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Tuesday, October 26, 2010

New York

I had two writing assignments in New York. One was to interview an art personage for a profile and the second (not actually in New York, but New Canaan) was a profile of Philip Johnson’s Glass House, which actually consists of a campus, if you will, of The Glass house and 13 other structures. I picked Jack Tilton for my profile. He's been at the forefront of the Contemporary Art market for over 30 years and is an old family friend. I met with him as soon as I got off the train, so my art week started off with a bang.

I got up early the next morning to head over to the Metropolitan Museum to get in the Big Bambú line when it started to form at 8:00 am fortifying myself with Dean & Delucca coffee and bran muffin. I had another bonding experience with the woman in line behind me as I waited for Tim to join me. By the time the museum opened and we got our BB tickets we only had to wait another 30 minutes before going up. While nothing can compare to that first visit it was still exhilarating being up on Big Bambú. It’s much bigger than it was and were able to go quite high up (150+' from street level). There were three of the band of climbers already working on its dismantlement; they gave off that boarder (surfer/snowboarder/skater) vibe. I loved seeing all the “improvements” they’d made: a bona fide recliner made out of woven ropes, hollow bamboo stalk cup holders, coolers and a monster all-weather boom box were lashed into the bamboo at points. It had a party on. frat house/surf shack air about it and you realized how much fun they must have had creating the piece. My only regret is that I dint go into the park and look at it from the ground (you can’t see it from the front of the museum.

From the Met we made our way to the Abstract Expressionist show at MoMA. I found it disappointing for several reasons. First, it was packed, always distracting. It also seemed choppy perhaps because it’s displayed on three floors off to the side in what seemed like second tier galleries. It didn’t flow well; when you finished one floor you had to go out into the crowded hallway to the escalator and then wend your way back into the galleries down below—a jarring and confusing experience. There was only one small Helen Frankenthaler, but two large Lee Krasners, no Morris Louis, nor Kenneth Noland, which I thought was peculiar.

Day three I went to the Drawing Center to see the incomparable Gerhard Richter’s drawings at one of the last Soho art bastions, The Drawing Center. (See separate post). Afterwards, I went uptown to the Asia Society to see the Yoshitomo Nara exhibition lured there by the giant sculpture in the Park Avenue median, hough I’m not a huge Japanese anime fan. I tried to like them and was intrigued by the Japanese concept of "creepy-cute" that Nara seems to explore ad nauseum, but I came away thinking they were really just too decorative and superficial for my taste.

Next stop was the Museum of the City of New York to see their show: Notable & Notorious: 20th Century Women of Style. I’m a sucker for costume shows. This was a modest effort as compared to those Diana Vreeland extravaganzas of yore, but fun nonetheless. My favorite moment occurred when I was next to a group of women in front of a Tina Chow dress and overheard one say to the others in a thick “New Yawk” accent: "She used to come into Hermès...she was nothing to look at.

The next morning I went to the “Why Design Now?” show at the Cooper Hewitt Museum. It's a must-see show. I was totally blown away by the inventiveness and the problem solving accomplished (in most cases) with such simplicity and panache. The show reveals a parallel universe to the one occupied by Climate Change naysayers David Koch and the tea party where actually innovative (and hello, David) money-making solutions are put forth. From the beautiful and efficient water-powered H2Otel in Amsterdam, to a bionic arm, to an incubator made from recycled car parts to a biodegradable casket, there are so many interesting and creative products and one feels excited and inspired about the human imagination. They even made LED lights look good! It made me hopeful on the one hand about mankind and also kind of depressed thinking that we in the U.S. will be left behind in the dust while others lead the charge forward.

I wound up my New York art whirl with a visit to the Jan Gossart aka Mabuse exhibition at the Met. Influenced by classicism, he painted scenes from mythology, lots of Madonnas and childs and many portraits. His understanding of anatomy is very good: there’s a sexy painting of Hercules and Deianira their legs entwined in what the New York Times called “a pretzel of desire.” He paints with self-assurance and produces well-founded compositions in rich palettes. But I found his faces in the mythology and religious paintings, in particular, unappealing—Hercules looks like a simpleton—the weakest link in his oeuvre although he does better with the portraits, perhaps because he was dealing with flesh and blood subjects. I loved the portrait of what possibly was Dorothea of Denmark.

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