Part 1: Spring in Manhattan

I’m going to return for the next few weeks ago to my travel adventures. Stay tuned for more interviews with street artists!

Now I’ll talk about our amazing trip to NY, NY over Easter weekend. It was full of speakeasys, friends and family, and art. What else can one ask for!

The trip began with a hopeful quest to the Guggenheim on Friday morning. A few weeks prior, I had learned about Doug Wheeler’s PSAD Synthetic Desert at the Guggenheim where he built a room designed to minimize noise. You can enter the room for 10 or 20 minutes and relish in the silence and incredibly bizarre landscape. (Article from NYT: https://www.nytimes.com/2017/04/07/arts/design/guggenheim-museum-doug-wheeler-synthetic-desert.html)  It is included with admission but you need a timed ticket since only 5 people can go at a time. Advance tickets were gone for the month of April but they had some walk-ins available. So I got to the Guggenheim before it opened in the hopes of securing such a ticket. THere were already lines there when I arrived but a separate line for the Doug Wheeler exhibit. While waiting I met this lovely lady from Oxford and her son who had spent 6 days in NYC and enjoyed the city. They had even more of an adventure getting to the Guggenheim, which involved checking out early from their hotel, getting on the wrong train and ending up in Harlem.

And we all got tickets! My ticket was for 12pm so I had 2 hours to kill. Fortunately, I was in a museum. The Guggenheim had a retrospective of the original art that Solomon Guggenheim had collected with the significant help of Hilda von Rebay, his curator. Much of the art he collected was during my favorite time in art: early 20th century. The first side room that I saw was filled with magnificent compositions by Kandinsky, one of my favorites. I was struck dumb by the beauty of his abstract colors and shapes. Clearly, I had made the right choice.

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I wandered my way up to the top of the museum where the Doug Wheeler room was. There was even a few works from his niece Peggy Guggenheim’s museum in Venice; her collection is a must see any time we are in Venice. It was like meeting old friends that I hadn’t seen in years. They had her magnificent Calder mobile that slowly shifted with people’s movements.

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I really enjoyed my experience in PSAD Synthetic Desert. The 5 of us and the museum staff person were brought into the room through at least 2 doors (requiring a key card). The room was out of Sci-Fi. These white foam pyramids lay in rows before me and on the wall. There was a platform you could stand on and survey the rows of pyramids. All was suffused with a light purple glow. We were encouraged to sit to  minimize movement. Early on you understood why.

The room was so quiet that turning your head seemed magnified. Even the shuffling of feet was audible. It wasn’t so quiet that you could hear your heartbeat but it definitely wasn’t just a silent room. I had expected to get very bored very quickly but I was surprised when our ten minutes was up.

I wandered down the Guggenheim, nodding my head at my old friends and new favorites (Those Kandinsky’s) and made my way to 5th avenue. It was a glorious day in Manhattan. I walked up 5th, next to Central Park, and met my husband in the middle. He had just arrived from Chicago that morning. We both walked back to our hotel, enjoying the fresh temperate air.

Next time, I’ll talk about our adventures at the Oculus, Trinity Church, National Museum of American Indian, and our adventures finding a speakeasy.

 

That’s all for now!

Guggenheim and the Futurists

My next stop was the Solomon Guggenheim in its fantastic Frank Lloyd Wright designed spiral building. I haven’t been to the Guggenheim in years though I always go to the Peggy Guggenheim when I’m in Venice. Go figure.

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Also, if we are going to talk about morally questionable art institutions, the Guggenheim is getting a lot of flack from the possibility that the Guggenheim Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates may be built using slave labor. There was a protest back in February. I need to do some more research into it.

I was particularly keen on seeing the Futurist exhibits. I have a soft spot in my heart for the Futurists despite their fascist and war loving tendencies. I love their exhalation of color, speed and cities. Such a contrast to the German Expressionists with their sick cityscapes.. Reader, I’m a city girl through and through. Well, it was an extremely fascinating exhibit. And there were wall tags! It was done chronologically from the base of the museum to the top, contrary to other exhibitions I’ve been to at the Guggenheim.

The exhibition was fairly comprehensive covering painting and literature to ceramics, vests, and even furniture. They had some paintings on loan from the Peggy Guggenheim including a wonderful painting by Gino Severini called “Sea=Dancer.” It depicts a dancer in a blue dress at a Cabaret. You get a sense of her many movements and the hustle and bustle of the Paris café. There was a bronze statue called “Unique Forms of Continuing in Space” by Umberto Boccioni showing a figure walking. He is made of shapes to emphasize the many shapes a person makes while moving. He once said, “Let us fling open the figure and let it incorporate within itself whatever may surround it.” Brilliant. Of course, I learned for the first time that all the bronzes were cast posthumously. I didn’t know that. He made the sculptures from plaster.

There was a part of the Futurist manifesto labeled on the wall. Part of it really spoke to me:

“1. We want to sing the love of danger, the habit of energy and rashness.

2. The essential elements of our poetry will be courage, audacity and revolt.” I love this celebration of modernity and the city. But then a new facet of the movement revealed itself to me: “ We want to glorify war — the only cure for the world — militarism, patriotism, the destructive gesture of the anarchists, the beautiful ideas which kill, and contempt for woman.” Now the love of war was not new to me. The contempt for women was definitely unexpected. I know that the Futurists decried the female nude believing that artists have been too long obsessed with it. But I didn’t realize that it went beyond that. There were some female artists involved with the Futurists. I know that other movements had some interesting relationships to women but it was a bit disturbing to see this “contempt for women” so plainly spelled out.

I also learned that Futurists did not really embrace film, which I find very odd. For a movement so obsessed with technology and speed, you would think they would embrace this new technology that can actually record speed. There was one film called “Thais.” All I saw was the ending where the main character, a woman, gets crushed by the abstract background.

On the other hand, photography was embraced. There were some amazing photos where they tried to show the movement. There would be blurry shots showing the motion. There was one painting that was of a violinist’s hands while playing. Simply magnificent.

Towards the end, it was interesting how I started failing to recognize the names of the artists. Some regular Futurists died in the war. The later works were simply not as good as the early 1910s and 1920s. There were some truly magnificently horrid sideboards.

Anyway, I’m really glad that I made it to the exhibition. I feel that I really learned a lot more about Futurism and saw some old friends.

That’s all!

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