I’ve been spending the last week in New York, providing adult supervision for my good friend’s kid while he was away in Asia being an awesome employee. I’ve had so many experiences this week that I wanted to blog about and have been collecting my thoughts a bit. What I got so far is how amazing the city has changed since I moved to New York in 2002 and started visiting in 1995. This isn’t all that remarkable, places change. For me though the changes in the city are the surest indication of my growing older I can think of. Anyway I thought I’d speak a little about my observations of central Harlem first and then about my visit to the Met and the new Whitney Museum.
Harlem, where I was stationed for the week, is a miracle. It looks nothing like the dull outdated wonderful-but-violent smelly scary-yet-curious and very black place I visited for the first time as an 18-year-old with my best friend in college. On that first trip my friend Euclides and I walked from Africa Square (125 and Adam Clayton Powell) down to Battery Park ending at the World Trade Center Observation Deck. It was a great day long walk, made a bit frightening in the beginning because of the blight in central Harlem, but also fascinating during that beginning phase in that it showed me a very ideological and determined display of race at a time when I was still unsure of my own identity. Now this same neighborhood is like a little Brooklyn, full of chic shops and a diverse intelligent and middle class population. And like in Time Square, Harlem seems to be missing the curiosity and danger it had before, and it has suffered a significant reduction in the display of race pride. The one lingering vestige to me is the continued awful service you find in many restaurants in the neighborhood. I’m still collecting my thoughts on these changes but the overwhelming feeling I got during the week about the neighborhood is one of loss and a feeling that I couldn’t afford financially or socially (because I’m just not that cool I think) to live in Harlem. But that’s fine, the Bronx is awesome.
Here’s a view of Central Harlem from my friend’s apartment rooftop.
After a week-long staycation in my friend’s apartment I decided to get over my temporary bout of agoraphobia and get out into the city, so I went to the Met and the new Whitney last Friday.
My relationship with the Met museum involves a bit of worship. I always visit the American Wing to see my favorite paintings in the Museum, Albert Bierstadt’s Rocky Mountain, Landers Peak, and Thomas Cole’s View from Mount Holyoke, Northampton, Massachusetts, after a Thunderstorm—The Oxbow. Other great pieces there include John Singer Sargent’s Madam X of course and many others. Anyway I decided to do something different during this trip and went to see the Islamic Art collection in the museum specifically the rugs on display. I’m amazed at the intricacy of this art world, the world of Islamic art. I think the patterns and colors on display appeals to my obsessive art-making tendencies. Here are a few of the pieces I enjoyed.
I finished my Met visit with a visit to the Modern and Contemporary collection – which oddly enough is slated to move into the old Whitney Museum building. I alway visit Cy Twombly, Anselm Kiefer and Terry Winters while there. Here are my favorites:
Cy Twombly’s Untitiled (Rome), 1962
Terry Winter’s Light Source Direction, 1997
This piece is amazing, Anselm Kiefer’s Böhmen liegt am Meer (Bohemia lies by the sea), 1996.
I finished the day and I’ll finish this post with my visit to the new Whitney. Actually there are parallels between this building and my observations of Harlem. The old Whitney was a formidable and brutal building in which the building was alway a force to be reckoned with. The stairs were unusually spaced the elevator was slow, the galleries large and impersonal the docents ever suspicious, nevertheless there was a charm to the space. The new space is big contemporary, slick, and intelligent just like the new Harlem. The building still dominates – perhaps too much but, like the new Harlem, I have yet to discover the charm of the space and I’m afraid that its probably gone for good. As an aside I’m also a little resentful of the move to the High Line too. I feel too much wealth is on display in that section of Chelsea making the museum a tourist trap that makes the museum feel like a circus rather than a cultural treasure. There’s something to be said for the more staid formality of museums like the Metropolitan Museum. You feel at the Met that this endeavor called art isn’t just for shits and giggles.
One last thing, while at the Whitney I saw this work by Glenn Ligon
Glenn Ligon, Warm Broad Glow II, 2011.
I was a little upset at this piece, what is negro sunshine after all, but then I thought of this amazing young hip hop group called The Vagabondz, (the only way I can seem to find their music is on this app called Soundcloud but you can see their Facebook page here). Anyway they’re a great group and brightened up my week, my own little bit of negro sunshine. I can’t wait to see what they produce once they graduate high school. Okay that it for now. See you next time maybe for some caucasian moonlight, lol.