Your (Rest of) Winter Break Art Guide
Written by Bwog Staff
For those of you in the city during break, Bwog art correspondent Kristina Budelis fills you in on what’s happening at the museums and galleries around town:
After weeks of dreaming about break, followed by a few more weeks of blithe freedom, some students may yearn to spice up the cycle of sleeping, eating, job hunting, and the occasional Facebook stalking. For the fortunate few still meandering around the city, seize these gloriously homework-free days and explore some of the museums and galleries you’ve been neglecting. After all, you won’t have your CUID forever.
For the ADD art connoisseur, the Philippe de Montebello exhibit is a must-see. Montebello, the longest-serving director in the Met’s history, is about to retire, and, to celebrate his going-away in style, the Met’s curators have assembled about 300 of the most exciting and transformative works from the 84,000 acquired during his 30-year tenure. The exhibit is highly eclectic, completely eschewing cohesion, but you’ll be too busy swiveling your head to care. The works span from Roman rings and Egyptian amulets to post-modern painting and black-and-white photography, and viewing such works side-by-side produces some unexpected dynamics. The exhibit not only celebrates Mr. Montebello’s tenure, but also provides a snapshot of the Met’s collection at a crucial turning point in its history.
Reality Check: Truth and Illusion in Contemporary Photography has a pretentiously vague and ambitious mission statement: to “survey the ways in which artists exploit photography’s fundamental illusionism to create a sense of ambiguity about what is real and what is not.” Yet the exhibit is beautifully executed, and successfully presents a cross-section of contemporary photography and (okay, fine) its “fundamental illusionism.” Some of the photos are highly photoshopped, and will make you pause as you marvel at the surreal colors, while others are industrially focused and minimalist in style. Meanwhile, Philip-Lorca diCorcia’s intimate portraits and Joel Sternfeld’s contemplative landscape will reassure you that some things will never go out of style.
As Peter Schjeldahl wrote in a recent issue of The New Yorker, “to view William Eggleston: Democratic Camera, Photographs and Video, 1961-2008, at the Whitney, is to be pummelled by eccentric beauty, and to wonder about it.” Eggleston was one of the pioneers of fine art color photography, and you’ll realize right away why his photographs made a splash. The colors in his dye-transfer prints are sometimes delicate and sometimes drunk with vibrancy, but always alluring. His treatment of simple, every day subject matter and his environmental portraits will make you want to go out and buy some color film. The exhibit also shows his early black and white work and incorporates his video work, nicely illustrating the projectory of his career.
Alexander Calder: The Paris Years (1926-1933) is playful and electrifying. It features the early work of Alexander Calder, a 20th Century renaissance man. Although he started out as a mechanical engineering major, his inventive, creative spirit led him to painting, lithographs, jewelry and the invention of the mobile. He redefined the medium of sculpture by transitioning from marble and clay busts to those of wire. And like his drawings, his expressive sculptures have a sketch-like, even doodle-esque nature. Be sure to check out his project “The Circus,” in which he created a miniature circus designed to fit into suitcases so he could travel with it. It is a large, sprawling exhibit, but it is also as lively and enthralling as a good magic show.
Bwog already wrote about MoMA recently, and if you have not yet seen the Miro exhibition (which ends on the 12th), you should. His early paintings, evocative in their simplicity, will convince even the biggest modern art skeptic that sometimes trying to achieve the maximum of feeling with the minimum of means is both attainable and, well, really cool. His surrealist and Dadaist art will make you think, and his wild use of color will satisfy the wannabe psychedelic drug user within us all. The exhibit does a good job of charting his meandering artistic journey, and the plethora of styles on display will give you hope that you too can transcend indecisiveness and pull your life together some day. Plus, the curator’s notes are among the best that Bwog has even seen – witty, accessible and insightful without a hint of pretension.
And whenever you go, check out the film schedule before you hop on the subway. They often have a great selection of free movies that will win you major indie cred with your film major friends.
If you’ve ever been to Lincoln Center (see right), you’ve experienced the magic of Chagall. While Bwog was a little disappointed that the murals in Chagall and the Artists of the Russian Jewish Theater, 1919-1949 were earlier and less colorful than Chagall’s more famous works, there are several large-scale theater murals you can get lost in. These are accompanied by a smattering of his preparatory sketches, and a few rooms of other artists who worked on Russian Jewish theatre productions in the 1920s and 30s. The exhibit provides great insight into this cultural moment of the Soviet Union, and the write-ups will intrigue the History majors among you.
While you’re at the Jewish Museum, be sure to swing by the Dead Sea Scrolls on the 3rd Floor as well. We hear they’re sort of important. Note: The Jewish Museum does NOT participate in “Passport to New York,” so you will actually have to shell out $7.50 for this one. But if it’s time you value, it’s a quick M106 bus ride from Broadway.
Duane Michals: Photographs from the Floating World features 32 color prints, in the shape of fans, with hand-applied, poetic text. Taken aback? So was Bwog, but in a good way. The unconventional form aims to evoke the Japenese Ukiyo-e aesthetic of the so-called “floating world” of sophisticated culture. And Michals, like Francois-Marie Banier, has long incorporated text with his photographs. Although this photographer has a background in commercial and fashion photography, most associate him with his very artsy, very haunting, very erotic black and white mini-sequences.
Thus, this exhibit marks a significant shift in his fine art style : he is working in color, and, despite the unconventional form of the photos, it feels like he is trying to fuse his formerly distinct commercial and fine art styles. Some of the photographs could be straight out of a Vanity Fair fashion shoot or a Kodak ad, which is odd given the unconventional format and the poetic, conceptual words scrawled at the bottom of the frame. One gets the sense that this is an attempt at re-molding his style and not a cohesive or polished final project, but whatever it is, it’s deliciously fresh and delightfully dream-like.