Monday, October 22, 2012

Day 43/60: Clark Institute and Williams College

Back to cold weather, heavy sky.

The Clark Institute has a very high quality art collection. The only problem was that they have shipped most of the best stuff around the world on a special exhibition tour, to raise money for the extensive renovation and building project which is now under way, not to be completed for two years. Thus our time at the Clark was frustrating, though not without its high points. Their Old Masters (late 1400s through 1600s) were still in place, well hung and well lighted. They have one portrait by Ghirlandaio that it made the visit worthwhile in itself. This is our third visit to the Clark, so this portrait is like an old friend to me. They have first-rate works by Gossaert, Goya, David, Vigée-Lebrun.

The rest of their permanent collection was represented by a random conglomerate of paintings double-stacked on the wall and poorly lighted: most disappointing. Good stuff though.

About 1/3 of their exhibit space was given over to recent archaeological finds in China. We're not real big fans of Chinese art, but we make an effort. We're beginning to recognize the characteristics of different Dynasties. The tomb guardian statues were imaginative and well-preserved.

For lunch Dan wanted to return to the Moonlight Diner, where we had eaten during previous visits. I had a turkey burger, skip the bun; he had a chicken salad. It was okay, nothing special.

Then we went to Williams College, a large campus with handsome brick and stone buildings in traditional styles. We got two big treats right away. Out front is a series of "eye" sculptures by Louise Bourgeois that is a lot of fun. In the foyer is a terrific wall design by Sol Lewitt. They also had a small show of Lewitt which had the rarity of work done by his own hand and signed by him. You may know that Lewitt's designs are sold, or even leased, but other artists execute them. It is special to see demonstrations he made himself.

Dan had a major disappointment at Williams. Arguably their most important painting is by Grant Wood; it shows an auto accident about to happen on a country road at twilight. They had the painting up, but covered with glass and so badly lighted that you could hardly make it out, let alone photograph it. However he felt somewhat compensated by a group of 3 California artists he admires, all excellent examples: Diebenkorn, Park, Bischoff.

For dinner we had an excellent bit of luck. The good restaurant where we ate last night, the Hub, is closed Sundays so we tried a place called Public Eat and Drink. We both had cod poached in butter. Wow. Plus very special veggies and hunks of unpeeled potatoes. Dan had a fresh beet salad for dessert. This was probably the best meal on the trip so far. We had to compliment the chefs on the way out.

Our Holiday Inn here in West Adams has been good; all functional. Wonderful view of Berkshires and town. We had a decent meal at the restaurant the first night. It is about the only real hotel around here; there are some cottages and wood-sided places with outdoor stairways. The location is so fun we've joked about moving here. Because of Williams College and Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts in the vicinity, there are a lot of students keeping things lively and giving good service in the restaurants. Of course, I would never move some place that gets so cold, but North Adams is really happening.

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