So after my adventures in NY and DC, I was back to NYC for a few days. This time, it was for a work conference where I was presenting a panel. The conference was situated in the heart of Time Square, which was a rather new experience for me. The hotel was part of the Time Square; part of the billboards that make up the insanity of the place were located on the hotel. When I got to the hotel and checked into my room, I discovered that I had a partial view of the Time Square. The amount of light that flowed into the room was fairly astonishing. But I would later grow rather fond of my view since I’ve learned that I like the place as long as I’m not in it. Staring down is kinda neat (as long as there are thick curtains for sleeping).
Since it was late at night, I grabbed a quick bite at a local pizza place. It’s funny how I had forgotten the concept of NY pizza in recent years. The fast food that I associated with NYC was shish kebab and other Middle Eastern meat dishes from kiosks outside. But pizza was ideal for my late night dinner. It was one slice with pepperoni and olives covered in a fine layer of grease. It was so big I had to scoop it up in one hand. Perfection.
The following day, I spent the lunch hour at the MOMA. I really wanted to check out the Yoko Ono Retrospective. I didn’t know a lot about her work and was curious. Also, not a lot of women artists have retrospectives so I wanted to ensure that I went. The backstory to the exhibition is that in 1971, Yoko Ono had an unofficial show at the MOMA. Per the MOMA, “At that time, Ono advertised her “one woman show,” titled Museum of Modern [F]art. However, when visitors arrived at the Museum there was little evidence of her work. According to a sign outside the entrance, Ono had released flies on the Museum grounds, and the public was invited to track them as they dispersed across the city.” (https://www.moma.org/visit/calendar/exhibitions/1544)
I fell in love with her work. I walked into the first room and there was a pedestal with a green apple onto of it. On the pedestal, there was a sign “Apple.” The apple will stay there was it rots. It’s taking Marcel Duchamp’s Fountain to a new level. There was footage from her famous performance piece where visitors were told they could cut off her clothing with a pair of scissors. What powerful and terrifying idea. The part of the video that I caught was when a man was cutting off her shirt as she shifted uncomfortably. It makes me think of Rebecca Wolfram’s work “We are capable people…” What are we capable of? This man was nonchalantly snipping away at her clothing. At the last moment, he snipped her bra straps so she sat there holding the cups of her bra up.
I really loved her Grapefruit piece. It’s a text with each page containing instructions, many of them impossible. They had 30 or 40 of the texts hanging up in a long line in the gallery. Absolutely astonishing. They also displayed 9 texts that were instructions for musical pieces for John Cage. I would have loved to have caught a performance of any one of them!
There was also a piece with a black metal staircase. Visitors were invited to walk up the staircase, one at a time, to stare into the clouds. I had to wait a few minutes to go up there but it was neat. The staircase shook like crazy when I went up. I briefly stared through the glass ceiling into the sky (which was mostly clear or constant at the time). It was a breath of meditation.
I had only a short period of time to check out my old friends in the Modern galleries. I discovered that theMOMA had decided to keep Matisse’s cut out room on display, which made me super happy. The trip also reminded me that when Picasso was on, he was on. “The Three Musicians” is still one of my favorite paintings in the world. Les Demoiselles d’Avignon is also a masterpiece. I tipped my hat at the Klmits, the Magrittes, and the Ernsts. I made a quick run through the comtempory galleries since I had learned that Kara Walker had a piece there. I’ve recently become fascinated with her work which largely employs silhouetted figures referencing race and gender. Her work took up an entire wall of the museum with these nightmarish/dream scenarios of silhouetted figures. They were also a piece by Doris Salcedo, who just had an incredible retrospective at the MCA. Her work deals a lot with political violence and memory. Her exhibition at the MCA was astonishing. This was a smaller version of her shoe piece that had people’s shoes set into the walls hidden behind fabric. These are the shoes that victims left behind. It reminds me of the piles of shoes that you’ll find at the Holocaust Museum.
I feel that I spend a lot of time defending contemporary art to my friends and family. I will admit that I have an interest in really innovative and often cutting edge work. But I try to remind people that the artists we take for granted as masters, namely our beloved Impressionists, were once derided and insulted by the establishment. I do believe that there are an amazing number of artists doing incredible work now. Sure there is art that I don’t care for. But then again, there was a lot of art in every period that was not very good, though heralded as excellent. You have to move beyond your prejudices because you’ll find some really neat things in the contemporary art gallery. Maybe it’s just one piece that knocks your socks off. But given how hard it is to find a really great book/movie/musical piece, that’s not a bad ratio.
That’s all for now!