Tuesday, February 3, 2009

I [Heart] New York

In honor of my girlfriend's golden birthday, the end of January provided great timing for a weekend celebration in New York City. I think we crammed three days of tourism into 36 waking hours.

With thanks again to the communications departments at several major destinations, here's a rundown of what's going on in the big city:

As noted in previous post, the Guggenheim Museum just opened a new exhibition with Asian themes. The New York Times ran a rock solid review by Holland Cotter that really summed up the exhibition well. If you are heading to Manhattan in the next month or two, this one is really worth a look see.

This was the fifth or sixth time I walked Frank Lloyd Wright's ramp (sidebar: as a teenager viewing the VHS tape of "Someone To Watch Over Me" dozens of times, it was never imagined I'd actually visit this iconic museum more than six times in adulthood).

To walk those gorgeous galleries and then view them again on the silver screen in "The International" last week made the movie's scenes in the museum seem all the more "real" (though if Uncle Frank was still with us, I shudder to think what he'd have to say about assassins in his building, given Wright's personal history with mass killings back in Wisconsin).

One cool learning from the experience was absorbing the notion that artist Franz Kline -- whose work I often recognize but previously did not know was his -- was inspired by Japanese calligraphy to paint his broad-stroked black and white works. We saw a couple of examples at the Guggenheim on Saturday, and another on Sunday at the Museum of Modern Art, and it is my intention to study his work more in the days ahead.

Another exciting discovery in the Guggenheim exhibit was a film created by Jordan Belson. I was mesmerized by his work titled "Samadhi" as it played on a repeating loop in a little room about half-way up the gallery ramp. The eery soundtrack reminded me of the dark conclusion of "The Rapture" (hmmmm ... that's the second movie with Mimi Rogers in this post, as she was in "STWOM" as well). Belson's film was a prequel of sorts for "The Rapture" references to "the pearl."

The tunes also sent me scrambling to the Hearts of Space archive in search of more Belson titles.

We were more thankful than ever for gainful employment after viewing the performance art "Time Piece" project for which a time clock was punched on the hour every hour for one year by the same man (YIKES!). You have to see it to believe it.

Best Guggenheim moments also included viewing the Central Park Reservoir from the upstairs seating area (see photo), and getting in front of a Picasso titled "The End of the Road," which I first saw in 1994 in the Tannhauser Wing (it was never on view in all the Guggenheim visits from 1996 to 2006 -- THANK YOU, Guggenheim, for putting this one back on the gallery walls as it is a favorite!).

We listened all afternoon for the crackling of ice encircled by microphones (a work by Paul Kos) but heard not a peep from the melting blocks (made for a nice photo, however).

Down the road on the Museum Mile, we did not have as much time as we'd like at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. In fact, unfortunately, it was more of a rest stop on the way back to our hotel and an evening at "Avenue Q." But I will say that the expansion and renovations at The Met seem to be going well, and we will make more time in this landmark museum (they loaned a few works to Atlanta's High Museum of Art for the 1996 Cultural Olympiad exhibit titled "Rings," and it is fun to spot the works back at The Met).

I'm kicking myself that we missed (by a day or two) the opening of what looks to be a fascinating exhibit from a donated collection of historic picture postcards titled "Walker Evans and the Picture Postcard" -- the New York Times had a nice write-up on this exhibit posted by Roberta Smith.

Another contributing museum to "Rings: Five Passions in World Art" (for the '96 Games) was the Museum of Modern Art, which we visited on Sunday morning. FABULOUS! Among many great exhibitions in progress, we noted "George Lois: The Esquire Covers" as a highlight.

Though not one but BOTH of my favorites -- "The Starry Night" and "The Persistence of Memory" -- were absent, on loan (said my girlfriend, "boooooo!"), we were awestruck by several works not seen on previous MoMA visits.

My girlfriend's favorite was the Jasper Johns work "Map" while Henri Rousseau's "The Sleeping Gypsy" captivated my attention. We both learned a thing or two studying "The Moon and the Earth" by Paul Gauguin (it reminded us of South America) and the room full of Picasso works left us wishing we had more time before our afternoon airport trek.

A few other thoughts from the big weekend:

Our hotel -- The Blakely in Midtown -- was a pleasant surprise (our Priceline-booked reservation at The Wellington was upgraded to The Blakely thanks to a large group that stayed an extra night), and some fellow guests taught us the phrase "Museum Legs" (legs tired from walking to and standing inside museums -- we later learned this is title of a book on a similar topic). We would stay again at either as they made treks to Time Warner Center, Rockefeller Center, Central Park, Times Square, Fifth Avenue and dinner at Il Tinello.

Time Warner Center has an interesting photography exhibit upstairs by the Samsung Experience. There are also some monolithic male and female bronze figures that provide a fun anatomical lesson for passersby.

After "Avenue Q" we rested our ML's in a taxi and at a midnight screening of "Fast Times At Ridgemont High" in the East Village at Landmark Theatre's Sunshine Cinema (the theatre offers midnight retro screenings, with "Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom" on deck this weekend).
Due to lots of traffic, we arrived just in time for the screening, so we did not get to explore the theatre. For anyone in or travelling to Manhattan in the next few weeks, I highly recommend a visit to the Sunshine to screen "Man On Wire," which is excellent -- getting goosebumps just thinking about it and the Cirque du Soleil "KOOZA" double high wire walkers we've been working with in Atlanta (disclosure: Cirque du Soleil is a client of Edelman, the public relations agency where I work).

Thanks again to the public relations departments at the Guggenheim, MoMA, The Met and Landmark Theatres for their hospitality while on what is arguably the greatest island on earth. We shall return!

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