A Trip to the Jewish Museum

January 27, 2007

After thoughtful consultation by the Museum’s Trustees and management, and with the endorsement and support of The Jewish Theological Seminary of America, we embarked upon the experiment of opening the exhibition galleries on Saturdays, on a trial basis, [from May 12] through September 16, 2006. In observance of the Jewish Sabbath, Saturday admission is free, the shops and café are closed, and interactive electronics are not available. We are wholly committed to providing an educational and contemplative experience in a way that respects and honors the Sabbath spirit.

It isn’t the biggest museum in the city, nor the most famous, nor the site of the biggest, splashiest exhibitions. It doesn’t have the best-known collection, make headlines with controversial shows or plaster the city with racy posters, so even though it is located on Fifth Avenue’s Museum Mile, many people never think about walking through the doors of the Jewish Museum.

Recently, the museum’s directors have taken a few steps to increase the number of visitors, including remaining open on Saturdays, offering free admission on Saturday (adult admission is usually $12), and hosting exhibits featuring well-known artists and popular culture. (Note to management: allowing visitors to use cameras would be a nice next step.)

I took advantage of the free Saturday policy to see the current shows as well as a permanent display, Culture & Continuity: The Jewish Journey. The exhibit consists of a series of videos, playing continuously on a row of televisions, which reflect five themes from Ecclesiastes 3:1-8: A time to be born and a time to die; a time to weep and a time to laugh; a time to mourn and a time to dance; a time to love and a time to hate; a time of war and a time for peace.

Masters of American Comics
September 15, 2006 – January 28, 2007
Originally exhibited in Los Angeles, this show, the first major museum examination of one of America’s most popular forms of art, was split into two sections when it came East: comic strips from the first half of the 20th century went to the Newark Museum while comic books from the 1950s and later were exhibited at the Jewish Museum.

Superheroes: Good and Evil in American Comics
September 15, 2006 – January 28, 2007
Superheroes examines how, in the 1930s and 1940s, young artists and writers (many of them Jewish immigrants who had suffered as victims of oppression) created a new comic book genre—the superhero. This superb exhibit shows how these innovators melded characters from Greek mythology and biblical narratives with the immigrant experience of America to create superheroes: personages who, while seeming to be ordinary people, were actually powerful figures dedicated to fighting for “truth, justice and the American way.”

Light x Eight: The Hanukkah Project
November 25, 2006 – February 04, 2007
In honor of Hanukkah, the Jewish feast of lights, the show features the work of eight contemporary artists exploring lights’s ability to change in form, appearance and structure.

Alex Katz Paints Ada
October 27, 2006 – March 18, 2007
Prominent Brooklyn-born painter Alex Katz has spent most of his career depicting a single subject, his wife, model Ada del Moro. The show includes 40 paintings Katz created between 1957 to 2005, all of them featuring Ada. According to a sign posted at the exhibit, “Ada’s sense of style is timeless and unassuming and she … has a knack for wearing outfits that would make anyone else look dowdy.”

From Light x 8: Alyson Shotz’s Coalescence
Originally uploaded by annulla.

From Light x 8: Teresita Fernández’s Vermillion Fragment
Originally uploaded by annulla.

From Masters: Devil Dinosaur
Originally uploaded by annulla.

From Masters: Chris Ware’s Superman Suicide
Originally uploaded by annulla.

From Superheroes: Will Eisner drawing with corrections
Originally uploaded by annulla.

From Superheroes: Will Eisner’s The Spirit
Originally uploaded by annulla.

Zap Comics #1 by R. Crumb
Originally uploaded by annulla.

From Alex Katz: Black Scarf
Originally uploaded by annulla.

From Alex Katz: Ada Ada
Originally uploaded by annulla.

NY Times: Masters of American Comics
The Jewish Museum: Masters of American Comics
The Jewish Museum: Superheroes
The Jewish Museum: Light x Eight: The Hanukkah Project
The Jewish Museum: Alex Katz Paints Ada
The Jewish Museum
Museum’s Exhibition Galleries To Open On Saturdays

The American Beauty Project

January 20, 2007

In a burst of creative energy, the Grateful Dead recorded two of their best albums in a single year: American Beauty in March 1970 and Workingman’s Dead in August and September 1970. Both feature a blend of folk, rock, bluegrass and country music so innovative it resulted in both being listed on Rolling Stone magazine’s list of the 500 greatest albums of all time.

To celebrate the albums’ 35th anniversary, producer David Spelman organized a two-evening tribute he called the American Beauty Project. The show, held at the World Financial Center, reflected much of the spirit of a Grateful Dead performance. The assembled crowd ranged from babies in tie-dyed onesies to elderly couples leaning on walkers. It included both the anticipated core of nostalgic Dead Heads and hippies and an unexpectedly large contingent of the Wall Street denizens who live in the area.

The concert, hosted by legendary DJ John Schaefer, presented a diverse roster of artists who performed their own arrangements of the Grateful Dead’s groundbreaking music. Tonight’s lineup included:

  • Uncle John’s Band by Ollabelle with Larry Campbell
  • High Time by the Holmes Brothers and Catherine Russell
  • Dire Wolf by Larry Campbell with Teresa Williams and Rob Barraco
  • New Speedway Boogie by Catherine Russell and Larry Campbell
  • Cumberland Blues by the Klezmatics
  • Black Peter by Jim Lauderdale with John Leventhal, Brandon Ross and friends
  • Easy Wind by Tim O’Reagan (the Jayhawks)
  • Casey Jones by Railroad Earth
  • Encore: Going Down the Road Feeling Bad
  • Plus instrumental interludes by Andy Statman, Tony Trischka, Kerryn Tolhurst and David Spelman.

  • The crowd in the World Financial Center
    Originally uploaded by annulla.

    Catherine Russell
    Originally uploaded by annulla.

    Andy Statman
    Originally uploaded by annulla.

    The Klezmatics
    Originally uploaded by annulla.

    The American Beauty Project
    Originally uploaded by annulla.

    John Schaefer & Larry Campbell
    Originally uploaded by annulla.

    Originally uploaded by annulla.

    Jim Lauderdale & the Klezmatics
    Originally uploaded by annulla.

    MySpace: American Beauty Project
    Grateful Dead News: American Beauty Project Interview
    Jam Base: The American Beauty Project
    Variety: American Beauty Project
    John Schaefer on WNYC
    New York Guitar Festival

    A Visit to the Brooklyn Museum

    January 13, 2007

    The Brooklyn Museum is one of the least popular and, unquestionably, most controversial of the nation’s major museums.

    Originally planned in the late 1800s as an outgrowth of the Brooklyn Institute of Arts and Sciences, it was meant to be a center of education and research in science, art and natural history. At the time, Brooklyn was not yet incorporated into the City of New York, and the Brooklyn Museum was designed on a scale suited to the ambitions of the vibrant, rapidly-growing city. The massive Beaux Arts building was designed by McKim, Mead & White, then the preeminent architectural firm in the country, and was intended to be “the largest single museum structure in the world.”

    The museum has amassed one of the world’s greatest Egyptian collections and is noted for its significant holdings of American and European paintings and more than two dozen American period rooms.

    Like most public institutions, over the years the museum has struggled with budgetary constraints, changes in public tastes and shifting political fortunes. However, the Brooklyn Museum has also suffered from a long series of controversial policies and decisions. These range from the destruction of the significant architectural features (the results of ill-conceived attempts to renovate and modernize) to the outrage surrounding many of the choices made by museum director Arnold Lehman.

    In recent years the museum’s efforts have shifted from a focus on education to an emphasis on finding ways to increase attendance. It has mounted large exhibits devoted to aspects popular culture including ‘Star Wars’ films, hip-hop performers, photographs of Marilyn Monroe and graffiti, where “hipness,” glitz and glitter were abundant while scholarship seemed to be in short supply.

    I appreciate a museum showing me something new or unexpected (in fact, that’s one of the primary reasons I visit) but I want to understand what I’m seeing and why the museum has deemed it worthy of exhibition. And museum-going in New York isn’t cheap. I feel cheated if I have to spend money to reach a museum, pay an admission fee to get in and then find that, in order to learn about the show’s significance and historical context, I’d have to shell out $50 more for a copy of the catalog.

    Regardless of whether the information is communicated through signs, brochures, audiotours, docents or some other means, I want to leave a museum feeling that I’ve learned something substantial. All too often, this hasn’t been my experience at the Brooklyn Museum and in response, I’ve stayed away.

    However, on October 20, 2006, amidst much hype, the museum opened an exhibition of work by photographer Annie Liebovitz. For months I was able to withstand the ads that adorned every bus shelter and subway car touting the show, the accompanying book and the television documentary, but was unable to ignore the people who asked why I hadn’t yet seen the show. Finally, today, I succumbed to peer pressure and visited the Brooklyn Museum.

    The museum must have seriously underestimated the effect their marketing efforts would have, because on this frigid day the entrance line stretched out the front door and down the block. Once inside, museum-goers waited to pay admission, then waited again for admittance to elevators that they went to exhibit floor (special elevators were reserved for members and VIPs), and finally queued up for admission to the rooms where 200 or so of Liebovitz’s photographs hung.

    Although she is known primarily for her portraits of celebrities, the show also included photos of Liebovitz’s travels, friends and family. While most of her work was familiar, the surprise of the day appeared in an adjacent area where the startling, extraordinarily lifelike work of Australian sculptor Ron Mueck was displayed.

    Two exhibits worth seeing, both diligently patrolled by guards who told visitors to please put away their cameras; taking photographs is forbidden. “Sorry,” they said, “but no pictures are allowed. It’s a museum policy.”

    Iggy Pop by Annie Liebovitz
    Originally uploaded by annulla.

    Mick Jagger by Annie Liebovitz
    Originally uploaded by annulla.

    Nicole Kidman by Annie Liebovitz
    Originally uploaded by annulla.

    Susan at the House on Hedges Lane by Annie Liebovitz
    Originally uploaded by annulla.

    Mask by Ron Mueck
    Originally uploaded by annulla.

    Baby by Ron Mueck
    Originally uploaded by annulla.

    Big Man by Ron Mueck
    Originally uploaded by annulla.

    Brooklyn Museum
    Ron Mueck at the Brooklyn Museum
    Annie Leibovitz at the Brooklyn Museum
    PBS American Masters: Annie Liebovitz
    Annie Leibovitz at the Brooklyn Museum (Part 1)
    Discord at Brooklyn Museum
    Brooklyn Museum Offs Curatorial Depts
    Loss of Curators’ Power Seen in Brooklyn Museum
    Museum Recruited Donors Who Stood To Gain
    Museum Group Adopts Guidelines on Sponsors
    Art, Money & Control

    Blue Listed Brooklyn

    January 11, 2007

    In its newly published annual best-of-the-world guide, international travel expert Lonely Planet has named Brooklyn as a top tourist destination.

    Brooklyn? Honestly?

    Yep, to the astonishment of many native New Yorkers, Lonely Planet’s “Blue List: The Best in Travel 2007” says, “Brooklyn’s booming. Any New Yorker worth their street cred knows the new downtown lies just across the East River.”

    The book, a collection of travel tips submitted by Lonely Planet’s readers and staff members, includes a two-page spread on this borough and states that “a cultural movement has emerged” in what they call “the USA’s biggest city-within-a-city.”

    Brooklyn? Seriously?

    Yes, along with Hawaii and New Orleans, Brooklyn has been singled out as a favorite U.S. destination. While we’ve gotten accustomed to occasionally glimpsing double-decker sightseeing coaches on some of the streets closest to Manhattan, many (OK, most) New Yorkers still have trouble believing that Brooklyn is a hotspot for tourists.

    In fact, the inclusion of Brooklyn in latest edition of the best-selling guidebook has made headlines here. The Blue List’s recommendations include the Brooklyn Bridge, Prospect Park, Coney Island and the Mermaid Parade, the Brooklyn Museum and the Jacques Torres Chocolate Factory, all located in what Lonely Plant is calling “the hippest part of New York City.”

    Brooklyn? Really?

    Yeah, really. So please pardon us while we take a moment to kvell.

    Lonely Planet Blue List 2007
    Originally uploaded by annulla.

    Lonely Planet Blue List 2007
    NY Daily News: Brooklyn’s the REAL vacation hot spot
    My Fox NY: Brooklyn Top Tourist Spot
    NY1: Brooklyn Makes Lonely Planet List
    Borough President Marty Markowitz Hails Lonely Planet
    Lonely Planet

    Bare Chests and Bare Branches

    January 6, 2007

    Some thought it was frightening, others found it delightful, but all agreed that a 72 degree (22 C) day in January was astonishing. On a date that normally demands hats, gloves, mufflers and heavy overcoats, New Yorkers ventured out in t-shirts, shorts and sandals.

    If not for the bare branches overhead, this could have been mistaken for a day in May. Since the unseasonably warm weather came on a Saturday, when most residents were free of commitments to work or school, many families were able to enjoy the sunny weather together.

    Brooklynites walked, ran, rode and skated to Prospect Park to jog, picnic, relax, mingle and play. They scampered across still-green lawns flying frisbees and kites, read and picnicked under shadeless trees, romped through the playground and practiced yoga and Tai Chi under the clear blue sky. Tennis rackets shed their covers, volleyball nets were strung up, footballs taken out of closets and a clown made an appearance at the playground.

    Tomorrow the temperature will drop 20 degrees; jackets will again be worn, ears will again be covered, tennis rackets and footballs will again be relegated to the closet. But for one bright, shining day, Mother Nature gave Brooklyn a brief, shining, early taste of spring.

    The brilliant blue sky above Grand Army Plaza  Posted by Picasa

    Sitting in the sun at Grand Army Plaza  Posted by Picasa

    Sunbathing on the lawn  Posted by Picasa

    Father teaching daughter to play  Posted by Picasa

    Playing with a remote-control car  Posted by Picasa

    Jogging  Posted by Picasa

    Boys on the Harmony Playground  Posted by Picasa

    Mastering training wheels  Posted by Picasa

    Skateboarding  Posted by Picasa

    Making balloon animals at the playground  Posted by Picasa

    Muffin the cat, secure in his harness  Posted by Picasa

    Climbing the harp sculpture  Posted by Picasa

    Crowded roadways  Posted by Picasa

    Biker in an Oscar the Grouch shirt  Posted by Picasa

    Walking a dog  Posted by Picasa

    Reading  Posted by Picasa

    NY Times: 72-Degree Day Breaks Record in New York
    Prospect Park

    Yes, Spelling Counts

    January 5, 2007

    It isn’t just something your teachers said; in Brooklyn, even vandals know that correct spelling and punctuation are important.

    These notes appeared inside the Flushing Avenue IND subway station on a poster for Cedric the Entertainer’s new movie, Code Name: The Cleaner.

    Thoe’s are real Posted by Picasa

    “Those” – You can’t spell Posted by Picasa

    Code Name: The Cleaner
    NYC Subway: IND Crosstown, Flushing Avenue
    Station Reporter: G Train

    Goodbye to the Holidays

    January 4, 2007

    Tonight they changed the sign on the marquee at the Brooklyn Heights Cinema. The hoiday season is now officially over.

    Happy Holidays – Watch More Movies Posted by Picasa

    Cinema Treasures: Brooklyn Heights Cinema

    Holidays Underground

    January 3, 2007

    No one would ever mistake a New York City subway station for Rockefeller Center, but if you know where to look, seasonal decorations can be found underground.

    The Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) doesn’t decorate the subways (not that anyone would expect them to do so) but they don’t forbid holiday decor, either. The only official policy is a prohibition against anything that would block views into and out of the token booths and train dispatchers’ offices. Other than that, decorations are allowed at the discretion of the station manager.

    As a result, every year certain Transit Authority employees take the time to bring a bit of holiday cheer to their subterranean workplaces. Using their own materials and at their own expense, these men and women string tinsel, hang lights and garlands, draw snowmen and stars on whiteboards and even use discarded MetroCards to create tiny, bright pockets of merriment in the dark tunnels.

    Time constraints allowed me to capture only a few examples before the decorations were taken down for the season, but if I’m still here next year, I’ll be back and publish more.

    Clark Street Station Posted by Picasa

    Court Street Station Posted by Picasa

    Train dispatcher’s office at Cortland Street Station Posted by Picasa

    Tree decorated with MetroCards and TransitCheks  Posted by Picasa

    NYC Transit: Subways
    Transit Chek
    Gothamist: Token Booth Closings

    Blues on the Street

    January 2, 2007

    I thought these New York Police Department officers on the corner of Fifth Avenue and 42nd Street looked as though they were posing for photographs, so I took a few.

    These members of the NYPD are standing in front of the main branch of the New York Public Library. This would have been a very bad moment for anyone to try stealing a few books.

    NYPD at Fifth Avenue & 42nd Street  Posted by Picasa

    Police officers assemble next to the New York Public Library  Posted by Picasa

    Listening to instructions  Posted by Picasa

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