Sunday, January 30, 2011

Darkness and Light

TD in Brooklyn Heights (click on photos to enlarge)

On Wednesday night the forecast called for ten inches of snow. So of course we head out for an adventure. First stop, Brooklyn Heights.
A friend invited us for fun to a reception in an extraordinary house for sale on Cranberry Street. I always enjoy a trip to Brooklyn Heights so off we went. As we came out of the subway station and walked through the streets I realized I had never been to Brooklyn Heights in the winter before; well, why would you come over for a stroll when it was 25 degrees out and snowing? But as we walked along it reminded me of Montreal when I attended McGill University and lived in the "student ghetto." The low buildings and the dark cold night sky brought me back to my college days, and I felt very much at home, again, in Brooklyn Heights.

Brooklyn Heights is a landmarked historic district and is made up of many beautiful nineteenth century houses and buildings.

It reminds me of Cooperstown, another historically landmarked community. I loved the second story alcove perched over the stairs of this house.

We found ourselves at The Promenade which runs along Brooklyn Heights. Beyond the Promenade was the icy, wide, pitch-black East River and then the rising lights of the tip of Manhattan.

Down the street we got a better view of Manhattan. Pedestrians rushed past to get home in the cold.

Needless to say the house on Cranberry Street was quite amazing – huge, and wider than houses in Manhattan. The single-family house was five stories high, had a garden in the back, and this roof deck offering more views of Manhattan.

We hustled back through the dark streets of Brooklyn to the subway for the next stop, the opening reception for friend Philip Monaghan's art exhibition at Fales Library at New York University on Washington Square, which is where the Judson Dance exhibition was recently mounted. As we rushed along Washington Square South, the wind was whipping sleet and snow into the face. We stomped into the library building and up to the third floor gallery in wet coats and hats.

Philip's exhibition of paintings, up at Fale's until April 29th, is composed of paintings he created based on a poem called "Gilligan's Island" written by his friend Tim Dlugos, a prominent poet who died in 1990. At the door of the reception stood waiters wearing white shirts and khaki pants, and offering blue-colored cocktails. Ahh – warmth, bright lights, old friends, and good things to eat and drink. It was like a trip to a "tropic island nest."

TD was friendly with Tim Dlugos too – Tim was actually there the day on Fire Island in 1985 when TD and I met – and TD designed the exhibition catalogue and materials for Philip.

The exhibition is entitled "At Moments Like These He Feels Farthest Away" – a line from the poem which mixes the stories of 60's pop cultural icons "Gilligan's Island" and Alfred Hitchcock's "The Birds" with the assassination of John F. Kennedy. An over-sized image of Tim greets visitors at the entrance of the gallery room.

Inside, the white gallery was packed.

Philip's paintings, mounted neatly on the walls, have a graphic, illustrative quality that perfectly expresses the fantasy aspect the poem. In the paintings, Philip mixes the three different stories together, as Tim did with words. The fifty-four works of oil, drawing and digital prints on canvas create a cohesive narrative, but each painting individually is compelling. The works' light palette and breezy attitude poignantly belie the sadness and loss of that era.

Towards the end of the reception, guests moved into the main room of the library to hear some of Tim's poems read by poets/writers David Trinidad, Eileen Myles, and Brad Gooch. The poems wonderfully capture the voice of a gay man in New York City in the 70's and 80's, and they will soon be available to own and read; A Fast Life, The Collected Poems of Tim Dlugos, edited by David Trinidad, will be published this April.
Then we went back into the gallery to circulate with the paintings. The crowd thinned out, and we could more carefully view Philip's colorful, imaginative vision. Here is Philip on the left in front of his work.

Big congrats to the artist.

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