I Heart I Rub New York

14 11 2010

Thursday evening I attended a screening of the film my dear and lovely friend Lauren DeFilippo directed. I Rub New York is a documentary about the eponymous public art project spearheaded by urban artist Carol Caputo. The art is just what it sounds like: Carol goes out into the city and passes out paper and crayons, encouraging passersby to literally rub New York City.

Rub what?? Well, step out onto a New York street or into a New York park. A quick look around will prove that this city has myriad “rubbable” surfaces. Anything with texture goes. That means pavement, brick walls, signs, railings, and all those beautiful buildings with their incredible cornices and columns and adornments.

Why rub?? The answer to this, it seems, is manifold. First, some pretty incredible artwork comes out of New York’s surfaces. Then there’s the fact that crayons are a very happy thing (when was the last time you were angry while coloring? Think about it). More to the point, it’s something everyone can do. Artistic or not, anyone can take a crayon and rub a textured surface. This is what makes the project so liberating: There’s a certain thrill that comes from making something beautiful from those crazy cellar covers (yes, I’m using the technical term) that make so much noise when one walks on them on the street. The simple task of taking pad to paper and literally taking to the streets is liberating, and at the same time it brings people together in a communal project, a communal love of this city.

In short, this project really encapsulates much of what makes New York great. Here we are, millions of people on this crowded, yet lovely, island, living together and working together, playing together and, now, making art together. United in our love for this city. I Rub NY helps to solidify that bond, both with New Yorkers and with New York itself. Caputo notes that there is so much about New York that we miss. We hurry along the streets, all too often ignoring the sights and sounds and smells — and feels — that make this city, and its individual neighborhoods, so unique. This project, brings us back to the nitty gritty (often literally) of New York, allowing us to touch the streets on which we walk daily. It makes art out of the daily objects we’d ordinarily pass right on by, and asks us to notice things we’d otherwise ignore.

What really got me, though, was when after the film Ms. Caputo talked about the layers upon layers of New York that exist, different in each neighborhood based on that ‘hood’s history. I have an obsession with that idea of layering here, of the urban palimpsest. Whether it’s layers of wallpaper in an old, much inhabited apartment of those faded advertisements and signs one sees on the facades of buildings, evidence of this city’s long and storied history are ubiquitous. And what I love about this project is that it invites “ordinary” people to leave one more layer (made from the other layers) upon this incredible, multi-faceted city.

Follow Ms. Caputo’s blog here.

Oh, and here is my rubbing from the School of Visual Arts, lots if brick and railings and even some of the grating. I warn you: Do one rubbing and you’ll find you want to rub all surfaces in the city — in a strictly artistic way, of course.





The Tale of the Urban Nautical Adventure

14 08 2009

Alas, I wasn’t able to witness the bizarre yet fascinating extravaganza that took place last night at the Queens Museum of Art. But the picture in my mind is enough to hold my amusement: grown men and women in togas (representing the Queens Museum, the Brooklyn Museum, the Bronx Museum of the Arts, and El Museo del Barrio) pelting each other with watermelon cannon balls and fighting with baguette sword.

Those About to Die Salute You, brainchild of the controversial (and sea-obsessed) artist Duke Riley, took place in  the World’s Fair-era reflecting pool in Flushing Meadows Corona Park, just outside of the Queens Museum of Art. Prior to the battle, Riley and friends have spent months in what was once the World’s Fair ice skating rink (now a room in the Queens Museum) building the vessels that took sail last night. And a motley crew of ships it was: 30-foot-long Spanish galleons, Egyptian river boats, and Polynesian war canoes, to name a few, most built of salvaged materials.

“Why?” one might ask, but the answer to that question is simply another question: “Why not?” In times of economic downturn, it’s exactly this type of silliness we need, and Riley found his inspiration for the show in the Roman era  naumachia, a type of bloody sea battle meant to amuse the hungry masses. (For more background, check out this interesting article). I find the whole thing hilarious and fascinating, and am sorry I missed it. At least I can looke at the pictures.





Green Grows Up, Over and All Around

19 04 2009

Spring has definitely sprung in New York. Everywhere I go my eyes and nose (and allergies) take in the beautiful buds of trees and flowers that have lain dormant all winter through.  That has me thinking about urban greenery. It’s still somewhat surprising to me how much of it I get to see here in the concrete jungle that is New York. In addition to the myriad parks in the city, most streets are lined with trees, and this is to say nothing of the rooftop gardens that are visible for those who choose to look up at them. The general idea seems to be that just because you live/work in a high rise, you don’t need to be deprived of greens.

Today this concept is becoming even more prevalent, as architects and artists everywhere seek to add green elements to buildings.  This makes not only for sustainable structures but atheistically interesting as well. To this end, Exit Art has a new exhibit up right now, in conjunction with  SEA (Social Environmental Aesthetics). Vertical Gardens presents audiences with architectural models, renderings and more, all imagining green urban spaces in various forms.

These visions, both imaginary and real, look to the future of green architecture, from green roofs to vertical gardens and from Florida’s Jacksonville Library to the Musée du Quai Branly in Paris. And then there are those visions that take greening even further: indoor gardens that not only green buildings but give a whole new meaning to the term locavore, full walls of garden that are not only pretty but harness solar power which can then be used as other forms of power and even vintage articles that demonstrate that such things are not an entirely new concept. New or not, though, they are certain to amaze.

Exit Art
475 Tenth Avenue at 36th Street
Hours: 10am -6pm (Tues – Thurs), 10am-8pm (Fri), noon-8pm (Sat). Closed Sunday and Monday.
Cost: $5 suggested donation





I Want to Go There: Crosby Beach, Liverpool

17 03 2009
theage.com

theage.com

This isn’t by any means breaking news, but I randomly came upon this blog post the other day and it inspired a new obsession: Antony Gormley. The British artist is known for his work with the human form, often studying and casting his own body. His “radical investigation of the body as a place of memory and transformation” is (not surprisingly, given my obsession with memory) a fascinating concept to me, and many of his works appear to have a quality that is at once eerily haunting and serenely calming, which makes them all the more appealing.

Take, for example, “Another Place,” a July 2005 exhibition on Crosby Beach, Liverpool that has become a permanent installation there. Here, flanked on one side by industrial Liverpool with its electricity windmills and on the other by a long expanse of empty beach, 100 cast-iron figures stand looking out to sea. The figures, molded from the artist’s own body, are rather ghostly in aspect, and their rusty, corroded facade gives the sense that they may just as easily be some ancient monument as a modern, incredible work of art.

They are spread out along the beach at random intervals, many up to waist deep in water when the tide comes in, and have the odd effect of looking realistcally human or inhumanly alien, depending on the angle and distance of viewing. There is something wistful in the way that they all look out in the same direction at the sea. (All this, of course, only from the photos I’ve seen.)

In an article written back at the installation’s inception, Gormley describes the work as “a whispering communication with forgotten levels of history” as well as “a kind of acupuncture of the landscape, but also acupuncture of people’s dreamworld.” But the even more fascinating aspect of the exhibition (and presumably the reason it’s staying) is that it creates a sort of dialogue between artist and audience: Gormley says, “Each person is making it again… for some it might be about human evolution, for others it will be about death and where we go…I think that’s what’s amazing about in a way the work of now – contemporary art, it’s no longer representing the ideology of a dominant class it’s actually an open space that people can make their own.” Death of the Author indeed.

See the work for yourself with this video about the fight to keep the statues.





Park-ing

9 01 2009

There is something about having a major, beautiful park that makes a city fantastic. If Central Park is the epitome of this, Golden Gate Park is a close second (though I think perhaps it is on par, and getting better all the time).

Some things to do in Golden Gate Park:

  1. Stop and smell the roses (or other flower of your choice): The stunning glass-domed building, just as amazing as when it first opened in 1979, is just the beginning. Inside the Conservatory of Flowers are nearly 2,000 species of plants, each more amazing and beautiful than the next.
  2. Take Tea: The Japanese Tea Garden is one of the most-visited sights in San Francisco, and for good reason. It is a tranquil oasis within the city, for relaxation, meditation, or just a nice long stroll. All the rest is so amazing, you just have to see for yourself.
  3. Look at Art: After tea in the garden stop in the nearby de Young Fine Arts Museum. In its new modern (and eco-friendly) building since 2005, the museum still houses elements of the original 1921 museum, including the Pool of Enchantment, sphinx sculptures, and the initial palm trees,  ferns, redwood. Plus, of course, a whole lot of beautiful art.
  4. Commune with Nature: Though I’ve not yet been the newly re-opened California Academy of Sciences is a recent obsession. Here a four-story rain forest, an aquarium, a planetarium, and a natural history museum all reside under one living roof. That’s right, the entire building is sustainable, from its radiant sub-floor heating to the tippy-top of its (literally) green roof, created of native vegetation that will capture rainwater and serve as a habitat for wildlife. Incredible just doesn’t seem enough here.
  5. Eat. After all that exploring, head to the historic Beach Chalet, which combines yummy food with lovely views, both inside, where WPA frescoes capture a 1930s San Francisco, and outside, where the Pacific waves crash against Ocean Beach.




Eminent Domain

6 08 2008

This weekend, exhausted after a fun night out, I decided to take myself for a walk. I wandered aimlessly for some 30 blocks and happened upon the New York Public Library. This is not unsual. I’ve passed the library many times before. I’ve even pondered entering many times before. But what is unusual is that I, who love libraries (and New York, and history), have never set foot inside. Sure, I’ve visited several branches to check out books. But the real library, the one with the lions and the history, I’ve never entered.

As I passed the steps of that familiar building, the lions beckoned. And so, finally, up I went. Up and into that gorgeous, amazing library. I definitely kicked myself for not having come sooner as I reverently wandered through those halls, into massive, intensely quiet rooms lined with heavy, tedious volumes of women’s history and man’s history and no history at all.

I saw the map room, which is possibly one of the most awesome sights there is. A librarian was showing a visitor old maps of New York, of how Central Park was meant to look, and a giant globe made me long to go exploring. I also visited the original Pooh bear and all his friends, who sit on display for posterity to see. (While it was fun to see them there was something pathetic about these tattered and well-loved stuffed animals being confined to sit under glass.)

The highlight of the trip, however, was a photography exhibit, Eminent Domain, that explores the boundaries between public and private, and the nature of photography itself, through the beautiful and poignant images of five contemporary New York photographers. The exhibit explores gentrification and disappearance, mapping (and re-mapping) the boroughs of New York through exploration of their edges, changes over time, battles of heritage, and the sanctity, beauty, and poignancy of public spaces. All with in the realm of beautiful images.

The exhibit is on display on the first floor of the library through August 29 and I encourage all to pay it a visit.





Hey June

4 06 2008

Today is June 4, and I’ve finally gotten around to changing my calendar. Not because I enjoy fashionably late but simply because it’s behind my door (near the shoe rack) and I happened to forget it was there. And so, in honor of June, some assorted, random musings (in list form, of course):

  • On June: June’s photograph on my Elliot Erwitt calendar happens to be one of my all time favorites: laughing woman kisses man, as seen through the side window of a car parked on the beach. (I would go into the social commentary ramifications of said photo, but I like it too much to go there). I find it serendipitous that it’s the photo for my birthday month and was taken in my home state. June will be a good month.
  • On the letter E: I seem to gravitate toward that letter, or specifically that letter in pairs. There’s Edward Estlin Cummings (also known as E.E.) whose quirky poetry style I adore, and there’s Elliott Erwitt, whose black and white photography is hilarious, thoughtful, and all around amazing.
  • On EE 1: Cummings has been my favorite poet since since high school, when I mimicked his quirky, artistic grammatical style in a paper. The only book I have of his, 100 Selected Poems, was given to me in high school by my dear friend Rachel, who shares my love of all things quirky and artistic. The well-loved volume made the trek to New York and contains my favorite poem, “anyone lived in a pretty how town,” but not my second favorite: “One winter afternoon,” which I love for the line “(at the magical hour/when is becomes if)” (enough, even, to talk about it here in a blog about my beloved summer).
  • On EE 2: I first discovered Elliot Erwitt and his lovely photography when I stumbled upon a special exhibit of his at the Prado while traveling with my college gal pals. We were obsessed, and now I look for him every once in a while to see what he’s doing lately. There’s something incredibly uplifting about his shots. And, of course, they’re quirky and artistic.
  • On friends: Since both EEs seem to make me think of the ladies with whom I (at two very different life stages) discovered them, and since (ahem, a confession) I saw Sex and the City this weekend (the new roomie twisted my arm), an homage to girlfriends and their incredible knack for being quirky and artistic.
  • On SATC: Since I’ve now confessed to seeing it (though will still see it again on Friday), a second confession: I cried unabashedly through most of it, which shouldn’t come as a surprise to those who know me well and know that I am, on all accounts, a crier. Nevertheless, Hollywood-ized though it was, it didn’t lose those three fantastic components: girlfriends, girl power, and New York City.
  • On New York City: Since I seem to be as SATC obsessed as all those countless fans who traveled to my city to see the movie, I’ll end with movie and city. My buds at EuroCheapo had SATC fever last week too, and posted a great blog about how “Cheapo Bradshaw” might see NYC. Great tips Cheapos!
  • On shoes: Alas, the gold stilettos are sick. I just discovered that they are breaking, so it’s off to the shoe doctor. Please oh please, nice shoe miracle worker, help my gold stilettos! But today, because, it’s rainy (and hot) it’s Havaianas for me.