Sunday, May 17, 2009

Old ladies like flowers and art.

I’ve recently been wondering if maybe I’m an old lady. In New York, during a trip to the New York Botanical Garden, it occurred to me that the majority of tourists who travel to New York and spend a day at a botanical garden are old ladies.

And this weekend, I once again found myself surrounded by old women. I went to Art in Bloom at the Utah Museum of Fine Arts (UMFA). The museum was packed top to bottom with experienced women. Women in expensive dresses and plenty of lipstick. Women with big hats. These are ladies who lun
ch. And they like their art with flowers.

Here’s the premise for Art in Bloom: ask a whole bunch of florists to choose a work currently on display at UMFA and create a floral arrangement based on the painting, sculpture, or object. Then they display the floral arrangements next to the original works.
Call me an old lady, but the event was fun. So
here are a few of my favorites.

Gary Vlasic of Working Class Productions stole the show with his dramatic take on Led
a and the Swan by French artist Jules Pierre Roulleau.
Michael Stephens from Paletti gets credit for two reasons. First he chose as his inspiration Albert Beck Wenzell’s Two Women, one of my favorite paintings at the museum. And the roses were spectacular, “on the fat side.”

Taking a Tatanua Helmet Mask as inspiration, Karen Buresh of Chesa Verde used unusual materials to create this intriguing display.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

How much is that artist in the window?

Westminster College entered the world of performance art this weekend with unravel, REVEALED. This live performance spanned 24 hours. Yes I said 24 hours. It started Friday night at 9:30 p.m. and ended Saturday night at 9:30 p.m. I wasn’t ready to invest 24 hours for a college performance art project but I did try and stop by numerous times during the performance to see what was going on.

The project took water ecosystems as its theme re-creating the birth and gradual death of a natural environment and its inhabitants. The work took place outside on 1700 South just west of 1300 West. For the most part, I found the work tedious. The choreography felt improvised but I suppose it would be hard to create 24 hours of dance without asking the dancers to improvise much of it.

My favorite moment came during a portion of the work entitled topographical contours distort (butoh). It involved a near-naked man rising from an old bathtub and dancing about the walls and landscaping. The traffic on 1700 South slowed to barely a crawl. I’m sure there were a lot of confused drivers wondering what was going on.

Much of this work was just boring. In fact there were many times that if I hadn’t known something was going on, I would have thought that it was just people cleaning the windows. But I applaud the artists (choreographer Corrine Cappelletti and visual artists Jim Frazer and Suzanne Simpson masterminded the project) for attempting such an ambitious idea.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

A fond farewell to New York City.

Well, I’ve reminisced about almost all my adventures in New York City. But before I bid farewell, here are just a few remaining odds and ends.

The Museum of Modern Art

Normally, I’d have big posts from MoMA. But this trip we made the mistake of visiting MoMA on Friday, which is free thanks to a sponsorship from Target. You might think free is good. But the place was a madhouse. I’ve never seen so many people in a museum. Which meant you really couldn’t see anything. So we ignored most of the museum. There were a f
ew things worth seeing (and fortunately the crowds seemed more drawn to other areas of the museum).

Also mentioned in
a previous post, I really liked Into the Sunset: Photography’s Image of the American West. However my favorite exhibit at the museum was Performance 1: Tehching Hsieh. Taiwanese artist Hsieh is best known for his five One Year Performances. Between 1978 and 1986, the artist spent one year locked in a cage, one year punching a time clock every hour, one year completely outdoors, one year tied to another person, and one year without making, viewing, discussing, reading about, or in any other way participating in art. This show tracks the year Hsieh spent locked in a small cage he built in his apartment. He only received a daily visit from an associate who brought food and took away his waste. There are pictures taken each day of his self-imposed incarceration and the actual cage, which makes you claustrophobic just looking at it.

This is piece by Ed Rushca is at the entrance to Into the Sunset.

The Metropolitan Museum of Art.
Just a few more things I liked at the Met.

I've been following the work of Liza Lou for years but only through magazines and the internet. So I was excited to see this astonishing piece in person. Titled Continuous Mile (2007-08), this work is a mile of rope meticulously crafted from glass beads strung on cotton. Wow!

I love the giant portraits of Chuck Close. At the Met these two hang on opposing gallery walls, delivering dramatic impact.

Swatch vs. Koons.
OK, I spend too much time concerning myself with art. So it should come as no surprise that I frequently imagine that the art world is influencing pop culture—particularly global corporations. I couldn’t help but notice how reminiscent the giant flower animal in the Swatch Times Square flagship store is of Jeff Koons Puppy, a giant dog topiary--only Koons used real flowers.
What do you think?

Well that’s it—the end of my New York posts. Let’s hope I can return soon.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

For those of you who like your books with pictures.

For those of us born in the age of imagery, the Metropolitan Museum of Art offers a special exhibition entitled The Pictures Generation, 1974-1984. This show focuses on a group of artists that were taught by John Baldessari in the early 1970s. Many of these artist appeared in the original Pictures Generation exhibition in 1977. The group eventually picks up Cindy Sherman and Richard Prince, creating one of the most influential groups of artists in the late twentieth century.

In fact Prince, Sherman, and several other artists in this show all had works in the a special exhibition (Into the Sunset: Photography’s Image of the American West) at the Museum of Modern Art just a few blocks away.

It was interesting to see this show after seeing The Generational, Younger Than Jesus at the New Museum. Like that show, many of the works from this group of artists were messy, experimental, and favored ideas over production values. But through the lens of history, the best of these artists have accomplished just what artists should; shown us the best and worst of who we are. And many of the issues they chose to critique are still affecting who we are today.

Take Barbara Kruger’s large-scale works that ask questions about consumerism, feminism, and social responsibility. Truly, you are not yourself. Kruger’s works seem as pertinent today as when they first appeared. Then there is Sherman’s work which smacks us in the face with a desperate fascination for celebrity and identity. Cindy practically predicted the future.

I loved James Casebere’s photographs of completely disposable subdivisions. And Richard Prince’s photographs of advertising photographs still ask questions about what constitutes are in a world where so much spectacular imagery is so readily available.

Robert Longo’s works were some of my favorites, particularly the large-scale charcoal and graphite drawings. These beautiful works are statements on the increasingly realistic violence in cinema seen through the filter of the thrash-like dancing in the clubs of the early 80s.

I think I’m happy to be part of The Pictures Generation.

Monday, May 4, 2009

How does your garden grow?

The past few years I’ve become a big fan of Salt Lake City’s local botanical garden, Red Butte. So on this trip to New York, I decided to visit a botanical garden. Be warned. There are two gardens to choose from; the Brooklyn Botanical Garden and the New York Botanical Garden. Most New Yorkers seem to be only aware of the garden in Brooklyn. But I wanted to see the conservatory at the New York Botanical Garden.
I mention this only because when you ask for directions, you have to insist on the New York Botanical Garden in the Bronx or you’ll be sent to Brooklyn. The fastest way to get there is to take a train from Grand Central station to the Botanical Garden Station. It only take about 20 minutes to get there.

The NYBG is huge. If you want to move around the garden, take the tram. It stops at many locations and you can get off and back on as you wish. The best part of the garden is the Enid A. Haupt Conservatory. This Victorian-style glass house is massive and makes you think back to the turn of the twentieth century when collecting exotic plants from around the world was all the rage. This place, which opened in 1902, delivers with collections meticulously displayed in a variety of climates from rainforests to deserts.

Rather than talk about it, why not just show a few pictures?

My first ever visit to Grand Central Station where we caught a train for the Bronx.

The Conservatory at the New York Botanical Garden.

Me enjoying some of the amazing flowers in the tropical rainforest.

Felix on the sky walk in the tropical rainforest.

Here I am in the temperate rainforest. It smelled so fresh and the moss was amazing.

Many of the rooms stay true to a Victorian sensibility. This room with a fountain and amazing
flowering vines from Asia made me want to enjoy high tea.

Just a sampling of the many strange flowers in the conservatory.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Three for dinner please.

What good is a trip to New York City if you don’t have a few great meals. Here are three restaurants I liked.

Toloache Bistro Mexicano and Tequila Bar
On 50th Street between Broadway and 8th Avenue
We just happened on this place because it was close to the Gershwin Theatre and we were nearing the start time for Wicked. But what a great find. The guacamole sampler was pricey but worth it. Of particular note was the guacamole with mango and strawberries. The taqueiras from the wood-fired oven were even better. We didn’t order entrees because the lighter fare was so good.

The Redhead
349 East 13th Street
This small, friendly place on the lower east side offers comfy southern food at affordable prices. The house made waffle chips with braised onion dip were a crunchy, delicious starter. For an entrĂ©e, have the fried chicken. I didn’t and I wish I had.

Tiffin Wallah
127 East 28th Street
This vegetarian restaurant offers down home Indian food. The Tiffin Sampler for two is fried goodness and the perfect plate to share with friends (there’s enough for more than two). Beyond that, ask for help because deciphering the menu is tricky unless you really know your way around Indian food.

Lobster watch: NY fashion edition.

For you regular readers of the VV, you know of my fascination with lobsters in art. The New York museums and galleries were a disappointment from the lobster perspective. But all is not lost.

It appears the lobsters have escaped the museums and headed straight for the fashionistas. We spied this crustaceous frock in the window of a Betsey Johnson boutique on Fifth Avenue.

Jenny's signs of the times.

Recently, Jenny Holzer’s work has been seen right here in Utah, both at the BYU Museum of Art and the Salt Lake Art Center. But those works were small compared to Holzer’s current exhibition at the Whitney Museum of Art. The show was a reason to continue this trip’s theme, losing my museum virginity. With the Jewish Heritage Museum and the New Museum, this was the third museum on the agenda at which I was a first time visitor.

Before I get to Holzer’s work, a few words about the Whitney. Is it just me or is this the most unhappy museum ever? It’s protected by more gallery attendants than any museum I’ve been to. And none of them wears a jaunty tracksuit. Plus, they’re almost military in their policing of the galleries. I got within five feet of Holster Lustmord Table and was soundly chastised for getting too close. And that happened several times. It might not have felt so angry if the attendants had been more pleasant. But they were just downright grumpy.

However, I didn’t go to the Whitney to see the gallery attendants, thank goodness. I went to see the art. And Holzer’s show, Protect Protect, managed to rise well above the bitter gallery attendants.

Holzer uses words as an artistic medium. Her chosen texts are presented through a variety of means—some monumental like stone benches and lighted signs; some fleeting like t-shirts and billboards.

The exhibit features a variety of works including a large selection of Holzer’s “redaction” paintings. (a small grouping of these paintings was on view recently at the Salt Lake Art Center.) These paintings are large renditions of documents taken from the National Security Archive and the American Civil Liberties Union—collected through the Freedom of Information Act. Many of these documents relate to the Iraq war and although they include blacked-out information deemed too sensitive, they still tell compelling stories. I found these paintings tedious, somewhat like the Iraq war itself. I wonder how these will hold up over time.

The stars of the show are the spectacular electronic signs. As you enter the exhibit you’re confronted with the massive For Chicago (2008), composed of ten electronic LED signs with amber diodes. The signs scroll Holzer texts from 1997 through 2007. Their mesmerizing patterns fill the gallery with a warming glow and I found the work strangely calming.

Other works in the show are not so soo
thing, to the point that patrons prone to seizures are warned of the intense flashing and blinking. Take Monument (2008). I imagine this is what would happen if Dan Flavin and Donald Judd hooked up and had a talkative love child. The work consists of twenty double-sided, semi-circular electronic LED signs: eleven with red and white diodes on front and back; nine with red and blue diodes on front and white diodes on back. The signs scroll and flash two of Holzer’s text works, Truisms and Inflammatory Essays. I can see how it could induce seizures.
I was also captivated by Purple (2008), which consists of thirty-three, double-sided electronic LED signs: twelve with red and blue diodes on front and back; twenty-one with red and blue diodes on front and green and white diodes on back. This sign scrolled text from U.S. government documents, a favorite source for Holzer. This installation is psychedelic with words that melt into emotion.

In total, there were seven large electronic sign installations, making the Whitney feel like a minimalist’s dream of Times Square. Strangely satisfying since Times Square is just a few blocks away.