "Bal Nègre," saying that the name was insulting and racist. It also "called out" M. Cornut for having falsely declared that Claude Ribbe - a key influencer in Paris' Afro-Caribbean community - supported his choice. Six thousand (6,000) - 7,000 persons reportedly signed the letter, which was addressed to Cornut; Anne Hidalgo, Mayor of Paris; Philippe Goujon, Mayor of the 15th arrondissement; and Audrey Azoulay, France's Minister of Culture.

Additionally, several dozen people staged a live protest in front of the establishment on February 7. Notably, one person carried a sign bearing the image of James Baldwin and the title of the recently released documentary I Am Not Your Negro.

Tweet posted by @vivreparis on February 7, 2017

The original opening date of March 21 was selected because it marks the beginning of spring. But, as noted in the open letter, this is also the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination. The opening actually took place on March 22, 2017.

Le Bal Blomet promises eclectic musical programming, including cabaret, jazz, and classical music on Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays in a spacious, 250-seat concert hall.

Concert hall at Le Bal Blomet
Press photo from Le Bal Blomet Web site

It also has a restaurant that seats 70 persons and features French cuisine with a Caribbean influence.

Restaurant logo and photo at Le Bal Blomet
Press photo from Le Bal Blomet Web site

Le Bal Blomet

33 rue Blomet
75015 Paris
Telephone: 01 44 93 00 27
La Table du Bal Restaurant hours:
Tuesday through Friday 12 noon to 2 PM and 7 PM to 10 PM
Saturday 12 noon to 3 PM and 7 PM to 10 PM
Sunday 12 noon to 3 PM


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Thursday, April 6, 2017

Atelier Lea Lund and Erik K - Open for Business!

I first met Lea Lund and Erik K. at the African Stories exhibition at the Mu Gallery in January 2017.

The dynamic couple informed me that they'd soon be opening an atelier in the 11th arrondissement and promised to keep me informed. They were true to their word and invited Tom and me to their vernissage, which took place on March 31.

Vernissage invitation

It was a gorgeous day and the festivities had already gotten off to a great start by the time we arrived. People congregated on the cobblestones and the sidewalk in front of the atelier.

Guests gather in front of Lea Lund & Erik K atelier
© Discover Paris!

Lund and K happily posed for a photo before the crowd showed up. They are the epitome of grace and style!

Erik K and Lea Lund
© Discover Paris!

The photograph used for the invitation hung prominently on a wall at the left of the predominantly open space. K told me that dressed in one of Lund's kimonos and draped a scarf over his head to pose for this photo.

Photo for vernissage invitation on the atelier wall
© Discover Paris!

Front room of atelier
© Discover Paris!

Soon people began to filter into the atelier to appreciate the works inside.

Guests gather inside the atelier
© Discover Paris!

Lea Lund greets guests
© Discover Paris!

K and Monique Wells admire Erik, Paris, 2015 (Kind of Blue)
© Discover Paris!

Erik, Paris, 2015 (Kind of Blue)
© Discover Paris!

Though their magnificent photographs and engravings were hung throughout their freshly renovated space, Lund and K emphasized that they are not operating a gallery. Rather, this will be a work space, complete with a press, where they will create K's engravings.

Reproduction of Erik K engraving of Coco Chanel
© Discover Paris!

They will continue to live part time in Switzerland and travel the world to find more stunning backdrops for their photography.

Atelier Lea Lund et Erik K
3, cité Dupont
75011 Paris

Bouquet of roses and silhouette of Erik K
© Discover Paris!


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