The Arts Seen in NYC (#StraightWhiteMen Preview Edition)

Well the Missus trundled me down to the Big Town for my birthday last weekend and, say, it was swell.

(It also marked the start of a year’s worth of my saying, à la Raymond Chandler, that I’m pushing 70 hard enough to break a wrist.)

After we got settled into our semi-costly hotel room, we zipped down to the Fashion Institute of Technology to catch Fashion Unraveled, described thusly:

Fashion Unraveled is not your typical fashion exhibition. Rather than feature pristine clothes that exemplify a theme, a time period, or a designer’s aesthetic, it explores the roles of memory and imperfection in fashion. The exhibition also highlights the aberrant beauty in flawed objects, giving precedence to garments that have been altered, left unfinished, or deconstructed. These selections underscore one elemental fact about clothing: that it is designed to be worn and has, in some cases, been worn out.

This crowdsourced project, Wearing Memories, is a sweet tribute to the power of clothing and connection.

 

 

From there we headed up to the Mint Theater Company production of Miles Malleson’s 1925 drama Conflict.

It’s the Roaring 20’s, London. Lady Dare Bellingdon has everything she could want, yet she craves something more. Dare’s man, Sir Major Ronald Clive, is standing for Parliament with the backing of Dare’s father. Clive is a Conservative, of course, but he’s liberal enough to be sleeping with Dare, who’s daring enough to take a lover, but too restless to marry him. Clive’s opponent, Tom Smith is passionate about social justice and understands the joy of having something to believe in. Dare is “the woman between” two candidates who both want to make a better world—until politics become personal, and mudslinging threatens to soil them all.

In his review of the production, Wall Street Journal theater critic Terry Teachout noted that The Mint is “a much-admired off-Broadway troupe that specializes in digging up what it calls ‘worthwhile plays from the past that have been lost or forgotten.’”

And indeed, Conflict was extremely worthwhile – smartly staged, adroitly acted, and – thankfully – ideological without being preachy. One bad thing: The play’s run ended last weekend. I just thought you should know about the theater company for future reference

* * * * * * *

Friday morning it was bright and early to The Met, whose current blockbuster is Heavenly Bodies: Fashion and the Catholic Imagination.

The Costume Institute’s spring 2018 exhibition—at The Met Fifth Avenue and The Met Cloisters—features a dialogue between fashion and medieval art from The Met collection to examine fashion’s ongoing engagement with the devotional practices and traditions of Catholicism.

Serving as the cornerstone of the exhibition, papal robes and accessories from the Sistine Chapel sacristy, many of which have never been seen outside The Vatican, are on view in the Anna Wintour Costume Center. Fashions from the early twentieth century to the present are shown in the Byzantine and medieval galleries, part of the Robert Lehman Wing, and at The Met Cloisters.

Here’s a nifty time-lapse video of the installation.

 

 

As the Missus said, one of the best things about the exhibition was that it made us look more closely at the amazing work in the medieval gallery, a place we normally breeze through on the way to the Met cafeteria.

After patronizing said cafeteria for a costly lunch, we visited Visitors to Versailles (through July 29).

Bringing together works from The Met, the Château de Versailles, and over fifty lenders, this exhibition highlights the experiences of travelers from 1682, when Louis XIV moved his court to Versailles, to 1789, when the royal family was forced to leave the palace and return to Paris. Through paintings, portraits, furniture, tapestries, carpets, costumes, porcelain, sculpture, arms and armor, and guidebooks, the exhibition illustrates what visitors encountered at court, what kind of welcome and access to the palace they received, and, most importantly, what impressions, gifts, and souvenirs they took home with them.

It was, as they say at Paris bazaars about every artwork, très jolie, très très charmante, avec beaucoup d’atmosphere.

On the way out, we took a second stroll through Public Parks, Private Gardens: Paris to Provence, a lovely exhibit previously noted in this space.

Then we hied ourselves to the Museum of the City of New York to view Through a Different Lens: Stanley Kubrick Photographs (through October 28).

Stanley Kubrick was just 17 when he sold his first photograph to the pictorial magazine Look in 1945. In his photographs, many unpublished, Kubrick trained the camera on his native city, drawing inspiration from the nightclubs, street scenes, and sporting events that made up his first assignments, and capturing the pathos of ordinary life with a sophistication that belied his young age. Through a Different Lens: Stanley Kubrick Photographs features more than 120 photographs by Kubrick from the Museum’s Look Magazine archive, an unparalleled collection that includes 129 photography assignments and more than 12,000 negatives from his five years as a staff photographer. For any fan of Kubrick’s films, the exhibition explores a formative phase in the career of one of the 20th century’s most renowned motion picture directors.

Go to the MCNY website and you’ll find dozens of items like these.

 

 

Well worth the schlep to 103rd & 5th.

From there we hoofed it down to the Met Breuer, although in the end we sort of wished we hadn’t. The main exhibit was Like Life: Sculpture, Color, and the Body, which ended last weekend. It purported to “explores narratives of sculpture in which artists have sought to replicate the literal, living presence of the human body” but it was just kind of bizarre and creepy.

Likewise, Obsessions: Nudes by Klimt, Schiele, and Picasso (through October 7) was, well, underwhelming. The roughly 50 works come from the Met’s Scofield Thayer Collection, which has a local backstory.

When a selection from his collection was shown at the Montross Gallery in New York in 1924—five years before the Museum of Modern Art opened—it won acclaim. It found no favor, however, in Thayer’s native city, Worcester, Massachusetts, that same year when it was shown at the Worcester Art Museum. Incensed, Thayer drew up his will in 1925, leaving his collection to The Metropolitan Museum of Art.

That showed Worcester, eh?

Undaunted, we shuttled crosstown to the New-York Historical Society, which had numerous attractions, starting with Summer of Magic: Treasures from the David Copperfield Collection (through September 16).

Travel to New York’s magical past and discover a world of treasures from the collection of Emmy Award-winning illusionist David Copperfield. Explore the careers and exploits of the legendary magicians that inspired him, see iconic objects used by Harry Houdini, and be amazed by the Death Saw from one of Copperfield’s most famous illusions!

Also quite magical is the newly installed Gallery of Tiffany Lamps, an ongoing exhibit that is totally eye-popping.

As the centerpiece of the transformed fourth floor, the Gallery of Tiffany Lamps features 100 illuminated Tiffany lamps from our spectacular collection, displayed within a dramatically lit jewel-like space. Regarded as one of the world’s largest and most encyclopedic, the Museum’s Tiffany Lamp collection includes multiple examples of the Dragonfly shade, a unique Dogwood floor lamp (ca. 1900–06), a Wisteria table lamp (ca. 1901), and a rare, elaborate Cobweb shade on a Narcissus mosaic base (ca. 1902), among many others.

One enlightening revelation in the exhibit: Louis Comfort Tiffany wasn’t the only designer of the company’s lamps, windows, and luxury objects. “Clara Driscoll (1861–1944), head of the Women’s Glass Cutting Department from 1892 to 1909, has recently been revealed as the designer of many of the firm’s leaded glass shades.”

She was an accomplished enough designer that she was paid $35 a week, same as the male designers. (More on Driscoll here, compliments of the Missus.)

Also at NYHS: an exhibit on legendary New York Times photographer Bill Cunningham’s objects, a kicky Walk This Way: Footwear from the Stuart Weitzman Collection of Historic Shoes  (through October 8), and a whole lot more.

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Saturday we started at The Morgan Library & Museum, which featured the amazing exhibit The Magic of Handwriting: The Pedro Corrêa do Lago Collection (through September 16).

For nearly half a century, Brazilian author and publisher Pedro Corrêa do Lago has been assembling one of the most comprehensive autograph collections of our age, acquiring thousands of handwritten letters, manuscripts, and musical compositions as well as inscribed photographs, drawings, and documents. This exhibition—the first to be drawn from his extraordinary collection—features some 140 items, including letters by Lucrezia Borgia, Vincent van Gogh, and Emily Dickinson, annotated sketches by Michelangelo, Jean Cocteau, and Charlie Chaplin, and manuscripts by Giacomo Puccini, Jorge Luis Borges, and Marcel Proust.

Totally captivating video about the exhibit.

 

 

It was great to be there so early – the place was empty and quiet and we got to read almost all the manuscripts in this staggering collection.

From there we drifted up to MoMA to catch the Constantin Brancusi Sculpture exhibit (through February 18).

This exhibition celebrates MoMA’s extraordinary holdings—11 sculptures by Brancusi will be shown together for the first time, alongside drawings, photographs, and films. A selection of never-before-seen archival materials shed light on his relationships with friends, sitters, and patrons, including this Museum. What emerges is a rich portrait of an artist whose risk-taking and inventive approach to form changed the course of the art that followed.

Love Brancusi.

Then we wandered up to the Guggenheim to take in Giacometti (through September 12).

A preeminent artist of the twentieth century, Alberto Giacometti (1901–1966) investigated the human figure for more than forty years. This comprehensive exhibition, a collaboration with the Fondation Giacometti in Paris, examines anew the artist’s practice and his unmistakable aesthetic vocabulary. Featuring important works in bronze and in oil, as well as plaster sculptures and drawings never before seen in this country, the exhibition aims to provide a deeper understanding of this artist, whose intensive focus on the human condition continues to provoke and inspire new generations.

Giacometti’s paintings are just as engrossing as his sculpture, from his long-sitting brother Diego

 

 

to his long-suffering wife Annette.

 

 

It’s a knockout exhibit, and you don’t have to take my word for it. Check out this smart review of the exhibit by James Gardner in The Weekly Standard.

It was art of a different color at The Jewish Museum, where Chaim Soutine: Flesh is the marquee exhibit through September 16.

Chaim Soutine (1893–1943) is one of the twentieth century’s great painters of still life. In the Paris of the 1920s, Soutine was a double outsider—an immigrant Jew and a modernist. Guided by his expressive artistic instincts, he both embraced the traditional genre of still life and exploded it . . .

Soutine’s harsh and wrenching portrayals—of beef carcasses, plucked fowl, fish, and game—create a parallel between the animal and human, between beauty and pain. His still-life paintings, produced over a period of thirty years, express with visceral power his painterly mastery and personal passion.

Totally engrossing work by an artist who deserves more attention than he normally gets.

Largely museumed-out, the Missus and I grabbed a quick dinner and headed down to the Second Stage Theater’s production of Straight White Men at the Hayes Theater

It’s Christmas Eve, and Ed has gathered his three adult sons to celebrate with matching pajamas, trash-talking, and Chinese takeout. But when a question they can’t answer interrupts their holiday cheer, they are forced to confront their own identities. Obie Award-winning playwright Young Jean Lee takes a hilariously ruthless look at the classic American father-son drama. This is one white Christmas like you’ve never seen before.

Or heard. As the audience entered the theater they were assaulted by, well, let’s have Times theater critic take it from here: “[T]he preshow music is deliberately deafening. In the script, the playwright Young Jean Lee specifies ‘loud hip-hop with sexually explicit lyrics by female rappers.’”

That’s followed by two Persons in Charge – “Kate Bornstein, a gender theorist who defines herself as nonbinary, and Ty Defoe, a two-spirit member of the Oneida and Ojibwe nations“- telling the audience from the stage that they’re well aware “that it can be upsetting when people create an environment that doesn’t take your needs into account,”

(See this Times Magazine piece – Young Jean Lee’s Unsafe Spaces – for further details.)

Once all that ended, though, the play itself was splendid – by turns hilarious and poignant.

Representative sample:

 

 

The acting by Armie Hammer, Josh Charles, Stephen Payne and Paul Schneider is terrific all around. Unsolicited advice to director Anna D. Shapiro: Lose the pre-show din and let the play speak for itself

* * * * * * *

On the way home we swung by The Met Cloisters to catch the other half of Heavenly Bodies and, given the setting, it was even more effective than the show at the mothership.

Really something.

Then it was home again home again jiggedy jig.

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