A Trip to the City – adventures in art and excess

Off to the Whitney leaving Dave and Enid munching

Off to the Whitney leaving Dave and Enid munching

Last Wednesday we went off to NYC for a day of museums and food with Dave Drake and Enid Advocate. Arriving in the City at late lunch time, we just had to have a bite. This landed us at a Dean & Deluca’s deli (Madison and 85th). After the bite Karen and I departed leaving Dave and Enid still munching. We went off to the Whitney to see the Lee Friedlander show, “America by Car”. This is the latest demonstration that Friedlander still knows his old trick of shooting from inside his car with a quite unvarying framing approach. Roof pillars and rear view mirrors are in almost every image. When you are confronted with two rooms of pictures, 192 in all,  with two rows running around the walls with almost no spacing between each picture, the effect is not even numbing, just mostly boring.

Third Ave. near 21st Street 6PM

Third Ave. near 21st Street 6PM

Friedlander,  living legend in the photography world, desperately needed a critical voice in his ear. Maybe, if he had been challenged to boil this current odyssey down to 20 images, or even 40, we might have  been able to identify what was new in his eyes.

By this point I was not in the right frame of mind to enjoy any more of the Whitney. We did march through “CHARLES LEDRAY: WORKWORKWORKWORKWORK” and a mysterious small show on the first floor, “SARA VANDERBEEK: TO THINK OF TIME“.

Mark and Karen in stairwell of Whitney - a continuing series

Mark and Karen in stairwell of Whitney - a continuing series

Karen and I did continue a ritual photo on a seat in the stairwell of the Whitney.

We then met up with Dave and Enid at the Met. Enid had finished her homework assignment. We went to the Baldessari retrospective “Pure Beauty“. I have never “gotten” conceptual art. Most of the “concepts” are either trivial or simply silly. This Baldessari extravaganza simply added more to my sense of betrayal about this art genre. This is cheap stuff done over and over. The art piece from which the show draws its title is a great example of what a waste of time this art is.

borrowed w/o permission: http://www.lurkmoophy.com/tag/john-baldessari

borrowed w/o permission: http://www.lurkmoophy.com/tag/john-baldessari

The words “PURE BEAUTY” are painted on a pure white background. (see the image to the left) Now this is worth a moment’s pause, but the next twenty variations on this trick reveal that Baldessari is just another exploitative hack. He found out that people would pay money to own and display this sort of work and so he gave them what they wanted. The only other note about this exhibit is that making bigger works of art does not mean better. Some of his later works took up whole walls in the vast halls of the Met. Boring and insulting.

Artistic Furniture of Rohlfs at MET

Artistic Furniture of Rohlfs at MET

Fortunately my day at the Met ended with a trip to a little show of furniture by Rohlfs. He started making furniture at age 40 after starting life as a mold maker and designer of kitchen stoves at the turn of the 20th century. His furniture making career only latest ten years, but he made some interesting pieces and some pretty clunky stuff too.  The flip top desk was presented in a rather unthoughtful manner by the MET. Th desk looks to have stubby little wings (see image below).



11172010-Rohlfs-cantilever-desk

Rohlfs cantilever desk








Rohlfs' flip top desk

Rohlfs' flip top desk


On closer examination it is clear that Rohlfs built these folding sides to be placed flush against the side of the upper box of the desk. Perhaps the MET thought that people would not notice the graceful curved openings in the sides so they left both at right angles to the desk. Thus the ungainly appearance of vestigial wings. Better that the MET had folded one side entirely flush with the desk case and left the other at an oblique angle to show off the carvings.1

Chirping ChickenOur day almost ran off the rails at this point. Dave, not being aware of how pedestrian some of his compatriots are about food, suggested that we stop at Chirping Chicken. I was ready. Fortunately, in most regards, we closed out our day with a trip to Eataly across the street from the Flat Iron Building on Madison Square (5th Ave. and 23rd St.). This hot spot for well-heeled youth was a terrific opportunity for excess, though the excess actually ended at a Belgian hole-in-the-wall restaurant on Amsterdam on the Upper West Side for desert and coffee.

David Drake, the fish, Mark Orton

David Drake, the fish, Mark Orton

  1. all images of the furniture borrowed without permission from http://www.curatedmag.com/news/2010/10/19/the-artistic-furniture-of-charles-rohlfs-exhibition-at-the-met/ []

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