Well the Missus and I went to the Big Town and here’s what we took in (sorry for the goofy graphics, but I can’t get them straightened out):
Even in Chelsea.
The Missus and I normally avoid the galleries in that trendoid neighborhood of New York because they’re, well, trendoid. But the current crop of exhibits turned out to be okay.
One Gagosian Gallery in Chelsea had sculptures by Alexander Calder, another had sculptures by David Smith. Pace Wildenstein showcased Joseph Beuys’ anarchic assemblages/sculptures, while Betty Cuningham exhibited William Bailey’s Giorgio Morandiesque still lifes.
(Sorry, I’m not on this earth long enough to link everything.)
Best of the bunch: the Julie Saul Gallery exhibit of watercolors by Maira Kalman (“a cross between Florine Stettheimer and Milton Avery,” as the Missus rightly noted).
Later on, we caught Remembering Mr. Maugham, a thoroughly engaging two-man play adapted by playwright/director Garson Kanin from his memoir about his lifelong friendship with playwright/novelist/essayist W. Somerset Maugham. It was smart, literate (of course), and at times moving. Our only criticism: It ran for just one week.
Speaking of Milton Avery, the Knoedler Gallery currently features Milton Avery: Industrial Revelations through May 1st. It’s a side of Avery the Missus and I had never seen, and apparently we’re not the only ones.
Also worth seeing: Allen Tucker’s portraits and Betty Parsons’ wood constructions at Spanierman, George Segal’s humanoid sculptures at L&M Arts (The Missus: “In black they’re even more lifelike. It’s creepy.”), and the inestimable Man Ray at Zabriske.
On to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, where we tagged along on two guided tours: Fashion in Art, which I was allowed to attend with some suspicion, since apparently that daily tour doesn’t get much traffic from the Y-chromosome set; and the daily Modern Art tour, during which we lasted a grand total of three paintings, thanks to our tour guide’s well, let’s just say, eccentricities.
Start with a quick bang-around of Midtown galleries:
An impressive show of Yvonne Jacquette’s New York urbanscapes at D C Moore, an odd African Americans: Seeing and Seen 1766-1916 exhibit at the Babcock Gallery, Denis Darzaco’s gravity-defying photographs at Laurence Miller, and Seventy Years Grandma Moses at Galerie St. Etienne. Two observations:
1) a little Grandma Moses goes a long way;
2) a lot of Grandma Moses went out Galerie St. Etienne’s door: 37 of the 70 painting in the exhibit sold in a little over a month.
And then on to the Museum of Modern Art for Marina Abramovic: The Artist Is Present.
“This performance retrospective traces the prolific career of Marina Abramović (Yugoslav, b. 1946) with approximately fifty works spanning over four decades of her early interventions and sound pieces, video works, installations, photographs, solo performances, and collaborative performances made with Ulay (Uwe Laysiepen). In an endeavor to transmit the presence of the artist and make her historical performances accessible to a larger audience, the exhibition includes the first live re-performances of Abramović’s works by other people ever to be undertaken in a museum setting.”
Loosely translated, this blockbuster performance art retrospective features (not necessarily in this order): nude women standing around, a naked guy lying under a skeleton, a guy with clothes on (!) just lying there with concrete blocks under his head and feet, and endless videos of Abramovic’s history of, yes, nudity, self-mutilation, sexual acts, screaming for no apparent reason, more nudity while hitting herself in the chest with a skull, more random screaming, more random nudity, and etc.
(You can see for yourself here.)
As a special bonus, the artist herself was appearing in MOMA’s Atrium (as she will throughout the exhibition) in a performance piece that largely consisted of her sitting stone-faced at a table while a succession of people sit across from her, some – wait for it – in various states of nudity. (For a more – I dunno – fleshed-out picture, see this Times review.)
At a certain point the Missus said, “Could we just go look at some real art?” so we went to the permanent galleries to do a little homework on Mark Rothko, since we were going to see the play Red later on.
But first we swung by the International Center of Photography for Twilight Visions: Surrealism, Photography, and Paris.
From the ICP:
“[P]hotographers such as Jacques-André Boiffard, Brassaï, Ilse Bing, André Kertész, Germaine Krull, Dora Maar, and Man Ray used fragmentation, montage, unusual viewpoints, and various technical manipulations to expose the disjunctive and uncanny aspects of modern urban life.”
On the topic of exposing, the ICP also has an exhibit featuring the “reclusive and mysterious” Czech photographer Miroslav Tichý. “Now over eighty years old, Tichý is a stubbornly eccentric artist, known as much for his makeshift cardboard cameras as for his haunting and distorted images of women and landscapes, many of them taken surreptitiously.”
In other word, a peeper/stalker. Creepy.
A play about Mark Rothko at the height of his artistic powers and fame, Red is a knockout. It takes place in Rothko’s studio mostly in 1949, and there’s lots of talk about abstract expressionism, pop art, and . . . Caravaggio! At one point Rothko (played by the commanding Alfred Molina) waxes eloquent about Caravaggio’s Conversion of Paul, which occupies a dark corner in Rome’s Santa Maria del Popolo and “makes its own light.”
Just the way Red does.
One last excursion before heading back home:
It was just as good as the first time.