Monday, February 02, 2009

Terrace, Casa Grande, Hearst San Simeon State Historical Monument, 2009

Ersatz Atget or Geoffrey James, Hearst Castle. Twilight, rich colors unaltered by filters or digital postproduction. The castle tour makes it seem like you're visiting an American version of the Sistine Chapel, but a closer and more accurate comparison might be Las Vegas Boulevard, which we saw later on the same week. Hearst's faux-classical nymphs and angels and the huge plaster busts of Sigfried and Roy on display outside the Mirage have more in common than you might expect, modernism having apparently never arrived at Casa Grande. And yet, exquisite Baudrillardian irony -- bottled ketchup and mustard on the dining table! -- the gold-leafed indoor pool! -- only gets you so far with the hilltop compound, whose undeniable natural beauty (orange trees; magnolias; feral zebras; the spectral, oversaturated light) keeps thwacking you in the face the longer you look.

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