Yesterday morning at 9:30 world traveler & high-school chum Milena left for continued sight-seeing in the company of one cube. I can see already that the trip will be amicable, judging from the mutual admiration seen here to the left.
1) New portrait sketches in my Picasa album Sketchbook.
2) Two new portraits in my Picasa album Portraits.
3) Kate Smart is now being accompanied on her travels by one little cube. Good luck to them both. Hindsight being what it is, I should start taking photos of the cubes before I send them onward and upward ... stay tuned for the next cube release.
This is my final posting about the museums I visited in NY. Today’s area of focus spotlights the top floor of the Guggenheim. While I recognize that there were other works in the space, such as a full spiral of Wright’s drawings, the most captivating show I experienced was that of some very young artists. As one featured participant put it, “It’s an artist’s job to think about amazing things, then to draw the things they were thinking about.” The children in the Guggenheim’s LTA (Learning Through Art) residency program, including the second grader the G. recorded that quote from, did just that.
Here is a partial list of projects I would like to work with this year in a classroom context:
1) Lucid landscapes. This could be a one-afternoon project in answer to, “what should I draw?”
2) Collage Better start collecting magazines now – can’t wait to work with this great cutting-skills builder and fun imagination utilizing activity.
3) Things Worth Collecting A project that seemed focused around appreciating museums and making the concept behind museums current and interesting. The teachers had the students create the following: a) a desktop displays of a small collection (like bottle caps or toys) b) a collage of or about the collection c) a group collection d) notebooks containing research about other collections (What do the signs and displays look like? Who is able to see the work? How are they allowed interact with the work?) e) a group brainstorm for a final presentation f) a group presentation of the class collection!
4) Symbols Designed by each student and printed from styrofoam. As a continuation: imagery, symbolic and/or abstract, for what non-physical concepts look like (like pride). As an adaptation on styrofoam prints: COLLOGRAPHING. I always forget about this great medium, and reliably become excited when I see it in action.
5) Bridges First the students looked at city bridges, drew them, thought about them. Then, using the bridges as metaphors, they collaged about the path and bridges to their individual goals.
6) Community Portraits.
7) Posters This would be a project about design, color, and meaning (one they chose was the topic, “what are you willing to stand up for? ... another topic used in a separate project but useful for posters was, “what makes people get along?”).
If you’ve read through this list, you’ll notice that most of these will involve a physical craft coupled with a lot of serious brainstorming and introspective journaling. My special challenge: convince the kids they want to write. Also, find them sketchbooks and convince them to think visually in those sketchbooks. Game On.
Being greeted by Tacita Dean’s ghostly sailing vessel diptych was a great start to a long afternoon at the NY MoMA. Since I like to start from the top, the look down onto both her work and the Song Dong installation, “Waste Not,” made me feel a little anxious. Song Dong's piece made me want to leave and purge my apartment of even more items from my already shrinking collection. Ironic, considering any trash leaving my apartment may end up in someone else’s house as part of a collection later shown in an installation ... even so, I can’t bring myself to hold onto that much material to show as a piece on the floor of a museum. A good counter installation might be to put a purse and single backpack in the middle of a gallery and title it, “Self-contained.” Would that be a luxury of the west? I don’t think so, not completely.
I saw eager museum-go-ers being measured by a neatly-dressed man for Roman Ondak’s Performance 4. One visitor would go up to the wall of a room whose walls are covered with a reverse milky-way. The man would hold his hand over his or her head, he stopped in an expressionless pose with the grinning participant, then continued to record the visitor’s height with a mark, name, and date on the wall. I’d love to see a really large door-frame for this project.
That performance was preceded by high-ceilinged halls of small treats. The collection of contemporary drawings from the Judith Rothschild Foundation, "Compass in Hand," was filled with classic examples of artists like Lewitt and Marden.
The design exhibits, "Rough Cut: Design Takes a Sharp Edge" and "What was good design? MoMA's message 1944-56" also held reminders of enduring shapes created with very specific jobs in mind. The bike rack and the enclosed ball-bearing system particularly caught my pedalophilic eye.
Other names of note:
Shahzia Sikander - Beautiful watercolor & gouache drawings packed with symbols. Her combination of precisely rendered details with open areas of free-flowing, washy color caught my attention.
Andre Derain - Go team Fauv.
Steven Levine - Ribbon-bike rack designer!
Frantisek Kupka - Though not taught about him, seeing a few of his works on display will have me looking into his collection for his varied yet always carefully colored approaches to abstraction and figures.
My trip to NYC yielded three other museum visits that I will describe over the current week. Today’s focus is about the contemporary art center in Williamsburg, Long Island City, P.S.1. The works there were by far the most socially interesting and broad-ranging of any I saw during my four-day NY blitz.
Michael Joaquin Grey’s work appealed to me as the most inter-disciplinary and attention-demanding. I first took in Object as Preposition (1988-2007), a piece that “...visualizes how throughout art history the object became part of a performative process in relational aesthetics” *. I don’t quite understand that phrase yet, but this piece appealed to me for two reasons: firstly, seeing prepositions so simply illustrated was exciting (I am an ESL tutor and a homework coach); secondly, his color choice, text format, and pragmatic yet simple formal layout reminded me of Sol Lewitt’s wall drawings. I felt I could learn more about both linguistics and design from looking at this series of small images.
And would have, except for the pulsing Oz video "ZOOZ" pulling me into the next room.
It seems like Grey is working with these humanist elements, these really basic human desires and observed features, to create very sophisticated messages beyond the mere observation. He even uses media ranging from painting to real biology to video. THAT is why Grey inspires me.
The other work I saw riffed on topics of gender, humor, and social justice.
Ex: Jonathan Horowitz’s plexi-glass “Construction Cube” partially filled with donations and labeled with the Green Peace name was smirkable ... and his tofu sitting in a glass dish of water seemed similarly curious and amusing.
Ex: Leandro Ehrlich’s swimming pool was fun. Fun, because it was a) well crafted, b) had living adults and children laughing from under the surface rather than sculpted dead bodies as I was expecting, c) reminded me of swimming pools when I was younger, d) all of the above. D: All of the above. The piece didn’t seem progressive in any specific way ... but I was really glad for the gleeful experience of hearing the visiting children love the installation and also for looking up through the perfectly rippled surface.
Ex: Lutz Bacher. Her paintings of sex-kitten cartoon women had enscriptions like, “You make your peace sign, I’ll make mine,” “Sure I’m for the Feminist Movement. In Fact, I’m pretty good at it,” and, “They’re watchdogs, Mr.Tate, but I usually don’t let them.” The women reminded me of gripes from feminists about the blissfully ignorant (and apparently playful) powerful yet still un-liberated others. I thought they were funny.
On the flip side of Bacher's gallery space were more serious images. The hologram she had made regarding the violence of the war (“Iraqi Freedom”) was grotesque and striking. The video collage she created around Tammi Terrell and Marvin Gaye’s music and use in movies by white mothers and daughters was thought provoking. Those works, and others in her show, effectively made me aware of the political and racial points I assume Bacher was making.
Bacher, like Grey, has her message and the presence of mind to find whatever the medium she needs to best suite it. Thanks P.S.1 for the brief education.
Today is the last day of the Francis Bacon show in NYC. This show was one impetus for my trip last week to the city, and seven days later I have finally mulled over the ideas I carried home with me on the bus.
1) The vertical striping I had always perceived as bars were actually intended to represent the wrinkles of a curtain. One of the many useful, if repetitive, museum plaques described Bacon’s frequent use of this device as a context through which he wove the figure. Why is this an important distinction? The bars I originally responded to made the paintings’ meanings seem more negative and dark than intended – Bacon’s actual message was obscured for me. I may still not be sure what he wanted to convey; however, at least I am now seeing his symbolism correctly.
2) Bacon worked with open mouths a lot. He reportedly wanted to paint them with Monet-esc expressivity and attention to color. Eccentric, sure, yet I can see the importance of rendering the open mouth to Bacon’s efforts at conveying rawness.
3) There is some pretty sweet roundness implied with his use of white paint as though it was dry chalk. On a related color note, his use of flat, black shadows is unique and interesting to me. I’m usually drawn to strongly observed shadows, showing all traces of reflected color – but Bacon’s opposite approach to shadows is powerful.
4) I discovered two other intentions reported by the museum research:
a) Bacon’s use of the exposed back is meant to show an increased consciousness of the vulnerability of the rest of the figure, and
b) Bacon’s distortion of the appearance of his sitters was done out of the desire to reach a deeper truth about their lives.
These two ideas are part of what draws me to Bacon. Despite his grotesquely painted figures, which originally held no appeal to me as an art student wanting a figural role model, I now appreciate his connection with the human psyche through the portrayal of select body parts. I’d like to see work by him and Maria Lassnig in a two-person show. Both artists have an abstracted image embodying a fleshy truth – the saturated colors of one next to the other’s pastels would be jarring, but the figures would create a lot of good conversations. Once I've read up on both, I'll post some informed examples of those potential dialogues.
I recently learned about the community and food growing organization, The Food Project. While I have not been to the farms, I can't wait to look for their produce at any one of the nearby farmer's markets.
Coming back from a run, I suddenly realized that I was not twirling my keys around my fingers. Patted myself down. Nope, not in the shorts. Not in my cleavage. Ok, not at first glance. But where in the middle of the Harvard end of Brattle Street should I look further into the matter? Luckily, upon uneasily adjusting my left strap, the bright brassy head of one out of three keys (yes, you'd think I would've felt that lunp) appeared out from under the edge of a very robust strap.
I chuckled to myself and continued on home. Note to Self: find reflective velcro strap-pocket.