Saturday, July 9, 2016

Overdosing on Art in NYC—Part One

 Last month, while in Manhattan visiting the grandkids, I had a rare opportunity to go on an “art walk” with two friends, fellow crones Mary and Lynn, who live in Manhattan and are sophisticated art mavens.  They are au courant with all the happening events in the city and they periodically do a stroll through art galleries to see what the hottest contemporary artists are up to.

We started with lunch at the Chop Shop, a small, trendy Asian fusion restaurant on 10th Avenue near 24th Street, then, with Lynn holding her list of galleries, we visited so many that I can’t remember all of the artists’ names.  But I’ll share with you what I do remember.

The only artist I knew about ahead of time was Wayne Thiebaud, at Allan Stone Projects.  Often called a New York Pop artist, Thiebaud is famous for his paintings of luscious cakes, pies, donuts, cupcakes, etc.
I hadn’t seen a nude by Thiebaud before. I think this one is pouting because she can't get to any of those pastries.
I can’t remember who is the artist behind this patriotic collage…

Nor do I remember who painted this touching tribute to Mom and Pop.

Bruce Conner at the Paula Cooper Gallery has done “large jacquard tapestries”  the handout says, “Woven with cotton thread on a Jacquard loom in Belgium, each tapestry was derived from a specific collage…..sourced from old illustrated books in the Old and New Testaments and the life of Christ.  The collages were scanned and digitally edited...  to produce weave files.” (I think that means he didn’t actually weave them or draw them himself.  I don’t know... 

 But I think his art is saying something about religion versus modern technology.)

Even the streets outside the galleries on 21st, 22nd and 24th Street were full of art.  I have no idea of the reason behind this lady on a wall, but I like it.

And this man washing windows outside a gallery didn’t seem a bit worried by the sinister animals and mummies lurking around him.
And this crazy wall—is it graffiti or art?

The sign over the door, “Heavenly Body Works” doesn’t explain much, but Lynn and Mary said, “You have to come in!”
Turns out it’s a chic and extremely expensive store of “Comme des Garcons”.  There was an Asian man trying on a wire cage that he placed over his head, resting on his shoulders.  Lynn suggested a resemblance to Hannibal Lecter’s headgear.

The Paula Cooper Gallery was presenting new work by Meg Webster—the only female artist I recall seeing that day.  The handout says, “Meg Webster’s work finds inspiration in the intrinsic beauty of natural materials.”

Here’s Mary in Meg Webster’s “Solar Grow Room”, looking pretty in pink. It’s an “ecosystem sustained by solar panels installed on the galley exterior.  Bathed in pink light, raised planters are cultivated with moss, grass, flowers and other vegetation."

In a larger room we encountered more of Meg Webster’s art.

Here’s a visitor taking a photo of “Volume for Lying Flat” made of peat and green moss to create a human-sized bed.”  I wonder what they’d do if I lay down on it?

I walked right into “Stick and Structure” made from “branches, twigs and flowering plants that converge to form an enclosed circle.”  I didn’t check on the price.

A man was cleaning the floor around Meg Webster’s “Mother Mound Salt” which required nine thousand pounds of coarse salt.  It “evokes the curve of the earth or...a pregnant belly,”  the handout said.

The last gallery we visited, the Gagosian Gallery, featured Richard Serra, who seems to have shows everywhere right now.  The NYTimes review by Ken Johnson called him “Certainly today’s greatest living sculptor of Minimalist abstraction.”

 We approached Serra’s giant structure called “NJ1”—think of a sky-high letter “U” made of rusty metal.  The only way to get inside is to walk into the curve of the U and then turn either left or right into the openings there.  Mary and Lynn bravely charged into the huge edifice, only to realize that they were in a maze of paths and turns.

I took one look at the thing and refused to go in.  I’ve got claustrophobia, guys, and the NYTimes review said  “Claustrophobes beware!” The title of the review was “Richard Serra's Behemoths Get Into Your Head."

After our Art Walk was through, my mind was reeling with all the modern art I’d seen—and I was starting to wonder why, as an artist, I’d spent all that time in life-drawing and anatomy classes when you could become rich and famous with just 9000 pounds of coarse salt. 

But the very next day, I took myself on an art walk to the Metropolitan Museum of Art where I finally got to seen the stunning exhibit “Pergamon and the Hellenistic Kingdoms of the Ancient World”, not to mention, on the Met’s roof, the spooky red house inspired by the Bates mansion from Psycho and Edward Hopper’s painting of the house by the railroad, which I love.

But I’ll tell you about that another day.

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