Archive for the ‘Museum’ Category

Henri Matisse at MoMA, Drawing on the F Train

Tuesday, July 27th, 2010

It’s been so hot and humid in New York this month that I’ve just been carrying around a little pocket sketchbook with a pencil and a pen to do light drawings with. No book bag to carry on the train or my bike!

This last Monday I took the F train up to MoMA, and did some drawings on the way. I didn’t think I’d get in to see the Matisse exhibit—they’re doing a timed-ticket entry to help facilitate the crowds—but after seeing the Picasso Variations exhibit again and the Alternative Abstractions show, I took the escalator up to the Tisch gallery on the sixth floor anyway;  it was already after five o’clock, and traffic was light enough that they were allowing folks to walk through. What a treat:  I had several of the galleries practically to myself while the guards were winding things down for closing time.

I’ll go back for another visit, but for now my favorite things were the little line drawings done on paper, some of them not much bigger than a matchbook, and the large Bathers by a River from the Chicago Art Institute.

I made this little Flash Movie from some of the pages in my sketchbook—all done with rapidograph pen and pencil.  Some of these are subway riders, others are quick sketches copied from Matisse.

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Harold’s Favorite Art Exhibits of 2009

Thursday, December 10th, 2009

James Ensor at MoMa


Drawings from the Compass in Hand exhibit at MoMa

YellowFever Live at the Whitney

YellowFever Live at the Whitney

Walking out of the Francis Bacon show at the Metropolitan Museum and looking at the beautiful Joachim Patinir triptych in the European Paintings Galleries.

Walking out of the Francis Bacon show at the Metropolitan Museum and looking at the beautiful Joachim Patinir triptych in the European Paintings Galleries.

The Alice Neel show at David Zwirner's Gallery in Chelsea

The Alice Neel show at David Zwirner's Gallery in Chelsea

Another Alice Neel

Another Alice Neel

The Caillebotte show at the Brooklyn Art Museum

The Caillebotte show at the Brooklyn Art Museum

To be continued . . .

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Drawings from the Archives

Thursday, December 3rd, 2009

Pen and Ink drawing I did this last year of the skull of a 28-year-old (Croatian?) man who was apparently killed by a blow to the head. This is an epoxy plastic copy purchased from Maxilla and Mandible in New York City, near the Natural History Museum.

New York City Checkout Line at the Met Foods on Smith Street in Brooklyn

Checkout Line at the Met Foods on Smith Street in Brooklyn

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YellowFever Live at the Whitney

Wednesday, August 12th, 2009

YellowFever is a duo from Texas; while I was checking out the Dan Graham show they came in to play one of the Friday Night “Live At The Whitney” concerts; I had to watch from above the stage on the balcony because the space was packed and the museum guards wouldn’t let me draw while standing on the stairwell.

YellowFever 1

YellowFever 2

People lining up at the Whitney entrance:

Whitney Entrance YellowFever

Whitney ArtOMat

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The Art of Seeing: the Practice of Keeping a Sketchbook

Tuesday, August 4th, 2009

The New York Times this week featured an engaging article by Michael Kimmelman about the once ubiquitous activity of sketchbook drawing.  Mr. Kimmelman notes that travelers “who took the Grand Tour across Europe during the 18th century spent months and years learning languages, meeting politicians, philosophers and artists and bore sketchbooks in which to draw and paint — to record their memories and help them see better.  Cameras replaced sketching by the last century; convenience trumped engagement, the viewfinder afforded emotional distance and many people no longer felt the same urgency to look.”  Taking the time to slow down and consider one’s experience is an essential part of keeping a sketchbook, and indeed it seems rare to find people actively drawing this way as a regular practice any more.

Drawing has always, at least until recently, been a fundamental basis for most other creative pursuits, whether in architecture, painting, sculpture, or costume and fashion design.  Even dancers have been known to work out difficult choreography with a drawing.  Botanists, anthropologists, archaeologists, zoologists and a whole spectrum of people engaged in “scientific” pursuits made drawings as part of their practice of scientific observation.  Think of Lewis and Clark, recording flora and fauna in bound sketchbooks that they carried with them on their long, adventurous trek into a new world.

Michelangelo, who made this drawing a few years before his death, was asked by a younger man for advice about how to proceed in becoming an artist.  The story goes that the old master’s response was simply, “draw, draw, draw.”  Compared with our 18th and 19th century forebears, touring the continent with their baedekers, pencils and watercolors in hand, we are all probably suffering from technologically-induced attention deficit disorder.  Perhaps my own need to keep a sketchbook handy is an attempt to cure myself of this illness, or to at least create a buffer of sorts that might hold the disease at bay for a while.

One of my sketchbook entries from the recent Caillebotte exhibit at the Brooklyn Art Museum:

After Caillebotte_2

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Museums and Women

Monday, July 6th, 2009

Martin Puryear 1

Seurat at MOMA


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The Lost World: Guarding the Metropolitan Museum

Thursday, July 2nd, 2009

While going through some old files, I found this bit of ephemera from when I worked as a guard at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, from 1993 to 1999.  In the employee cafeteria there, which was under the Egyptian Wing at that time, there was a bulletin board where the folks who worked in the building would post various notices:  jobs, old stereo equipment for sale, used cars, wedding and baby-shower announcements, funerals, retirements, flyers for a performance or an art exhibit, and so on.  

Many of the guards who worked at the Met were artists like myself, or musicians, poets, fiction writers, actors and other creative people.  One man that I knew was a Tibetan scholar with the equivalent of a western PhD degree, who had written an important text on aspects of vajrayana meditation. Anyway, one day I found this poem by Randall Jarrell photocopied and pinned up to the employee bulletin board; I thought it summarized something poignant about the situation of working as a security guard at an Art Museum:

The Lost World 2

One day last weekend while visiting the Francis Bacon exhibit, I saw someone I knew still working as a guard there.  She told me about a big layoff that was coming:  100 people, apparently, were about to be let go from their positions there, and in spite of the fact that the guards have a union!  No wonder I noticed that many of the galleries were roped off to the public:  not enough guards to keep them open, and soon there will be even less, if what I heard is actually true.  

Here’s one of the enigromatic notebooks that I carried in my coat when I worked at the Met:

Notebook 187

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Africa and Egypt in Brooklyn

Tuesday, June 16th, 2009

My friend Amala and I went over to the Brooklyn Museum last week and spent some time in the African Galleries on the first floor.  This mask is one of the first things you see on display when you walk into the exhibition space.  There’s a video playing next to it that shows some of the dances where these masks were worn.  Amala and I had a discussion about the Dogon Star People:  a civilization in Africa with a special understanding of astronomy, who believe they are from the constellation Pleiades.  I seem to remember reading about them in Robert Farris Thompson’s book, Flash of the Spirit.  I remember Thompson’s work was being discussed a lot when I was studying painting and drawing at the Yale Summer School of Art, back in 1985.

The Brooklyn Museum has an enormous Egyptian collection; I think I read somewhere that it rivals or even surpasses the Metropolitan Museum in the sheer number of objects that they have on display.  The Brooklyn Museum strives to be “user friendly” in that they post a lot of information about the objects that you’re looking at.  There were several timelines showing the entire span of Egyptian civilization and where the various objects fit onto the timeline.  This little statue of Horus is about a foot tall; I think it was from the Middle Kingdom:

African Headdress


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