Monday, August 7, 2017

NYC Day 49: In Which I Hit Up Harlem For The Black Culture

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Apart from attending a couple of Wednesday Night Amateur Night events at the Apollo Theater in Harlem, I have not made time to check out some of the fine cultural institutions that Harlem is well known for. And as much fun as Amateur Nights are, the focus, understandably, is on music, not on politics. So today was the day I changed my focus from pop to politics.

My first stop of the day was the Studio Museum in Harlem (at 144, West 125th Street). Currently there are nine small, but important exhibitions underway at the Studio Museum, many of which are due to end this month (on August 27th, 2017). In fact by the time you read this, the exhibition Regarding The Figure will have wound up on August 6th. You still have several weeks to take a look at Rico Gatson's delightful series, Icons 2007-2017, featuring dozens of well known African-American icons, all of whom have multi-colored lines shooting out from various areas of their bodies like rays of sunshine.

'Chuck' Just one of Rico Gatson's many images, this one featuring Chuck Berry 
Above: General view of the Rico Gatson exhibition which closes August 27, 2017.

Below: Cassius, 2007by Rico Gatson.

The Studio Museum in Harlem is the nexus for artists of African descent locally, nationally and internationally and for work that has been inspired and influenced by black culture. It is a site for the dynamic exchange of ideas about art and society.
The Studio Museum in Harlem was founded in 1968 by a diverse group of artists, community activists and philanthropists who envisioned a new kind of museum that not only displays artwork but also supports artists and arts education. 
The Studio Museum in Harlem is internationally known for its catalytic role in promoting the works of artists of African descent. The Artist-in-Residence program was one of the Museum’s founding initiatives, and gives the Museum the “Studio” in its name. The program has supported more than one hundred emerging artists of African or Latino descent, many of whom who have gone on to establish highly regarded careers. Alumni include Chakaia Booker, David Hammons, Kerry James Marshall, Julie Mehretu, Wangechi Mutu, Mickalene Thomas and Kehinde Wiley. 

Above: Julie Mehretu's 2004 piece, Entropia at Studio Museum in Harlem.

The New York Times recently ran a feature on the artist Julie Mehretu (mentioned in the previous paragraph). She has indeed gone on to establish a "highly regarded" career, with her latest project, two monumental canvasses having already sold for $4.6 million.

Above: One of two, new monumental works currently underway by Julie Mehreetu. Out of interest, if her work Entropia was placed at the foot of the above work, it would be not much bigger than one of the wheels on the lifter she is standing on. Read the New York Times article here...
The Studio Museum serves as a bridge between artists of African descent and a broad and diverse public. A wide variety of programs bring art alive for audiences of all ages—from toddlers to seniors—through talks, tours, art-making activities, performances and on- and off-site educational programs. Museum exhibitions expand the personal, public and academic understanding of modern and contemporary art by artists of African descent. 
Above: Nwantinti, 2012, by the Nigerian artist, Njideka Akunyili Crosby.

The late Barkley L. Hendricks painted this wonderful icon, Lawdy Mama, in 1969.

Incognito. The British filmmaker, Isaac Julien created this full sized and very life-like figure of Melvin Van Peebles, the great African-American filmmaker in 2003. 
The Museum’s permanent collection includes nearly two thousand paintings, sculptures, watercolors, drawings, pastels, prints, photographs, mixed-media works and installations dating from the nineteenth century to the present. 
The Museum also is the custodian of an extensive archive of the work of photographer James VanDerZee, the quintessential chronicler of the Harlem community from 1906 to 1983.
 The Jamel Shabazz exhibition closes August 27, 2017.

Their Own Harlems closes January 7, 2018.

Three works from Their Own Harlems. 
If You Go
Thursday-Friday: 12:00pm - 9:00pm
Saturday: 10:00am - 6:00pm; Sunday: 12:00pm - 6:00pm
Closed Monday to Wednesday, and Thanksgiving, Christmas, Memorial, and Independence Days

Adults $7.00
Seniors/Students $3.00
Free for members and children under 12
Free every Sunday thanks to the support of Target

Acknowledment: Thanks to the Studio Museum in Harlem website for the background information contained in this post.

From the Studio Museum in Harlem I went up to 135th Street and spent some time in the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, but as I had to cut my visit short, I will return for a longer visit in a week or so and write about that center then.

Thursday 3, August | Expenses $19.50 ($24.50)

Thursday, August 3, 2017

NYC Day 48: In Which I Stand in Awe at The Feet of The Great Villalpando

Moses and the Brazen Serpent and the Transfiguration of Jesus
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The plan today, was to return again to the Met Museum for a few hours, and then make my way across Central Park to the Lincoln Center in plenty of time to catch Angelique Kidjo performing the Talking Heads classic album, Remain in Light, along with a set from the British ensemble Ibibio Sound Machine, both at Damrosch Park. I made it to the museum okay, and as usual headed straight for the cafeteria on the lower ground floor. From there I was just steps away from a wonderful new exhibition, Cristóbal de Villalpando: Mexican Painter of the Baroque.
Cristóbal de Villalpando (ca. 1649–1714) emerged in the 1680s not only as the leading painter in Mexico, but also as one of the most innovative and accomplished artists in the entire Spanish world. This exhibition features his earliest masterpiece, a monumental painting showing two scenes—Moses and the brazen serpent, and the Transfiguration of Jesus—in an unprecedented juxtaposition of these Old and New Testament subjects. Painted in 1683 for a chapel in Puebla Cathedral and newly conserved, the 28-foot-tall painting has never before been exhibited outside its place of origin in Puebla, Mexico. Ten additional works are shown that demonstrate Villalpando's engagement with concepts of invention and professional identity, his ability to convey complex subject matter, and his capacity to envision the divine. Highlights include his recently discovered Adoration of the Magi, on loan from Fordham University, and The Holy Name of Mary, from the Museum of the Basilica of Guadalupe in Mexico City. [Source; Met Museum website]
Let me just say that Moses and the Brazen Serpent and the Transfiguration of Jesus, is a masterpiece in every sense of that word. The images included in this post do the work a complete injustice. Look at the images, and then imagine them projected as high as a two or three storey building. You will then get a sense of just how huge this work is.

Information panel at the VillalpandoThe exhibition.

Above: Detail from Moses and the Brazen Serpent...
In this bold and erudite composition, Cristóbal de Villalpando pairs the Old Testament story of the brazen serpent with Gospel accounts of the Transfiguration of Jesus, staging both scenes in a continuous landscape. The lower half depict the punishment of the Israelites, tormented by a plague of deadly serpents for speaking against God and Moses.. [..] The upper half of the painting depicts the Transfiguration of Jesus, witnessed by three startled apostles atop the holy Mount Tabor. [Source: Information provided with the painting].
Whether you are believer or non-believer, you must surely stand in awe, as I did, at the sheer scale and boldness of Villalpando's vision, and his ability as an artist working in the late 1600's to conceive of and then complete this work. When Villalpando finished the painting in 1683, the two sections together stood approximately 28 feet 4 in. high, with a width of 18 feet (865 × 550.1 cm)

In the image below, the thin band of pale light located in the middle and to the right of the painting shows a passageway in the Met Museum where visitors can just be seen examining some other works of art. This will give you some idea of just how high Villalpando's magnificent work looms over the visitors below. I am quite sure I will return to the museum to see this masterpiece again and again before I return to Australia in September.


Cristóbal de Villalpando: Mexican Painter of the Baroque
Now through October 15, 2017
At the Metropolitan Museum
Fifth Avenue, New York City.

Above: The Immaculae Conception 
Below: Detail from The Immaculate Conception 

Information panel for The Immaculate Conception 

As for Angelique Kidjo, the overcast sky, which had been sending out ominous warnings all day in the form of rolling thunder and shards of lighting, was releasing a light fall of rain as I, and hundreds of other visitors left the Met Museum at five o'clock. And the inclement weather only threatened to worsen as the night progressed. To be honest, as much as I thought I wanted to see Angelique Kidjo, my heart wasn't in it, and the light rain provided the excuse I needed to catch an M4 bus back to Washington Heights. Needless to say, before I was half way 'home', the clouds began to break apart, and patches of blue sky began to poke through here and there, as if to mock me. But it was all to no avail. I alighted at my bus stop and treated myself to a couple Corona's and dinner at Refried Beans, my local Mexican restaurant, and called it a day.


Wednesday 2, August | Expenses $39.70 ($50.15)

Any questions, comments or suggestions? How about complaints or compliments? Let me know via the comments box below.

NYCDays 46 & 47: In Which Captain Swing Embarks on a Mystery Tour

Law and Order: SVU comes to Washington Heights

Day 46: Monday 31, July | Expenses $101.40 ($127.10)

I turned into 187th street, and to my surprise I saw that Hollywood has still not left Washington Heights (see previous posts). Wow, thinks I, given that they started filming scenes at an apartment on 187th for Asher a week ago, that is turning into one hell of a long film shoot. Imagine my even greater surprise to learn that this was not the same film crew who were filming scenes for Asher, but a different film crew filming scenes for Law & Order: SVU, (Special Victims Unit). Seriously? Since when did Washington Heights become such a 'go to' location for filming? As interesting as it is to see this type of activity in the neighborhood, I'm somewhat annoyed because I stopped watching these types of shows years ago, so it is highly unlikely that I will ever get to see how 'my neighborhood' is depicted on screen.

The empty stage at City Winery awaits Captain Swing
Michelle Shocked returned to the City Winery (155, Varick Street, New York City) for the second of her summer residency performances, this time to play in full her second album, Captain Swing. I had assumed that Michelle would be backed by the same trio of musicians she had with her in June when she preformed Short Sharp Shocked, but no, this time the four musicians, most of whom seemed to be long-time collaborators, were all well versed in the art of playing Western Swing, and the songs from the album were brought fully alive with the aid of a brilliant trumpet player (whose name I missed, as I did the names of the three other musicians. Sorry fellas).

Once again, Michelle Shocked rocked the night, and I still don't understand how she and her band were able to turn a 35 minute album into a concert that lasted almost 90-minutes. She did throw in a few extra songs, but still, it was a remarkable achievement. I can't wait to attend her third show later this month, at which she will perform the third album in her 'trilogy', Arkansas Traveler.

Above and Below: Historical information about New Haven.

Day 47: Tuesday 1, August | Expenses $50.50 ($63.50)

I embarked on my first real mystery tour of this trip, when I boarded a Metro-North Railroad train to New Haven, Connecticut, having picked up the train at the 125th/Park Street station for the 1:40:00 minute trip. The thing is though, that it wasn't until I took a close look at the route that I realized I would be leaving New York State and heading into the state of Connecticut. Or maybe I did know this, but had forgotten. Either way, there I was on a train speeding towards New Haven, and it occurred to me to take a Google Maps look at the city and see if there was anything of importance I should see or do while I was there. Imagine my second surprise for the day to find that not only is New Haven in Connecticut, but it is also the home of the world renowned Yale University.

In due course, the train arrived as scheduled, and I promptly hopped onto a shuttle bus for the free ride into the city centre. While on the bus it occurred to me to remain on it and get a free tour of the town as I completed its route. This I did, but was ultimately disappointed with a circuit that lasted barely 15-20 minutes. On my second go round I left the bus at New Haven's central square and wandered off to explore the area.

Click panorama to view full sized.  
The first thing I noticed is that the town square -- like all city squares -- is a magnet for the indigent, the unemployed and unemployable, the drifters and druggies, and for the families and their numerous children (who immediately gravitate towards the central fountain where they splash in and out of the water jets with loud screams of pleasure and excitement), and for workers on their lunch breaks, and for many other people like myself, who seem to have nothing better to do with their day.

The other universal thing about central town squares is the uniformity of the major buildings that stand around their edges. You will almost always find a Town Hall (or City Hall, as they are called in America), a courthouse, post office, one or more churches, large financial institutions such as banks or a major financial centre, a hotel or two, and other prominent buildings. All of the above were to be seen around, or close to the New Haven Green, to give the square its official title.

The beautiful City Hall building.

The United Church on The Green, at New Haven Green.

The very imposing U.S. Post Office and Court House Building.
As it happens, it wasn't hard to find Yale University since Yale's Old Campus borders one edge of the Green, and once in amongst this venerable institution's buildings, it was simply a case of following my eyes around the massive campus, checking out the most interesting buildings architecturally. And you can be sure there were plenty of those. Many of the oldest buildings would have made perfect settings for the Harry Potter stories, and lovers of Gothic architecture would have been in their element admiring the many beautiful examples of that classic style.

There were large groups of students, presumably Freshmen (and women), who appeared to be going through some type of orientation program to familiarize themselves with the university and its sprawling campus. There were also other large group tours taking place at the same time which included family groups with younger students who were presumably checking out the campus as a potential future learning center.

My brief research effort on board the train revealed several museums that might have been worth checking out, but I simply did not have enough time to even find one or two of them, let alone pay them a visit. However, during my campus wanderings I did see and enter the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, the interior of which looked like no other library that I have ever seen.

On display in the library is a complete copy of the Gutenberg Bible, one of only 200 or so that were printed around the year 1455 by Johann Gutenberg in Mainz, Germany. Of these 200, only 21 complete copies are known to still exist, although according to information provided by the library, some 26 incomplete copies and numerous fragments have also survived.

Above and Below: Exterior and interior views of the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library at Yale University.

Above: One of only 21 known complete copies of the Gutenberg Bible. 

The End Of The Line Game
My little out of town jaunt was the result of a travel game I play far too infrequently, namely, the End Of The Line game. The rules of the game are quite straight forward; pick a form of easily accessible public transport such as bus, train or ferry; choose any available route as randomly as possible, and then ride that bus, train or ferry to the end of the line -- which should be a place you have never been. Once you are at your destination, you must spend several hours at least, exploring the surrounding neighborhood, village or town you have arrived at, before returning to the place from which you departed.

Oh, and one more thing - if you are a truly adventurous traveler, you should not conduct any research into the station at the end of the line, or its surroundings before choosing it as you final destination. However, once you have decided on that final destination, it would be wise to at least find out when the last bus, train or ferry is returning to your point of departure!

I am planning on at least one other round of the End Of The Line Game, but more on that in due course.

Monday 31, July | Expenses $101.40 ($127.10)
Tuesday 1, August | Expenses $50.50 ($63.50)

Any questions, comments or suggestions? How about complaints or compliments? Let me know via the comments box below.

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