Can a cigar be Abstract Art?

Gerhard-Richter-Tableau-abstrait-1992

Miriam Stautmeister, a regular presence on FB, went to the Museum Folkwang in Essen, Germany recently to see a retrospective of Gerhard Richter.  The Museum Folkwang is a major collection of 19th- and 20th-century art.   The museum was established in 1922 by merging the Essener Kunstmuseum, which was founded in 1906, and the private Folkwang Museum of the collector and patron Karl Ernst Ossthaus in Hagen founded in 1902.

gerhard-richter

“As of the 1950s, the Museum was able to build on its reputation, acquired before 1937, as a centre of modern and contemporary art. Works by American artists Mark Rothko, Barnett Newman, Jackson Pollock, Ad Reinhardt, Franz Kline, Morris Louis and Frank Stella as well as pieces by Yves Klein, Lucio Fontana and the founders of the Zero group (Günter Uecker, Otto Piene, and Heinz Mack) represent the fresh start in the visual arts. Finally, works by artists such as Gerhard Richter, Georg Baselitz, Markus Lüpertz, A.R. Penck, Peter Halley, Roni Horn and Thomas Schütte as well as room installations by Martin Kippenberger, Paul Thek, Lothar Baumgarten, Atelier van Lieshout and Simon Starling mark the transition to the 21st century.” *

gerhard richter bw schmearI have heard vaguely of this abstract painter, but am not as familiar as I will become.  And it is all because of Miriam’s post that my interest was peaked.  Briefly, Richter, according to Wiki is “a German visual artist (who) has produced abstract as well as photorealistic paintings, and also photographs and glass pieces.”  That’s all well and good, but it’s also like saying that The Beatles were a rock band from Liverpool that created popular music.

The latter description is far from what the artist contributed to the world of abstract art. A deeper biography would take volumes of books to give him the exposure that he deserves.

The best way to describe Richter’s art is that he himself rebuffed any notion to be pigeon-holed into any one art form.  “Throughout his career, however, Richter repeatedly took a different course than what others expected or desired, received critical opinion as suspect, and refused to let postmodernists label him as any sort of specified artist. “My works are not just rhetorical, except in the sense that all art is rhetorical,” Richter said to Kimmelman. ‘I believe in beauty.’” (www.encyclopedia.com*)

meriam color

Ergo my fascination I have with his art since being introduced to his work via Meriam’s mention of him on her excursion to the museum.  When anyone goes beyond what is expected or works consciously at trying to be who they are and not what others think they ought to be, the more respect I have for them, the artist, the sculptor, the author, or – the blender.

Just looking at Richter’s works on this small scale one can see that he is not at all interested in what we, as the viewer, think of his work. He is only interested in conveying what he thinks about his vision.  And I have to give him full marks for his tenacity not to be labeled. And to this day – he is not.  Though the conventionalists continue to try and shoehorn his work into some movement.  But just as the two ugly sisters of Cinderella couldn’t fit into the glass slipper, his body of work will never fit neatly into any one style.

pepper headAnd just as Gerhard stayed above the conventional fray, so do many of the innovative cigar blenders of today.  I won’t name them, but they know who they are.  They know that tastes are changing and tobacco has become a scientific minefield leading the smoker to hybrid plants with oftimes exploding flavor profiles that just somehow work together producing intoxicating tastes that would never have been thought of back in the day.

And how does anyone know about this?  From people such as Miriam.  A cigar lover who also adores art (she is a painter herself), writes poetry and is an explorer – and says so.

Become an inquisitive and passionate madcap adventurer.  Become the next Mallory and Irvin of Mt. Everest fame – to the death if need be.

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Arches, Loops, and Whorls.

footprint cover

A cigar has a fingerprint, just like human beings.  Each is rolled a different way every time.  No two are alike.  I took this photo while I was at the Patio Cigar Lounge (Open 24/7).  I really didn’t realize its aesthetic individuality until I was able to dissolve everything that has been on my mind since my return from Vegas and concentrate completely on the physical character.  

Yes, each cigar has its own flavor profile, but when I took the time to gaze into the center of this cigar, without interruption, did I come to the conclusion that man has a skill, a mesmerizing ability to create a product that can and never will be duplicated ever again.

footprint leaves

It’s an astounding feat of human ingenuity infused with an artisanal, artistic genetic imprint that makes this product so very alluring, sensuous, and erotic.

Don’t take these cylindrical masterpieces of tradition down with all the harsh, hateful rhetoric that has been – and will continue to be – spewed out like projectile vomiting to destroy what I think God intended.  Ignore the onslaught of vicious oratory babble that has consumed this industry of late.  Appreciate the beauty, the vision, and distinctiveness of each cigar that is rolled for the pleasure of one man or one woman who appreciate one-of-a-kind sensory, sensuous satisfaction.

Color this world of cigars with joy, happiness, élan, and love.

Every human being offers a gift, a special mark that will be indelibly embedded in the cosmos creating a kind of concatenated immortality.  Every cigar offers that same everlasting mental impression despite its ephemerality.

footprint end coverTake time.  Tame time.  Taste time.  With each cigar, you only get once chance.  Don’t waste it.  It’s the only one of its kind you will ever smoke.  

https://youtu.be/v3jJpGw_K2Y

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Grinding in being grounded.

convention whirl

When I attended this year’s IPCPR Convention in Las Vegas, I had many things to do. Aside from working the booths, I also looked for cigars that I might be interested in representing down the line.  I was given a hint by a good friend that there was a booth near the front of the hall – The Powstanie Booth where I would find two cigars that I needed to try.  

Trust me, despite the search, I could not find this one.  I began to feel inept.  True, it was not listed in the IPCPR’s app, but that didn’t deter me.  It was incomplete anyway.  Each day, I queried others and made every attempt I could to locate what might contain these two cigar treasures.

No luck at all.  On Friday, I gave it one more shot and came up blank.  I began to feel empty as if I was missing something that was right in front of my nose.  But then I experienced a recent phenomenon that began to bring this apparent loss into perspective.  

When I was in New York earlier this year, I was catapulted beyond exhilaration when I located the Francis Picabia Retrospective at MoMA.  All of it.  The thrill of actually being at MoMA in the first place put me in another dimension and to then be in the presence of the works of one of the greatest abstract artists of the 21st Century, I became weak in the knees with joy.

convention agnes

Many months later I was leafing through the December 26th – January 8th, 2017  issue of New York Magazine when I came across an ad for the Picabia show.  And then a few pages past it I stopped stunned.  “Shit!”  There it was,  an ad for the Agnes Martin exhibition that would be at the Guggenheim through January 11th.  I was there!

“Shit! Damn!”  I figuratively lashed my back’s bare skin with shards of shame producing pounding pangs of pain. “How could I have missed this?  How could I have been so bloody myopic?  I can only imagine what treasures I didn’t see from one of the masters of abstract art.  I felt exiled from my feelings of being in the know.  As if I dissed this genius of art.  But of course, I didn’t do it on purpose.  But I could not shake this heavy burden of being so close yet listing so far.

How do you feel when you’ve missed something you could have witnessed?  Whatever that may be.  It could be a cigar, a painting, a movie, a play, a relationship.  What emotions run through your mind?  What reactions are produced within your pulsating psyche?  What?  Do you blow it off?  Not if you care.  What are you?  Sad?  Disgruntled? Angry?  Ambivalent?  Full of angst?  Stupid?  Fearful?  Insouciant?  Envious of those who did see it?  

I just can’t forget it.  My wires are connected the way God made me.  Why wasn’t I paying more attention?  Why wasn’t I more prepared?  Was it a lapse in intellectual curiosity? Did I not hear about it on the radio?  Did I not see the ad!?

Some might say. “Whoah, brother.  Give yourself some slack.  No one is perfect.  No one knows everything.  You’ll get another shot.”  Will I?  It was years since I had been in New York, would it be years until I returned again?  There’s a certain caché to being in New York and seeing anything there.  Is that arrogance?  What the f*@k was wrong with me? I fumed.  I ruminated.  I became depressed.

********

convention picabiaThis is when I found that I must pull in.  Take a huge step back and analyze the situation. This is when I had to reframe my thoughts.  Think.  I saw many, many cigars in Vegas.  I saw not only Picabia, but Pollock, De Kooning, Basquiat and so many other gifted artists.  Are they not just as important as Agnes Martin – or Singer & Monk?  

I needed to embrace myself and concentrate on what I DID see rather on what I didn’t. It’s called grounding. Being in the moment.  Relishing what is, not what could be, or what was.  I was negating the enjoyment of being and allowing the goop of “could have, should have, would have,” that was oozing all over my body and mind weighing me down.  What tremendous spiritual power I was giving to that viscous, mucilaginous slime. 

Suddenly I stopped asking myself unanswerable questions.  I ceased absorbing my errant, erroneous thoughts and began to drive into my mind how much I enjoyed each moment I experienced –  be it going from booth to booth, or from work of art to work of art, or from exhibit hall to exhibit hall.  I offered myself persuasive permission to be less than perfect.  I began to let the possibilities of discovery enter into my being.  I started to feel again – to sense the blood rush back into my veins that would allow me to survive perceived disappointments that are really only temporary setbacks.

On my last day in New York in January, I took with me the wonders I saw, felt, and will cherish forever.  On the last day of the show, I returned to the Flamingo with optimism and serenity.  Beneath my skin, there was no longer a burden of absolute, impossible perfection creating percolating psychological pain.  I was at the apex of reality, ready to haul in the new – and the fresh forgotten.

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What is it about that pull?

The Winter's Tale

This time I ordered from Amazon “The Evenings: A Winter’s Tale,” by Gerard Reve (1923-2006).  I saw the tiny book at the library and took it out.  Number one, it’s fiction.  I don’t seek out fiction.  Number two, it’s by an author I have never heard of before, which should not be a surprise, considering I don’t read that much fiction.  Third, I picked it out because of the cover.  

(See Below)

The cover.  Study it.  Give it some thought.  I will wait.

(Pause)

Take a good look at the cover.  Tell me if your curiosity is peaked.  Go ahead.  I’ll wait.  

(Silence)

I really had no good reason for taking it out. Except I did read the partial blurb by Herman Koch, author of “The Dinner” on the back: “The funniest, most exhilarating book about boredom ever written.”  Which drew me to the synopsis on the flap in front. 

Here.  Read it:

The Evenings mine

*******

(In the voice of Rod Serling from “Twilight Zone.”)

“I  work in an office.  I take cards out of a file.  Once I have taken them out, I put them back in again.  That is it.

“Twenty-three-year-old Frits – office worker, daydreamer, teller of inappropriate jokes – finds life absurd and inexplicable.  He lives with his parents, who drive him mad.  He has terrible, disturbing dreams of death and destruction.  Sometimes he talks to a toy rabbit.

“This is the story of ten evenings in Frits’s life at the end of December, as he drinks, smokes, sees friends, aimlessly wanders the gloomy city streets and tries to make sense of the minutes, hours and days that stretch before him.

“Darkly funny and mesmerizing, “The Evenings” takes the tiny, quotidian triumphs and heartbreaks of our everyday lives and turns them into a work of brilliant wit and profound beauty.”

Somehow I immediately connected with Frits.  I won’t know for sure until I read the book (or smoke the cigar).  I ordered it because oftimes I am a slow reader.  Tired at night.  My eyes close rapidly and I find myself waking in the morning in the same sitting position I was in when I started reading the night before.  Three weeks from the library and one renewal often isn’t enough for me to get through fiction.  Biographies are different.

And believe it or not, I already have my copy in hand.  I have to give Amazon full marks. They must feel my urgency to get the product to the consumer because they do a damn good job of pleasing the reader.

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PepperHead packs a Wallop!

ph cover

Gorgeously constructed.  Look at that cap.  Perfect draw.  The tingle on the tongue indicates to me that something is up – and it ain’t mediocre.  I’m smoking the new Isabela PepperHead and I just got into it.  Wow!  Oh.  Creamy smoke.  Yaw za!!!  Delicate sweetness on the leaf that dissipates rapidly.  Not an intrusion at all.  Oh, boy!  What a power rocket this is.  Pepper down to the core.  Yet, velvety, not cracked with ragged edges.  An aroma that settles the bicameral mind.  It’s incredibly humid today so the smoke lingers in the air.  A sensuous, soft, lovely mix into God’s universe with human ingenuity.

ph beginning

Flavors.  Let’s smack dem lips.  Right now it’s too early, maybe even unnecessary to limn.  This is a sense-sational cigar.  Pepper is the dominant contributor.  The key that is unlocking the natural mix of, of, of.  Let’s see how many kinds of pepper do I know?

The transitions are quick to pop!  This is difficult. Tellicherry black pepper from India, of course, is the most common.  Veer over to Mysore green, which is more on the mild side due to its being unripened and quickly dehydrated.  Inch over to Malaysian white peppercorns. These give off a more intense zing due to the fermentation process.  The latter three I know.  I’m picking up pepper.  Powdered – not the rough mill grind.  Period.  I defy anyone’s palate to discriminates and identify one from the other two.

Speechless.  Wow!  This is a powerful blend.  Gesh.  I’m dizzy.  Maybe from all the travel, maybe from the cigar.  I ate.  So no blame on an empty stomach.  Perry Como was right when he sang Joe Shapiro and Lou Stallman’s 1956 hit “Round and Round.”

Then your love will hold you round, round, round

In your heart’s a song with a brand new sound

And your head goes spinning round, round, round

’cause you’ve found what you’ve been dreamin’ of

ph redWeeeeeeee!  Gotta take a sip of Mountain Dew® and root beer to douse this mutha.  What other varieties of dry pepper are there?  No vegetable peppers here.  No jalapeño, habanero, or ghost varieties.   It’s not that type of spiciness.  There are Brazilian pink peppercorns known for giving off a slightly sweet tang.  But they are really more of a berry than a pepper.  Ah, the black Malabar which is added for its bold flavor and aroma.  But I don’t know.  I don’t know them.  And there are more such as Cambodian black and red peppercorns and the black Lampong Indonesian variety but this isn’t a treatise on peppercorns.  IS IT!

ph butt

All I can say is the transitions are coming fast and furious like a Gatling gun – “Rat-a-tat-tat-tat-tat-rat-a-tat-a-tat-tat-rat-a-tat-tat-tat.  BAM!”  Crank that sucker.  “Che-che-che-che-che-che.  POW!”  “Holy Peppercorns, Batman!” “You’re so right spice boy.”  

I singed my fingers, lips, gums – and almost lit my beard trying to keep this cigar alive.  Please don’t go out!!!  I beg you!  “NOOOOOOOOOOoooooooooooooooo.”

“It’ll be awright Ozzy!”

PepperHead.  Miss this!?  I wouldn’t.  You’d be a damn fool if you didn’t try one.

(Available ONLY in the Midwest via Irv CigarBroker)

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A Profound “Cigar” Romantic.

blue love cover

When a manufacturer stops making a cigar that you love, you first wonder why?  Why would they do that?  I can’t be the only one who adores this particular blend.  There must be others.  

However, reality is reality.  And when you can no longer get your hands on a particular cigar, it feels as though you have an internal void so huge, that nothing can begin to fill it.  It’s an emptiness that truly hurts as you ask yourself repeatedly, “Why bother to go on?  Stop smoking altogether.  If I can’t have what my heart aches for, I shan’t want anything.”

But as sentimental as that sounds, the harsh reality is that you will go on.  You will continue to smoke cigars.  And then, one day, another cigar will capture your attention. How long this relationship will last is anybody’s guess.

Yet, despite this newfound “love,” it will never, ever – not for a moment, replace the one you miss with all your heart, soul, and being.  The memories of when you first smoked it, the place and/or places you relaxed with it, the excitement that made your body tingle inside at the very anticipation of lighting another.

blue irv copy

It is within these moments that inaudible “pings” are released in your memory every time you happen to think about it – which, sad to say, is quite often.  You are an adult. You are aware that everything changes and so you must adapt – you must move along.  And reluctantly you do, despite your former attraction that just will not go away.

Yes, you smile, converse, recreate, work, eat and sleep as you always did, always have and always will – until you die.  But until that inevitability occurs, you will hold on to this love, this cherished and emotional desire that oftimes becomes so real in your hopeful imagination, that you will still grasp onto the Quixotic dream that you will find what you’re told does not exist anymore.

That my dear friend is the bane in the life of a true, profound cigar romantic.

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