New York City Museums and Exhibitions–Spring 2019

O our recent trip to New York City, we caught up with some museums and special exhibits. If you are planning on a trip there soon, some of these exhibits should still be around.

Brant Foundation’ Jean-Michel Basquiat Exhibition

Jean-Michel Basquiat is a high school dropout and graffiti street artist who turned neo-expressionist master’s paintings, prints and sculptures. This exhibit showed 71 of his pieces. This is an extraordinary number given that he died of a heroin overdose at only 27 years of age. Most of the pieces integrate suggestive words and phrases with figurative and abstract images to provide commentary on socio-economic and political issues such as racism and inequality, wealth and poverty and class struggle. Others are homages to some of his black heros including jazz musicians and boxers. This is a wonderful exhibit of a significant portion of the work of an artist whose pieces are rarely seen, and when they are, only one or two at a time.

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New York Public Library’s Love & Resistance: Stonewall 50


The 50-year anniversary of the Stonewall Riots, in which the patrons of a Greenwich Village gay bar resisted one of the regular police raids, led to a week of protest riots that were instrumental in sparking the gay rights movement. The exhibit, drawn from the library’s archives, contains more than 100 gay rights pamphlets, posters and photo-journalistic records of the events leading up to the riots, the important role of gay bars in the community, the years of resistance and fight for LGBTQ rights and the ways in in which this struggle, combined with the contemporaneous sexual revolution and anti-war movement’s transformed the nation’s culture.


Chelsea Art Galleries

This trip left time only for a brief, one-block spin through the gallery-infested neighborhood. Our choice for this one block: 24th Street. While two of the block’s primary anchors—the Matthew Marks and Gagosian galleries—were closed in preparation for new exhibits, we still found plenty of places to keep ourselves occupied. Our highlights were:

  • Pace Gallery’s Raqib Shaw: Landscapes of Kashmir, with its incredibly detailed enamels that, applied with porcupine and sewing needles appears almost like cloisonné.

Raqub Shaw 01 (3)Raqub Shaw 01 (1)Raqub Shaw 01 (2)

  • C24 Gallery’s Irfan Onurmen: Bust-Head is highlighted by sculptures of walking bodies with oversized heads that represent the growing size of our egos. Painting include groupings of blurred, non-descript people that suggest anonymity and fading inter-personal relationships in an era of social media and continual surveillance.

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Hudson Yards as Artistic Mecca

Hudson Yards is a group of outsized, angular high-rises in the massive Hudson Yards development. It has been oft criticized for their scale, lack of humanity, its proliferation of multi-million dollar condos and the marble- and chrome-clad, luxury shopping mall that caters to the one percent. Even its public art, especially the copper-clad, 1,500-step, aerobic staircase dubbed The Vessel has come in for its share of criticism. The populace, however, may differ with at least some of these reviews. The Vessel, for example, requires long waits for the pre-booked tickets required to climb and take in the views from the giant StairMaster.

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Even so, the 14 acres of public space and the massive, new contemporary art and cultural facility, called The Shed, has been singled out for acclaim. First is its architecture, with its tufted pillow-like, Teflon-coated dome, which can be retracted on giant wheels, provides a venue for both indoor and open-air concerts. Meanwhile, at least one of its large contemporary art exhibition spaces is already being put to great use in its commissioning of a multi-media art and performance work titled Reich, Richter Part.

The Shed's wheelsThe Shed

The Shed’s Reich Richter Part Performance Work

The Shed  is New York City’s newest civic contemporary art and cultural center. This multi-artist visual and performance work, the Shed’s opening commission, combines images created by abstract visual artist Gerhard Richter with music by composers Steve Reich and Arvo Part. It consists of two parts, each staged in a room with Richter’s art. The first room is lined with strips of Richter’s electronically-enhanced wallpaper interspersed with jacquard woven tapestries. A choir of perhaps 20-30 singers, dressed in street clothes, weaves seamlessly through the standing audience, singing a choral piece composed by Part.

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The second part of the performance, staged in a separate room, is certainly the more striking of the two. The audience moves into a seated are in the second room which is occupied by a small orchestral group on one side, a blank wall on the other, and two long walls, each sporting a set of relatively nondescript, rainbow-colored, horizontal lines. The focal point of the room shifts as the lights are dimmed, the orchestra begins to play Reich’s rhythmic, recurring piece and the blank wall lights up with a projection of Richter’s “Patterns” series. The projection begins with one of the artist’s multi-colored abstract paintings. A computerized image of the painting of solid, colored, horizontal lines similar to the patterns on the wall. Then, with the music in the background, the image slowly and continually divides vertically into two mirror-image halves, with each cell becoming increasingly dense and highly stylized into abstract images, many of which are reminiscent of Indian art. Then, halfway through the roughly 30-minute piece, the progression reverses, ending up with the same image it began with. Overall, a beautiful, engaging and hypnotic experience that we found to be well worth the $25 admission.

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