Sunday, July 26, 2009

On hiatus

Museum-hunting is on a bit of a hiatus. Aside from seeing the latest installation on the MET's roof and shuttling my 15-year-old nephew through the American Museum of History (primarily, I have to admit, en route to an IMAX movie there) the museum-culture cupboard is bare. But if anyone has thoughts on must-see shows in NYC or nearby, please leave a comment....And since it's summer, here's a poem from the MET's "Now at The MET" page:

Summer Stars

Bend low again, night of summer stars.
So near you are, sky of summer stars,
So near, a long-arm man can pick off stars,
Pick off what he wants in the sky bowl,
So near you are, summer stars,
So near, strumming, strumming,
So lazy and hum-strumming.

—Carl Sandburg (American, 1878–1967)

Truthfully, I don't love this poem. But I was admiring the summer stars this weekend...

Monday, February 23, 2009

Another bit of "Office Art"

I forgot to put up one of the best Office Art entries, by one of my favorite BusinessWeek writers. Here is Cathy's "idea":

"Arrange a bunch of useless promotional tchotchkes on your desk in a haphazard manner. Pile erudite magazines you will never read on the floor, alongside stacks of research on stories you may, or may not, write. Pile your bookshelf with equally erudite books you will never read. Tape ironic sayings on your wall about the the nature of work, and bad artwork by a kid (yours, or someone else's, to show you have a life outside of work). Hang a calendar featuring beautiful far away beaches, along with photographs of fabulous places you've been on vacation, far, far from the office, to keep you permanently dissatisfied. Be sure to prominently display any awards you've received, no matter how obscure, so any passing manager will remember that sometimes you do produce something worthwhile. Then scatter bits of papers, half-used notebooks, chewed pens and a layer of dust over all.

Some may call it just another messy office, but it is really an art installation."

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Recently, I gave some friends on facebook a challenge: If earthworks artist Andy Goldsworthy, who creates elaborate ephemeral works of art out of twigs, leaves, rocks, etc., spent much of his time in a Manhattan office building, what might he create? The goal was to create theoretical projects using "natural" office resources-to create a whimsical work of art (complete with faux artistic rationale) that will start the day intact and be naturally worn away.

Here are some Goldsworth works, fyi.

My idea--a silver screen made out of paper clips that covers the elevator entrance on my floor. Yes, employees must fight their way through it to get to work. Sure, you could see it as sending a hostile message, but, viewed another way, what says “I’m eager to get to work!” better than actually having to pry apart a barrier in order to get to your job?!

Marion responded by saying that "This reminds me of one of my daughter's art school projects: a "human trap." It consisted of a frame covered with opaque black plastic that had the same dimensions as the interior of the school elevator. On exhibition day, she set it up so her class walked out of the elevator and into the trap.

I don't know what I could think of that could top that, unless it was a pillar of Post-Its bearing phone messages, which I would entitle "Lot's Wife."

Edit Updika came up with this: "I think mine would be an electronic installation, perhaps an email that automatically replies to itself, creating an endless looping message that gets longer and longer and longer until it eats up all the bandwidth in the universe. Or until the sysops kill it.

This represents the boundless cycle of life, reproduction and growth ending in Armageddon, with or without (a) god(s)."

And Rachel weighed in with this: "I think that mine would be to take the utensils and napkins and affix them together as one unit and do this over and over and over again until i had enough for the next step...then I would take these units and build them into various symbols attached to one another with rubber bands and some of the various sticky stuff you've offered... there could be peace signs and butterflies and other images that suggest something other than the mess that this world mostly finds itself in...once it's done, people could remove the the utensil units and use it to eat with or whatever.

It would be utilitarian becomes arts becomes utilitarian once again representing the various dimensions of everything that we encounter but the cyclical nature of life."

What would you create?

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Okay, this is what I love:

What I love is the fact that I start researching the Argentinian artist mentioned in the post I put up earlier today (and she is pictured below), Liliana Porter, only to find that she is the creator of one of my favorite whimsical pieces of NYC subway mosaic art, "Alice: The Way Out," made in 1994. I have passed this mural for years at 50th Street; it always makes me smile. Who knew?

Here is a bit of information about the mural, courtesy of the New York Times:
Q. On the walls of the 50th Street subway station of the 1/9 line, are tile pictures of Alice in Wonderland. How do these pictures relate to the neighborhood?

A. The mosaic art you're referring to is ''Alice: the Way Out,'' a 1994 work by Liliana Porter, an Argentine-born artist who lives and works in New York. There is no explicit connection between 50th Street and Lewis Carroll, who lived most of his life in Oxford, England. Rather, said Sandra Bloodworth, director of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority's Arts for Transit program, there is a genial conceptual link, a playful reference to the theater district above.

''Liliana is evoking the idea of the theatrical, and she's doing it with a sort of connection with the idea of being underground,'' Ms. Bloodworth said. ''You see Alice pulling the curtain back in one of the images, and you have the theaters above ground. It's her concept to connect it to the theater by way of 'Alice in Wonderland.' '

Alice in Wonderland images are in a number of her works--a description of one work (without a photo, agh) reads: "When Alice's White Rabbit and a bust of Che Guevara hold a private chat, Porter is questioning not only the nature of space-time but that of memory as a vast archive where anything and everyone can hold a conversation."

A Long Hiatus

This blog is basically on hiatus due to lack of time and perfectionist tendencies that make me spend hours on each post. But a note on Buenos Aires museums: MALBA (Museo de Arte Latinamericano de Buenos Aires) introduced me to some artists I'd never heard of and want to explore more, such as Liliana Porter (born 1941, is a prof at Queens College/CUNY; okay, I'm way behind the times--she's in MOMA, MET, reviewed in the New York Times, etc. but I'd never been aware of her before). She just launched a web project with NY-DIA Foundation. By the way, MALBA has a killer outdoor cafe, next to which a large white inflatable marshmallow-like structure went up while I was having lunch. Still haven't figured out what it is. (Museum shop rating: Eh. Seen a lot of it at MOMA.)

The museum's collection comes from the Constantini family. Peggy Dulany (Rockefeller), who is a connector extraordinaire in the world of wealth (my BusinessWeek colleague Aili McConnon wrote about Dulany in this philanthropy story), is on its international advisory board, as is one of the world's richest men, Mexican telecom mogul Carlos Slim.

The Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes had an outstanding exhibit called "Latitudes: Maestros Latinoamericanos en La Collection FEMSA." Artists I saw there and will now follow include Roberto Aizenberg and Emilio Pettoruti; I also saw works by Sarah Grilo (always looking out for female artists), Eduardo MacEntyre and Julio le Parc. It's not so easy to find information about Grilo, or good pictures of her work, but here is a link to the Blanton Museum's list of works by Argentinian artists, and they have one of her paintings, and a bunch by Antonio Segui.

Another museum discovery while checking out Puerto Madero (very nice development going on, but did there have to be a riverside Hooters??!?) was the extremely good-looking Coleccion de Arte Amalia Lacroze de Fortabat (at Olga Cossettini 141). There were more security guards there than visitors. If the collection had merged with MALBA rather than setting itself up separately it would have been killer for MALBA. Anyway there were Aizenbergs and Pettorutis, as well as works by Antonio Segui and Juan Batlle Planas that were intriguing. The primer piso was where I thought the best works were. The second mezzanine had works by Brueghels Pieter and Jan, Klimt, Rodin, Turner, but most of them didn't strike my largely uneducated eye as their better works.

Sunday, February 18, 2007

A strange path to a discovery

While reading an article about the uproar over the word "scrotum" being on the first page of a new book by an award-winning children's author (the NYT article notes that "The book’s heroine, a scrappy 10-year-old orphan named Lucky Trimble, hears the word through a hole in a wall when another character says he saw a rattlesnake bite his dog, Roy, on the scrotum"), I saw a mention of (I'm going to avoid the whole scrotum debate entirely, thank you.) Along with art and travel, another passion of mine is libraries. A friend and I toyed with the idea of doing a coffee table book on private libraries, ranging from the homey, low-budget cookbook collection of a woman down south to the incredibly expensive, highly designed libraries of moguls like Philip Anschultz. It would still be a dream to do, but it would take a superhuman effort to work on it on top of doing the job that pays my bills. I haven't quite come up with that superhuman energy yet.

Anyway, back to the point of this post: On the site, I saw a reference to an old post about a book blog, so clicked on it and wound up on Yates describes herself as "an environmental artist who recycles dead trees into art for parks and retreat centers." A writeup of a workshop she did at Oberlin College in 2000 notes that “Yates began carving wood in 1990 in Ocho Rios, Jamaica. She is also a photographer and her work in both mediums has been exhibited internationally as well as in the U.S.” The book mentioned on the blog was this first one below; for stories behind the making of each book, read this article. (All of these photos are by her, I believe, or at least were all from her site.) But I found even cooler stuff she did when I dug further into her site, so keep reading.

The next project of hers that caught my eye was a recycling project for the Avondale Forest Park in County Wicklow, Ireland. Yates: "With a one-inch chisel I carved a mural sixteen feet long and five feet high into the 42-ton beech tree that had been planted around 1750 and had died of old age. Even though the park had cut it down it was still ten feet tall; the project took me two months." You can read about her time in Ireland, where she met a good number of Irish celebs, here.

The whimsy of some of the work Yates did as an artist-in-residence at women's retreat Grailville, in Loveland, Ohio, is also fun. It would be pretty magical to be hiking along and come across this.

The "elf house" below, which was part of a project she did to recycle a lot of dead wood into artwork for a national park, was also cute. FYI, when I did a google search for Yates, I was directed to an interesting site (whose search function didn't work so I couldn't actually search for Yates). It's a dealer for sculptors; when you're on the site click on "wood" or just go here. I thought the work of Roberta Daar (a message may pop up saying there is no such site but just wait a few seconds and it will take you there, or at least, that's how it worked for me) and J.Mac looked interesting--Daar's is the white sculpture.

Sunday, February 11, 2007


My friend Amy knows that I like offbeat art, so sent me pictures of this pencil art by South African artist Jennifer Maestre. There was no information attached to the photos but a google search on pencil art turned up an interesting site called, which has photos of Maestre’s work. The site itself was a good discovery: “Sensory Impact is a web magazine about the culture of objects for both design enthusiasts and designers that offers a smart mix of news, views and reviews served fresh daily in bite sized morsels.” Sounds good.

From Jennifer Maestre’s web site:

“My sculptures were originally inspired by the form and function of the sea urchin. The spines of the urchin, so dangerous yet beautiful, serve as an explicit warning.

I started off in the direction of prickly things when I was in my last year at Mass College of Art. It all comes from one idea I had for a box with a secret compartment that would contain a pearl. The box would be shaped like a sea urchin, made of silver. In order to open the box and reveal the secret compartment, you’d have to pull on one of the urchin’s spines. The idea was of something beautiful, sculptural, but that you wouldn’t necessarily want to touch, and that also held a secret treasure. I never developed the small-metals skills to ever make the box, but it got me thinking about that kind of form. I started experimenting with different materials to make urchin forms. I found that nails, pushed through window screen, worked well, and I could use many different types and textures and colors of nails...

...I was constrained a bit with the nails, because I couldn’t get all the turns and twists I wanted. I loved the textures and the contrast between the industrial qualities of the nails and the organic forms of the sculptures, but I wanted more complex forms. I was also thinking about how bad the liquid rubber probably was for my health.

So, I experimented with other pointy things and techniques, and finally hit on turning pencils into beads and sewing them together. Using this combination of technique and materials allows me to retain all the qualities that I want in my work, with the potential for more variety of form."

Saturday, February 10, 2007

Warm Place in a Cold Season: The Rubin

It started with the smile of the security guard in the lobby, and the women checking coats and taking tickets. Then, in that New York City is such a small place kind of way (which is actually more of a we-move-in-small-socioeconomic circles kind of way) it continued with the sighting of a work colleague, a delightful man who adds a wonderful polish to copy and says wonderful things like, "Before I realized it was you, I was going to tell my friend to look at the beautiful golden hair of that woman sitting there." (How can one not love someone who says things like that? For that matter, who can not love Paige of Louis Licari?) I was at the Rubin Museum of Art, at the corner of 17th Street and 7th Avenue, and already I was loving the place.

The beautifully designed Rubin Museum has been up and running since 2004, but this was my first visit. I knew it was housed in the old Barneys building and had kept the famed spiral staircase, and had heard that people left small offerings on the bases of certain statues. But aside from that, I knew nothing more about it than what is mentioned about its evening activities in the post below this (and there's even more going on there at night than I wrote about). It is a beautifully laid out, thoughfully curated museum with many wonderful examples of the art of the Himalayas--bejeweled sculptures, carvings, paintings, textiles. Many of the works are just awe inspiring in their intricacy--a textile that functions as a painting that is done entirely in gold embroidery, for example, that would have been originally viewed in the flickering light of a butter lamp. It really is a total aesthetic experience--there was a musician playing some lovely music at the base of the staircase that leads to the first exhibit, the colors on the gallery walls are warm, the lighting is great, the guards are unobtrusive.

Since I have a friend who spent time in a Mongolian "ger"--a sort of round heavy felt tent--I was particularly interested in the show "Beyond Chinggis Khan," on view until April 16. It "celebrates the 800th anniversary of the founding of the Mongol empire." (Chinggis Khan is the warrior many people know as Genghis Khan, and apparently he wasn't quite as bloody a warrior as legend has it.) There are contemporary photographs mixed in with the sculpture, paintings, ritual objects and masks, and, in keeping with the warm welcome of the place, my friend and I learned from a fellow viewer (who must work there in some capacity) that one of the photographers whose work was on view, Builder Levy, often comes to the museum, and that the photo of the two stallions rearing was quite a feat to accomplish. The stallions had the most beautiful wild manes.

An especially nice touch can be found on the 6th and top floor of the museum, where you can watch the artist-in-residence, Tibetan Pema Rinzin, and his assistants work on a large painting/mural in progress (his second at the Rubin). There's a table behind them, with pencils and graph paper and cushions on the floor, where kids can sit and get a sense of the work that it takes to develop the sense of porportion that is essential to paintings. Despite being, oh, 30 years or so above the target audience for this activity, my friend and I decided to take advantage of this, as did two other adults, and we merrily sketched away, trying to copy the designs shown in the examples of drawings left on the table. The artist eventually came over to speak with us and told us about his work, how he uses his brushes, the educational backgrounds and aspirations of his two assistants (one, Melissa, is an art historian interested in the conservation of Tibetan art, so what better way to learn than to apprentice with someone and actually participate in making the art? I think the other was a former "art handler" at the MET who wanted to become, or was, a teacher).

The museum is a very manageable size, and once you've made your way through the floors, there's a great cafe on the ground floor--you don't have to pay the entrance fee to go there. Off to the side of the cafe, opposite the decent gift shop, was actually the only place where I saw people leave any sort of offerings to the statues. It was actually in the alcove where the bathrooms are, and the statue was--excuse my ignorance--I think it's Ganesh--and the one item left that sticks in my mind is the hot pink guitar pick.

To wrap up, here's what Mark Stevens wrote in New York Magazine about the Rubin: "The Buddha works in mysterious ways. At the behest of energetic Jewish couple Shelley and Donald Rubin, the Enlightened One has symbolically claimed the former Barneys emporium in Chelsea, once the downtown center of hothouse fashion, and transformed Mammon into a temple of Himalayan art...Donald Rubin does not want his museum to become forbiddingly academic. He emphasizes the living quality of Buddhist art, its ability, he says, to stimulate an "emotional rush" in viewers. The floor-wide exhibitions around the staircase are therefore organized by theme rather than by particular time or place. Rubin himself, who lost much of his family in the Holocaust and continues to be troubled by the eruptive violence in the human heart, takes a special interest in the demonic strains of Buddhist art: the nightmarish imagery represents a Buddhist's determination to confront internal demon's—and tame them.