At the end of each semester, though gratified by the wonderful photography created by my students, I often find myself burnt out and in need of a creative recharge. Luckily I live close enough to New York City so I can string together several days of museum exhibitions throughout the five boroughs and gallery exhibits across Chelsea while fortifying myself with some of the best food in the country and some of the best art friends on the planet. Last week did not disappoint.
Ann Hamilton presents her newest installation at the Park Avenue Armory: The Event of a Thread. She completely transforms the huge cavernous space into a joyful expression of cooperation and collaboration, sounding a perfect note for the holiday season. As you enter the hall the first thing you see are two readers seated side-by-side at a large wooden table stacked high with pairs of pigeons inside wooden cages. The readers alternatively recite from a text that cascades down onto the floor as the pigeons appear to calmly be listening:
The readers and pigeons introduce sound and ambiance, but the centerpiece of the installation is the expansive white silky curtain that bisects the hall surrounded by swings. As participants move to and fro on the swings, their actions are simultaneously moving the giant curtain. Attached to the top of each swing is a long thread connected to a portion of the curtain causing it to move up and down. The movement of this silky material billowing up and down is incredibly sensuous while the swinging is joyful and playful. There are plenty of swings and when I was there kids from ages 5-70 years of age were taking turns swinging, pushing each other, laughing and lying down underneath the curtains for an alternative perspective of the curtains movement:
Click on this link to see a short video from underneath the curtain https://vimeo.com/56304503
The installation closes January 8, 2013 so if you happen to be in NYC before then, do yourself the kindness of visiting the Armory to see this poetic and childlike confluence of sound, movement and cooperation.
Next day I rode the subway to the Brooklyn Museum to see the extraordinary painting exhibition by Mickalene Thomas. Using acrylic and enamel paintings Thomas also employs collage elements and sparkling rhinestones, putting her own personal and exuberant spin on familiar pictorial tropes associated with Henri Matisse, Edouard Manet and Claude Monet. The women in her paintings are larger than life exuding strength and beauty. The multi-colored fabrics used as collage elements have an energy that feels like a celebration of each woman’s spirit.
Thomas recently completed a residency at Monet’s Giverney garden in France, which is evident in the lush greenery and beautiful light of her landscapes. I find these paintings mesmerizing.
This museum show also includes several large color photographs that Thomas references and room installations of the many props, colorful fabrics and furniture, which serve as muse and backdrops. Lastly there is a very moving film about her mother who is revealed as one of her more iconic muses. The exhibit is up through January 20 and the museum has a suggested admission price so if you’re on a tight budget, you only need make a small donation in order to enjoy this sublime exhibition. For those of you who can’t get to NYC, Thomas is also exhibiting at the ICA in Boston, which ironically I haven’t seen yet.
Finally go see the video installation by Trisha Baga on the ground floor of the Whitney Museum, titled Plymouth Rock 2. Baga is new on my list of artists to watch and follow. Her video installations weave together moving images, sound, paintings, sculpture, and shadows to create deeply immersive effects. Her materials are often everyday found objects but Baga places them so they interact with the light of projecting video. These overlapping shadows are collaged on top of two channels of video that are projecting one over the other – but it is still possible to read images, making the total visual and aural experience feel like poetry. You can get some sense of her collaging ideas from her website, but to fully appreciate her work you need to be in the space and surrounded by the work. It is up at the Whitney until January 27th.
Happy Holidays and here’s to a New Year full of Art, Joy, Peace and Light for all of us.