Saturday, November 13, 2010

Day 85: The Museum

Photo of the Day: OOF

Today was my first visit to a New York museum, and I got to kick it off in style with The Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), one of the most famously prestigious and influential in the world. Among the artists represented in the vast collection are luminaries such as Pablo Picasso, Vincent van Gogh, Claude Monet, Andy Warhol, Jackson Pollack, Yoko Ono, Joan Miró, Salvador Dalí, Henri Matisse—in other words, artists and works I actually know. Ken, one of the guys in my Tuesday night small group, has a membership to the MoMA and is allowed to bring guests to members-only early viewing hours, which allows for peaceful, contemplative browsing before the heaving multitudes arrive, and he generously extended an invitation to our entire career fellowship. I arrived a bit late and got in only a few minutes earlier than the rest of the masses, but even that short head start was quite the enjoyable privilege.

For my first visit to the MoMA, I opted to spend most of my time focused on taking my own pictures. It was my private little experiment of "creating art" while surrounded by it, so I tried to avoid the usual tourist shots and capture the collection on view in a unique way. It was hard to do, especially with so many iconic, frequently-photographed pieces on display, but I tried to incorporate the setting and people as much as possible and played with scale, symmetry, and reflection. Ultimately the viewer is challenged to consider whether the photograph is of art or is art itself. (Please excuse my pretentious rhetoric; I've read way too many gallery texts today.) I had a lot of fun, and it was definitely inspiring to be surrounded by so many gorgeous artistic masterpieces, each with its own original style and perspective.

I managed to get some work done and grab lunch at a cafe called Culture Espresso Bar near Bryant Park. Later that night I joined some friends and new acquaintances for dinner at Xi'an Famous Foods, which makes their delicious hand-pulled noodles fresh in-house; it truly makes a world of difference. The culinary adventures continued through the night, with my friend Jayson and I stopping by Gem Spa for "New York's best" egg cream, a vintage beverage I've heard of in Americana movies but have never tried. Though a tad bit syrupy sweet, I enjoyed the unique, frothy fountain drink made with milk, seltzer, and flavoring (it contains no egg or cream). We sampled both the chocolate and vanilla varieties and decided that vanilla was definitely the winner. Over tapioca drinks at Saint's Alp Teahouse later, we also tried the warm bread pudding from the nearby DessertTruck Works food cart, which makes their award-winning custard with bacon fat. I loved the warm, creamy decadence, but my companions were not huge fans. After our dinner and drinks, we decided to go to the movie theater near Union Square to watch Megamind, which was a surprisingly enjoyable movie with both poignant and laugh-out-loud moments. It was a perfect, light-hearted ending to a fun and action-packed day of culture, food, and friends.

Andy Warhol's Campbell's Soup Cans.
Museum visitors admire the Vir Heroicus Sublimis by American painter Barnett Newman.
Admiring Jackson Pollock's landmark One: Number 31, 1950.
A museum guests contemplates the oil painting No. 5/No.22 by Mark Rothko, who also designed the renowned Rothko Chapel in Houston.
Museum visitors take a break in front of Adolph Gottlieb's Descending Arrow.
An art patron examines Willem de Kooning's Woman, I
The gallery text for Woman, I, which includes a quote by the artist Willem de Kooning stating, "Flesh was the reason oil paint was invented."
A detail from Lee Krasner's Gaea.
A detail from Hans Hofmann's Memoria in Aeternum.
A detail from Philip Guston's oil painting The Clock.
Detail of David Smith's steel sculpture History of LeRoy Borton.
Louise Nevelson's wooden surrealist scuplture Sky Cathedral
Aaron Siskind's Kentucky on display as an example of Abstract Expressionist photography.
Admiring Claude Monet's Impressionist masterpiece Water Lilies.
A photograph exhibit reflected in the glass at the back of the stairwell.
The glass stairwell leading up to the MoMA's fifth floor.
The stairwell behind glass at the MoMA.
An aerial view of museum visitors relaxing on the ottomans on the second floor.
My Chuck Taylors, while looking through the glass-paneled railings down into the museum atrium and lobby.
A detail from René Magritte's surrealist The Portrait.
Marcel Jean's Specter of the Gardenia.
Recreating art x3 in front of Vincent van Gogh's famous The Starry Night.
A patron examining Pablo Picasso's famous Les Demoiselles d'Avignon.
A cast bronze sculpture by Italian futurist Umberto Boccioni called Unique Forms of Continuity in Space.
A crowded gallery where the works of Vincent van Gogh and Pablo Picasso are housed side-by-side.
The street view from the gallery window.
Peeking out the window in front of the Small Scale, Big Change architecture exhibition.
Aerial view of a model of the Red Location Museum of Struggle at the MoMA's Small Scale, Big Change architecture exhibition.
The Solnar Tarcici Collapsible Solar Cooker on display as part of the Counter Space: Design and the Modern Kitchen exhibition.
From the MoMA's print ad campaign.
Through the window of Gordon Matta-Clark's Bingo, which is a cross section of building.
Felix Gonzales-Torres' Untitled (Supreme Majority), a contemporary piece made of seven paper cones addressing the political dimensions of the AIDS crisis. Yeah, I don't see it either.
Noonday sunlight filtering through the autumn leaves in the MoMA Sculpture Garden.
A tiny snippet of the top corner of the MoMA and skyline from the Sculpture Garden.
My figgy sandwich at Culture Espresso Bar, with prosciutto, Italian fig spread, arugula, and Vermont goat cheese on multi-grain bread.
Fresh and frothy egg creams from Gem Spa near St. Mark's.
Eunice gives warm bread pudding with bacon custard from DessertTruck Works a try.
Simon samples the warm bread pudding with bacon custard from DessertTruck Works.
Clarence takes the plunge with his first bite of warm bread pudding with bacon custard from DessertTruck Works.


  1. hehe i love the pix that you took of ppl in the MOMA...especially the guy taking a picture on his phone. :)

    hope you're doing well, josh! i'm glad you're keeping this up. it's like an online scrapbook with all your pix! :D

    are you gonna be in town for the holidays?

  2. Thanks, Rach! Yes, this blog is helping me remember a lot more of my year than I normally would, haha. I'm hoping I can find a service to print it all out for me when it's all done. It is hard trying to share interesting stuff while keeping it somewhat impersonal, since this is a public blog.

    Yes, I will be in Houston for the holidays! Will you be in town?

  3. cool MOMA pictures!! very creative! i like the Starry Night one, and the one of your chucks, and the texture detail of The Clock!

  4. Yay, thanks, Michelle!

    I was a total creeper for the Starry Night pic, hanging around trying to peek over people's shoulders while they were taking photos. The security guard was eying me suspiciously the entire time, hehe.

    The Chucks pic is my favorite because it seems to be the most "artsy" haha. I like how it's a little surreal and abstract even though it's a photograph. This may have been because I had just left the exhibit on Abstract Expressionism photography. :P

    I feel like what most people do in museums is take pics of art straight on, like an image in a textbook, and the texture is lost. So that's what I was trying to show in that Clock detail, and I'm glad you picked up on it!

  5. I love them chucks too.
    These pics are definitely different from your normally journalistic style. And in my opinion, that street view from the gallery could have been part of the display inside :).

  6. I will be in Houston for the holidays! All my extended family is there. For Thanksgiving, I'm coming in Wed and leaving Saturday. I'll be in for quite a while for Christmas too, esp between Christmas and New Year's.

  7. It was pretty good, though nothing spectacular. I definitely preferred the vanilla over the chocolate. The flavor reminded me of cream soda. I think I mostly like it for the novelty and history than for the taste.