Apart from the feast of visual street art our first introduction to local galleries was to wander into the free American Folk Art Museum near Lincoln Square – Midtown New York. The art was raw and emotional. The exhibition was entitled Jubilation – Rumination Life: real and imagined and featured work by contemporary artists who were ‘self-taught’. Old cigar boxes, palings and packing material were often the only available wood that was worked and whittled into all sorts of endearing and treasured objects. Hessian canvasses were stretched on raw timber frames. Recycled materials were put to good use by other artists including these people made from bottle tops.
The spider fashioned from a tree root caught our eye and was the work of an African American artist from Alabama who spends her later years, after bringing up 11 children, carving creatures/spirits from fallen trees and branches “setting ‘em free”. Something to reflect on when we later joined the ‘Slavery and Underground Railroad Tour’ (see previous post.) Imagination ran riot… http://www.folkartmuseum.org
A chance conversation with a Danish woman on the subway led to a discussion about art and Australia…….she waxed lyrical and loudly about the wonderful life in Byron Bay and the gunja so rich in resin you could leave a green hand print on the wall…living now 11 years in New York, Tagea Vangsgaard (she has a Facebook page) makes a living selling her art and had recently created postcards for the Malcolm X Café in Harlem.
The colourful street art around Harlem was mainly historical and contained messages of hope and faith in the future.
Then came our gob smacking moment in The Museum of Modern Art MoMA where we playfully meandered through the exhibitions of Manet, Monet, Van Gogh, Frida Kahlo, Picasso, Joan Miro and Matisse. A thrill to see images in life size and real time that for decades had only been viewed in books. The canvasses were vibrating from the walls. Surprisingly we were able to take photos but only had the little instamatic at hand so a little blurry shooting in low light without a flash. Lousie Bourgeoise was one of the VERY few contemporary women artists on show – but they did have her ‘Lil Filette’ which cast a great shadow. A shocking and sad fact that in all the thousands of art galleries in USA, only 5% of the art displayed is created by women… what percentage in Australian galleries we wonder? And where is their art?
Outside it was a hot and barmy evening in the sculpture garden and the jazz band had been entertaining people trying to cool themselves with drink. The sensual sculptures of Henry Moore and Miro graced the courtyard, some casting mirror reflections in the pool and the sun set on Manhattan..
The Guggenheim museum was hosting a special exhibition ‘Art of Another Kind: International Abstraction and the Guggenheim 1949- 1960’ so we were able to immerse ourselves in that post WW11 art movement as well as see some beautiful work by Kandinsky.
It was exciting to move up the ascending spiral in the middle of the building that moves towards a dome – all designed by architect Frank Lloyd Wright. By far the most user friendly and aesthetically pleasing exhibition space we have ever enjoyed.
Catching the bus up beside Central Park we encountered a group of women on their way out with their kids. After hearing us speak they were keen to chat and thoroughly celebrated our travels joking they thought they’d done well getting out of Queens that day. New York is a massive city and it must sometimes seem like crossing town was taking you somewhere else. It did to us.