Tuesday, March 5, 2013


(I have been struggling to find the time to write, as promised, more about the art we have been looking at--particularly on that gallery day in Chelsea this past Saturday.  Because our time here is so occupied--as is my mind, with other things--I have decided to give up on that particular struggle and concentrate, instead, on the activities of the day.  No need to play the art critic as well as the travel diarist.  I may decide to come back to the art talk on my return back home.  We'll see.)

So this was Monday.  Sunday night, we tried the proposed solution to the problem that has been interfering with our sleep, and turned off both radiators as recommended.  There seemed to be some slight improvement at first, but the sound soon started up again, culminating in that early more burst of activity that awoke us both and left us wondering seriously whether it was time to start looking for a hotel.  (We have braved it out.  Last night, though the offending sound persisted, we both slept better.  Perhaps we are becoming inured...)

We spent much of the morning in the apartment, content not to rush out into the cold.  A leisurely cup of tea before breakfast, some time spent catching up with the blog and preparing for the day.  Our apartment is located between Amsterdam and Broadway, so we decided to vary our walk down to mid-town by taking Broadway instead of Amsterdam or--as a couple of days ago, the park.  A nostalgic stroll past Zabar's, the world-famous deli, and on to the Lincoln Center, where we stopped to inquire if there might be tickets available for the Paul Taylor dance company tomorrow evening, Tuesday; and were surprised to discover that not only were they available, they were very reasonably priced.  So that's an event to look forward to.

Walking on south, we reached our primary destination for the day--the Museum of Modern Art--only by early afternoon, by which time we were more than ready for a pleasant lunch in the cafeteria before taking the escalators up to the exhibition floors.  The show we had come to see, "Inventing Abstraction," absorbed our full attention for a good couple of hours.  Spanning the relatively brief period of the years from 1912 to the end of that (otherwise gruesome!) decade in Europe, it brought together a spectacular range of early abstract painting by artists from throughout the continent--Russia and Italy, France, Spain and England, along with Eastern European countries like Hungary and Romania.  Interesting, I reflected, that art took such a decided turn away from the representation of the external world precisely at the time when that external world was in such bloody, confrontational crisis.

So it was good--here I find myself writing about art again!--to catch up with the work of great pioneers like Kandinsky, Malevich, Marcel Duchamp, Sonia Delaunay-Terk and Piet Mondrian as well as with lesser known favorites like the English "Vorticist" Wyndham Lewis and his fellow countrymen Duncan Grant and Vanessa Bell (though where was Ben Nicholson, I wondered?  Along with a handful of other elegant British abstractionists) and a good number of previously (to me!) unheard-of painters of great quality.  I am always intrigued by the lack of commensuration between creative quality and fame.

A fine, fascinating exhibition, then, whose complete checklist I invite you to spend some of your own time with.  Plenty to look at, plenty to learn from--more than I could possibly begin to write about without several days in front of me.  After seeing it, we took a well-deserved break in the fifth floor terrace cafe, where we enjoyed a apple cobbler sundae beneath a beautiful display of spring blossoms--imported from who knows where...

Whilst at the Modern, we also saw this installation by the German artist Wolfgang Laib, who spends weeks collecting pollen and uses it as a medium to create art works like this one...

... in the museum's atrium.  As I recall, the work received a rather scathing review in the New York Times.  I found it to be extraordinarily beautiful and irresistibly uplifting to the mind.  And, because time was now short. a brief glimpse of the interesting Artist's Choice exhibit selected by Trisha Donelly.  I loved her roomful of exquisite bird photographs by Eliot Porter, some of them from as early as the 1940s.

We were chased out of the museum--literally, and unceremoniously, by the guards--promptly at 5:30.  We had been intending to extend our day with a trip down to an opening in SoHo, but by this time we were no longer fully compos mantis, and chose instead to take a long, slow walk against the chilly winds, back up Broadway--with a brief stop at a market to buy provisions for an at-home dinner in our apartment: a good soup, a couple of cheeses, a baguette...  Which we ate quietly as we watched one of those old Victor Borge fundraisers on our big-screen TV.  After seeing these things many times before, we still managed a good laugh.

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