Antonio Lopez: When Fashion Danced Off the Page

Antonio's 1986 Vanity illustration of Tina and Mick Jagger

Antonio’s 1986 illustration of Tina and Mick Jagger for Vanity

Music, fashion, and art were never mixed up so deliciously as when Antonio was working in the studio, surrounded by breakdancers, supermodels, street accessories, and couture. Glimpse the pulsing lines and beat at El Museo del Barrio’s celebratory exhibition Antonio Lopez: Future Funk Fashion through this weekend.

With his partner, Juan Ramos, the dynamic duo changed the way the fashion industry thought about drawing, line, color and style, infusing the typically staid haute couture with ethnic twists, flair, and celebrity in a way no one before had dared. Pencil or conte crayon in hand, Antonio broke down barriers and walls, infusing the New York and Parisian fashion worlds with lively banter, music, and beauty that only a savvy, streetwise Puerto Rican New Yorker could.

The show is a tribute to the 360-degree life that produced the America’s greatest fashion illustrator during the Mod- and disco-infused Sixties and Seventies.

Dynamic 1973-74 pencil drawing for Gentleman’s Quarterly magazine

Dynamic 1973-74 pencil drawing for Gentleman’s Quarterly magazine

The early work from the Seventies is tight, controlled, and more-or-less a jigsaw puzzle of drafting mastery. Witness the Gentleman’s Quarterly illustrations mixing menswear, muscle, and motorcycles, which were considered too racy for the day. Futurist angles, pointed pencils, and lavish details will blow you away.

Around the same time, American master Charles James took note of this FIT wunderkind, asking Antonio to document his entire archive of sumptuous gowns and daywear. Although this ten-year collaboration is not featured in the Fifth Avenue show, look here to see the digital library of Antonio’s work for James, now in the collection of the Chicago History Museum.

As the style cauldrons of Fiorucci, Max’s Kansas City, and Studio 54 amped up, Antonio and Juan began curating their entourage of uptown and downtown style divas, which included legends Jessica Lange, Jerry Hall, and Grace Jones.

Photo of Antonio surrounded by "Antonio's girls" in the 1980s Installation views of “Antonio Lopez: Future Funk Fashion” El Museo del Barrio New York, New York June 14 – November 27, 2016

Antonio’s Girls surround him in the 1980s

The message: live and draw large. Subjects for illustrated fashion spreads were styled, posed, and recorded in Antonio’s hand, all to a pulsing beat. To get everyone in the mood, innovative street dance crews were given free rein to spin, pop, and twirl during the sessions.

No wonder that Antonio’s mature work leaps off the page, lines swirling, accessories flying. Publications like Vogue, The New York Times, and Warhol’s Interview just had to have it, and published his drawings over and over.

In the age of Snapchat and Instagram, it’s hard to over-emphasize how revolutionary Antonio’s vision was at the time. His two-dimensional visualizations left fashion photography in the dust. As Ms. Missoni once said, “He transformed the clothes.” Take a look at the Flickr feed.

A 1983 pencil and gouache drawing of totally glorified Maria Snyder

A 1983 pencil and gouache drawing of totally glorified Maria Snyder. Collection: Narciso Rodriquez

El Museo is distributing copies of the Interview magazine issue that Antonio and Juan edited. Pick it up as you peruse the serious sampling of celebrity-infused work in the show – Tina Chow, Karl Lagerfeld, Billy Idol, and Tina, to name a few. To give exhibition goers a feel for the pizzazz in Antonio’s work and life, there are videos of break dancers in his studio and a great video of him working from a live model as part of a drawing demo for students at his alma mater, FIT.

Too bad that Valentin de Boulogne (Caravaggio’s follower, currently on view at the Met, who also styled and staged models) lived 350 years too early to enjoy this joyful, breakneck, vibrant 20th-century beautiful-people scene with subjects jumping out of the picture frame.

It’s hard to underestimate the influence Antonio had on the cultural beat of New York in the Seventies and Eighties. It was all about the mix – high art, pop art, high fashion, street style, and ethnic culture.

Take a look at Antonio’s 1983 workshop at Pasedena’s ArtCenter College of Design, and see the master at work creating, staging, and transforming what he sees and feels with gestures as large as Pollack’s:

FIT Matches Uniformity with Nonconformity

Detail from British Royal Rifle Corps “Mess Dress” Jacket (1900), a possible inspiration for Ralph Lauren

Detail from British Royal Rifle Corps “Mess Dress” Jacket (1900), a possible inspiration for Ralph Lauren?

Whether you pass a flight attendant in the airport, see an EMS pro at work on the street, watch a referee on TV, or place an order with the counterperson at your favorite fast-food chain, you may not immediately see the individual who is wearing the uniform. You just perceive that a professional is at work.

But how does the uniform design create your perception? And who designed the uniform? What signal does it send?

Conversely, how do designers take inspiration from uniforms and design looks that make us think that the wearer is a rule-breaker, a nonconformist, or chic, stylish person?

The Museum at FIT provides the answers on its website and in its first-floor show Uniformity through November 19, an illuminating tribute to history and fashion that shows how conformity and troubled times can serve as springboards for creativity, expression, and whimsy in the larger cultural landscape.

Michael Kors camouflage (2013)

Michael Kors camouflage (2013)

The introductory video features Thom Browne explaining how he took inspiration from executive and schoolboy uniforms for his groundbreaking Milan show in 2009.

The show then unfolds by juxtaposing high fashion with uniforms from FIT’s collection, organized into neat themes – military, domestic, sport, work, and school. Here’s our Flickr album of our favorites from these themes.

Right up front, the curators provide a visual backstory to the evolution of the US/European military uniforms with two galleries and an iPad that show what British and US soldiers wore over the last 240 years. The experience makes you think about who put the navy into Navy (it was adopted in 1802) and shows that ladies and kids wearing “sailor suits” is a 100-plus-year tradition in fashion.

Mainbocher’s well-cut 1942 uniform for the U.S. Navy W.A.V.E.S. (1942) and Chanel’s chic military-inspired ensemble (1960)

Mainbocher’s well-cut 1942 U.S. Navy W.A.V.E.S. uniform and Chanel’s chic military-inspired ensemble (1960)

Although the 21st-century gown by Galliano and the in-you-face statement by Kors demonstrates how transgressive camouflage can look on the runway, Claire McCardell’s little boxy 1947 jacket reminds us how Ike’s WWII U.S. Army Air Corps look kept going for nearly a decade as an icon in the booming US ready-to-wear sportswear market. Both guys and gals had to sport that neat, pulled together look atop their rompers, sport shorts, and khakis.

The hot pink Fiorucci jumpsuit that telegraphed hipness in NYC disco fashion in the Seventies is right at home next to the 1970s Coast Guard flight suit in fire-resistant orange synthetic. As these two electric pieces fight for attention, the curators leaves us to ponder their genesis in the 1940s olive wool Air Force flight suit.

A nearby juxtaposition switches to uniforms as muted, minimalist understatement – the soothing side-by-side designs for worn by WWI and WWII nurses with the barely-there Nineties work coat adopted by the seamstresses and magic-makers at Martin Margiela’s deconstructivist atelier.

1993 Vivienne Westwood baseball cap

1993 Vivienne Westwood baseball cap

Gernreich channels schoolgirls, Vivienne Westwood mimics logo-branded baseball caps, and Ungaro reinterprets collegiate-sports jerseys right across from vintage Princeton blazers from the Twenties and Forties.

The creative takes on all the different types of uniforms screams whimsy and fun for the fashion forward.

One of the show’s highlights, however, is a philosophical look back by the designer who made so many of America’s most familiar uniforms happen — Avis, TWA, FedEx, and McDonalds. Listen as FIT sits down with Stan Herman to talk about his work, life, and the uniforms he created and wore:

Stuart Davis: Way Before Pollack and Warhol

Little Giant Still Life (1950), which predates Pop Art. Collection: Virginia Museum of Fine Arts.

Little Giant Still Life (1950), which predates Pop Art. Collection: Virginia Museum of Fine Arts.

Jazzy colors and Pop Art fun are run amok in the joyful Americana tribute Stuart Davis: In Full Swing at the Whitney Museum of American Art through this weekend. The Whitney curators have 75 of his best, extending back to the Edison lightbulb years, but mostly from Davis’s post-1950s output.

You’d never know from the flat-out modernity that this Whitney favorite had his start in the Armory Show era in New York at a time when The Eight (Ash Can School) still ruled. In fact, at 21, he was the youngest painter to exhibit in the Armory Show, encouraged by his teacher, Robert Henri, who impressed him with the need to depict everyday life in his art.

1924 painting of electric bulb and package. Collection: Dallas Museum of Art

Electric Bulb (1924) with package. Collection: Dallas Museum of Art

But the exposure to the European avant-garde was profound. As you walk through the gallery, you see and feel his exhilaration about how the European upstarts were shaking things up.

Picasso and Matisse inspired Davis to start depicting everyday objects with a flattened, multiview twist. He used packages of Lucky Strikes, Edison lighbulbs, and eggbeaters instead of absinthe glasses, interpreting them on funnily upturned tabletops.

Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney, who founded the Whitney in 1931, was a fan. She included his work in a group show in 1915, welcomed him into the Whitney Club in 1918 (alongside Edward Hopper and Mr. Prendergast) and facilitated the talented Davis’s sojourn to Paris ten years later.

When he returned to New York, he repaid Gertrude in paintings – just the beginning of The Whitney’s portfolio of his work. Captivated by the magic of movies, the birth of radio, and air travel, technology seemed to be transforming America.

 House and Street (1931) with two simultaneous views of Lower Manhattan.

House and Street (1931) with two simultaneous views of Lower Manhattan.

He went on to experiment with simultaneous city views, jamming the Third Avenue El into corners of lower Manhattan where it really didn’t belong. All was fair in the jazzy, roaring New York Twenties.

Stuart struggled financially through the Depression, but not artistically. Inspired by improvisational riffs in jazz, he created canvases using line as music, twisting real objects and landscapes into primary-color layerings that remained flat as a pancake.

Twisting and turning ribbons of color pre-dated Mr. Pollack’s all-over style by at least a decade. The centerpiece of the show is an all-over mural, “Swing Landscape”, that twists Gloucester fishing schooner masts into a kind of “Broadway Boogie-Woogie”. This flat-style masterpiece was way too energetic for the WPA Art Project, which declined to hang it in the subsidized Williamsburg apartment complex for which it was intended. Thankfully, it’s in the place of honor here.

Swing Landscape (1938), a mural commission for the WPA Federal Art Project. Collection: Indiana University

Swing Landscape (1938), a mural commission for the WPA Federal Art Project. Collection: Indiana University

When he saw Matisse’s big-size cut-outs in 1949, Davis was inspired return to his roots. He focused on unexciting, everyday objects but added brand names and super-sized everything. Way before Warhol, Davis was doing improvisations with Champion sparkplugs and matchbook covers, toying with color, gray, and repetition.

Did Davis pave the way for Pollack’s all-over approach and totally branded pop-art masters of the late 20th century? Take a walk through the Whitney, admire the output of one of Gertrude’s favorites, and decide for yourself.

The Paris Bit (1959), a retro Twenties Leger riff. Collection: The Whitney

The Paris Bit (1959), Davis’s retro Twenties Leger riff. Collection: The Whitney

Check out some of our favorites on our Flicker album.

See the show at The National Gallery in Washington, D.C., running November 20 through March 5, 2017.

Hear the curators talk about different works in the exhibition on the Whitney’s “Watch and Listen” section of the exhibition page.

When Modernism Met Folk Art at NYHS

Elie Nadelman’s painted cherrywood Circus Girl sculpture (1920-1924)

Elie Nadelman’s painted cherrywood Circus Girl sculpture (1920-1924)

What do 19th-century tobacco-store Scotsmen and Spanish-clad dancers mounted on the fronts of tall-masted trading ships have to do with the rise of Modernism in the United States and the 1913 Armory Show?

Find out through August 21 at the New-York Historical Society’s exhibition, which traces the path of one of America’s modern-art pioneers in The Folk Art Collection of Elie and Viola Nadelman. Take a look on our Flickr feed.

The engaging show is largely drawn from the NYHS collection and tells the story of how a Polish immigrant fused his love of European and American woodworking tradition with Picasso’s love of “the primitive” and developed his own pop-culture-infused modernist sculpture style.

Feisty figurehead from the shipwrecked clipper ship Rosa Isabella, carved in Hamburg in 1865

Feisty figurehead from the shipwrecked clipper ship Rosa Isabella, carved in Hamburg in 1865

The show, which travels next to the Addison Gallery of American Art in Andover, Massachusetts, is a delightful window into how modernism crept onto America’s 20th century radar as 19th-century traditions were becoming a thing of the past.

Nadelman’s sculptures were included in the ground-breaking Armory Show in 1913 and showcased in one-man shows at Stieglitz’s 291 Gallery and other NYC Modernist hotspots.

As the NYHS show makes clear, the whitened faces and painted-to-look-weathered bodies of his circus girls, tango dancers, and vaudevillians echoed back to shapes, colors, and styles he favored from carved tobacco-store Indian sculptures, figureheads salvaged from sailing ships, chalkware busts, and untrained American portraitists of years gone by.

Milliner heads 1820 – 1870

Milliner heads 1820 – 1870

First made in plaster (like popular chalkware tchotchkes) and later in painted cherry wood, Nadelman’s whimsical figures dance, prance, high kick, and entertain in a vaudevillian and Jazz-Age way that their folk-art counterparts never do. Encountering the show’s monumental woodworks at the entrance to the show showcase Edelman’s brilliance in packaging New American rhythms into tabletop sculpture works a sly, backward-looking wink at the past.

Elie shared his love of rapidly disappearing woodcarving, hand-painted boxes and chests, and wooden kitchen objects with his wife, Viola, who led the charge in amassing one of the greatest collections of American folk art ever. The couple scooped up over 15,000 European and Americana work at a rapid pace – so rapid that Elie dropped his art career and concentrated full time on collecting.

Nadelman’s high-kicking cherry wood “Dancer” sculpture (1922) on loan from the Jewish Museum

Nadelman’s high-kicking cherry wood “Dancer” sculpture (1922) on loan from the Jewish Museum

The show is a tribute to their vision and energy (move over, Abby Aldrich Rockefeller!). They were among the first to coin the term “folk art” and opened their own folk art museum in Riverdale in 1924.

When the Depression hit, the couple was forced to sell and the bulk of the collection became the core of the NYHS “everyday history” collection – kitchen implements, toys, miniatures, hat-shop heads, paintings, weathervanes, and you-name-it. Indeed, the back half of the show is a glimpse into everyday life, culinary arts, and domestic entertainments.

It’s an important look into American history, the history of collecting, and the birth of Modernist sensibilities in New York – a show that pays fitting tribute to a core component of one of New York’s storied institutions.

Mizrahi Shows His Colors at Jewish Museum

An early 1988 look in orange-orange wool – scarf, coat, and jumpsuit

An early 1988 look in orange-orange wool – scarf, coat, and jumpsuit

For a shot of color and inspiration to let creative impulses run free, trot up to the second floor of the Jewish Museum to see the closing day of the tribute to one of New York’s favorite sons — “Isaac Mizrahi: An Unruly History”. It’s open late tonight until 8 pm.

Isaac has filled four galleries with the results of his imagining in the worlds of fashion, theater, and film, showing how it’s done when you have so many talents, so many ideas, interest in everything, and so little time. You just do it all.

The entry to the show is a wall of organized color, all pulled from his meticulously organized archive of fabrics and color swatches – a great introduction to a brilliant mind harnessed to bring a little more beauty and whimsy into the world.

Inspired by elevator padding – silk quilting and grosgrain go to the ball in 2005

Inspired by elevator padding – silk quilting and grosgrain go to the ball in 2005

Beyond that, the first room – mostly from his early 1990 collections – is a riot of color   featuring his high-low approach to style: pair something everyday (like a T-shirt or bomber jacket) with silk-taffeta glamor (like a ball-gown skirt). This is where Isaac made his splash into the world of fashion, and it’s a fun, exciting introduction to the rest of the exhibit.

The curators have mounted his fashion sketches floor to ceiling in a small gallery, showing how Isaac maps out his fashion shows like storyboarding a movie. The room also reveals his passion for drawing, his favorite part of creating a collection.

Another gallery gives a nod to his theatrical costuming work and the next features two ensembles that demonstrate his interest in everyday style and good causes: Isaac was one of the first big-name designers work with Target, and here we see one of those 2004 sweaters.

Sketches with swatches organize the run of show

Sketches with swatches organize the run of show

His Coca-Cola sequined dress grew out of his collaboration with a charity that employed the homeless to collect and flatten discarded cans. Isaac had a Parisian couture house cut the smashed metal into sequins and had them hand-embroidered – another think-about-the-world creation.

Witty, wonderful, and full of life – Isaac’s accessories, film, fashions, and colors should inspire you to get a little more creative with your own day to day. Visit via our Flickr album, watch the Isaac video snippets, and listen to the audio tour the show.

For more Isaac right here, watch his conversation with editor Wendy Goodman on style and the pressures of starting out in the fashion industry.

Met Refuses to Draw Line Between Art, Technology, and Fashion

Sara Burton’s 2013 ensemble for McQueen: laser-cut pony skin bonded to leather, machine-sewn and finished with Mongolian lamb

Lasers: Sara Burton’s 2013 ensemble for McQueen: laser-cut pony skin bonded to leather, machine-sewn and finished with Mongolian lamb

As cool as an iPhone and as meticulously engineered, the Met’s new blockbuster Costume Institute show — Manus + Machina: Fashion in the Age of Technology — asks you to think about the frocks you’re seeing: does a designer’s reliance on technology diminish the artistic value of haute couture, which has for centuries relied upon handcrafted structure and embellishment?

See for yourself before August 14 and click here to look at the details in our Flickr album.

The show is a meditation on the beauty that can come when great design minds have centuries-old craft collide with technology. It helps to have gazzilions of resources (hands in Paris) at your disposal. The result: really good art and wondrous feats of engineering that just happens to be fashion.

There’s plenty to ponder and repeat visits are a must. Curator Andrew Bolton said that the idea came to him as he examined YSL’s iconic Mondrian dress and realized that this Sixties haute couture dress-that-went-viral was mostly stitched by sewing machine, a no-no in the rule-book of the Paris high-fashion syndicate.

Yves Saint Laurent’s hand-worked 1958 trapeze in his first collection at Dior.

Yves Saint Laurent’s hand-worked 1958 trapeze in his first collection at Dior. Five layers of tulle with hand embroidery

It made him ponder the extent to which handwork and machine intersect in the world of high fashion.

Underwritten by Apple, there are no digital iPads or robots on the scene (like the Met’s revolutionary Charles James show) – just classical domes and arches highlighting masterworks of craftsmanship that cry out for the closest of scrutiny. Although it’s fun to waft through the crowds, getting glimpses of dazzling beadwork and dreamy Grecian-pleated chiffon gowns, to join Bolton in his investigation, reading the label copy, wall copy, and close inspection is a must.

Your first glimpse sets the historic context: The stunning Chanel wedding ensemble under the main dome (a created space made from a false floor across the upper level of the usually empty atrium of the Lehman wing) is surrounded by books. Leather-bound volumes of Diderot’s 1762-71 encyclopedia on liberal and mechanical arts are open to engravings of lacemaking and embroidery.

Diderot’s 1762-71 encyclopedia on liberal and mechanical arts

Diderot’s 1762-71 encyclopedia on liberal and mechanical arts

By including these “métiers”, Diderot elevated fine dressmaking skills to the level of respect given to other types of 18th-century engineering.

Bolton chose Diderot’s encyclopedia categories as the sub-sections of the show and gave each métier can-you-believe-what-you’re-seeing treatment. Click here to read more about each métier on the Met’s website.

The pleating section of the show is a great example, beginning by displaying the masterful hand-formed pleats on Grecian gowns designed by Madame Grés and the still-mysterious processes used by Fortuny to clothe boho types in liquid charmeuse pleats at the dawn of the 20th century.

Issey Miyake ready-to-wear 1994 Flying Saucer dress fully extended; synthetic polyester that is machine pleated and stitched

Issey Miyake ready-to-wear 1994 Flying Saucer dress fully extended; synthetic polyester that is machine pleated and stitched

Across the way, you can compare Fortuny’s craftsmanship with machine-stitched and pleated versions, which are no less compelling. Mary McFadden’s pleated dresses were must-haves of the must-be-seen society set in the Seventies and Eighties. Mary’s synthetic pleated fabric was a pull-it-out-of-the-suitcase miracle in a world of jet-set travel and society parties.

And don’t ignore the works in the show by Issey Miyake, who wowed the design world with innovative pleated shapes that twisted and turned into avant-garde dresses and tops. Machine made from synthetic material, Miyake’s creations could fold flat and be popped into action in a nanosecond. His techno-trick was to make an entire, gigantic garment, position the fabric into pleats and run the entire garment through a heat press. Go, Flying Saucer dress!

In every section of the show, Bolton provides something historic (such as the 1870s hand-crocheted wedding gown) bookended by blazingly new creations, such as Iris Van Herpen’s 3-D-printed creations.

Close-up: Fortuny’s hand-pleated, hand-sewn 1920s charmeuse dress; Venetian-beads embroidery and hand-knotted silk trim

Close-up: Fortuny’s hand-pleated, hand-sewn 1920s charmeuse dress; Venetian-beads embroidery and hand-knotted silk trim

Muslins from Charles James reveal classic tailoring techniques by the master engineer, worked and re-worked by hand until perfection was achieved. Miyake pushed the boundaries of modern dressmaking one step further by using lasers to cut polyester monofilament, draping it, and shaping it with metal snaps –creating a dress without using any needles, thread, or scissors.

Laser cutting makes multiple appearances in the show with the work of Comme des Garcons, Iris van Herpen, Thom Brown, and Sarah Burton for Alexander McQueen. However, traditional techniques by historic Parisian ateliers are on view, too – a Chanel embellished by Maison Lemarie with 2,500 fabric camellias that took 90 minutes each to create, Dior’s post-war embroidered floral dresses bursting with foilage, and YSL’s game-changing trapeze dress in his first collection for Dior. This last creation had five layers of tulle embellished with crystals, beads, and sequin clusters by Maison Rébé.

At the press opening, Apple’s designer extraordinaire, Jony Ive, cautioned viewers to remember that technology and craft are not at odds. The notion of care – whether by hand or machine – is intrinsic to everything in the show.

Enjoy Mr. Bolton’s walk-through.

See Hamilton No Waiting

Taking their Shot in the lobby of the Public Theater in 2015

Taking their Shot in the lobby of the Public Theater in 2015

If you really want to experience Hamilton before the Tony Awards, it’s not that hard. Get up to New-York Historical Society at 77th Street and Central Park West and check out the life-size bronze statues of Hamilton and Burr one second before The Shot.

If you went to see Hamilton last year at the Public, you had to pass right between Kim Crowley’s bronze recreations when you entered the theater — a bespectacled Hamilton (wearing tinted glasses because he was facing the sunrise) and an intense Burr who was branded for all time in the history books one second later.

These action figures were initially installed at NYHS in 2004 as part of its ground-breaking Hamilton show…a magnificent installation that drew both raves (for the classy reimagining of NYHS and its exhibitions program after a near-collapse of that institution) and criticism (was it pandering to New York’s besmirched banking community?).

Their 1797 dueling pistols in the NYHS lobby

Their 1797 dueling pistols in the NYHS lobby

Interesting that 2004 was the 300th anniversary of both the duel and the year that NYHS was founded. In fact, Hamilton’s attending doctor that day was one of the founders.

NYHS Ham

Hamilton takes aim inside NYHS

After three hundred years and countless tries at the Hamilton’s pre-show lottery at the Richard Rodgers Theater, it will be a little disconnect to realize that the two facing off in the white marbled lobby are not Lin Manuel and Leslie Odom, Jr. The intensity and the historical dress are there, but the faces are different. Just stand there and run through all the lyrics you’ve memorized from the show.

Walk a few steps further and gaze down at the actual pistols – not stage props – and Angelica Schuyler’s letter to her brother, conveying the terrible news. All real, in her own hand, dated July 11, 1804.

OK, that’s just the lobby. By now, you’ve probably heard that NYHS has just announced its Summer of Hamilton, replete with a large gallery show of all the Hamilton-related documents, artifacts, and portraits plus special clips from Hamilton, movie musicals that inspired Lin, Ron Chernow’s book, and costumed performers on July 4 weekend.

But why not visit right now and have Ham and Burr all to yourself? To fill in the blanks about Ham’s life or prep to see the Broadway show, treat yourself to an exploration of the 2004 Ham show website. It’s full of all types of fun things – a quiz to test your Ham knowledge, a map of where Hamilton hung out in New York City, and real-life historical portraits of all the Schuyler sisters and everyone else in the Broadway show.

Lin's Ham 4 Ham reading outside the theater during the preview lottery

Lin’s Ham 4 Ham reading outside the theater during the preview lottery

There’s even a handy timeline of Hamilton’s “strange and amazing life,” which is a nice reference for things you’ve seen (or hope to see) in the show. For true fans (or curiosity-seekers), there’s even a small selection of short academic papers on Hamilton, including an interview with Ron Chernow, whose book inspired the current Broadway smash hit, and other brief treatises on his schooling, the duel, and the hours before his death.

Although it’s not inside the museum (or the Richard Rodgers), you can check out other Hamilton excitement at the Ham4Ham shows performed at lottery time on 47th Street, many of which have been taped by fans and put up on YouTube. Check out the recreation of the cabinet meeting by the Tony-nominated crew:

Meditative Eyeful at El Museo del Barrio

Detail of Argentine painter Miguel Vidal’s 1975 Equilibrium from the OAS Museum

Detail of Argentine painter Miguel Vidal’s 1975 Equilibrium from the OAS Museum

Mystical, transcendent, hypnotic visions from the Sixties and Seventies dot the white walls, all part of The Illusive Eye at El Museo del Barrio, closing this weekend. It’s a tribute to a corner of modern art history that’s sometimes overshadowed by the larger-than-life, attention-grabbing Pop Art movement – the global movement of Op Art and Kinetic Art.

The inspiration for the show is MoMA’s 1964 ground-breaking show, The Responsive Eye, which paid tribute to the global community of painters and sculptors using geometric purity to dazzle and confound the eye.

Many of the same artists are reunited here, with an emphasis on the spectacular contributions from Latin American artists who shuttled between South America and Europe, mixing it up with superstars like Vasarely and Biasi. Click here to see our Flickr album.

Other works seen through the1965-2009 plexiglass and steel piece by Carlos Cruz-Diez

Other works seen through the 1965-2009 plexiglass and steel installation by Carlos Cruz-Diez

American color-field legends Stella and Albers are featured, but the curators have put the spotlight on stars from Argentina, Cuba, Brazil, Venezuela, and Colombia as well. As the artist biographies demonstrate, most were leading geometric art revolutions in their own countries – like Chilean artist Matilde Perez and Venezuelan artist Carlos Cruz-Diez, who wrote an influential book on color theory in the Eighties and whose works essentially open and close the show here.

Except for the dramatic room-sized vinyl spiral by Italy’s Marina Apollonio, most of the works are on a small scale that invites close inspection. Move back and forth in front of Cruz-Diez’s entryway work and see the colors appear and disappear.

Walk past the shimmering black-and-white lines of Venezuelan artist Jesus Rafael Soto’s 1975 mixed media work of paint, wire, nylon, and wood. Spend time with the barely-there tower of gold thread by Brazilian sculptor Lygia Pape in the back gallery.

Detail of Generative Painting Transparencies (1965), by Argentine innovator, Eduardo Mac Entyre

Detail of Generative Painting Transparencies (1965), by Argentine innovator, Eduardo Mac Entyre

The American and European works were gathered from a variety of small and personal collections, but the curators have pulled from the extensive holdings of two museums to populate the rest of the show – the OAS Art Museum of the Americas in Washington, D.C. and the Museum of Contemporary Art in Buenos Aires (MACBA).

You’ll find meditation and stillness at every stop in this beautiful, contemplative, and exciting show that mesmerizes the eye and brings together a body of work that will be enjoyed by anyone who takes the time to get to Fifth and 104th. No content, no distraction — just pure, simple, engaging form that quiets the mind and shifts the attention to your own, inner capability to perceive and get lost in line.

Take a walk through the exhibition with the museum director and see what we’re talking about:

The Goose Gets Loose at Grolier

The Pleasant Game of the Goose, a 1640 hand-colored Italian woodblock print. In the center, a fancy family dines on one! Courtesy: Morgan Library

The Pleasant Game of the Goose, a 1640 hand-colored Italian woodblock print. In the center, a fancy family dines on one! Courtesy: Morgan Library

The geese are running wild inside the historic Grolier Club on Madison and 60th Street – part of the tribute exhibition organized by curator-collector Adrian Seville, The Royal Game of the Goose: Four Hundred Years of Printed Board Games, running through this weekend.

The show is an historical overview of one of the most replicated and popular board-game entertainments of the Western world — The Goose, a board-game design that has existed since the Middle Ages.

It’s remarkable to see over 70 examples including hand-colored woodblock prints, games from copperplate engravings, chromolithographs, and commercially printed folding boards spanning the 1600s through today.

Most feature some form of The Goose. The Goose board is designed as a single track in which players move their markers toward the finish based on a dice roll. Sound familiar? The rules have been around since 1600.

Detail of The New Game of Aerostatic Balloons, a 1784 French hand-colored engraving depicting the early history of ballooning

Detail of The New Game of Aerostatic Balloons, a 1784 French hand-colored engraving depicting the early history of ballooning

Wildly popular across the European continent, the Goose game has survived and depicted the French Revolution, the fall of Napoleon, the various configurations of royal marriages, WWII, and the evolution of social mores.

After the French Revolution, Goose games appealing to the middle-class appear, providing graphic lessons about reading music notation, the Parisian theater, ethnicity in America states, and countries you’d visit on an round-the-world voyages. A late 18th century French game depicts the history of ballooning, featuring Ben Franklin’s witness to a spectacular liftoff in Paris.

At the end of the 19th century, the games featured subjects like British ships running the Union blockades in America’s Civil War, monuments of the world, and significant inventors like Edison and Roebling (complete with a picture of the brand new Brooklyn Bridge).

Game pieces for The Game of the Great Blockade, produced in 1863 London about the British ships that were helping the Confederacy by running through the Union blockade during the Civil War

Game pieces for The Game of the Great Blockade, produced in 1863 London about the British ships that were helping the Confederacy by running through the Union blockade during the Civil War

Commercials creep into the mix, too, but what else is new? The Grolier has again hit a home run with chronicle of Western culture’s time spent around a table, hanging with friends, and rolling the dice.

Click here to view some of our favorites in our Flickr album.

Whitney’s Left the Building — Turner and Friends Move In

Marcel Breuer building on Madison, once the Whitney, now The Met

Marcel Breuer building on Madison, once the Whitney, now The Met

Start your engines – the doors to the Met Breuer swung open last week, and it’s a celebrity-studded, jazz-filled opening. The Met has turned Marcel Breuer’s brutalist masterpiece on Madison into a showcase for everything that’s cool, digital, live, and happening.

First, the art: Superstars from the last 500 years of art history are throwing it down in a big, bold, can-you-believe-who’s-here, two-floor mash-up extravaganza, Unfinished: Thoughts Left Visible.

Imagine turning a corner and finding a room packed with the Holy Grail of 19th-century “abstraction” – five barely-there masterworks by Mr. Turner, fresh off the plane from London. It’s not taking anything away from Titian, El Greco, or German Expressionists, who are in the show. It’s just that it’s rare for Gothamites to get up close and personal with this painter’s painter without buying a ticket to London and trekking to Millbank. Once word gets out, hopefully the Breuer downstairs admissions desk will be as jammed as the return line for Hamilton.

One of five late masterworks by Mr. Turner from the Tate

One of five late masterworks by Mr. Turner from the Tate

Yes, it’s strange to encounter Renaissance masters or a monumental Picasso when the gigantic elevator doors open on the upper floors. The fresh juxtapositions of old and new, familiar and unknown make your head spin, but in a good way.

The show features Renaissance masters, 19th century gods (see Matisse and Van Gogh’s side-by-side country cottages), and 20th century hot shots from international collections, MoMA, and 81st Street. The curatorial throw-down is something only the Met can do – scale, scope, and smarts – asking accessible questions and responding with wit from its own collection and other top institutions that have agreed to give their masterworks a trip to New York.

First view of Unfinished

First view of Renaissance masters in Unfinished

Eight years ago, when the Whitney Museum of American Art began planning its move to the Meatpacking District, its board approached the Met and asked if it wanted to take over the famous Breuer building on Madison Avenue.

The answer was “yes” but only if the takeover would be done the Met way – using the full scope of the Met’s holdings, leveraging its interest in new digital and performing arts, and showcasing international modern artists who might not have received the recognition here (in the United States) that they deserved. In other words, turn old-world institutionalism on its head. And they’ve done that.

Just look at the first one-woman show in the United States for Indian modernist, Nasreen Mohamedi. The delicate drawings evoke Klee, Malevich, and Agnes Martin purity and line and shed a whole new light on how modernism was being transformed on the subcontinent in the Seventies and Eighties.

 

Coffee CupSecond, the live arts element: Since it will be open late on Thursday and Friday evenings, hopefully it will become new Upper East Side’s version of the Rubin’s K-2 Lounge two nights a week – a fun, lively hang-out for music, performance, and art lovers. The rear first-floor gallery has been turned into a contemplative, cool showcase for jazz, programmed by Met Live Arts. Take a look at what’s up through the end of the month with Relation: A Performance Residency by Vijay Iyer.

 

Welcoming crew with the digital wall

Welcoming crew with the digital wall

Third, the new: So what else has changed at 75th and Madison? The pile-up of art books is gone from the reception desk, and the welcome wall is ablaze with a classy digital marquee offering glimpses of the world’s most precious treasures at each of the Met’s (now) three locations.

In a nod to those stupendous Lila Acheson Wallace bouquets in the Met’s Grand Hall, there’s also an oversize spring arrangement gracing the welcome area.

Fourth, the familiar: People who know the old Whitney well remember the tiny clay colony that resided in a corner of the stairwell next to a window overlooking Madison Avenue. At the press preview, art critics kept pausing on the stairwell landing to marvel at the fact that the beloved Charles Simmonds piece, Dwellings, is still there on loan from the Whitney.

Dwellings, an installation by Charles Simmonds in the stairwell (and across the street), still on loan from the Whitney

Look for Dwellings, a 1982 installation by Charles Simmonds, in the stairwell (and across the street), still on loan from the Whitney

Look out the window and you’ll see the tiny clay and sand Dwellings nestled into the chimney and roof of the Apple Store across the street, same as they have been since 1982. Like the rest of the new Met Breuer, it might be the same place, but you’ll see lots of well-loved modern art in a new, fresh way.

And be sure to download Soundwalk 9:09 by John Luther Adams, commissioned by MetLiveArts for visitors to enjoy as they trek between 81st Street to the Met Breuer — two audio tracks from which to choose, depending on whether you’re making the nine-minute walk uptown or downtown.