Thursday, May 20, 2010

ingenious street art

I always admire NYC’s ability to turn faceless concrete or a vacant stand or an empty parking lot into a piece of visually arresting art. Wherever you walk in this city, there are colourful or wacky surprises that are uplifting to the soul.

An aqua-blue wall with protruding steel girders painted a witty turquoise, facing Houston Street which divides Greenwich Village
 and SoHo.

Madonna and Angelina channelling Marilyn Monroe in the trendy Meatpacking district.

Los Angeles artist Karl Haendel’s tongue-in-cheek ‘Scribble’ on the side of a prewar building facing an empty lot at Broadway and Howard Streets, SoHo. “It’s goofy and humorous and small; but this kind of mark-making is a simple gesture people can relate to on a basic level. It doesn’t take itself so seriously,”
says Haendel.

A play of light and shadow from artful graffiti, painted on barricades alongside the new urban park, The Highline, between the Meatpacking district and Chelsea.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

bleeding heart

Spring’s cherry blossom, feathered tulips and yellow forsythia have made way for oversized gladioli, irises and bright, showy rhododendron. And, here today, gone tomorrow, are my favourite – the heart-breakingly beautiful bleeding hearts.

To celebrate their beauty, here is a verse from a poem I found.

to speak the language of a bleeding heart

No, it can’t be so simple as that…

The wingless fae with a wand of spun gold

Could not chase the red river away.

Erect a dam, tend it well … as maybe, just maybe,

The flow of blood, the arching white-hot lance

Of pain may slow…

… a bit.
-- Dena L Moore

Monet @ the Gagosian

Once again I’m left wide-eyed. The accessibility of art in this city is dazzling – sometimes at zero cost to the public. I’ve already written about a stunning Picasso exhibition at the Gagosian art gallery in Chelsea last year; right now it’s an eye-popping collection of Monet’s paintings of his garden in Giverny, France.

Starting with a couple of his early water lilies (1904) and then moving across a twenty-year span to his later work (1924), the progression of his painting style – from water lilies to a Japanese bridge to a climbing rose archway – is breathtaking. At first he uses fine, detailed dots of paint typical of the Impressionist artists, but then his hand loosens up, the dots become brushstrokes, and colours merge into a whirl of rich blues, greens, oranges and rust-reds.

Most striking are Monet’s deeply saturated lavendars, lilacs and mauves, while his greens have a surreal luminosity. At times the pink water lilies, tiny sugared cupcake confections, anchor a painting; at others they glow like floating candles on the canvas. And the elaborateness of the gilted frames, heavily carved and decorated with swirls and curlicues, enhance instead of detract from the heavenly paintings.

What a treat. And it's free.

W 21st St, betw. 10th / 11th Ave., Chelsea

Friday, May 14, 2010

Internet changing the face of society

It is interesting to watch, from a city high on technology, how the Internet is changing the way we communicate. And read. And do our research and get our news. And a multitude of other things.

The role of the world wide web and satellites – and the sophisticated technological breakthroughs they feed – is discussed every day online, in print, on TV. And one of the most interesting observations to come out of the discussion is this.

Instead of integrating the masses – by exposing people spread across the world to diverse cultural influences, and bringing these same people into close contact with foreign ideas and products – the Internet is in fact polarizing them. Instead of creating a homogeneous society, nationalism, regionalism and tribalism are all on the rise, according to journalist Michael Kimmelman:

“… nearly everyone with access to the Web [has] the means to choose and shape his or her own culture, identity, tribal fidelities – and then spread this culture, via Youtube or whatever else, among allies (and enemies) everywhere …. The downside of this democratization is how every political niche and fringe group has found a culture via the Web to reinforce its already narrow views, polarizing parts of society despite the widened horizon.”

Which leads me to the fact that the venerable magazine Newsweek is up for sale because it is no longer profitable. I leave you with this quote from magazine journalism researcher Charles Whitaker:

“The newsweeklies … have tried to be all things to all people, and that’s just not going to cut it in this highly niche, politically polarized, media-stratified environment that we live in today.”

Sunday, May 9, 2010

naked men II

It’s such a thrill – no, honour – to witness and be a physical part of New York City’s street art installations.

Over a recent weekend we got to confront a number of Anthony Gormley’s 27 naked male sculptures, standing in Madison Square Park and atop the soaring buildings that flanked the square.

Wherever you looked in a 360º radius, neck craned to the sky, there was a silent, brooding shadow, watching. Ramrod straight, still, magnetic, the figures gazed down on us restlessly roaming below, leaving us spooked at being the observed rather than the observer.

theater critics 101.3

“The stereotype of the critic as curmudgeon, determined to have a bad time and, if possible, to spoil this pleasure of others, always hangs over your response when you heartily dislike a show that audiences adore,
like The Lion King and Mamma Mia!”

–– Charles Isherwood, theater critic

Okay, I’m not going to wring out every drop of blood on the subject of critics and the way their high-minded pronouncements can sign the death knell on (or raise to heady heights of ‘Encore!’) the future of a Broadway show.

But critics have been doing a lot of naval-gazing on the eve of their projected demise – and for a while New York’s papers were full of justifications of the critic's usefulness. Which of course they really are. Useful, that is. There will always be a need for a well-considered opinion given by a trained eye on film, dance, theater – the arts in general.

Respected theater critic Charles Isherwood of The New York Times wrote a story on being an island in a vast sea of laughs … that is, when the entire theater is mirthfully loving every moment of a show but he is left utterly unmoved. ‘When you are the wallflower at the party,’ he wrote, ‘your responses can vary from bewilderment to envy to guilt to boredom to (let’s admit it) disdain.’

Gotcha! A little lofty and pompous at times, indeed.

He even admits to some reviewers ‘who favor the ivory tower approach’. But essentially this is how he sees it. ‘The critic’s job is not, after all, to poll the opinions of Row G and report the median response. It is to offer his or her own perspective, hopefully informed by expertise, knowledge and taste.’

All very well, but that doesn’t explain why, after being blisteringly shredded by critics, The Addams Family, which stars Nathan Lane and the delectable Bebe Neuwirth (I won’t forget her brilliant performance in Chicago), continues to pull in audiences.

Or why the play Enron, inspired by the infamous financial scandal of 2001 and highly rated by the critics (‘A sharp-witted, rollicking business thriller to dazzle the eye and tickle the brain’) has today shuttered its doors after a series of previews and only 16 performances.

That is something to chew on.