Dispatches, by Deyan Ranko Brashich
Published by New Meridian Arts, June 2017
My father is an explorer.
Get in a car with him for a drive across midtown Manhattan—or a road trip around New England or Europe—and along the way, he’ll share his deep knowledge of the places that slip by outside the window. That's because if it's somewhere he's visited, read about or even heard of in passing once long ago, he most likely has something interesting say about it.
(He also almost certainly knows of the perfect location to have lunch along the route and the best ice cream parlor within miles, but that’s another story.)
Over the years, my father has melded his love of exploring with his excellent memory and professional expertise (he’s an attorney in New York City who has litigated high profile cases for clients from the US, Europe, Africa and South America). The result: timely, often provocative, essays and opinion pieces that have been published both in America and overseas by outlets including The Litchfield County Times and The Country & Abroad, Scrisul Romanesc (Romania), Britić (Great Britain), and Pećat (Serbia).
This summer, he’s published Dispatches, a collection of his work that includes high-quality images of the locations and artworks he discusses in addition to the most unbelievably stylish original illustrations by Daniela Kamilotis, an artist who is also a Senior Vice President at Ralph Lauren.
The book is divided up into sections such as Museums (which includes a piece on Savage Beauty: the Alexander McQueen retrospective that was held in 2011 at the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Costume Institute), Art and Artists (which features a piece on the Romanian painter Dimitrie Berea and his glorious, colorful impressionistic portraits), Places (where my father recounts personal experiences from places as near as Harlem and as far reaching at the Hague) and Et Cetera (which has a piece that explores the history of Tiffany’s famous stained glass, and the company’s original glass furnaces in Corona, Queens).
One of my favorites is titled The Met’s Failed Piazza, is a short-but-super-critical look at the overhaul the plaza in front of New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art underwent from 2012-2014. I like this essay because in it, my father doesn’t mince words about the new iteration’s vibe (“[It’s] the very best of second rate architectural design that money—some $65 million—can buy”) and because I happen to agree. I don’t have a lot of first-hand experience with many of the topics my father tackles in his works, but the old plaza in front of The Met—with its elongated, oval fountains and unobstructed views—was actually where many of the influential moments of my adolescence happened to take place, and I’m sad it no longer exists in the form I remember so well.
Throughout his essays, my father infuses his take on current news, trends or happenings with relevant personal memories and observations. For instance, while discussing the Claude Monet exhibit put on at the New York Botanical Garden in the Bronx in 2012, he weaves in his own perspective on the setting:
“Cross the Triborough Bridge—I refuse to call it the ‘Robert Kennedy’ ‘cause I never liked the guy, drive down the Sheridan Expressway and your descend upon the reality of the Bronx. You pass the graffiti-scared public housing, the Hunts Point Market and brightly lit, open 24/7 bodegas, bleak warehouses, and sprawling scrap yards. On your right, is a hulking depot where buses sleep at night, across the street from a strip joint, featuring a gal dancing with a neon electric pole. In season, up the street, they sell watermelons from the back of trucks as traffic whizzes by.” (From the essay titled Monet on the Hudson)
What’s astounding to me in reading his this paragraph and his other work is how my father catalogues away so many intriguing facts and impressions (because I can bet you he wrote the above all from memory), and then calls them up and weaves them into his perspective on a current news event or exhibition. It’s like one long and amazing college-level cultural history class that brings material to life via context and detail.
Many of his essays are archived on his website Contrary Views, but reading them there might mean missing out on some of the gorgeous artwork that’s available in Dispatches. Plus, leafing through the essays in print feels like the correct pace given that many of them are based on his own wanderings and subsequent meditations, which I very much hope he’ll keep sharing with all of us.
To order a copy of Dispatches, please contact Nava Renek at New Meridian Arts