Well the Missus and I trundled down to the Big Town to go a-museuming this past weekend and say, it was swell.
Having successfully fought our way down a Friday I-95, navigated the obstacle course from the FDR Drive crosstown to 32nd and Fifth, and checked into our surprisingly affordable hotel, we took the subway up to Lincoln Center to catch Voice of My City: Jerome Robbins and New York (through March 30) at The New York Public Library for the Performing Arts.
Jerome Robbins was an inveterate observer, seeker, and creator. In diaries, drawings, watercolors, paintings, story scenarios, poems—and, especially, in dance—he reimagined the world around him. And New York dominated that world, where he was born one-hundred years ago and where he lived his entire adult life. Ideas of New York have long inspired artists but often the city serves as a backdrop in an artwork rather than the basis for plot, theme, and meaning. Robbins put the city at the center of his artistic imaginings . . . Voice of My City traces Robbins’ life and dances alongside the history of New York, inspiring viewers to see the city as both a muse and a home.
Here’s a virtual tour from Playbill that you should definitely take.
From that exhaustive (but hardly exhausting) exhibit, we headed downtown to the Fashion Institute of Technology, which has mounted Exhibitionism: 50 Years of The Museum at FIT (through April 20).
Exhibitionism: 50 Years of The Museum at FIT celebrates the 50th anniversary of what Michael Kors calls “the fashion insider’s fashion museum” by bringing back 33 of the most influential exhibitions produced since the first one was staged in 1971. Taken entirely from the museum’s permanent holdings, more than 80 looks are on display. From Fashion and Surrealism to The Corset to A Queer History of Fashion, the exhibitions are known for being “intelligent, innovative, and independent,” says MFIT Director Valerie Steele. “The museum has been in the forefront of fashion curation, with more than 200 fashion exhibitions over the past half century, many accompanied by scholarly books and symposia.”
Our favorites in the shoe department:
As we hoofed it out of FIT, we spotted this across 27th street in FIT’s Art and Design Gallery.
This special short exhibition, curated by Communication Design Pathways Professor Anne Kong and 42 students in the Visual Presentation and Exhibition Design program, features hats from the celebrated collection of the late former FIT dean and professor Nina Kurtis.
The students designed and created individual 360-degree displays featuring a hat from a distinctive time period or fashion trend using visual storytelling to entertain and educate the viewer. The displays incorporate various materials, handmade props, and mannequin parts.
The hats were a hoot, as “Jackie” quite nicely illustrates.
That topped off our evening, and we went on to dinner.
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Bright and early Saturday morning it was off to the Museum of Modern Art to view Joan Miró: Birth of the World (through June 15).
“You and all my writer friends have given me much help and improved my understanding of many things,” Joan Miró told the French poet Michel Leiris in the summer of 1924, writing from his family’s farm in Montroig, a small village nestled between the mountains and the sea in his native Catalonia. The next year, Miró’s intense engagement with poetry, the creative process, and material experimentation inspired him to paint The Birth of the World.
In this signature work, Miró covered the ground of the oversize canvas by applying paint in an astonishing variety of ways that recall poetic chance procedures. He then added a series of pictographic signs that seem less painted than drawn, transforming the broken syntax, constellated space, and dreamlike imagery of avant-garde poetry into a radiantly imaginative and highly inventive form of painting. He would later describe this work as “a sort of genesis,” and his Surrealist poet friends titled it The Birth of the World.
The exhibit – which is fabulous – also featured this monumental mural.
Interesting backstory: That artwork was commissioned in 1950 for Harvard University’s new Graduate Student Center by Department of Architecture chair Walter Gropius, the founder of Germany’s Bauhaus School in 1919. After Miró delivered it, the mural was hung in the Grad Center . . . over a radiator, which during the next few years started to sort of melt the painting.
So Miró said, hey – send it back and I’ll fix it, but instead he returned a ceramic tile version of the mural (which is still there at Harvard), touched up the mural, and sold it to MoMA for a pretty penny.
Harvard does still have Miró’s original sketch for the mural, though, which you can see in the Harvard Art Museums’ current exhibit, The Bauhaus and Harvard (through July 28).
While we were at MoMA we also stopped by the interesting-but-repetitive exhibit The Value of Good Design (through June 15) and revisited Constantin Brancusi Sculpture (through June 15), which is terrific.
A short Brancusi primer:
From there we headed down to SoHo and the Center for Italian Modern Art to see Metaphysical Masterpieces 1916-1920: Morandi, Sironi, and Carrà (through June 1).
From CIMA’s press release:
The term “metaphysical painting” (pittura metafisica) refers to an artistic style that emerged in Italy during the First World War. Closely associated with [Giorgio] de Chirico, it often featured disquieting images of eerie spaces and enigmatic objects, eliciting a sense of the mysterious. Metaphysical Masterpieces concentrates on rarely seen early works by Giorgio Morandi and important paintings by the lesser- known artists Carlo Carrà and Mario Sironi, offering a richer and more nuanced view of pittura metafisica than previous exhibitions in the United States, creating a vivid portrait of the genre.
Representative samples (Morandi and Sironi):
We were lucky enough to catch a tour with current CIMA Fellow Caterina Caputo, who was wonderfully knowledgeable and informative. The exhibit is excellent and the people couldn’t be lovelier – they even made espresso for us. Molte grazie, @ItalianModArt!
Then we subwayed to the Brooklyn Museum for the much-hyped Frida Kahlo: Appearances Can Be Deceiving (through May 12).
Mexican artist Frida Kahlo’s unique and immediately recognizable style was an integral part of her identity. Kahlo came to define herself through her ethnicity, disability, and politics, all of which were at the heart of her work. Frida Kahlo: Appearances Can Be Deceiving is the largest U.S. exhibition in ten years devoted to the iconic painter and the first in the United States to display a collection of her clothing and other personal possessions, which were rediscovered and inventoried in 2004 after being locked away since Kahlo’s death, in 1954.
There’s lots of clothing, photos, jewelry, and assorted other Fridabilia – but not all that much artwork. The whole exhibit seems more about Kahlo as celebrity/cult figure than anything else. (For a better sense of her as an artist, check out Frida Kahlo and Arte Populaire – through June 16 – at Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts.)
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Sunday morning we cruised up Madison Ave with barely a red light for 50 blocks (see our kissin’ cousins at It’s Good to Live in a Two-Daily Town for the traffic light disaster Boston has become), turned onto 84th street, and found a spot likethat right in front of my old grammar school, St. Ignatius Loyola, which is operated by the Sisters of (Parking) Charity.
From there we sashayed up to the Metropolitan Museum of Art for its new exhibit Epic Abstraction: Pollock to Herrera (ongoing), which begins with a quote from AbEx pioneer Barnett Newman:
“Years ago…we felt the moral crisis of a world in shambles, a world devastated by a great depression and a fierce World War, and it was impossible at that time to paint the kind of painting that we were doing — flowers, reclining nudes, and people playing the cello. At the same time we could not move into the situation of a pure world of unorganized shapes, forms … color … a world of sensation … this was our moral crisis in relation to what to paint. So that we actually began, so to speak, from scratch, as if painting were not only dead but never existed.”
You can see all 61 of the exhibition objects here, but a few highlights will give you a sense of the collection.
Louise Nevelson, Mrs. N’s Palace (1964-77).
Willem de Kooning, Easter Monday (1955-56).
Barnett Newman, Shimmer Bright (1968).
Isamu Noguchi, Kouros (1945).
It’s a total knockout of an exhibit.
We also swung by Atea: Nature and Divinity in Polynesia (through October 27), which is lots of fun, and visited the newly reopened galleries, The Art of Music, a simply stunning array of musical instruments through the ages.
After a costly lunch in the Met cafeteria (where we watched two young women pour two glasses of wine – one red, one white – arrange them just so, and Instagram them to the world at large), we moseyed up to the Neue Galerie for The Self-Portrait, from Schiele to Beckmann (through June 24).
[This] is an unprecedented exhibition that examines works primarily from Austria and Germany made between 1900 and 1945. This groundbreaking show is unique in its examination and focus on works of this period. Approximately 70 self-portraits by more than 30 artists—both well-known figures and others who deserve greater recognition—are united in the presentation . . .
And on that note it was home again, home again jiggedy-jig.