Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Museum Visit: MoMA: Man in Piano

The NYTimes photograph of the event.
Uma and I went to the Museum of Modern Art to see "Stop, Repair, Prepare," a performance, art event at the MoMA, by Jennifer Allora (American, born 1974) and Guillermo Calzadilla (Cuban, born 1971) The event combines the mediums of performance art and sculpture. It featured a player inside a piano, playing Beethoven's "Ode to Joy."

The piano had a hole cut out of the middle. The player stood inside the piano, and leaned out over the keyboard to play the piano keys, upside down. Sometimes she plucked the strings inside the piano.
Uma walking toward the piano.

We saw Mia Elezovic perform. She played the "Ode to Joy," sort of. It was mostly bits and pieces of the music. The piano was on wheels and the player rolled the piano to different places in the room, paused and played a few notes.

Uma asked lots of questions like, why does the piano move? Why was she plucking the strings inside the piano? It reminded her of when she plucked her violin strings. The event had inspired a dialogue about what art "wants to be." I realized you're never too young to ask some good questions.

Afterwards, we had a snack in the MoMA cafe on the second floor. Then we visited a special exhibition about kitchens. Uma was enchanted with the tv monitors and headsets and tried each one in turn.
Uma learns about kitchens

We visited some galleries that displayed MoMA's new acquisitions. Uma loved a Yoko Ono video of people on the street talking and doing what people on the street do.

Uma investigated a video in front of a Robert Indiana painting.

We were going to play "The Matching Game," our favorite museum game (see note). We were would start with a hunt for the original Van Gogh "Starry Night" reproduced on the MoMA membership card. But feeling a little tired, we decided to save the game for our next visit.
We headed toward the escalators that would take us downstairs. We stood looking through the glass walls, watching the passengers glide past, when Uma, following the movement of the passengers said, "It's like a film." Wow! What a child!

During our taxi ride home, Uma and I agreed that the MoMA would be "our club." We would visit it again, very very soon. There would always be new exhibitions to see.

* Note: "The Matching Game" is a fun game for young museum-goers. It's a kind of treasure hunt. We start in the museum store, where we select postcard reproductions of paintings in the collection, and then hunt for them in the galleries.

Here is the link to the MoMA event: "Stop, Repair, Prepare"

Studio Visit: Baby Got Bach

Several families and their 3 year old children, attended a Sunday morning concert designed to introduce very young children to classical music. It was called "Baby Got Bach." It was held at Le Poisson Rouge, a nightclub for contemporary arts on Bleeker Street. The concert was organized by Orli Shaham, a talented pianist who believes children can learn about classical music at a very young age. Her idea is to introduce kids to music and musical instruments with professional musicians as guides.

It was easy to find Le Poisson Rouge with the crowd of children, babies in strollers and families milling around the entrance. Babies in strollers??? A concert of classical music?? I wondered what could possibly draw such a crowd of very young concert goers and their families?

We went inside, into a darkened bar area lit with funky colored lights here and there. Musicians sat at several activity "stations," a French Horn player, a Violinist, an Accordian player. They talked to the children about their instruments. The French Horn player demonstrated explosive lip sounds to show the kids how you blow into the horn. She pressed the "keys" to change the tone.

The Violinist across the room, played tunes like "Twinkle Twinkle." The children helped her hold the "bow" and "pluck" the strings. 

At a drawing station, the children used markers to add color to Kazoos, (KAZOOS?). Then, the kids tooted music notes written on little music "flashcards." They learned that you toot a note for each musical note, and are silent at the "Rest."

The Accordion player invited kids to TOUCH the keyboard and make up tunes.

Several musicians began a "jam session." The kids were given tambourines and maracas to provide the "percussion." The effect was raucous and fun!!

Soon it was time for the concert. We entered a large darkish room with a brightly lit stage and took our seats. Orli stepped up to the microphone and greeted the audience. She explained that she is a pianist and proceeded to play a Bach "Invention" on the piano. Wonderful.

Orli asked the audience to call each musician to the stage by applauding. First, we applauded for the French Horn player, who brought along a long garden hose with a funnel shape at the end. She explained that it was like the curled brass tubing of the French Horn, and demonstrated how it amplified the sound.

We applauded for the Violinist to come out. Orli explained that the musicians were going to play a Brahms Trio together. It was a "music" story about animals. They demonstrated the musical sounds of each animal and then played the beautiful Brahms Trio.

The next piece had been specially composed for Orli and Baby Got Bach. It was called "The Sneaky March," and had lots of different marching tempos. The children were invited to move around the room in time to the music.

The final composition was a "drawing-to-music," piece. The kids were asked to take out their "passport books" (given earlier) and draw what they were feeling while the music was playing. Several people passed around crayons. The music began. The kids listened to the sweeping sounds, and then made lines on the page as if they were playing a musical instrument. Beautiful.

This concert was unlike the ones we were used to; there was lots of interaction. The kids were invited to participate and move around. They enjoyed playing music and marching to the "Sneaky March." Not only had the concert given them a brilliant introduction to tempo and classical music, it had engaged them in a delightful way. A great beginning.

Was the concert good for kids? Well, they would have liked the performance to go on and on. That's what we call a great success.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Museum Visit: Whitney Museum: Claes Oldenburg

Claes Oldenburg (Born Stockholm, Sweden, 1929) is an American sculptor known for his humorous, monumental sculpture of everyday objects.

Oldenburg moved to New York City in 1956, where he joined with a number of artists, including Jim Dine, Red Grooms, and Allan Kaprow, artists who were involved with "performance" art called Happenings. In an early work, Oldenburg created an "environment" titled "The Store" with plaster sculptures of commercial pastries. Here is a display case from "The Store."

Later, he constructed food sculptures that were made of painted canvas, like this funny, giant "Hamburger." It is part of the permanent Oldenburg exhibition at the Whitney Museum.

Another Oldenburg canvas sculpture at the Whitney Museum, is "BLT," a bacon, lettuce and tomato sandwich. Each layer of the BLT is a separate work of art, requiring that it be assembled for each exhibition.

In 1965, Oldenburg created outdoor sculptures like the "Ice Bag." The vinyl sculpture is twelve feet across, and motorized, slowly moving up and down. A film called "Commercial for an Ice Bag," shows the Ice Bag in surprising outdoor sites: on a snowy hill with snow falling on it; floating on a river; spread out on a sunny grassy hill; or sitting in a field blooming cherry trees.

Oldenburg’s use of everyday commodities as subject-matter, and his way of reversing characteristics of hard and soft, rigid or yielding, created an art of parody and humor, and placed him in the forefront of what became known as Pop Art.

In 1965 Oldenburg turned his attention to projects for imaginary outdoor monuments. He created humorous sculptures of familiar objects he made colossal. "The Lipstick Ascending, on Caterpillar Tracks," was a huge sculpture constructed of painted Cor-Ten steel. It was installed at Yale University, in response to the anti-war sentiments among the students, (make love not war??)

Here are two projects inspired by Oldenburg's art, that you can try with your child at home.

"Artbus Soft Sculpture"

You'll need some magic markers and some (old?) fabric. On paper, scribble some shapes. Look for shapes in the scribbles. Draw a heavy outline around a scribble you want to turn into a soft sculpture. Draw a line an extra half inch outside the shape. This will be your pattern. Cut the shape out along the larger outside line. You'll need a front and a back for your sculpture. Add some color with magic markers. Turn the outside to the inside. Sew the front and back pieces together leaving a small section open. Trim the excess fabric close to the seam. Turn the sewn fabric inside out. Stuff the sculpture with cotton or soft, old socks cut into small pieces. Sew the open space closed (with invisible stitches). And there, you have a soft sculpture. You can also try to create some "soft sculpture" animals, or soft sculpture toys.

"Artbus Me Pillow"
This will be a little pillow with a photo of you on it, that your doll (or pet) can sleep on. Ask your parent to print a photograph of you on iron-on paper. (You can find the paper in an art store or photo store.) Cut out two pieces of fabric about 6"x10"? One piece will be the front of the pillow, the second piece will be the back. Iron the photo onto the front piece. Turn the photo face down so it is on the inside of the pillow. Sew the two pieces of fabric closed leaving a small opening. Trim the fabric close to the seam. Turn the fabric right side to the outside, so the seam is on the inside, and you can see your photo on the outside. Stuff the pillow with soft old fabric or cotton batting (sewing supplies store) and sew the opening closed with tiny stitches. You can use a photo of you with Mom or Dad for your pillow, or your best friend, or your pet. Then it will be a "Mom Pillow" or...

Gallery Visit: William Wachtel Gallery: Margeaux Walter

Margeaux Walter was born 1972 in Seattle. She studied at NYU Tisch School of Art in New York City. Her work was included in the MoMA P.S.1 Revolving Exhibition 2010. She is represented by the William Wachtel Gallery.
Walter creates digital photographs and lenticulars (a printing process that creates images that move or shift with the movement of the viewer), to examine the impact of technology on society.

“Whether I am exploring the changing ideals of family and community, or how we interact in crowds, my work is both created with a sense of humor, and with a yearning to hold onto physical human interaction in a technologically advancing society.”

Margeaux was inspired by the work of Cindy Sherman, an artist who dresses up as different characters and photographs herself. All the characters in Margeaux's collages are photos of herself, disguised in wigs, costumes, and makeup.

Gallery Visit: Ameringer: Judy Pfaff

Judy Pfaff's Frio
I went to Chelsea last week to see the Judy Pfaff show at the Ameringer Gallery on West 22 Street, inspired by Roberta Smith's review in the New York Times. The show, "Five Decades," featured several of her amazing wall-size (sometimes room-size) exhuberant explosions of wiggley wire, bits of painted wood, paper lanterns, tin cans, all suspended in the air by meticulous construction that made the giant sculptures seem to be miraculous assemblages that appear weightless. Pfaff has always been one of my favorite sculptors. I marvel at the way she pulls dozens of tiny disparate elements together in one powerful work.

Pictured here is "Frio, from her 1984 Badlands Series. It is one of my favorites. Using a minimalist's palette of white, black and some in-between grays, Pfaff creates a stark, formalist work, that suggests the romance and poetry of birch trees, the woods, a metaphor for nature itself.

Judy Pfaff (1946) is an American sculptor who hit her stride in the 1970's along with artists Lynda Benglis, Gordon Matta-Clark and Richard Tuttle. She is a minimalist but without the constraints of minimalism and conceptual art. Her work ventures toward site-specific installations and large expansive pieces that are permanently attached to a wall. Pfaff received a BFA from Washington University and an MFA from Yale University. She has received many awards among them the prestigious John D. and Catherine T. Mac Arthur Foundation award. Pfaff work is included in the collections of the Brooklyn Museum, The Museum of Modern Art, the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York.

Museum Visit: MoMA: Picasso's Guitars

Around 1912, artist Pablo Picasso (1881-1973), built this playful construction of a guitar out of paper, string and cardboard. No-one knew what to make of it. Was it sculpture? "No" Picasso answered, "it's the guitar."

He built another guitar In 1914, in sheet metal. Both Guitars were gifts from the artist to MoMA. They were part of a special period of material and structural experimentation in Picasso’s work.

It is this time in twentieth-century art, that the MoMA's exhibition Picasso: Guitars 1912–1914, explores. The exhibition includes seventy collages, constructions, drawings, mixed-media paintings, and photographs assembled from over thirty public and private collections worldwide.

Museum Visit: Rubin Museum: Timed Visit

Here is Jill Cornfield's simple, half-hour timeline for taking kids to visit the Rubin Museum without fear. I found it in TimeOut New York KIDS and loved it. Don't forget to drop in to the Museum's gift shop afterwards.
TimeOut New York KIDS's Half-hour tour of the Rubin Museum

The sujuni in “Color and Light: Embroidery from India and Pakistan” Photograph: © Peter Aaron/Esto
Presented the right way, almost any topic can interest a child. Case in point: Himalayan art. My previously uninitiated eight-year-old, Ned, was enthralled with it on a recent trip to the Rubin, thanks to a careful plan. To replicate our visit, leave an ID at the admissions desk and borrow a Yak Pack, stuffed with toys and games. You can also grab a magnifying glass (available on each floor, usually near the stairs) in order to examine scrolls, Buddhas and needlecraft details.
00:00–00:03 Down a few steps from the main hall is a multimedia presentation that illustrates the distance between NYC and the Himalayas. Watch it, and you’ll have accomplished your first goal: establishing context.
00:04–00:05 Mosey over to the spiral staircase, stand at its base, and gaze up at the radiating spokes of the skylight. The gorgeous pattern holds a lesson: A trip’s highlight may turn out to lie in examining the museum itself.
00:06–00:13 On the fourth floor, head to “Color and Light: Embroidery from India and Pakistan” (through May 11). Stand in front of the sujuni, a quilt depicting children riding on elephants or surrounded by birds and bugs. Your tots will have a ball in the exhibit’s back room arranging felt shapes on boards.
00:14–00:16 Nearby is a boy’s embroidered jacket with extra-long sleeves, intended to be worn on special occasions. Ask your kids how the garment compares with their own fancy clothes.
00:17–00:20 Stand in front of the 19th-century white fabric hanging from Kashmir. Your kids may think it’s utterly plain until they peer at it through a magnifying glass and discover its intricate woven pattern of paisley and flowers. Challenge them to guess how many stitches compose the piece. Ned wagered about 10 million.
00:21–00:23 Proceed to the second floor’s permanent exhibit, “Himalayan Art: What Is It?” Here, your family will learn how plants and semiprecious stones are ground into pigments.
00:24–00:30+ Head to the gift shop and snag the Amazing Magic Flower ($2.50), a paper contraption that can be unfolded in myriad ways—not unlike a museum visit.
Written by Jill Cornfield TimeOut New York KIDS's Half-hour tour of the Rubin Museum