Sunday, February 26, 2017

New York City Art Explored in Two Current Exhibitions




Untitled collage by Robert Rauschenberg from 1957
Coincidentally, two exhibitions currently up now in New York explore art produced in almost contiguous periods during the last century. Inventing Downtown at the Grey Art Gallery at New York University on Washington Square is about artist-run galleries in New York from 1952 to 1965, and Fast Forward at the Whitney Museum of American Art is comprised of paintings produced in the 80s. TD and I thought it would be fun to have a look at both.
At mid-century in New York City, art galleries were located in midtown on 57th Street. The exhibit at the Grey Art Gallery shows how the art scene was transformed by artists who created their own galleries downtown.
The cover of the catalogue shows artist Red Grooms transporting art downtown in a baby carriage. Ah, those were the days – 


At the Grey Art Gallery, admission is free –



There was lots to look at. I particularly liked the Rauschenberg collage pictured at the top. The work of this artist has always hit me. It's abstract and a mix of various media but something about it strikes me emotionally. How did he do that? I was also drawn to the painting below of the great American poet Frank O'Hara by Wolf Kahn from 1954. In 1966, Frank O'Hara fell asleep on the beach on Fire Island and was hit by a Jeep in the dark and killed at age 40.



A wall was hung with a mix of colorful art –



Downstairs was a section devoted to Judson Memorial Church, where TD and I are members. Judson has always been committed to social justice and the arts, and in the 60s, Judson invited artists including Jim Dine and Claes Oldenburg to exhibit their work in its basement gallery. So interesting!

At the new Whitney Museum of American Art in the Meatpacking District, architect Renzo Piano has designed a wonderful building. I like it much more than the Marcel Breuer-designed Whitney uptown on Madison Avenue, which is now part of the Metropolitan Museum of Art. At the new Whitney, outdoor decks and stairways offer striking views of the city.



The Fast Forward exhibit states that in the 80s when artists were turning to new media like video and art installations, many artists actively embraced painting. As the elevator doors open on the top floor on this exhibit, the visitor is greeted by a big, joyful Kenny Scharf painting layered on top of a Keith Haring panel.


On the other side of the entrance, a Jean Michel Basquiat is hung on the same. It's so strikingly graphic. When I moved to New York I once say Andy Warhol come into the nightclub Area with Jean Michel Basquiat. And the Palladium club had a room painted by Kenny Scharf. This all takes me back.



This exhibition was only in three gallery rooms. We were surprised that it was not bigger. Surely a show on 80s paintings could be more extensive. Also, two whole floors of the Whitney are now closed where the 2017 Biennial, which opens on March 17, is now being mounted.
The exhibit includes a giant Julian Schnabel painting on velvet, and a serene abstract painting by Ross Bleckner, which looks like lights glowing in the dark.
I've always been a fan of Eric Fischl's lush figurative painting, and this very large canvas depicts contrasting scenes on a tropical island. On the left, a family of vacationers frolic blithely in the sea while on the right a group of desperate refugees arrive on the shore. A timely statement for right now –



We headed down one flight of stairs at the Whitney to an exhibition of portraits. We'd seen this show already but we took a quick spin through.
A self-portrait of sorts I guess is a painting called Cocktail by Gerald Murphy who is one of my very favorite characters. 




If you haven't read about the fabulous Murphy's do yourself a favor and read Living Well Is the Best Revenge by Calvin Tompkins and then read Everybody Was So Young by Amanda Vaill.
I've always liked the colorful, sparely elegant paintings of Fairfield Porter. The label for this one below, called The Screen Porch, said it pictures Porter's two daughters on the right and his wife on the left and in the middle is poet James Schuyler, with whom Porter was having an open affair...



No wonder no one looks happy. Porter and Schuyler were also friendly with Frank O'Hara.
At the entrance of this exhibit is a handsome wall displaying a variety of portraits in different media – 



– a fitting expression of the range and diversity of American art, which was fostered and nurtured in New York City.

Thursday, January 26, 2017

The Women's March in New York City



On Saturday I had the great joy of marching in the Women's March here in New York City. I have been so extremely upset about the incoming Trump presidency and his racist, sexist, homophobic, xenophobic policies and his appointments and people from Breitbart, the extreme right wing, white nationalist, fringe site, in the White House. Everything has been such dark, bad news. I signed up to march with our church, Judson Memorial Church, and I made the sign above to hang around my neck. My mother had a slogan, "Love is all," and this seemed like an appropriate twist on the message for the occasion.
TD went on a bus with Judson along with our nephew Aaron down to Washington D.C. to march.  He made the sign below to pin on his jacket, dedicated to his mother Edna, a die-hard Democrat who passed away a few years ago.


In New York City I made plans to meet up with the Judson group and also invited my brother Thom and sister-in-law Karen to join us and they invited their friend Kathy from Mamaroneck. A jolly group. I rode my bike uptown and we met up with Judson and then all proceeded up Third Avenue. The directions from the march leaders were to enter the march at Third Avenue and 47th Street so that's where we went. And waited there standing and not moving for an hour and half. It was bad planning or too many people but in any case the corner got more and more crowded as people flooded in and nobody moved. The sky was cold and dark. Everyone was peaceful and pleasant but the crowding got dangerous.


Finally people moved eastward toward Second Avenue where the march was supposed to start. Thom and Karen and Kathy and I moved with the crowd and we lost the Judson contingent. Then suddenly it became apparent that we couldn't go forward and the crowd turned around about face and started chanting "Go to Fifth!" The crowd was going rogue and not following the march route and doing directly over to Fifth Avenue. We threaded single file across Third Avenue around cars which were stopped in their tracks. On we went over to Lexington where strings of buses were similarly stalled. Thom had enough and went up to the subway. Karen and Kathy stayed but as I filed through layers of stationary buses on Lexington, I lost them. I was by myself.
On I went determined to get to Fifth Avenue to join the march. Finally I reached Fifth and stepped on to the avenue which was packed with people shoulder to shoulder. The sun came out, the sky was blue, it was warm! It was like reaching the Emerald City.


As far as the eye could see, looking uptown or down, was a sea of people.


It really was an amazing sight. I've never experienced anything like it in New York City. The turnout was just gargantuan. And it felt good to be there and participating. The cool, good-looking crowd was a majority of women but a lot of men, and a range of all ages from small children to seniors. People were there with their parents and grandparents. The march site had indicated that we would march past Trump Tower on Fifth Avenue at 56th Street and everyone wanted to get there. But progress was slow. It took about an hour to go one block from 47th to 48th. I decided to peel off and go around up to 57th and Fifth. When I got there, surprise, police barricades. The police were diverting the crowd off Fifth at 55th Street so the march could not pass by Trump Tower. Cowardly.


But a lot of people were hanging out at 57th Street and Fifth, in front of Bergdorf Goodman, which was fun. The signs that people carried were clever. My favorite one, which was huge and carried by two people, said "Small march, sad," mimicking Donald Trump's pathetic tweets.
People were like-minded and wanted to connect. I started talking to a young woman and her mother and her grandmother. The grandmother lived on Riverside Drive and she was the most upset off all. Another guy struck up a conversation about the crowd size estimate. People enjoyed being together in solidarity against what is happening. Honestly I didn't want to leave but it was getting cold and late.
I had to pick up my bike so I headed down to 42nd Street. I was shocked to find that at 5:00, 42nd Street was completely packed with people who were just beginning the march, which was supposed to be over at 4:00. 


And marches just like it were going on across the country and the world. Political scientists said that Saturday was the biggest day of protest in history. It was so encouraging to see the massive turnout and realize that there are so many people who are opposed to this darkness. We can fight this. We can.

Friday, December 23, 2016

The Holiday Pleasures of Bergdorf Goodman




Bergdorf Goodman is is one of my favorite places in New York and I wrote a chapter about working for the store in my book How I Look. Last week I stopped into BG, which was recently designated a New York City landmark and is now decked out in its holiday finery. The big holiday windows that glow jewel-like on Fifth Avenue are dazzling at night. This year the theme is adventures and emerald-green tones were prevalent throughout. In the window pictured above, a jungle princess resplendent in a Marc Jacobs gown perched next to an exotic and elegant gorilla that was completely covered in green beads.
A damsel wearing a CD Greene sequined gown and carrying a dainty parasol tippy-toed on a tightrope over a river filled with fish below –


On the 58th Street side, a holiday reveler was dressed in a colorful Libertine coat –

When Bergdorf Goodman was recently renovated, a new window was punched into the wall on 58th Street offering a fresh view from the sidewalk into the store. Colorful dresses by Gucci, Marchesa and Valentino lured the eye in –



Inside the main door, event designer David Monn, who we met in November, has constructed a collage-like, pale grey Christmas tree which echoes the tones of the store's interior –



Throughout the store, clothes on display, like this Gucci dress, looked like festive Christmas ornaments themselves –



One of my favorite corners in Bergdorf Goodman houses the Los Angeles-based label Libertine. The clothes are embellished with all kinds of happy beads and sequins and decorations –



The clash of colors and textures at Libertine is delightful –



Around the corner, Prada presented a cleansing contrast in sharp black and white –



Bergdorf Goodman always offers an entertaining eyeful. But it was a freezing cold night and I was happy to get home to our cozy Christmas tree –



I am wishing you all the best for warm and cozy holidays!

Friday, November 18, 2016

David Monn's Joyful "Art of Celebrating" Book and Party



David Monn decorated the extraordinary Rose Reading Room with red-fringed lampshades for a New York Public Library Lions gala (images from the book courtesy of David Monn). 

A beautiful party can offer an enchanting escape from daily life, and to be able to organize a wonderful party is a gift. Events planner David Monn is well known in New York for the parties he has designed including benefits for the New York Public Library and Guggenheim Museum, the Metropolitan Museum of Art Costume Institute Gala and a White House state dinner. Now he has produced his first book, The Art of Celebrating, a hefty, over-sized 400 page tome published by Vendome Press that features 26 of his events, and he recently hosted a wonderous book party at the New York Public Library to celebrate its publication (more about that affair below).



David grew up in the town of Fayetteville, Pennsylvania, and he writes in his book about arriving in New York unable to afford college so he educated himself by observing the beauty of the city. After working in interior design and the jewelry business, he started his events planning business in 2004 and quickly got some big commissions. Now his company with 25 employees plans weddings, anniversaries, birthdays, parties and galas.
For another Literary Lions gala, David Monn transformed the McGraw Rotunda into a forest with hanging lanterns –


At the Metropolitan Museum, a Costume Institute evening in honor of Chanel found David creating a French formal garden with defining boxwood and hedges in the Charles Englehard Court of the American wing. Fragrant gardenias made up the centerpieces, and the facade of the First American Bank, built in 1822, was dramatically lit at the rear  –



In Baltimore at a wedding rehearsal dinner held in the American Visionary Art Museum in Baltimore, David asked artists to recreate Monet's dreamy water lily paints for a romantic backdrop. Pretty ranuculus flowers on the tables repeated the paintings' pastels –


Farther abroad, David designed a birthday party in the Palazzo Pisani Moretta in Venice. Cocktails were served in the Grand Salon whose walls are covered in their original fabric –


To mark the book's publication, David hosted a party this week at the New York Public Library. As TD and I approached the Library's majestic entrance on Fifth Avenue, we saw that elegant, tall, white candles in glass globes lined the steps of the Stephen A. Schwarzman Building to announce the party –


Inside, the Gottesman Exhibition Hall was decorated with faux apple trees which were strung with white lights that looked like flowers –


The scent of jasmine filled the air. Impressionistic Monet water lily-like murals were hung here too, lining the walls over chic seating areas brought in for the party –


There were four bars, which was convenient and nice not to have a long wait at a bar. And there were delicious food stands everywhere one looked offering oysters and shrimp, eggplant parmigiana, wonderful pigs in a blanket, sliced jambon serrano ham –



The event moved out into the vaulted Astor Hall. David gave his remarks and thanks, and then on the opposite stairway singer Lisa Fischer performed a soaring rendition of "I Dream in Color" –


The Abyssinian Baptist Church Cathedral Choir from Harlem sang some gloriously uplifting gospel music which was especially moving to me after the upsetting and sad political news of the week –


Yours truly with Mr. Monn –

When finally we peeled ourselves away to leave and return to the world outside, a band from Elan Artists was performing Prince's powerful "Purple Rain." The event was a magical moment of beauty, which the world can really use right now. That's what I call a book party.

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Sense & Sensibility at The Gym at Judson



Watch this video trailer to get a taste of this lively Sense & Sensibility.

Recently my friend Elliott and I enjoyed the Off-Broadway production of Sense & Sensibility that has been created by the innovative Bedlam theater company and is on the boards at The Gym at Judson Memorial Church, which is the theater space in the church that TD and I attend. Though I have not read the Jane Austen book, I am a big fan of the 1995 movie that starred Emma Thompson and Kate Winslet, and was directed by Ang Lee, so I was looking forward to seeing this show about the romantic plight of the Dashwood sisters who suddenly find their fortunes diminished.

Though the book is set in the refined and proper English Regency period, this adaptation, written by Kate Hamill who also stars as Marianne Dashwood, is a zippy and energetic romp through the 1811 literary classic. The Bedlam theater company is renowned for it's fresh, new productions that dissolve the wall between actors and audience, creating an intimacy and immediacy that draws the viewers in. The show is very inventively staged with furniture on wheels so tables and chairs and parts of the scenery whiz and spin by. Elliott and I sat in the front row and I had to pull in my feet so that my toes didn't get run over as furniture sped past. Some actors play several parts and laugh-out-loud humor leads to quiet, moving moments. In this clever production, the buttoned-up English classic is infused with a modern, airy, breathlessness that is irresistibly entertaining.     
You can get your tickets here – this amusing escapade is up until November 20. 



Monday, October 3, 2016

A Boehlert Wedding at a Vanderbilt Camp



Great Camp Sagamore on Sagamore Lake (click on photos to enlarge)
A couple weeks ago TD and I had the pleasure of attending the wedding of Maggie Boehlert, who is the daughter of my cousin Peter, and her beau Adam Blossom. Peter and I are the same age and he was my childhood pal. Growing up, we usually spent a week or more in the summer and the week between Christmas and New Year's together, and we laughed nonstop. This wedding weekend was held at Great Camp Sagamore on Sagamore Lake in the Adirondacks in upstate New York, and TD and I had a wonderful time.

In a rented car we zipped up the New York State Thruway and then the Northway to Lake George where we then drove west into the Adirondack Park for about an hour and half to arrive ultimately at Great Camp Sagamore near Raquette Lake. It was a fascinating place to visit. Camp Sagamore was originally built in 1897 by William West Durant, who designed and built camps in the Great Adirondack Style using native materials like logs and cut stone. Durant was forced to sell due to financial problems, and businessman and sportsman Alfred Vanderbilt (pictured below) purchased the property in 1901. Returning from England in 1915 aboard the Lusitania, Alfred was among the 1,198 killed when the ocean liner was sunk by a German submarine. Alfred's widow Margaret, his second wife and heiress to the Bromo-Seltzer fortune, carried on, expanding the property and entertaining the leading lights of Hollywood, Broadway and Washington, D.C. at the camp in the woods.


The Vanderbilts used the camp until the 1950s. It eventually became a non-profit and today Great Camp Sagamore is used for educational purposes as a place where visitors can explore Adirondack culture and nature. 
When we arrived we checked in. I loved our big room in the Lodge, which the literature said was the Vanderbilt master bedroom.


It had wonderful camp furniture made out of logs and branches, and the old-fashioned patterned wallpaper featured deer in the woods. A big fireplace was made out of locally-cut granite.


New York City was boiling hot when we left but up in the Adirondacks the air was cool and Sagamore Lake so quiet and serene.  

On Saturday we had fun visiting with my cousins and meeting other friends and family members. TD and I walked around the grounds which was dotted with cottages, a blacksmith shop, school house and carriage house, as well as a real bowling alley.


In the morning we took a guided canoe tour of the lake. At one point we passed an overgrown steep incline down to the water which we were told had been a winter snow sledding hill; somewhere in the camp was a photograph of guest Gary Cooper sledding down the steep hill to the lake. Later in the day we had a refreshing swim in the lake out to the raft.


On Saturday night at last it was time for the main event. We all gathered in the boat house on the edge of the lake and Maggie processed in on the arms of her mother and father to marry Adam. Afterwords, Maggie and Adam in the center gathered for a photo with my cousin Peter and his wife Lorie on the right and sister Dottie and her husband Bryce on the left - Good looking group, no? Congrats to the newlyweds!


Guests filed into the Dining Hall where we sat at great long tables decorated with white country flowers. The delicious family-style dinner was catered by Sisters Bistro, a restaurant in nearby Old Forge.


After dinner we headed up to the Play House (yes, the Vanderbilts had a Play House) for locally-made ice cream sandwiches. Peter and Maggie had a father-daughter dance together.


And then the DJ let loose with some rowdy rock 'n roll for dancing late into the night.
The next morning we stirred to fortify ourselves with breakfast in the
Dining Hall overlooking the peaceful lake.


Soon it was time to be on our way. We said goodbyes and left on Sunday with tales of the Vanderbilts and memories of Maggie as a beautiful bride –