The Arts in New York City

Macaulay Honors College at CUNY Hunter – Fall 2009

The Arts in New York City

MoMA Review

The new punk rock exhibit at the Museum of Modern Art does its best to document the genesis of punk rock music in New York City, but in the end, its inauthentic feel and disorganized presentation make this exhibit fall flat.

On the surface, the exhibit seems satisfactory. There are many pictures, videos, and album covers around, including Laurie Anderson’s notable “O Superman,” in which she uses lots of imagery for symbolism. “Edit deAk” by Paul Dougherty and Walter Robinson is also on display, an abstract video with images of New York from the early days of synthetic punk. “Hey Joe” and “Piss Factory” by Patti Smith offer comic relief with their aggressive, sexually charged poetic lyrics set to music. Coleen Fitxgibbon’s “Time” includes lots of white noise with sporadic words, and set to a blinking video of random black and white images–certainly not for the novice on the punk scene. The exhibit even included Queens’ own Ramones, with their minimalist “Rocket to Russia,” which offered some of the most charismatic rock in the entire exhibit.

The museum curators did their best to document the era of punk through clothes, records, pictures, video, and music, but made a serious misstep with the organization of the exhibit. Frankly, there’s too much of it. The exhibit is in a pristinely white and orderly space, with everything tidy. While the curators included notable talent from the time listed above, they ignored everything that talent said and felt. The curators forgot that punk came about to go against the tidy and the neat and the pristine. Subsequently, the entire exhibit feels more inauthentic and bourgeois than raw and real. “O Superman” can’t really be appreciated in a room than feels more like the Met and than MoMA.

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  1. Profile photo of oweinroth oweinroth says:

    I wonder why none of the gratify artists of the 70th were not included?

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The Truth About Art

Art is one of the purest expressions of man. Art, ranging from music to painting, is, at its core, catharsis. Not everyone can simply articulate their perception of the world. Not everyone has a desire to. People embrace other forms of art because they are all individuals, and they choose to make art in the first place because they want to share experiences with fellow individuals. Ergo, art is one’s truth in the most distilled form of the concept.

When we experience art, whether we realize this or not, we are exploring the truths of another individual and his sensibilities. That is why art responds to people in so many capacities. It’s why art has survived so long. There is an innate quality to art so truly genuine that we cannot ignore its gravitational force. Whether we feel we understand the piece of art or not, we understand that someone has just revealed the truth about something.

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  1. Profile photo of oweinroth oweinroth says:

    A very interesting thought. The quality of truth, as a base for communication, not “a Truth”. Do the scientist explore “The Truth”, while the artist explores a quality of a personal or universal truth?

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The Language of Dance*

Language is a way to communicate between people — an ability to convey everything or nothing. American Sign Language, however, shows that language doesn’t necessarily have to be spoken. There are certain gestures people can string together that allows another as much or as little into our mind frame as we please. Dance holds a theoretically similar premise. Dance is widely accepted as an art form, but the message dance can send out has meaning in its own right. A dance can tell a story like a person does while speaking. Under the presumption of these guidelines, a conversation in dance would be a dance-off, in which dancers consecutively string moves together. The problem, however, is that dance-offs tend to have competitive tones, as dancers seem to care less about conveying anything more than “Look at me! My extensions are the bomb!” in this situation.

Presuming dance can both speak and be an art form sets the precedent that literature, paintings, and music also have the ability to communicate in some capacity. There are different languages in spoken word, and in a parallel fashion, there are different dance styles. On the surface, dance does appear to have all the tenets of a language. However, dance is a language we observe rather than take part in. At a dance performance, audience members can’t jump on stage and crunk. While observing dance, we will always be left out of the conversation, like going to a bodega. Even if we are dancers ourselves, it is not our conversation to take part in. It is a language we constantly try to crack because even if we cannot take part in it, we know deep down that the language is relatable and understandable in a sense. When we realize this, we are as relieved as when we come to the conclusion that those guys in the bodega aren’t secretly plotting to overcharge us for the twinkies and doughnuts that keep us too overweight to spark a conversation in Dance.

On a somewhat related note, Mr. Adela’s discussion enforced what I knew about dance and dancers. Yes, it is expressive beyond belief. Yes, it rests on passion. Yes, dancers work harder than imaginable. And, most of all, dance is perhaps the most beautiful language on earth — more beautiful than French, more soulful than Italian. In addition, Mr. Adela wowed me on a personal level with his stamina, dedication, and that awesome breakdancing.

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  1. Profile photo of oweinroth oweinroth says:

    In 1968 The Israel Music Institute published a Classical Ballet book of movement notation by Eshkol Wachmann. It was their hope that one could write down each move in space. It failed for lack of translation in both direction. You could write it but you could not read it since it lacked meaning. The word “happy” or “sad” could not be notated.

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Jazz at Juliard

The word “jazz” has a soothing quality to it. Compare that to “hip hop,” which sounds like one wants to run away from it. The musical genres actually transpire in similar ways. Which hip hop can be abrasive and unsavory, jazz feels less like entertainment and more like therapy, a relaxation that accompanies saxophone solos.

Juliard’s jazz performance lived up to the sterling reputation of the genre. Listeners will be most impressed by the merging of sophistication and soul in the performance, and jazz in general. There is an irreproachable coolness to jazz, a particular intellect that comes along with appreciating it, yet jazz is also a visceral experience that expresses much more than its notes can explain.

Jazz at Juliard decided to do a tribute to Count Basie, and made a wise decision as a result. They celebrated this tour de force in jazz with songs as eclectic as “To You,” “Tickle Toe,” and “Freckle Face.” There were many finger-snapping, upbeat tunes, but there were also slower ones that allowed listeners to interpret, relax, and decompress in an organic way. There was the sense that there was a song for everyone, and that if the present one playing wasn’t for you, the next one surely would be.

Those who understand the high-brow nature of Juliard need not be concerned about jazz losing its lustrous flavor in the institution’s hands. Listeners go in expecting everything will be rehearsed to perfection, and find that there is an improvisational, almost casual nature to the playing of the striking, powerful music. This improvisational aspect is essential to the nature of jazz, which is all about live performances, and expressing what one can’t articulate on the whim, so that others may understand one’s life experiences. The combination of the piano, clarinet, and saxophone, among other instruments, creates a set of sounds wildly appropriate for the aforementioned purpose of jazz. The combination has the potential to sound everything from bubbly to morbid.

At Juliard’s performance, most will be struck by the fluidity in the music, the fluidity between musicians. There is seamless, aural art all around, tickling one’s ear with its genius. Jazz is all about how certain instruments, certain sounds, and certain musicians can come together, and flow in a natural way that suits the music. But just as in the Juliard performance, jazz oftentimes consists of many solos as well. One might consider these innumerable solos each man’s interpretation of life and the world. After all, jazz is about expressing what is not said. It is especially useful for illuminating human moods and the human condition. With different instruments, different musicians can express their own takes, and offer insight as only they and their instruments know how. The performance at Juliard retains the essence of jazz by sticking close to the formula of high soul, high sophistication, and a medley of music and musicians that is virtually unbeatable.

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Did ‘Fall for Dance’ Fall Flat?

In short, not quite.

Under the vaulted ceilings of the City Center theater, viewers found themselves observing a variety of styles in one universal medium — dance. Viewers new to this sort of performance quickly realize the boisterous enthusiasm of all those in the audience. This excitement stems from either extensive knowledge of dance or the appreciation of movements that look, in a word, difficult.

The Australian ballet, “Le Spectre de la rose” won points for limitless extensions and poised sophistication. However, there was a clinical quality to its execution, like it was supposed to be respected rather than enjoyed. It is true the crowd responded well to this performance, but that’s because it felt like a classic. It would have seemed blasphemous if there was no fanfare for it.

Another notable performance was Snow, which took the cake as the most esoteric performance of the night. While many appeared to appreciate it as a social climber appreciates a fine wine, there was quite a bit of head scratching going on. Snow was supposed to be an internal journey to…it is unclear what or where. It was a ‘hit or miss performance,’ achingly bold, with dancer Sang Juia often dancing out of the sight of peripheral viewers. The performance was also long, which didn’t do any favors to the controversy surrounding its complexities. On a high note, the snow was beautiful. It added much-needed imagery to an otherwise drab stage.

FInishing the show was Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater’s Revelations, which revealed that the average man can enjoy himself at a chef’s sample of ballet. Where other performances were dark and introspective, Revelations was bright and extroverted. It filled a much-need void in the round of performances — it put a smile on people’s faces. People enjoyed clapping their hands along with the soulful gospel music, all the while taking in the movements, how the dancers timed large movements with crescendos, how they remained still in the absence of music. This performance was a gem, a feast for the eyes and ears that was unforgettable. The bright lighting and uniform costumes added to this sense of occasion. The Alvin Ailey dancers knew that though their moves lacked a certain complexity found in other performances, grouping dancers on stage, in uniform costumes, with uniform movements, infuses vitality in a dance performance. Viewers felt like they were transported to a southern baptist church during Revelations. It was the most unexpected performance of the night. It was a revelation.

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Classical Art

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Surviving Pitsa Panel from Archaic Greece

Classical Art, also known as Classicism, refers to paintings and sculptures created by the Ancient Greeks and Romans. Decorative arts began around 1050 B.C. in Ancient Greece, and was later passed down to the Ancient Romans. Classical Art set the precedent for much of Western Art, including themes that would appear in art for centuries. Many speculate that the look of Classical Art is the direct result of Greek ideologies. In particular, Greeks seemed to have a refined view of humans, and, in particular, believed perfection was possible for humans.

Many scholars analyze Classical art and see a restraint on the part of the artists. There is a conservatism with which Classical artists generally paint. The paintings show restraint in the expression of themes. Greek artists also generally went to great lengths ensuring their paintings were physically rational. This means that the proportions of objects, people, and backgrounds were carefully mastered.

Panel Paintings on wooden boards were very respected, in addition to sculptures and wall paintings. Paintings generally depicted portraits, figural scenes, and still-lifes. Paintings were done with wax, but not many survived to the present day. Greek art spread to Egypt and Italy, in addition to other cultures that adopted certain hallmarks of classical art. Throughout the millennia, there have been many classical revivals, most notably in the Middle Ages and again a couple centuries afterward, which is often referred to as Neoclassicism.

Sources:

http://artchive.com/artchive/G/greek.html

Encarta Encyclopedia

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New York Then and Now

brooklyn-bridge-2
Hassam’s Brooklyn Bridge in winter, with very minimal background, likely because of the architectural underdevelopment at the time. The vanishing point is in the distance of the bridge’s towers, as perspective is leading the eye in that direction. A major change between Hassam’s picture and modern day is the presence of benches in his contemporary Brooklyn Bridge.
Brooklyn Bridge
This picture recaptures Hassam’s image of New York’s Brooklyn Bridge. The vanishing point is the second tower of the Brooklyn Bridge in the distance, visible behind the first tower, like in Hassam’s original. The overall environment of the photograph is sunnier than the painting, and obviously more detailed. It is clear that my picture is more modern simply because of the development in the background. It is clear that the world around the Brooklyn Bridge has changed, though the bridge is highly similar.

2 Comments Already

  1. Profile photo of oweinroth oweinroth says:

    Dear Nico,

    A very nice photograph.

    Did you have a hard time posting. Please e-mail me or Fiona your post to complete your work

    • Nico Grant says:

      Professor Weinroth,
      I only knew how to post the pictures in the gallery, otherwise they wouldn’t show up. I believe you must click on the pictures in order to see the descriptions.

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Self Portrait

O.   What does Art mean?

I may be taking a trite, unoriginal, and perhaps boring stance, but art is the medium through which a person may express oneself. Art is the byproduct of a consciousness from someone who views the world in any capacity. Art may add to the world or be a mirror of it, but it is an often inexpressible representation of an artist’s psyche — a brief glimpse into humanity, propelled by the idea of human nature.
1.    What is your favorite art form?

My favorite art form is fiction. However, you must bear in mind that I’m a fiction writer and aspiring novelist, so I’m more than a little biased. I think being able to articulate oneself through words is the clearest, concisest way of sharing one’s meaning.
2.    What is your favorite historical period?

My favorite historical period is the 60s, since it brought about an era of change in America. It symbolized the rejection of complacency, and sparked revolutionary ideas suppressed by centuries of repression.
3.    What is your academic/ non-academic strength?

My academic strengths are in humanities courses, ranging from Social Science to English. My non-academic strength is being a somewhat decent writer.
4.    Do you feel comfortable with new technologies?

New technologies inspire me. They reveal new things to me, and allow my mind to think more freely about the world and what’s possible in it. So yes, I’m pretty comfortable with state-of-the-art technology, as long as I know how to turn the thing on.

5.    How would you rate your writing skills?

I’ve been writing both creatively and academically for quite a few moons, so I’d say, in the scope of the world, if Stephen King wrote at a 10 level, I’d probably be a 7, with structure as my main demerit. However, compared with peers, I might fall above that by a bit.
nicoedit

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  1. Profile photo of oweinroth oweinroth says:

    Nice post Nico,

    If you have not been able to add a picture, you have the option of creating a literary portrait. As you can see both are valid on this blog.
    Glad to have a writer on board.

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