European Vacation Recap 6 - Paris pt. 2

European Vacation Recap 6 - Paris pt. 2

After Carey and Jamie's wedding, we had just a couple of days to do as much stuff as possible. One thing we wanted to check out was the Basquiat exhibit at the Modern Art Museum. Maybe it's a little weird for an American tourist to see an American art retrospective in France, but a lot of locals were doing it, too. The line was quite long. The difference was that I got a lot of the references, like Betty and Barney Hill, villains from Marvel Comics, or certain baseball players. It's crazy that someone scribbled on one of the pieces just the other day… I know Basquiat's stuff looks easy, but come on. You can't do that.

It seemed like every time we went to see something, there was a bonus. This time it was an extensive Larry Clark photo exhibit. Because his raw depictions of youth culture and kids doing grown-up things seems so natural, it's tempting to dismiss them as gimmicky or sordid, but it can't be easy to depict subcultures without overdramatizing or cheesing out. The bigger prints were especially impressive, and best of all was the pet portraiture by his mom, which prefaced the collection.

At this point, my family and I split up, with my brother, Dad, and me heading out to meet the cousins at the Catacombs. Yes, touristy but I had to see the famous tunnels and skeletons. On the way, we saw some of the ongoing public dissent over the proposed raising of the retirement age. In France, protest has nothing to do with bandanas or gas masks. It was totally organized, with marchers following a flatbed truck carrying a guy with a megaphone and a DJ playing the Village People's “Y.M.C.A.” at red lights between chants. I appreciated the concern expressed by some family members back at home, but there was really nothing to worry about. Nothing.

Honestly, the protests and transportation strikes hardly affected us at atll. Back to the Catacombs… A lot of tension builds as you walk down stairs and through tunnels that become darker and damper. Finally, you reach a chamber with a few photos and some history, and that's where the piles of bones begin. I backed away from the first stack of bones only to realize there was more right behind me. There are no barriers between you and the remains, and it's only human nature (not necessarily decency) that prevented visitors from writing graffiti all over it (since it was everywhere else).

As you go on, the way the bones are arranged becomes more stylized. The skulls go from being lined up in rows to forming crosses, chapels, and other shapes. My cousin Scott and I had fun shooting–in a respectful way, of course–and I was bummed that I forgot to post some of my better pics on Halloween. Hopefully I'll remember next year. In the meantime, if you need cover art for your new death metal album, let me know!

Following the Catacombs, we met up with Wendy again to see the Moebius exhibit at Fondazione Cartier. Yes, the high-end jeweler was hosting a retrospective of the French comic artist's work at its headquarters/gallery space. In person, his illustrations were almost perfect, with very little pencils or Liquid Paper. In addition to sketches, there was a ground-shaking 3D short movie and a lenghthy, somewhat trippy documentary made just for the exhibit. They seem to put on a lot of cool art shows there. In the gift shop, I saw catalogs for paintings by Beat Takeshi as well as Patti Smith. Too bad the hardcover books were so expensive! (The only souvenirs I bought for myself were floss and deodorant. Yes, Europe has both.)

The next day, Wendy and I went to see Monet's Water Lilies at l'Orangerie. Seeing the massive paintings in the oval rooms was pretty cool, but we were even more amazed by the adjacent visting show featuring the prints of Heinrich K