While my dad and I were in Romania in April and May, two of the artists whose paintings we import were having shows. Ana Ruxandra Ilfoveanu and her husband, Sorin Ilfoveanu are each distinguished painters. It is only natural that our family would be attracted to this family of artists. They have two sons and my parents had just me and my brother, although mom calls us numbers one and six. We are almost 10 years apart and it appears she wanted more. God was gracious to her by limiting it to us.
Ana’s exposition was called Paradis Atipic or Atypical Paradise and was held at the Galeria Veroniki Art in Bucharest.
It explores the themes of the nearness of Paradise, whether in the guise of strips of hills in traditional villages a cherished yet falsified and hard to identify world or in the animal trainers, fragments of a universal narrative with no end. The themes of Paradise reference, of course, Milton, the Bible but also Michael Cunningham’s “A Home at the End of the World.” Ana Ruxandra Ilfoveanu’s works are pretexts, transporting the viewer to register his or her favorite depictions, stories that do not belong to any place or any particular area, but are rather a constant present time, bits of life, metaphors of detachment from the immediate world.
Well, enough of that interpretational jargon. The Ilfoveanu family is an incredibly talented lot. Younger son Nicu Ilfoveanu is a photographer and graphic artist. Check out the film Chicago Loop on his site. I want to play it on a loop at our cafe when it opens. Older son, Adrian is an accomplished sculptor and also designed one of Romanian winery Davino’s wine labels.
Sorin Ilfoveanu is one of the most highly regarded Romanian painters of his time. I first discovered his work while drinking a bottle of wine from Davino winery and asking the owner, Dan Balaban, who had drawn the label. Drinking leads to great ideas. Sorin contributed pen and ink drawings for the Reserva bottlings from Davino, arguably the most impressive wines in Romania. He only drinks Davino wines, a bit of extravagance among his otherwise quotidien surroundings. Ana has designed a number of wine labels for Rotenberg winery. Rotenberg is a gravitational winery specializing in old vine Merlots.
Sorin is the eminence grise of the Romanian art scene and rarely exhibits any longer. His expo was at the European Art Galleryin Bucharest on May 19, 2011.
Although the text is in Romanian, there is a nice photo gallery at the bottom. We first visited his studio in 2010 and it was like stepping into a Cezanne still life. Sorin greeted us in house slippers, floating through the room almost like a ghost. There was only a bowl of fruit, a coffee pot and Bach playing in the background. He had large format paintings stacked everywhere and a small day bed for napping. Drips of paint covered the weathered herringbone floors.
When we visited the Ilfoveanus at their house in May, Sorin was dressed in a three piece tweed suit. He and my dad have beards full of experience and wisdom. Along with Ioan Nemtoi’s beard, a glassblower whose works we also import, these are beards to which I aspire. I trust men with such beards. There is a recognition factor for Romanian men with beards which is like Larry David running into another bald man. Traditionally in Romania, only priests wore beards. My dad is often mistaken for a priest. I usually get the emaciated terrorist comments.We sat down to tea, freshly picked strawberries and acacia honey. Romanians love to talk about honey. There is a sort of unofficial countryside AOC for the nectar of the bees. Sorin and my dad immediately began telling stories while Ana, Adrian and I went through the kitchen into a courtyard where some of Adrian’s sculptures were on display. There were sculptures positioned along every available wall and wild grape vines with shoots wrapping around every available surface. It was so fucking inspiring. My mind and pulse were elevated. I wanted to capture it with a photo but it didn’t make sense. Live the moment was all I could think. Adrian showed us a weathered wood sculpture which was meant to be Eve at 900 some odd years. He is enthralled by the creation story of the Old Testament. Artists create. He had removed the head and a leg to make it less about a particular woman than women in general. Adrian casts in different media for each piece. Eve was also done in bronze and as Carnaciorul de Plescoi, or Romanian local sausages from Plescoi in Buzau. Postmodern rebellion commentary, Botero-esque grotesque obesity,decandent hyperconsumerist nonconformist? Who can say? Did someone bring mustard?
Just so I wouldn’t be left out of sausage society, I whipped out my iphone and showed them a picture of the meatsnake that I had made with Brian Merkel and John Schoeniger of Porktown Sausage at Supino Pizzeria in Detroit. This sausage was Berkshire pork from an Ohio farm, but the sausage I made was from a Romanian farmer Tinu Bucu who raises pigs in Avoca, Michigan and sells them at the Eastern Market. He is from my grandmother’s village in Serbia, Ecka. Ecka is a mixed Serbian/Romanian village near the border. I showed this picture off to many people on the trip and the best response was from some cousins in Timisoara: “Next time you come, we are going to kill a pig.”
You would think that segueing from art to sausage and back again would be difficult but not for a Romanian. Sorin Ilfoveanu is aware of the nautilus shape of the meatsnake as evidenced by his series of paintings called Metamorfoze, Metamorphoses.
No beginning and no end. My grandparents left Romania and Serbia but the spirit of those places has not left me. I see it in the art of the Ilfoveanu family. I taste it in the wines of Davino. I feel it in me. My dad dreamt of Romania as a child. He learned to love it as an adult. He is dreaming it more and more as he gets older. We will display the paintings of both Ilfoveanus and the blown glass of Ioan Nemtoi at our cafe & bar opening in Midtown in early 2012. We are also bringing in Davino wines and other Romanian wines to serve there. Will there be sausage? There will be no end to it.