Friday, July 17, 2015

NYC Part 3: Central Park, Metropolitan Museum of Art, Guggenheim, BB King Blues Club and Grill

Last Tuesday we went to Central Park. We started on the West Side at Strawberry Fields because I wanted to see the famous "Imagine" sculpture. It was really crowded with tourists like us, and there was a busker playing the song on guitar. 

We walked around and saw rowers on the water, turtles on turtle pond, lots of cool statues and landmarks. It is a big place. We did not go to the zoo or anything, we just walked around the park all day. 

It is cool to see the city skyline in the distance or hear cars going by when you're near the street.

We saw Belvedere Castle and the Shakespeare stage where they perform Shakespeare in the park.There were statues outside representing the different plays including Romeo & Juliet and The Tempest. 

We walked to 5th Ave. and went to the Metropolitan Museum of Art. The outside of the building is very cool, with the famous steps. I remember when I used to watch Gossip Girl that the characters would hang out on those famous steps. The building is very iconic. 

The Met is huge so you kind of have to pick and choose which exhibits you want to see and even if you only pick 3 or 4 you could be there for a while because they are organized by geographical location and time period, so the exhibits you want to see could be on different floors on opposite ends of the building.

The first exhibit we wanted to see was Musical Instruments. We walked through Greek and Roman art to get there and saw a lot of marble sculptures that reminded me of the Roman art we saw when we were in Italy a couple of years ago. Musical Instruments was a collection of instruments from all over the world. I really liked this cool kettledrum from Ghana with two figures on either side, one a mother and one a person reading a book. We also saw a contrabass saxophone which was over 6 feet tall, and lots of ornately decorated harpsichords. It was a cool exhibit.

Next I wanted to see 19th and early 20th century European paintings because I wanted to see the Van Goghs and Monets. We walked through Medieval Art to get there and saw lots of Jesuses and lots of ugly babies and a few ugly baby Jesuses.

I really like Vincent Van Gogh. I studied him in school for a project and since I didn't do an Art degree, I don't know much about many artists unless I've seen an exhibit or something. On our way to the exhibit we overheard a woman saying to her friend, "No, that's all Modern Art. I don't care." and we joked that she wanted to wait a hundred years to see if it holds up. Van Gogh only sold one painting in his lifetime so during his life people were saying that about him, and now there are tons of people standing in front of his art and contemplating it and photographing it and some of his paintings are some of the most famous images in the world.
I really loved seeing Cypresses (the one on the left) in person. It was very beautiful.

Next I wanted to see the Egyptian Art because when we were in the Louvre in 2013 I really wanted to see that exhibit but part of it was closed. So in New York I saw my first ever mummy and it was so strange and creepy. It really made me think about art, and death, and how art reflects the values of different cultures through time. The way the Met is set up just kind of leads one to think about that anyways because you go from room to room and see the art of different cultures throughout time and it's all very categorized, but if you want to you can see marble sculptures of gods and paintings of baby Jesus and landscapes and Islamic textiles and suits of armor and American pop art and dead ancient Egyptians all in one place which is pretty crazy to wrap your brain around. The Egyptian Art was the last exhibit we saw. Then we went to the Guggenheim. 

We weren't planning on visiting the Guggenheim when we planned the trip but since we were so close Stephen decided he wanted to see it and I'm so glad he did because I ended up loving it. The building was designed by Frank Lloyd Wright and is just really freaking cool looking. 

The gallery was totally different from the Met. First of all, it is modern art. Second, because of the layout of the building it's impossible to separate art based on geography or time period so it basically has to be a single exhibit but it's too big of a space to be a single artist, I think. Basically, you walk up (or down if you start at the top) a ramp that slowly spirals around the perimeter of the building and view the art as you go.
The exhibit we saw was "Storylines" which is art from the 1990s-present that invokes a narrative or tells a story. Because of the time period most of the art was political, dealing with race, gender, sexuality, war, technology, and global issues. It was really interesting to think about how the work related thematically and why the curator placed certain pieces by each other.
The Guggenheim also got writers to respond to this exhibit by writing something using the art as a prompt. Some of the writings were displayed alongside the descriptions of the art, and there were booklets printed out that included all of them. They are also available on the Guggenheim's website.

There were lots of beautiful pieces I really connected with, like this one called "Untitled (Golden)" by Felix Gonzalez-Torres. The piece I knew from this artist was the pile of candy he made to represent his boyfriend's ideal weight and viewers were invited to take a piece of candy and the diminishing pile represented the boyfriend's weight loss and diminishing health prior to his death from AIDS. The piece we saw at the Guggenheim was also tactile and interactive. We went up a few floors before I even realized it was an installation, because these beaded golden curtains went so well with the architecture of the building. You can see in the photo above this one that the curtains were in all the doorways that led to staircases. I mostly saw children running through them or touching them. They were very cool. 

I think this one is the perfect piece for the "Storylines" exhibit. It is "Phantom Library" by a Polish artist named Agnieszka Kurant. All the books on the shelf are fictional books mentioned in real novels. She designed covers, made barcodes and ISBN numbers, and some of the books even have some text inside. Really interesting.

There was another exhibit in the museum's Tower Level galleries but because of the design of the building these rooms are offshoots of the main gallery so if you walk the spiral you see part of this exhibit on each floor in the midst of viewing the other art, but I thought the exhibit fit well with the "Storylines" exhibit.
The artist's name is Doris Salcedo. She is a Columbian artist whose work is very political and symbolic. It reminded me a lot of the Chinese artist Ai Weiwei because it is more about the metaphor and the process of making it than the actual product. Her art was very poignant and painful The first one we saw was a series of 2 tables stacked on top of each other with soil between and shoots of green grass growing through the top table, symbolizing/memorializing people killed in gang violence in America and guerrilla violence in Columbia. The grass is like grass on the graves, healing and also covering up/forgetting. All of her pieces were very thoughtful and haunting. 
At the very top of the gallery, we saw the installation above, which could have been the first thing we saw but was the last thing we saw, "unland" - 2 halves of mismatched tables sewn together with human hair. The description at the gallery said "The act of stitching is at once a violent and restorative gesture as the surface must be pierced in the process of healing. These works resulted from the artist's interactions with Columbian children who witnessed their parents' murders."
I really loved her work and the experience of visiting the Guggenheim. It was so interesting to go to two such different museums in one day and be able to think about how we curate and display art and what that means for the viewing experience.

That night we went to B.B. King Blues Club and Grill. We ate supper there. The restaurant is called Lucille's after his guitar and they serve Southern U.S. foods. The original B.B. King Blues Club and Grill is in Memphis, the one in Times Square is a second location.

The food was good and we watched The Harlem Blues Project play. This was our fourth concert in three nights, which was awesome. 

Check out my packing tutorial for advice about packing for New York in the summer, and some general tips.

Check out the rest of our NYC trip:
Part 1
Part 2 
Part 4
Part 5
Part 6
Part 7

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