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.

Hamilton Still Onstage at NYPL in Digital Form

Hamilton’s 42nd Street show

Hamilton’s 42nd Street show

Hamilton’s had quite a year, and he has taken his final bow at the New York Public Library’s show Alexander Hamilton: Striver, Statesman, and Scoundrel at year end. But don’t worry — the NYPL is providing most of its Hamilton treasure trove online.

Throughout the holiday season, crowds jammed into the tiny first-floor gallery, pouring over Hamilton’s books, records, letters, and inspirations as they worked their way through the various facets of the founding father’s sometimes upside-down life.

Pulling from the NYPL’s divisions for maps, rare books, and picture collections, the curators did a fantastic job of retelling Ham’s story from the non-hip-hop perspective.

What was he thinking? NYPL highlights the core of Hamilton’s Reynolds pamphlet

What was he thinking? NYPL highlights the core of Hamilton’s Reynolds pamphlet

But if you hanker to read the full Reynolds pamphlet or leaf through Ham’s draft of the General’s farewell address, click here to experience the full majesty of the NYPL’s page-turning digital collection. Click on each image to explore the details of the engravings and zero in on the handwriting. It’s a unique chance to get up close and personal with Hamilton, like a backstage pass to everyone’s must-see show.

Download the exhibition brochure and walk through the NYPL’s fantastic digital archive of their Hamilton papers. Here is our Flickr album of some of our favorite sights in the beautifully staged first-floor showcase to this revolutionary Broadway superstar.

Politics gets ugly in 1804

Politics gets ugly in 1804

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.

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.

MoMA Connects Music and Modernism

A decade apart – 1957 Stratocaster and Avendon’s 1967 posters of the Beatles

A decade apart – 1957 Stratocaster and Avendon’s 1967 posters of the Beatles

The MoMA Design Department had a brilliant idea – to tell the history of 20th century music culture by pulling out objects and two-dimensional art from the museum’s rich collection. How did modernism and music influence one another? See Making Music Modern: Design for Eye and Ear, on view through January 18.

There’s still time to catch some demos of the Scopitone, the Stratocaster, and the Mechanical Flux Orchestra inside the gallery this weekend.

Although a lot of the buzz in the gallery is over visitors’ recollections of the turntables, radios, and album covers on display, the curators do everyone a favor by putting the mod, mod world into historical context at the start of the show.

Early Edison sound experiments, films of Loie Fuller and Josephine Baker, and a poster of Yvette Guilbert from the can-can era remind everyone that shocking live performances, revolutionary music trends (go, ragtime!), and print designs that pushed the limits don’t belong exclusively to the mod, punk, or techno eras.

Early pop music innovations: sheet music and Edison wax cylinders

Early pop music innovations: sheet music and Edison wax cylinders

Tucked into side panels and corners are photos of costumed interplanetary performers of the Triadic Ballet at the Bauhaus in 1922 and early Russian avant-garde takes on the advent of radio, the broadcast and communications technology that changed entertainment forever.

These were worlds where artists and designers did it all – fine art, typography, industrial design, textiles, and performance. There are even some snippets of early acoustic-enhancing textiles on display, courtesy of Anni Albers. Design and music mixed, right from the start of the last century.

The sleek, streamlined radios, microphones, and Rural Electrification poster from the 1930s are presented as icons of the earliest era of broadcasting, with reminders from the curators that the designs were made to rescue the radio from its early haywire, spaghetti-city look that first appeared on 1920s garage workbenches across the country. Make it look nice, and you can bring it inside, where we can all enjoy it.

Stylish: 1932 Bakelite radio by Wells Coates and a 1939 Unidyne mic by Benjamin Baker.

Stylish: 1932 Bakelite radio by Wells Coates and a 1939 Unidyne mic by Benjamin Baker.

Throughout the Fifties and Sixties, music and design seemed to go hand in hand. Consider the Sixties revolution in turntable and speaker design – everything fit for a super-modern lifestyle of easy listening with jazz and high-concept percussion album covers nearby.

The invention of the Fender Stratocaster guitar revolutionized the sound and look of early rock and roll with its iconic whammy bar and performances that represented out and out rebellion. Although the Stratocaster was invented in the 1950s, it’s appropriately displayed in front of posters of Bob Dylan, The Yardbirds, and Avedon’s Beatles – an innovation adopted by Buddy Holly that inspired the next generation.

Where pop music and art come together – Sixties album covers, including those by Richard Hamilton and Warhol

Where pop music and art come together – Sixties album covers, including those by Richard Hamilton and Warhol

If you really want to dig into the details, there are dozens of famous album covers and posters on display with tribute paid to their designers. Among the luminaries are pop-god Richard Hamilton’s “White Album” for the Beatles, Warhol’s “Sticky Fingers” cover for the Stones, and Rauchenberg’s design for the vinyl disk inside the Talking Heads’ “Speaking in Tongues” album. The chronicle of the Fillmore East posters is a book unto itself.

And Mr. Jobs’ imprint is never forgotten at MoMA. An early version of his iPod is displayed right next to the Seventies invention from Japan that rocked the music world – the Sony Walkman.

If you can’t make it, take a look at the show through our Flickr views. We’ve grouped the items in chronological order.

And check out the excellent MoMA blog posts about the show on MoMA’s “Inside/Out” platform, where curators go to share enthusiasm about the hunt for the Stratocaster, famous rock posters, and other gems from the Fifties and Sixties. Leave your own comments, reflection on music and design, and memories right there on the MoMA website.

Before Walkmans and iPods

Before Walkmans and iPods

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.

Texas Retirement for World Famous NYC Dinos

A 1964 New York Times photo of the Sinclair Dinosaur and Stegosaurus passing by the Empire State Building on their way to the Queens fairgrounds

A 1964 New York Times photo of the Sinclair Dinosaur and Stegosaurus viewing the Empire State Building on their way to the Worlds Fair fairgrounds

The Sinclair dinosaur was a sensation when he arrived in New York City to star in the 1964 World’s Fair. Millions of visitors queued to have their pictures taken with him and get a glimpse of life-size replicas of the scale and scope of the Mesozoic megafauna.

T. Rex, Stegosaurus, Triceratops, Trachodon…never mind that they lived millions of years apart – just to see them inspired science geeks, wonder seekers, and future paleontologists – an unforgettable childhood impression.

It may surprise you to learn that Sinclair and T. Rex are living a blissful retirement in Texas where there are no Unispheres, freeways, lines of tourists, or ticket booths…about 75 miles southwest of Fort Worth in a state park with another unique connection to New York.

Sinclair relaxes in a Texas corral

Sinclair relaxes in a Texas corral

The gargantuan dinosaur trackway up on the fourth floor of the American Museum of Natural History is from the Paluxy River in Dinosaur Valley State Park, where these two former New Yorkers have retired.

Back in the Thirties, AMNH field explorer Roland T. Bird told his boss, Barnum Brown, about the Texas trackways. In 1940, aided by WPA crews, the submerged tracks were excavated, cut into 1,200 pieces and shipped off to the AMNH, the Smithsonian, the University of Texas, and a few other places.The excavation was a media sensation, with chronicles appearing everywhere.

In New York, the jigsaw-puzzle track pieces were eventually reassembled and placed under the Apatosaurus/Brontosaurus, where they remain today.

Apatosaurus atop Paluxy trackway in New York at AMNH

Apatosaurus atop Paluxy trackway in New York at AMNH

The big, round blobby tracks that appear to match those of Apatosaurus are reckoned to be those of Sauroposeidon and the three-toed tracks running right alongside are those of Acrocanthosaurus, a predator.

Even though this spectacular trackway got moved to New York, there are still plenty in in the park. There are at least five big sites, which have all been documented in the Dinosaur Valley State Park footprint-mapping project. See the results here. When you click on each photo mosaics or track overlays, they will open in Google Earth. Find the R.T. Bird site under Track Site Area 2.

But how did the New York dinosaurs get to Glen Rose? The entire dinosaur group toured the United States for a few years after the Fair, right around the time that Texans lobbied to have the Paluxy Trackway declared a state park. No dinosaur fossils at the time, but there were lots of footprints, mostly underwater but a few on the shoreline. Neighboring ranchers donated the land, hoping to keep the site intact and spur tourism dollars.

Sauropod footprints underwater at the Paluxy River, Glen Rose, Texas

Sauropod footprints underwater at the Paluxy River, Glen Rose, Texas

When the Sinclair tour concluded, Atlantic Richfield’s idea was to donate all the dinosaurs to the Smithsonian, but when the Smithsonian said they didn’t want the group, the band broke up. One went to Vernal, one to Cleveland, but Glen Rose was the only location that managed to get the two biggest stars. Did the New York connection make the difference?

It’s hard to know, but the recently opened Perot Museum of Nature and Science features a pop culture corner in its dinosaur hall with replicas of all of the NYC’s World’s Fair dinosaurs!

For the complete story, check out this video of the tracksite and an introduction to the Google Earth mapping project, old videos of Mr. Bird’s historic 1940s excavation, and cameos by the Sinclair dinosaur and friends.

World’s Fair T Rex enjoying a quiet life in Texas

World’s Fair T Rex enjoying a quiet life in Texas

Sneaker Culture Wows Brooklyn

Nike’s original Air Jordan I (1985) and the 25th anniversary Run-DMC Adidas brings joy to Brooklyn fans

Nike’s original Air Jordan I (1985) and the 25th anniversary Run-DMC Adidas bring joy to Brooklyn fans

Crowds in Brooklyn are levitating with excitement as they explore their own sartorial history in The Rise of Sneaker Culture, an exhibition running at the Brooklyn Museum through this weekend. Finally, a fashion history and technology show that really resonates with the men in the room!

The hundreds of historic sneakers, mostly from the Bata Shoe Museum collection in Toronto, tell the story of how casual sports footwear came to be so dominant in today’s high-fashion landscape.

Although there are a few examples of women’s footwear – early Keds from 1916 and iconic Reeboks from the Jane Fonda-fitness era – the focus is squarely on the men, their sports, and their athletic-inspired designer footwear.

The history section of the show shows some of the earliest rubberized sports shoes from UK collections, but quickly moves into familiar New York City territory when colorful creations began appearing at pick-up games on basketball courts around the city in the 1970s, and when the tide really turned through sports and music licensing.

No one forgets the first time they saw Reebok’s Shaqnosis in 1995 (reissue)

No one forgets the first time they saw Reebok’s Shaqnosis in 1995 (reissue)

Crowds and docents jockey for space to worship at the altar of Nike’s 1985 Air Jordan I alongside the autographed reissue of Run-DMC’s 1986 Adidas. After Michael Jordan inked that deal and hip-hop video was distributed worldwide on MTV, sneaker fashion went viral. Electrifying images of loosely laced footwear were seen and copied by fans from the Bronx to Kathmandu. The right shoes and lacing style could wordlessly convey to others in the know, “I know what’s going down.”

Beautifully installed, Brooklyn crowds could work their way through men’s footwear history down one side and up the other – the original P.F. Flyers, original Chuck Taylors, streamlined European designs from the 1970s, Adidas’s early fitness shoes with built-in microprocessors, Nike’s Air Force 1, and Magic Johnson’s Weapons for Converse.

Nike’s 2009 limited edition for LeBron

Nike’s 2009 limited edition for LeBron

After the awesome case with the entire evolution of Air Jordans, the curators lined up a riot of color, technology, status, and design with evidence of so many subsequent licensing deals. Kanye’s new Yeezy Boot for Adidas was interesting, but the Reebock’s Shaqnosis and Nike’s limited edition for LeBron really stopped people in their tracks.

High-fashion sneakers by design and art luminaries Damien Hirst, Jeremy Scott, Chanel, Pierre Hardy, Raf Simons, Giuseppi Zanotti, and Rick Owens brought visitors right into the present day – when guys wear sneakers and tuxes to the Emmys, just as Michael Jordan predicted they would three decades ago.

A great touch at the show’s exit was the opportunity for visitors to leave a note about their own personal “sneaker story” and draw their favorite one.

Take a look at our favorite footwear from the show on our Flickr feed, all presented in chronological order. And enjoy this brief presentation on men’s contemporary footwear in this behind-the-scenes peek into the collections of the Bata Shoe Museum with senior curator Elizabeth Semmelhack:

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.

Before Shapewear: Six Centuries of How to Look Good

Articulated French pannier made of iron, leather, and fabric tape, 1770. Source: Les Arts Décoratifs. Photo: Patricia Canino.

Whalebone corset (1740-1760) above 1770 articulated French pannier that collapsed. Source: Les Arts Décoratifs. Photo: Patricia Canino

If you’ve ever successfully poured yourself into a pair of tight jeans, pay a visit to the Bard Graduate Center Gallery’s townhouse through July 26 to see Fashioning the Body: An Intimate History of the Silhouette, a three-story exhibition of how women – and men — pushed, pulled, and shaped their bodies into the “hot” silhouette of the day.

The show originated in the Musée des Arts Décoratifs in Paris in 2013 tells the story of how fashion divas and dandies utilized undergarments to stiffen, enhance, pad, and pouf themselves to create the iconic shapes we admire in paintings, photos, magazines, and other pre-digital media.

Painted yellow silk taffeta American robe a la Polonaise, 1780-1785 Installation views of “China: Through the Looking Glass” May 7 - August 16, 2015 Metropolitan Museum of Art New York, New York

American robe a la Polonaise held up by wire, 1780-1785. Source: Metropolitan Museum of Art, “China” exhibition.

Corsets (some iron!), farthingales, whalebone stays, panniers, crinolines, bustles, and girdles from the 15th century until today are all on display. You’ll see exactly how those whalebone stays stiffened corsets worn by nearly every woman from the 1500s to 1800s, and be amazed to learn that little children were also strapped into kids’ corsets to help shape “unformed” bodies right up through the 1950s in Western Europe.

Mr. James would approve of all the engineering that the curators reveal for us. Who knew that those wide panniers under 18th century French court skirts had elaborate mechanisms that could collapse to let their wearers squeeze through narrow carriage doors or tight household doorways? Automated models demonstrate just how neatly these ingenious apparatus operated to create the illusion of width just below super-tiny corseted waists.

How were those elaborate poufs created at the back of 1770s court gowns in the “Polonaise style”? Ladies could manipulate wires through eyelets in the voluminous triple-part skirts to create just the right amount of volume, drape, and flash.

Uber-dandy Beau Brummel. Source: NYPL’s digitized George Arents Collection.

Uber-dandy Beau Brummel. Source: NYPL’s digitized George Arents Collection.

And the men! Under the sparkle jackets of 1770s court dress (subject of our previous post), the guys consciously padded chests, calves, and other body parts to give the appearance of a more muscular physique even if they hadn’t been working out. Shapely men’s calves were all the more important since high-end men’s footwear at the time consisted of elevated Louis heels.

For dandies of the 1800s, it was all clothes, all the time, so an even wider array of sartorial artifice came into being—tight men’s corsets, stomach belts, padding, and (more) fake calves. Striking a pose meant everything,

The in-gallery app provides lots of insightful commentary on the items and apparatus. On the second floor, Bard has a line of mannequins that illustrate the changes in female silhouettes. Here’s a walk –through of that part of the installation:

Watch this companion video to see some the collapsible pannier, corsets, and girdles in the show – direct predecessors to the shapewear of today: