‘the equinox’ at moma (tbt)

From last summer at MoMA: seven sculptures grouped together in an installation called The Equinox by Swiss-born American artist Carol Bove. Technically The Equinox is an arrangement rather than an installation (id est, an exhibition rather than a work in itself). When I first walked into the room and saw it I was like … what am I looking at?  The sculptures aren’t impressive ‘wow’ kind of pieces, but there were a serene, beautiful kind of harmony. And I’m a sucker for modernism.

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Carol Bove, The Equinox (installation view and detail), 2013

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lic ps1: the stairs

PS1 is a museum in Long Island City (LIC), not too far from where I lived in Astoria, Queens. Dedicated to contemporary art, PS1 is located in a former school building turned warehouse and was known as the P.S.1 Contemporary Arts Center … then it got affiliated with MoMA so now it’s just called MoMA PS1.

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I think it’s cute that its moniker reflects the original building’s program (P.S. = public school). Also, PS1’s an exhibiting museum rather than a collecting one, which I suppose is fairly normal for contemporary art museums … because they’re all about the contemporary (id est, the now). I had been to PS1 once to attend a lecture/book launch that one of my professors was involved in, but otherwise the trek to LIC from the UWS was not worth it in my eyes. Anyhow, over the summer I lived in Astoria, so before saying adios to NYC I paid PS1 a proper visit. Nice place, but not my favorite.

I liked how there was art everywhere and it had a grittier work-in-progress feel to it compared to the Met (a ‘proper’ museum where things are in gilded frames and I always feel underdressed) or MoMA (a more free-spirited museum due to the type of art on display, but which still adheres to that typical ‘gallery’ look). PS1, however, however, is downright chill.

Take the stairwell, for example. Stairwell A, to be specific.

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This is art. A long-term installation called “In the Woods” (2004) by Ernesto Caivano. Yeah, it’s kind of a grungy space, but it’s the cool hipster kind of grunge that you’d expect from Brooklyn or some such. The walls and ceiling weren’t primed white before Caivano made the space his canvas, but it’s better because of that. It’s an interesting mixture with the concrete, chain-link fencing, hanging light fixtures, rough walls, and this beautiful scene of crossing branches and birds in black laid on top. It just works.

Other stairwells had paintings by other artists. And then some areas were left as … authentic grunge.

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faves from moma’s contemporary

I’m no artist. And I can be quite particular and judge-y, so a lot of times when I see contemporary art I’m just like … eh, no. I love contemporary art, but generally more for the intellectual exercise than for its actual aesthetics. But once in a blue moon I’ll see something and it’s so obviously ‘contemporary’ but in a way that I can actually relate to and simply respond. So here are two pieces from MoMA’s contemporary wing that I just adore.

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“Untitled (Poster Painting)” (2008) by Klara Lidén. I’ve always had a thing for paper. Maybe it’s the architect in me, but I’ve always appreciated the physical texture of paper and its fragility over the sleek unreality of digital or the humdrum tradition of stretched canvas. I love this work, the layering of printed paper, torn and imprecise, curling, struggling to free itself from the wall. And yet at its core, blank and undefined.

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“Play Dead; Real Time” (2003) by Douglas Gordon. This was pretty cool. Normally I’m not a big fan of video art because it tends to be very convoluted and requires you to sit on a weird bench and watch, but this piece had you walking around in order to appreciate the scale of it and the effect of light and changing perspective. The piece took up the entire room, and there were two large screens which had video projected onto them and a smaller monitor on the floor in the corner. So as you walked around in the darkened space, the larger-than-life elephants lumbered about in their brightly lit flat surfaces … and other people made hand shadows.

sunday at the moma

Sunday morning I went to campus. Given that I graduated a few weeks ago, I still spend an awful lot of time on campus. I like working there, but I’ve also been planning an upcoming workshop with some other people and it’s easiest for us all to meet on campus. So … I did some work uptown Sunday morning and I was meeting some people downtown Sunday evening, meaning that I had the afternoon to kill and didn’t want to waste it by going all the way home just to come back. Therefore, I did the only logical thing someone in my position would – I went to MoMA. Woot.

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“Mouse Museum” and “Ray Gun Wing” (1972-1977) by Claes Oldenburg. Going up the main flight of stairs brings you to the open platform where there are these two large black structures (one which is sorta shaped like a mouse head and the other sorta like a ray gun). You step inside and voila … a whole bunch of random crap.  I suppose ‘crap’ is too harsh of a word, but it’s a bunch of knick-knacks and tchotchkes and little toys and plastic things and a whole lotta what-nots and doodads and other various found objects. Eh. I liked Oldenburg’s soft sculptures of food on the 6th floor far better than these weird collections.

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“New Shelton Wet/Dry Doubledecker” (1981) by Jeff Koons. Oh Koons … every time I come to MoMA and see this ‘sculpture’ I can’t help but shake my head. To me, taking two vacuum cleaners, putting them in plexi boxes, and under-lighting them with fluorescents is not art. Apparently MoMA disagrees.

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“Basic House” (1999) by Martín Ruiz de Azúa. This was actually pretty cool. In the design section tucked away in the corner is this inflatable structure that’s supposed to be used as a homeless shelter. I don’t know about that … it’s more likely to be used by some hipster camping out urban-style than by an actual homeless person (who probably wouldn’t appreciate the attention a giant space age-y bubble would bring), but it’s a cool concept nonetheless. Made out of polyester, it’s an ultra-portable, ultra-lightweight structure that can get blown up by the air from sidewalk grilles and then folded up teeny tiny.

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And … as I walked down the street after leaving the museum, I noticed a crowd of people near Radio City and a whole lotta cops. What’s going on? Oh, it’s the Tony Awards. Oh. Okay. Whatever, just another day in New York. Nice way to spend an afternoon especially since I get into MoMA for free – heck yeah!

moma – art not canvas

When you think art, you probably think of the traditional paintings on stretched canvas. Of course if you were to expand your mind a bit, you’d acknowledge that there’s also sculpture in marble or bronze casts, photography in black and white or chromogenic color prints, and maybe even that there’s newfangled media art in video and 35 mm film.

But what about all the other art out there? Well MoMA, being for modern art and all, has a wide range of types of art. And in the modern world, a bunch of art is not on canvas. So let’s explore a bit, shall we?

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Alighiero Boetti. “Tapestry of the Thousand Longest Rivers of the World” (1976-1982). Embroidery on cotton and linen.

Let’s start with a textile, cotton and linen here. It’s on fabric but not canvas and it’s embroidery not painting. Embroidery and the fiber arts often get lumped into the category of craft or folk art, but this isn’t craft, it’s art.

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foreground: Gerald Summers. “Lounge Chair” (1934). Bent birch plywood with pigmented lacquer.
middleground: Alvar Aalto. “Paimio Chair” (1931-1932). Bent plywood, bent laminated birch, and solid birch.

Next up we have plywood chairs. Some would say that it’s a chair, it’s furniture, it’s obviously a piece of craft. Then again, it’s on a wall! It’s on a podium! It’s in a museum! Does that elevate it to the level of painting or sculpture? Must craft and art be mutually exclusive?

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Donald Judd. “Untitled (Stack)” (1967). Lacquer on galvanized iron.

This isn’t furniture, it’s art. Because it’s in a museum, it’s a really pretty green color, and it’s not obviously a chair. But, um … what is it? You don’t just see it, you walk around it, you scooch down to look at it from a different angle, and you treat it like sculpture. But you could set your purse down on it if you weren’t so afraid of the guards and gee, wouldn’t it look cool as shelves in your living room?

So yes, I sort of hijacked this post into a discussion of art versus craft. As an architect, this question is fairly central to my profession – because where does architecture fit with the two? It’s aesthetic and visual, but it’s utilitarian and has a purpose. Architecture that is solely concerned with art neglects issues of climate, place, structure, and suitability. Architecture that is solely concerned with craft is nothing more than a building devoid of life and fails to respond to the social, cultural, and visual implications of its existence.

Huh. Eh, whatever. It is what it is, isn’t it?

where in the world is carmen sandiego?

I have made it back to New York! And I have an apartment! Whew! I came to New York without a place to live, so for a week I was going all over the city looking at places, and in the process did some sightseeing. New York of course has an international bent, from the historic ethnic neighborhoods, to the United Nations, to the zillions of languages spoken in the subways, to the hoards of foreign tourists.

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Exhibit #1: Even my grandmother’s little New York apartment has a gigantic world map. Sure, it’s a tad outdated (depicted is the USSR … it also had East and West Germany labeled over in Europe) but whatever, you get the gist of where countries are. I don’t think there are many grandmothers in Idaho with world maps on their walls.

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Exhibit #2: There is a large globe at Columbus Circle, which is the southwest corner of Central Park and a major subway stop. How much more “this is an international city” can you get other than to display a statue of a globe in a high-traffic area? Okay, so the steel globe isn’t really part of Columbus Circle itself, but it’s part of the Trump International Hotel and Tower, which is at Columbus Circle … so it still counts.

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Exhibit #3: Alighiero Boetti’s embroidered world maps, currently on display at MoMA. I know the Italian artist better as Alighiero e Boetti, which is what he was referred to during his exhibition at the CAMH. I remember reading about his exhibition at work this summer, and was completely surprised when I walked into MoMA and saw his stuff! His retrospective at MoMA is called “Game Plan” and will run until October 1st. Those tapestries are pretty amazing.

I took a few more pictures from MoMA and the Met, which I also went to, but those will have to wait for another post. Yay for New York!