Revolution Inside MoMA

1915-1917 Suprematist works by Kazimir Malevich

1915-1917 Suprematist works by Kazimir Malevich

The Museum of Modern Art has pulled 260 paintings, films, magazines, books, drawing, porcelain, posters, and paraphernalia from its collection to take us back 100 years and tell the story of one of the most astonishing artistic and political breakthroughs of the 20th century in A Revolutionary Impulse: The Rise of the Russian Avant-Garde, closing March 12.

While Picasso and company were breaking boundaries in Paris, the Russians exited the war years by overthrowing their monarchy, getting rid of classical style, inventing non-objective picture making, and creating forms of revolutionary works that could reach the masses.

Lyubov Popova’s 1917-1919 print showing Cubo-Suprematist style

Lyubov Popova’s 1917-1919 print with Cubo-Suprematist style

Creativity, artistic manifestos, photo mash-ups, new cinematic forms, and philosophical inventions poured forth like an avalanche between 1913 and 1923.

The curators at MoMA have organized the show chronologically to try to give context to the players and the “isms” that were being invented and then upended by the next new thing – Rayonism, Cubo-Futurism, Suprematism, Constructivism.

The artists truly believed that abstraction and upheaval from classic style would usher in the utopia envisioned by the fall of the Czar, hence the profusion of experimentation in theater, film, photography, cinema, books, textiles, household goods, and publishing.

Easel painting was a no-no. Manifestos, how-to-do-it manuals, and Suprematist road shows were the norm. Due to MoMA’s dedicated collecting in this almost-forgotten period, all of the art, tools, passions, and beliefs are brought to life in the show.

1928 magazine covers by Rodchenko for New LEF: Journal of the Left Front of the Arts

Rodchenko’s 1928 magazine covers for New LEF: Journal of the Left Front of the Arts

MoMA allows gallery goers to peek inside two of its most notable books in its Russian collection through digital touchscreens – Malevich’s 1920 portfolio of Suprematist drawings and El Lissitzky’s 1922 illustrated children’s book Of Two Squares.

El Lissitsky’s unbound prints from his historic Proun manifesto are mounted across the wall of the fourth gallery, allowing close examination of the masterful lithographer.

The latter galleries focus on 1920s Cubo-Futurist theater costumes and stage sets, breakthrough cinema techniques (with three films screening simultaneously in an immersion room), mass-market publications, and posters advertising films and sporting extravaganzas. See examples of all on Flickr.

El Lissitzky 1923 litho honoring the 1920 restaging of the Cubo-Futurist opera “Victory Over the Sun”

El Lissitzky 1923 litho honoring the 1920 restaging of the famed Cubo-Futurist opera Victory Over the Sun

Everywhere you look, Rodchenko’s innovative typography, photographs, and layouts are jumping out, demanding attention. Among the more unusual surprises are Rodchenko’s branding for the state airline and the modernist  layouts in the 1925 Kino-Pravda films used to tell the public the status of Lenin’s vital signs during his final days.

The innovations created by this group of artist-revolutionaries would soon be undone by the Stalin’s preference for social realism. But although he stamped out Russian modernism in his day, the white-on-white Malevich, El Lissitsky’s fourth dimension, Vertov’s lightening fast film edits, and Rodchenko’s tilting letters still pack the punch on MoMA’s white walls nearly 100 years after they were created.

Take a look at some of our favorite pieces on Flickr, and watch a brief orientation to the show by MoMA curator Sarah Suzuki.

Dreamlands Immersion at The Whitney

1970 video recreation of Oskar Schlemmer’s groundbreaking 1922 Triadic Ballet at the Bauhaus

1970 video recreation of Oskar Schlemmer’s groundbreaking 1922 Triadic Ballet at the Bauhaus

As soon as you walk into the Whitney’s show, Dreamlands: Immersive Art and Cinema, 1905-2016, you are face-to-face with a giant screen on which stylized robotic dancers perform what seems like a space-age, mechanized dance.People are lounging on giant foam blocks, watching the colorful piece unfold. But most of the visitors are unaware that the seeds of this startlingly modern performance, shot in 1970 for German television, is a recreation of an innovative, theater-dance piece that’s 95 years old — The Triadic Ballet that Bauhaus director Oskar Schlemmer created in 1922.

2012 recreation of Fischinger’s 1926 three-screen abstract movie Ramlichtkunst

2012 recreation of Fischinger’s 1926 three-screen abstract movie Ramlichtkunst

There’s a lot of history-tripping in this exciting retrospective, which closes this weekend. Everything in the show is pulled from the Whitney’s own collection – a rare chance to experience hard-to-display movies, slide shows, and interactive experiences. Take a look in our Flickr album to glimpse some of our favorites.

To see it all, you twist and turn through labyrinths, enter through darkened curtains, and explore mysterious giant boxes positioned throughout the 18,000 square-foot space.

Sometimes you’re wading through mountains of discarded 16mm film from the Sixties by Jud Yalkut. Sometimes you’re watching others whirl in the dark to activate light patterns on the walls and ceiling. Sometimes you’re staring into a wall-size projection of the mushroom cloud in Bruce Conner’s Crossroads montage.

Still from Porter’s 1905 film of a real-life electrified dreamland Coney Island at Night

Still from Porter’s 1905 film of a real-life electrified dreamland Coney Island at Night

At every juncture, there’s something new, exciting, provocative, and challenging. The big surprise is that the pieces are from the entire span of the 20th century, beginning with Edison’s double whammy – the invention of the electric light bulb and motion-picture camera – as presented in the 1905 film he commissioned, Coney Island at Night.

In addition to Triadic Ballet, 1920s Germany is also represented by a colorful three-screen abstract movie installation by Oskar Fischinger, who was later hired by Disney to create some of the initial concept art for Fantasia, the animated concert-movie extravaganza that is also represented in the show.

Vanderbeek’s 1963 Movie Mural screens flashing with abstract and pop images

Vanderbeek’s 1963 Movie Mural screens flashing with abstract and pop images

Stan Vanderbeek’s roomful of projectors represents the Sixties, displaying a cacophony of simultaneous pop-culture images and abstract films on a crazy array of mismatched screens.

Bringing the collection up to date, visitors stop for selfies in front of the neon-flanked exterior of “Easternsports”, an immersive, candy-colored 2014 installation by Philadelphia artists Alex Da Corte and Jayson Musson. Just sit and smell the oranges as robotic actors go through their potty-mouthed paces in the four-screen room.

Peek into Easternsports via The Whitney’s look-about YouTube video. Move the arrows on the upper left navigator to look around and find the skateboarder crossing all the screens.

Steyerl’s 2015 immersion room showing Factory of the Sun, where avatars mimic YouTube dancers

Steyerl’s 2015 immersion room showing Factory of the Sun, where avatars mimic YouTube dancers

 

Enter a futuristic lounge to watch Hito Steyerl’s 2015 “Factory of the Sun,” a fake newscast-documentary about workers who are forced to dance to generate sunlight. The mysterious, high-energy saga has everything from anarchists at the World Bank to YouTube sensations inspiring Japanese avatars.

The giant video is a challenging and provocative burst of energy to end your Dreamlands odyssey and nice bookend to the Triadic Ballet rebooting next door.

It’s a Happening at NYU Grey Art Gallery

Charlotte performs a John Cage piece at a 1965 Paris art festival

Charlotte performs a John Cage piece at a 1965 Paris art festival.

In Grey Art Gallery’s gleaming white space on Washington Square East, you can take a walk-through of the gritty lofts and performance spaces of the 1960s, when the avant-garde was being born in Lower Manhattan

A Feast of Astonishments: Charlotte Moorman and the Avant-Garde, 1960s – 1980s is a tribute to the avant-garde’s poster girl, who transformed classical cello into a spectator sport. Trained at Julliard, Moorman came under the sway of the genre-busting, performance-loving artistic collaborators Nam June Paik, Yoko Ono, Alan Kaprow, and others. See the show through this weekend.

The show chronicles her early collaborations with Nam June, the artist who turned early portable video on its head. The centerpiece of the first-floor gallery is Paik’s “portrait” of Moorman, studded with an electrified cello and the tiniest video monitors. It’s quite a presence. Good work, Nam June.

Charlotte Moorman II, a 1995 sculpture-portrait by Nam June Paik. Collection: Brandies

Charlotte Moorman II, a 1995 sculpture-portrait by Nam June Paik. Collection: Brandies

On the audio system, you hear her voice, recounting her night in jail as a result of a police raid on a Village art cinema where she happened to be performing her own art piece topless. Ooops!

Cage might not have been crazy about Moorman’s interpretation of his at-the-edge contemplative works (too theatrical, he thought), but that didn’t stop her.

The show also highlights her friendship and support for Yoko Ono, another up-and-comer at the time. Moorman paid Ono the highest compliment by performing her legendary piece hundreds of times.

A fearless performer, she continued throughout the Sixties and Seventies as quite a producer too. From early performances of composers’ works, staged with all-star casts (Ginsberg et al.), she ended up getting a decade’s worth of permits to host an annual Avant-Garde Festival in New York City.

1989 Neon Cello sculpture by Charlotte Moorman

1989 Neon Cello by Charlotte Moorman

Some years, it was on the Staten Island Ferry. Others, it was Wards Island. Others, it was a parade, way before the Village Halloween Parade became a family favorite.

Charlotte and Paik toured well throughout the Seventies, everywhere art-loving Germans would have them.

Take a walk through the downtown underground with a classically trained musician who made performance-art history. Here are the exhibition photos and our Flickr album.

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:

New York Artists Celebrate Coney Island

Steeplechase Funny Face, the symbol of a famous amusement park.

Steeplechase Funny Face, the symbol of a famous amusement park.

How did a strip of pristine, white-sand beach turn into one of the most fantastical, lurid, menacing, and whimsical destinations in the United States? You won’t find a sociological essay, but you’ll experience a lot of evidence in the Brooklyn Museum’s Coney Island extravaganza.

See Coney Island: Visions of an American Dreamland, 1861–2008 through March 13 and visit Stephen Powers: Coney Island Is Still Dreamland (To a Seagull) on the Fifth Floor through August 21.

The crowds filling the galleries last Saturday night savored the experience of the sky-high towers of contemporary hand-painted, Coney-inspired signs by the collaborative, ICY SIGNS. You could stand for an hour, just taking in all the messages, philosophy, and witty send-ups of contemporary life, curated by TED-talking artist Stephen Powers.

Through the door, however, another world waits. Seeing Coney Island’s gaudy jumble today from the air or Q train, it’s hard to imagine how it looked in the mid-1800s in the post-Civil War era.

Chase’s 1886 oil, Landscape, Near Coney Island

Chase’s 1886 oil, Landscape, Near Coney Island

The show, organized by Hartford’s Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art, opens with tranquil landscapes of the aspiring middle-classes enjoying the salt air and low-key entertainments and diversions on the beach – maybe having a photo taken by an itinerant photographer, or sampling some sweet treats. Back in these more genteel times, the sandy shores were open to a mix of races and nations, or so the oils by William Merritt Chase and John Henry Twachtman attest.

How times changed! A giant vintage black-and-white film clip of romance on a roller coaster draws you into a world of more visceral wonder – carousel horses and gambling wheels interspersed with a hundreds of works by famous American artists that explore the magic, mayhem, and malevolence that made Coney such a phenomenon.

Detail of Joseph Stella’s 1913-1914 Battle of Lights, Coney Island, Mardi Gras from Yale University.

Detail of Joseph Stella’s 1913-1914 Battle of Lights, Coney Island, Mardi Gras from Yale University.

Figurative work from Reginald Marsh and others catapult you back to bawdy bathers and burlesque scenes brought to life last year in Broadway’s On the Town. Photographs by Arbus, Weegee, and Walker Evans provide close-up views of what it was like above and under the boardwalk.

Much of the shows’s fun is driven by the jarring injection of super-cool modern abstraction next to the flotsam and jetsam of the actual historic artifacts.

Edwin Porter’s 1905 silent movie Coney Island at Night gave nickelodeon viewers a novel way to see Edison’s incandescent lights in all their glory.

It’s startling to see Joseph Stella’s Futurist-inspired tribute to Coney Island’s Mardis Gras and realize that it’s from the same 1910-1914 era in which Jimmy Durante played honkey tonk piano for newcomer Mae West. It was all happening at the same time as the Armory Show.

1991 acrylic painting featuring iconic Spook-A-Rama Cyclops by Arnold Mesches.

1991 acrylic painting featuring iconic Spook-A-Rama Cyclops by Arnold Mesches.

Frank Stella’s 1950’s abstraction holds its own amidst the sideshow banners and relics that inspired his jarring color bars and mystery portal. Maybe it’s not a coincidence that right around the corner you come face-to-face with the real-life Coney landmark – the Cyclops who lured riders into America’s largest dark ride, Spook-A-Rama. The curators have placed him right next to his menacingly large portrait by Arnold Mesches.

Take a walk on the wild side of history, art, and sideshow performance while you can in person or via our Flickr album.

The Stephen Powers installation runs through the summer. Here he is explaining the allure of Coney Island as a contemporary inspiration:

MoMA Salute to Sixties Art World Transmissions

Announcement for Allan Kaprow’s 1968 Three Country Happening with collaborators in Germany and Argentina, one of the earliest artworks to incorporate an international telecast.

Announcement for Allan Kaprow’s 1968 Three Country Happening in NYC, Germany and Argentina, one of the earliest telecast international performance pieces.

Before restaurants and shops populated Tribeca and Soho in the 60s and 70s, edgy New York City artists were experimenting with happenings, video art, performance pieces, mail art, and assorted ephemeral pieces – Cage, Moorman, Kaprow, Ono, Paik, Grooms, Oldenberg and Maciunas to name a few.

In the pre-Internet days they might have been unaware that half a world away, Eastern European and Latin American artists were catching wind of this new art wave and stamping their own brand on their local art scene.

MoMA’s show, Transmissions: Art in Eastern Europe and Latin America, 1960-1980, captures the zeitgeist and shines a light on the artists, movements, and pieces from important avant-garde artists whose names are not as well known in the States. See it through January 3.

Organized into several rooms and themes, it’s a great collaboration among MoMA’s Departments of Media and Performance Art, Photography, and Drawings and Prints. The result puts a lot of MoMA’s huge Fluxus collection into a proper world context.

Socially relevant art posters from Poland, Cuba, Czech Republic, Yugoslavia

Socially relevant art posters from Poland, Cuba, Czech Republic, Yugoslavia

The first half of the show deals with geometry and its spiritual significance, offbeat artist publications, and mash-us between mail art and street performance.

Favorites include post-minimalist pieces from Brazil, Suprematist-style wall works by Yugoslavia’s Mangelos and an entire wall of photos documenting push-the-envelope street art many Eastern European countries. See our Flickr feed for a walk-through and click the links below for glimpses into MoMA’s show blog.

The next section turns more socio-political with works from the Argentine collective, Instituto Torcuasto di Tella – a center of the avant garde in Buenos Aires from 1959 to 1970. The centerpiece is a large installation for the Venice Biennal by David Lameles – Office of Information about the Vietnam War at Three Levels: The Visual Image, Text and Audio. The glass-walled newsroom is a stage from which performers read “breaking news” from the Vietnam War, just as they did when the collective debuted this in 1968. When the performers aren’t present, visitors can listen to archival recordings in three languages to feel transported back in time and reflect on how and if things have changed.

Installation for the 1968 Venice Biennal by Argentina’s David Lameles – Office of Information about the Vietnam War at Three Levels

Installation for the 1968 Venice Biennal by Argentina’s David Lameles – Office of Information about the Vietnam War at Three Levels

Nearby, visitors see clips from Marta Minujin’s Simultaneity in Simultaneity part of Allen Kaprow’s 1968 Three Country Happening, which was one of the first international telecasts of performance art.

Other galleries feature the blossoming of feminist art and performance art, social-commentary painting and sculpture, and poster art on these two continents. Artists that are familiar in US collections — like Botero (Colombia), Marisol (Venezuela), Marina Abramonovic (Serbia), and Ana Mendieta (Cuba) – are displayed in galleries that introduce other stellar artists to entirely new US audiences.

Oscar Bony’s photo documentation of his 1968 performance piece, The Working Class Family, which displayed an actual Argentine family at an exhibition

Oscar Bony’s photo his 1968 performance piece, The Working Class Family, which put an actual Argentine family on display

Consider Oscar Bony’s photo documentation of his controversial 1968 performance piece, The Working Class Family, where an actual Argentine family displayed themselves for the run of an exhibition at Instituto Torcuasto di Tella. Or Romanian graphic designer Geta Bratescu’s Medea IV, a 1980 sewing-machine drawing made and displayed privately in her studio at the height of a repressive political regime when most artists retreated underground.

The show ends with a spectacular installation: Juan Downey’s 1975-76 masterwork, Video Trans Americas. The gallery floor is painted with an outline map of the Western Hemisphere with banks of video monitors placed atop countries to which he traveled from the tip of South America to New York City, showing the life and times of indigenous people.

Chilean artist Juan Downey’s 1975-76 Video Trans Americas, documenting native peoples from his travels from the tip of South America to New York City

Chilean artist Juan Downey’s 1975-76 Video Trans Americas, documenting his travels from the tip of South America to New York City

Inspired by the idea of a transnational identity, Downey’s piece beautifully sums up the feeling of the entire show – artists and people engaged in a cultural dialogue across time and space.

Thankfully MoMA has given these artists a timeless showcase and home.

New Views from/at The Whitney Museum

High Line and City views from the Whitney

Towering over the green esplanade of the High Line, the new Whitney Museum of American Art is a spectacular success, inside and out. The inaugural show, America is Hard to See, closing this weekend, features 600 works on all eight floors of the new Renzo Piano-designed landmark. Finally, Gertrude’s collection has room to breathe.

The inaugural installation distributed the massive collection into smartly themed galleries, but moving up and down between the floors is an equal delight – picture windows and balconies offering views of spectacular sunsets over the Hudson and Empire State Building views from entirely new vantage points. Peeking through the doors into the kitchen on the 8th floor reveals some of the best views (think Standard Hotel) offered to any sous chef in the City.

David Smith’s Cubi XXI (1961) enjoys its view of Meatpacking District nightlife from the balcony

David Smith’s Cubi XXI enjoys its balcony view of Meatpacking nightlife

Part of the fun is walking around on the balconies (on every floor) and experiencing the Whitney’s vertical outdoor sculpture park – Joel Shapiro’s playful bronze guy and David Smith’s towering Cubi totems, all against stunning City vistas. It’s Storm King for the urban soul.

Inside, it’s a walk through American art history with themes from the early 20th century (“Forms Abstracted”, “Music, Pink and Blue”, and “Machine Ornament”) with featuring the Whitney’s iconic works by Stella and Dove, O’Keefe and Macdonald-Wright, and Sheeler and Demuth. The clever mix of paintings and sculptures evoke times when American artists did their own takes on the modernist mix of African art and Cubism, colorful abstractions evoking symphonies for the eye, and the beauty of industrial techniques and landscapes in the heartland.

Gallery devoted to 1950s New York Abstract Expressionism with Chamberlain and diSuvero sculptures set against and Lee Krasner's 1957 Seasons

Gallery devoted to 1950s New York Abstract Expressionism with Chamberlain and diSuvero sculptures set against and Lee Krasner’s 1957 Seasons

The curators even pay tribute to early American filmmaking with a continuing mix of reels by 20th century innovators capturing the bustle and abstraction of modern life.

Calder’s “Circus” gets an expansive showcase, surrounded by jazz age depictions of vaudeville, clubs, movie palaces, and downtown edge by Benton, Hopper, Marsh, Weegee, and Cadmus. Around every corner, a new dimension to the American Experience is revealed – social-justice prints of the 1930s, heartland life in the 1940s, wartime calls to action, abstraction and color-field revolutions, and Pop.

Marisol’s Women and Dog group take in Lichtenstein’s Little Big Painting

Marisol’s Women and Dog group take in Lichtenstein’s Little Big Painting

One of the most stunning triumphs is the large gallery dominated by Mr. Chamberlain’s white car-crush tower, Mr. di Suvero’s primal hankchampion sculpture, and Ms. Krasner’s voluptuous 1957 pink and green mural. The clever curators gave Ms. Krasner her place in the spotlight, surrounded by works by Newman, Rothko, Kline, and Mr. Pollack, who is — at least for the run of this show – relegated to a few vertical drip canvases on the faraway opposite wall.

On a lower floor, the curators have hauled out the massive de Feo piece, “The Rose”, and installed it next to works by other female innovators, Lee Bontecou and Louise Nevelson.

If you missed the initial installation, take a look at the Whitney’s website (which features selected works from each of the 23 themed sections), listen to the audio guide introduction, and enjoy views of our favorites on our Flickr page.

Max Weber's Chinese Restaurant, painted in 1915 when Chinese restaurants and Cubism were first popping up in Manhattan

Max Weber’s Chinese Restaurant, made in 1915 when Chinese restaurants and Cubism were both new to Manhattan

The Whitney welcomes late-night guests (until 10 p.m.) every Thursday, Friday, and Saturday. Ride over to NYC’s newest subway station at 11th Avenue and 34th Street and walk down the High Line to the City’s latest hot spot in the Meatpacking District.

 

Daring Docent Dishes with Digital Adam at The Met

Digital Adam and the Docent reenact what Paradise was like before The Fall

Digital Adam and the Docent reenact what Paradise was like before The Fall

There’s no need to check into the Met after hours to see a classical statue come to life. In Renaissance gallery 504 on the main floor, a digital version of Tullio Lombardo’s 15th-century Adam is interacting with visitors and a knowledgeable Docent in Reid Farrington’s The Return performance through August 2.

The Return is quite a production and its illusions created in the Italian Renaissance gallery would make any animation fan jump for joy.

Classical Adam (the marble one) is installed prominently in the gallery where half the performance takes place. Its presence is a miracle, since the beautiful Renaissance sculpture totally shattered in a freak fall in 2002.

To repair it – a complex undertaking — Met team made a digital replica of all the pieces to decide how to fit everything back together again and spent years making it whole.

Tullio Lombardo’s Adam (1490-1495), which fell and shattered in 2002, but has been exquisitely repaired

Tullio Lombardo’s Adam (1490-1495), which fell and shattered in 2002, and is now repaired

Now, it’s Digital Adam who’s the fascinating co-star of the show, brought back to life by performance artist Reid Farrington who envisioned a tribute to the virtuosity of the Met’s conservation team who so flawlessly reassembled Tullio’s Adam.

The other half of the performance involves an improv actor, a motion sensor suit, and a crew of digital engineers and prop masters, all camped out on the stage of the Met’s auditorium in the Egyptian wing. As the stage actor moves in the auditorium, Digital Adam moves, speaks, answers questions, and holds up a Warhol and a Van Gogh inside his lifesize digital frame in the Renaissance gallery to the delight of the audience and his sidekick, The Docent. See photos on our Flickr feed.

The audience decides what part of Classical Adam’s renovation will get discussed next, but the witty duo soon veer off into other fascinating topics:

Actor in motion-capture portrays Digital Adam, whose image is simulcast at the right and in gallery 504

Actor in motion-capture portrays Digital Adam, whose image is simulcast at the right and in gallery 504

What does it feel like to always look good and never age? Does Classical Adam remember back to the marble quarry? Does Biblical Adam remember what Garden of Eden was like before the Fall? Adam’s clever responses reveal that his Eden experience was a lot about infinity pools and the good life.

At one point, Digital Adam invites the Docent to portray Eve in his telling of what happened after the Serpent appeared with that apple. Then the attention turns back to Classical Adam, as the Docent shows Lombardo’s thinking about that particular moment portrayed in marble.

Digital Adam shows drawing of where the breaks in Lombardo’s Adam occurred

Digital Adam shows drawing of the breaks in Lombardo’s Adam

These two need their own ongoing talk show about history, time and space in some corner of the Met. Until August 2, ask the information desk for The Return’s program and go marvel at both the gallery and the behind-the-scenes performances. Or go to the live stream on the Met Museum’s website.

After meeting Digital Adam, you’ll never again wonder about what’s going on inside Classical Adam’s cool, calm, beautiful marble head.

Dramatic Live Steam Show Envelops Virginia Museums

The restored 611 arrives in downtown Roanoke behind the art museum

The restored 611 arrives in downtown Roanoke behind the art museum

For the last month, crowds in western Virginia have been turning out in droves to see the dramatic result of engineering, technology, and determination by several museums and volunteers to resurrect the biggest, fastest passenger steam locomotive to live out its former glory on the Norfolk & Western Railroad.

If the CEO of Norfolk Southern hadn’t sold his Rothko in New York in 2013 and donated $1.5 million of its record-breaking proceeds, this amazing steam revival might not have happened.

Waiting for the 611 at Evington, Virginia on its debut run

Waiting for the 611 at Evington, Virginia on its debut run

The Virginia Museum of Transportation is celebrating the culmination of efforts to “Fire Up the 611” and let this 100-mile-per-hour wonder rip through the foothills of the Blue Ridge and points east all month and hopefully into the future.

As the 611 made its way from its rehab yard at the North Carolina Transportation Museum in Spencer, North Carolina, people lined the tracks to see the newly refurbished 1950s streamlined locomotive pull 17 passenger cars loaded with fans 140 miles north to its new home in Roanoke. The celebration of 611’s return has been going on all month, as the locomotive keeps making runs to Petersburg, Lynchburg, Radford, and other Virginia towns.

611 parked next to the O. Winston Link Museum

611 parked next to the O. Winston Link Museum

The 611’s Twitter feed lets everyone know when to expect it, although the piercing steam whistle and roaring sound are also sufficient alerts to anyone in a five-mile radius. Listen to its sounds on our Flickr video of its 45-mph pass through one lucky town and see photos its Roanoke arrival.

The 611 and its 13 sister locomotives (Norfolk & Western J Class) were produced after 1941 and pulled passenger trains through Ohio, North Carolina, Virginia, and Tennessee until the late 1950s – around the same time that Rothko painted the canvas that would later benefit the 611’s resurrection. Since it’s retirement, this coal-fired steam engine mostly sat in the yard at the Roanoke museum, but had a brief comeback in the 1980s making a few tourist rail runs.

Inside the O. Winston Link Museum, showcasing Link’s spectacular photographs of the last days of steam on the Norfolk & Western Railroad

Inside the O. Winston Link Museum, showcasing Link’s spectacular photographs of the last days of steam on the Norfolk & Western Railroad

Norfolk Southern initiated a “21st Century Steam” initiative, and volunteers at the Roanoke museum began the “Fire Up the 611!” campaign. The NS CEO decided to jump-start the initiative with the $1.5 million from the Rothko sale, and volunteers put in over 8,000 hours to bring the magnificent machine back to life.

When the 611 steamed into downtown Roanoke on May 30, it stopped for photos and an official welcome right behind Roanoke’s contemporary at museum and in front of the O. Winston Link Museum, housing the work of one of the most acclaimed railway photographers of the 20th century in the former Norfolk & Western Railway Building.

Link’s 1960s portrait of steam locomotive fireman, Joe Estes

Link’s 1960s portrait of steam locomotive fireman, Joe Estes

Link, a Brooklyn-born commercial photographer, fell in love with steam locomotives that he knew were rapidly being replaced by diesel. He innovated nighttime lighting gear to capture dramatic shots of the steam giants coursing through the hills and crossroads of West Virginia and Virginia. Link recorded their sounds as well – recordings that continued to sell well for decades. Catch a glimpse of Link’s gorgeous images, equipment and recordings on our Flickr site.

After finishing its July runs, the 611 will be on display in the museum yard in Roanoke, parked alongside other giants of steam.

Enlightenment through Gems

Center of 8-in. ritual offering dish made in 17th-18th c. Nepal

Turquoise Dhurga defeats a dragon in the center of 8-in. ritual offering dish (17th-18th c. Nepal)

It’s clear that wearing and giving precious (and semi-precious) gems can elevate the mind to higher levels of consciousness – at least in the minds of the Tibetan Buddhists – according to what you’ll see in Sacred Traditions of the Himalayas, running through this weekend at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

The curators feature some remarkable statues, ritual dancewear, mandalas, and arms in the show, but let’s focus on the jewel-encrusted mosaics, containers, and jewelry displayed in the corner of the second-floor gallery, estimated to date from the 17th to 20th centuries.

Tibetan Buddhism emerged over the centuries in a dry, dusty, seemingly barren but beautiful region where people’s own adornment or bright flags atop mountain passes seem to be the only bursts of color. Inside homes, personal shrines, and monastery temples hang intricate, colorful mandalas pictorially suggesting the path to enlightenment, often symbolized by brightly adorned temples.

Mrs. Tsarong and two ladies from Tsang wearing special-occasion jewelry and hats as photographed by C. Suydam Cutting in 1937. Courtesy: Newark Museum collection

Mrs. Tsarong and two ladies from Tsang sport special-occasion jewelry and hats near Lhasa in 1937. Photo: C. Suydam Cutting. Courtesy: Newark Museum

These conceptual centers of enlightenment are often thought of as colorful crystal palaces emblazoned with jewels – an attractive image to hold in one’s mind on the lifelong journey to this higher plane of existence. What better way to remember your goal than to contemplate bedazzling diamonds, rubies, emeralds, sapphires, garnets, quartz, pearls, amber, coral, lapis lazuli, and turquoise?

To honor one’s journey to enlightenment, wealthy Tibetans often donated jewels to temples to adorn statues of the deities or commissioned personal devotional objects. That’s why you see so many jewel-encrusted objects in the Met’s collection. Personal shrines had jewel mosaics jam-packed with a dazzling array of stones. Gigantic statues were adorned with jewel-encrusted ornaments and surrounded by similarly elaborate containers for offerings.

This Forehead Ornament for a Deity is only 8 inches long. Four celestial Buddhas are interspersed with diamonds

This Forehead Ornament for a Deity is only 8 inches long. Four celestial Buddhas are interspersed with diamonds

For special occasions, women sported accessories with amazing numbers of stones, reminding everyone of their social status, wealth, and devotion to an enlightened path.

Although some of the metal work was done in and around Lhasa, Tibet’s capital, the majority of the eye-popping jeweled settings were created across the border in Kathmandu, Nepal by Newari masters who created some of the most intricate visions in metal, wood, and paint ever known to the world. We’ve provided you with some close-up looks here and on our Flickr site. As shown, the result is a mix of Tibetan and Hindu imagery – typical of this region where so many cultural influences mix.

Densely packed diamonds, rubies, emeralds, sapphires, garnets, quartz, pearls, amber, coral, lapis, and turquoise in corner of Birth of the Buddha mosaic (18th-19th c. Nepal)

Densely packed diamonds, rubies, emeralds, sapphires, garnets, quartz, pearls, amber, coral, lapis, and turquoise in corner of Birth of the Buddha mosaic (18th-19th c. Nepal)

The Met’s own site for the objects in the show also allows you to zoom in on the details. Learn more about how the Met conserves such intricate jewel work in this blog post by an intern in the conservation department. See close-ups of how the Newaris set their gems.

Finally, explore Tibet as it was 100 years ago through this slideshow prepared for this show at the Met by the Newark Museum, which itself has a world-class collection of Tibetan objects and perhaps the largest collection of photographs of Tibetan people and temples from that time.