The Unbearable Banishment: Ham ‘n art

Friday, September 23, 2011

Ham ‘n art

I usually sit on a bench and read in Central Park for my lunch hour but there was a terrific, pounding, rainstorm this afternoon so instead I walked across the street and took in the Carlito Carvalhosa: Sum of Days exhibit at MoMA. [Admission is $22.50 but I get in for free using my corporate ID. Working for “The Man” occasionally has its benefits.]

I love these big-room exhibits. It’s interesting to see what happens when you hand an open area this size to an artist. The last really good exhibit I saw in this space was the Marina Abramović bizarro starring contest.

Sum of Days is a floor to ceiling drape of soft, white, translucent fabric that’s hung in a spiral. The material is so thin that as you walk through it, it bellows and breathes when you disturb the air around it.

There are microphones hung that record whatever ambient noise visitors make. People clap, sing and whistle as they pass through and the recordings are played back in the museum. There are also a series of speakers that periodically play pieces by Philip Glass, Mick Rossi and a few others.

It all sounds like a great idea but it didn’t work for me. It reminded me of the world’s largest shower curtain.

My heart didn’t flutter the way it usually does when I turn corner and am faced with a piece this size. And I'm an easy audience!

* * *

I had a bit more time to kill so I wandered amongst the soaking wet tourists and did a quick “greatest hits” tour. I saw Picasso’s landmark Les Demoiselles d'Avignon...

...van Gogh’s crowd-pleasing Starry Night...

...Duchamp’s playful, yet, idiotic Bicycle Wheel...

…Modigliani’s seductive Reclining Nude

…and Matisse’s vibrant Red Studio.

I discovered a new one, too. M’Amenez-y by Francis Picabia. I'm sure it's been hanging there all these years but sometimes you look but don't really see. I don't get it but it's fantastic! Fell free to provide a commentary on this. Use little words, please.

* * *

After that, I went back to my desk, ate a ham sandwich and got back to work. It was a nice repose. I'm sure I'll do it more frequently as the weather deteriorates.

A big de Kooning retrospective just opened at MoMA. 200+ pieces! But you won’t be reading about it here. No, sir! I’m not going. Do you know why? Because I don’t like ugly paintings.


Anonymous dinahmow said...

I've always liked that Modigliani!
I think Picabia was "sticking it up the noses" of pretentious art fops in his day.It's a series of jokes, worked into a painting. On cardboard, yet!
Anyway, here's a link that might give more clue:

And always remember, you don't have to understand everything you like.But I *do* like Modigliani!

September 23, 2011 at 11:31 PM  
Blogger The Unbearable Banishment said...

dinah: I pretty much like ALL Modigliani's. I'm waiting for someone to do a retrospective. Thanks for the link. That explains it. Sort of.

September 23, 2011 at 11:48 PM  
Blogger von LX said...

I don't like the shower curtain piece either. But the important thing is going on these art outings. I feel like I've been allowed to hang around with Ferris Bueller for the afternoon. Thank you, Ferris!

September 24, 2011 at 2:34 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I like Duchamp and his readymades but Etant donnés is my favourite work ever. Have you seen it in the museum at Philly?

September 24, 2011 at 4:01 AM  
Blogger Pat said...

Have you any idea of how lucky you are?
To just wander through that art at lunchtime is such a precious gift.
I'd relish every last blob of paint. I'm easy about the curtains but would like the movement I think.

September 24, 2011 at 6:59 AM  
Anonymous daisyfae said...

if there were microphones everywhere, i'd have no luck resisting the urge to sing the Tweety Bird version of "Singing in the bathtuuuuuub! Happy once again! Watchin' all my twoubles - go washin' down the dwain!"

September 24, 2011 at 7:05 AM  
Blogger The Unbearable Banishment said...

lx: I always appreciate the effort but sometimes the results just aren't there. Next, please.

nurse: Actually, I've never been to that museum in Philly and I hear it's great. What's keeping me?

Pat: I can assure you that over the decades I've never lost my sense of appreciation for NYC. Never will!

Daisy: I couldn't blame you. Microphones are one of your major addictions/weaknesses.

September 24, 2011 at 9:30 AM  
Blogger savannah said...

love the art walk, but damn, sugar, now i am ferociously hungry for a (turkey)ham on rye! ;) xoxoxox

September 24, 2011 at 1:58 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You've never been? Oh but you MUST go. Etant donnés is spectacular - you view it through a chink in the wall. It is one of only two works of art that has brought me to tears. Take the children and go tomorrow

September 24, 2011 at 7:16 PM  
Anonymous looby said...

I've always liked de Kooning, and then years after I got into him someone made a case about his misogyny, but I didn't pick up on that when I discovered him when I was about 11.

The curtain thing - no doubt you'd have to be there to pass judgement but from a look at your post it's too close to the far more ambitious and effective work of Christo (the man who wrapped huge buildings in fabric).

September 25, 2011 at 8:15 AM  
Blogger JZ said...

Picabia was associated with the dada and surrealist movements. I'm not sure there is a true "explanation".

I too am jealous of your ability to just "pop" on in to see things like this. Maybe you're jealous of my small city of 12,000+ acres of parkland, low crime and no public transit that was selected by Businessweek as the Best City in the US, but I doubt it....and if you think living in the NJ 'burbs is painful, try having your largest major concentration of cultural institutions be a 4 hour car trip north ( having an Ikea only 3 hours away is only a modest salve ;-) )

You have a de Kooning retrospective at your fingertips and you're not going to go out due to preconceptions over what is beautiful?!? Come on fella. You'll take a chance on a play any day, but somehow you won't combine your intellectual and instinctual appreciations and apply it to another medium? Heck, you even gave Duchamp major props for Etant I know you're better than this.....don't squander those opportunities or we're going to have to do some life swappin' so you get my point.

September 25, 2011 at 8:15 AM  
Blogger The Unbearable Banishment said...

Nurse: that damn museum is only a few hours down the road. I can't believe I've ignored it all these years. And they have great exhibits.

Looby: I gave de Kooning a fair shot but as time went by I liked him less and less. Christo is great. His Gates project in Central was one of my favorite shows ever. Curtains of orange saffron fabric all through the park. Google it.

September 25, 2011 at 9:04 AM  
Blogger The Unbearable Banishment said...

JZ: You make an excellent point. I was only modestly interested in Kandinsky until I saw the exhibit at the Guggenheim. Now I'm a convert. The same could happen to de K. But I'd be surprised. And, yup, I'm very fortunate to have all this at my disposal. But I hang on my cross for plenty of other things, so don't think it's all peaches and cream.

September 25, 2011 at 9:11 AM  
Blogger tennysoneehemingway said...

Lovely. I wish I lived closer to a gallery like this. Geelong Gallery, while it has some nice pieces, just doesn't really cut it. Having said that, as soon as Syd can walk and talk, I'm taking her there. Got to get her cultured up early!

September 25, 2011 at 10:52 PM  
Blogger Mitzi G Burger said...

Modigliani is totally my favourite from way back. More eye witnessed art, please!

September 26, 2011 at 2:29 AM  
Blogger Pat said...

Looby: unfortunately it seems to me that some of the greatest artists were not nice people. Picasso for instance was a monster. Maybe it goes with the territory.

September 26, 2011 at 5:37 AM  
Blogger The Unbearable Banishment said...

Hem: An excellent idea! Brainwash 'em early. 9-Year Old Daughter walked around The Met like she owns the place.

Mitzi: I'm a fairly recent convert to Modigliani. Perhaps within the last decade or so. Good think I came around!

Pat: It's not just artists. Sports figures, entertainers, writers, etc. There are many monsters who produce masterpieces.

September 26, 2011 at 6:42 AM  
Anonymous Nana said...

Pop across the street sometime... interesting goings on at the Arts & Crafts Museum
Oh, how I miss NYC!

September 26, 2011 at 4:41 PM  

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