Thursday, March 30, 2017

Celebrating "Signature Spaces" at Gerald Bland




Yours truly with decorators and authors Philip Vergeylen and Paolo Moschino at Gerald Bland. 
My friend Michael Boodro, the editor of Elle Decor, recently invited me to celebrate the publication of a sumptuous book called Signature Spaces - Well Travelled Interiors by the London-based decorators Philip Vergeylen and Paolo Moschino –



The book party was held at Gerald Bland, which is a well-known gallery on East 59th Street that features a striking collection of furniture and art. At Gerald Bland, guests pressed into a smaller gallery to greet the authors and buy the book –



     I had the chance to meet the charming designers and congratulate them on their luxurious book, which was published by Vendome Press. With an introduction by Min Hogg, the esteemed former editor of The World of Interiors, the book includes lavish photographs by Simon Upton of the firm's interiors created for clients around the world. Interspersed throughout the book are arresting images like an iconic photograph of Babe Paley and a favorite Balthus painting, plus inspiring quotes including:
"I'm going to make everything around me beautiful - that will be my life."  - Elsie de Wolfe
"Style is a simply way of saying complicated things." - Jean Cocteau
"We think the book is a lot of fun," said Paolo, and it is. Since the tome is subtitled "Well-Travelled Interiors," I asked them what their preferred destination is. Marrakesh is their favorite, where they have a home that is easy to fly to from London.
     Afterwards, I had a look around Gerald Bland, which is quite a beautiful gallery that I had not visited before. Mr. Bland ran the English furniture department at Sotheby's before opening his own business in 1987. Now his gallery presents an eclectic collection of antique and modern furniture and contemporary art. Just as Philip Vergeylen and Paolo Moschino mixed interiors and portraits and quotes in their book, Gerald Bland arranges furnishings and art from vastly different periods in several large galleries and rooms, and the effect is very sophisticated. You have to know what you're doing to mix it up that well. The lighting throughout was alluring, and many of the rooms and vignettes featured a green plant or tree. A touch of nature is a welcome addition to elegant furnishings and art. Between the book and the gallery, the whole trip was an eyeful. After a glass of red wine, I headed downtown to meet TD at a friend's home for dinner, marveling at the treasures that New York has to offer.

Sunday, February 26, 2017

New York City Art Explored in Two Current Exhibitions




Untitled collage by Robert Rauschenberg from 1957
There is a never-ending stream of interesting art shows to see in New York, and coincidentally two now explore art produced in almost contiguous periods during the twentieth 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 when it moved downtown as artists created their own galleries.
The cover of the catalogue pictures 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 colorful mix of 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. It's fascinating history.

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 an eye-popping Kenny Scharf painting layered on top of a Keith Haring panel.


On the other side of the entrance, a Jean Michel Basquiat painting is hung on the same. The combination is strikingly graphic. When I moved to New York I once saw 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 below 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 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 left and his wife on the right 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 has been 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.