So, I am not going to write about my entire trip to Montreal now, just two details.
- Montreal Bagels. I learned about the Montreal Bagel phenomenon a month or two ago when I read a review of a new “Montreal-style” bagel place in NYC. Hmm, cannot seem to find that review now but here is a 2009 article about Montreal vs NYC bagels. We were at a gathering in the Mile End neighborhood and our host Jesse said we could get some at midnight nearby. I think he recommended Fairmount but we accidentally ended up at St. Viateur instead (I believe they’re within a block or so of one another). We got a dozen, all four of us had one fresh from the brick oven, and then John and I had the rest for snacking in our hotel room. I have to say, in some ways it feels that the Montreal bagel is simply a bad, imitation bagel: not boiled but baked, and a bit sweet, it has some qualities in common with a generic mass-produced bagel from Einstein Brothers or the like. And yet, I did really like the St. Viateur bagel. It’s thinner, sesame (for some reason sesame is the standard; St. Viateur said they order some absurdly large amount of sesame seeds per day, I forget the amount), and straight from the oven it was really delicious; not very sweet but with a hint of pastry taste.
- Otto Dix show at the museum. This blew me away, especially the Der Kreig [War] series of prints he made in response to his experience in the trenches in WWI, modeled after Goya’s “Disasters of War” series. These are devastating and just amazing. A body in pieces found in the ground; soldiers in various scenes with prostitutes; wounded soldiers with faces distorted and ravaged; soldiers advancing in gas masks looking like frightening ghosts; a soldier in the trenches eating a meal, oblivious to the skeleton next to him.
The show has the complete set (I think?) on display and it was amazing to walk through the entire sequence. The sections of his work on prostitutes and “sex murders” were also gripping and quite disturbing. Especially creepy was one painting of Dix himself walking in a predatory manner after a prostitute.
After 1933 he moved to a house on a lake and of necessity began focusing on landscapes and other less confrontational or challenging kinds of work. I found those paintings sad, because not very interesting to me; they felt entirely compromised, although maybe there are other ways to think about them.