Week Fifty Two

New York: part one

Posted in Uncategorized by sarahbakerhansen on 7 July 2008

I just got back from New York a few hours ago and the weekend was great. The weather (hot and steamy: welcome to the city in July) didn’t deter my friend Brad and me from having a fantastic time. We spent most of our time shopping, art viewing and eating during the day and going to fun restaurants and Broadway shows in the evening. For the sake of this blog, of course, I’ll focus on the art. Oh, the art.

I had a long list of museums I wanted to visit but a limited amount of time to do everything, so editing was a must. Brad and I narrowed our visits down to two museums and four shows: The Guggenheim’s Louise Bourgeois retrospective and the Brooklyn Museum’s trio of shows: Ghada Amer’s Love Has No End, the Takishi Murakami show and Judy Chicago’s iconic (and newly installed) piece “Dinner Party.” We also saw Jun Kaneko’s recently installed trio of giant heads on Park Avenue and Olafur Eliasson’s four “New York City Waterfalls” installed in the New York Harbor.

It was an art filled trip. I loved seeing the Bourgeois show, and Brad and I started at the top of the Guggenheim spiral and moved down — we started at most recent work and went to earliest — but were glad we did. It proved even more intriguing to look at the work and then read the wall labels. What was most interesting? The way the work made us feel often corresponded closely with the artist’s intent. At left is an image of one of my favorite pieces from the show: “Le Défi” from 1991.
I’d never been to the Brooklyn Museum, but the building is an imposing one and we chose it because three shows there wet my whistle. I wanted to see the much touted ©Murakami exhibit, and I have to say it was the least impressive show I saw, and also (Brad and I concurred) the creepiest. For me, I think Takishi Murakami’s hyper-sexualized, life size anime figures in various states of arousal were the least desirable; for Brad, it was the room filled completely with a wallpaper featuring thousands of eyeballs; the piece is called “Jellyfish Eyes.” (I felt this pink and green scheme pictured at left must have come from someone’s demented childhood fantasy.) What both turned us off the most? The gift shop smack in the center of the show where two white shirted Louis Vuitton employees stood at bored attention to hawk the latest collaboration between Murakami and Marc Jacobs: a mix of the iconic LV symbol against a camoflauge background (called Monogramoflauge.) I have to say as an aside, I did enjoy seeing a case full of the original Jacobs-Murakami handbag collaboration, though seeing them in an art gallery context was a little bit too weird. Also, after seeing so many terribly ugly knockoffs on the arms of teenagers everywhere, the excitement wasn’t what it would have once been, and it stood to reaffirm my hatred of chintzy knockoffs of all kinds. But I digress.

The other two shows we saw at the Brooklyn Museum were fantastic. My friend (and former Omahan) Peter Fankhauser is one of New York-based artist Ghada Amer’s studio assistants, and it was a can’t-miss opportunity for me to check out Amer’s show, Love Has No End, while I was there. It was fantastic. It’s the first United States survey show of her work, and the fifty pieces in the show include some of her most iconic work. She’s a self-described painter, but some of the most stunning works featured her singular embroidery work. I also greatly enjoyed her thought-provoking performance pieces, captured here in photographs and words. The image at right was one of my favorite pieces: “Barbie Loves Ken” and “Ken Loves Barbie” are doll shaped straitjackets embroidered with the titles of the pieces. Brilliant.

If you’ve never seen (or heard) of Judy Chicago or her famous 1970s work “The Dinner Party,” I highly advise you to learn about it online, or else check it out if you’re planning a New York visit. It’s simply wonderful. The Brooklyn Museum’s new installation of the piece does it justice, and the historical context makes it seem more current than ever.

Tomorrow, I’ll blog about the two huge public art projects I saw while I was in the city.

Happy Monday!
photos courtesy of the Guggenheim Museum and the Brooklyn Museum.
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