Water Lilies Return to the Wadsworth Atheneum

This Spring the Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art (located in Hartford, Connecticut) is presenting its well-known and very popular exhibition on Claude Monet’s waterlilies, “Monet’s Water Lilies: An Artist’s Obsession.”  The much anticipated show opened in February and will be on view until June 12th.

Nympheas, Water Landscape Oil on Canvas.  Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art, Hartford, CT.  Image from: http://www.wadsworthatheneum.org/view/monetwaterlilies.php.  Accessed March 31st, 2011.

Consisting of a small collection of Monet’s waterlily paintings (both from the Museum’s collection and items on loan), this show is a gorgeous celebration of the Impressionist artist’s famous inspiration.

Monet, who was greatly influenced from encountering Japanese prints, turned his cottage and private grounds in Giverny, France, into a magical environment that the paintings on display at the Wadsworth gorgeously emulate.

"Claude Monet’s Garden in Giverny Paris."  Photo from: http://www.wayfaring.info/2007/05/31/claude-monets-garden-in-giverny-paris/.  Accessed March 31st, 2011.

Having interned at the Wadsworth, I couldn’t help but plug this beautiful exhibition on Tumblr.  If I get an opportunity to return to Connecticut anytime soon, I hope to visit the museum and experience the beauty of Monet’s waterlilies first hand!  More information about the Museum and the exhibition can be found be clicking here.

Reading up on the show also reminded me of my favorite Monet painting of all time, which is part of the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston’s collection (I swear I’ve spent hours looking at this dreamy piece):

"La Japonaise (Camille Monet in Japanese Costume)."  1876.  Claude Monet.  Oil on Canvas.  Museum of Fine Arts Boston.  Image from: http://www.mfa.org/collections/object/la-japonaise-camille-monet-in-japanese-costume—33556.  Accessed March 31st, 2011.

with an up-close view…

The Material Lab at MoMA: Great Interactive Space for Kids!

The Material Lab at the Museum of Modern Art, or MoMA, is a new and exciting addition for young museum visitors. The revamped space, which previously served as a Shape Lab and a Line Lab, opened to the public in mid-February. Since then, the Material Lab has been offering children and their families unique opportunities to create arts and crafts that directly relate to the rest of the Museum’s collection.

Photo by: Sara Boyle, “The MoMA Material Lab.”  March 28th, 2011.

Upon walking into the Material Lab, located below a stairwell in the Lewis B. and Dorothy Cullman Education and Research Building, I was immediately struck by the whimsical and warm environment the exhibition exudes. The space itself is fairly small (between 30 to 50 visitors can occupy the Lab at one time), but this potential shortcoming has been well compensated for by the decorative touches of the exhibition designers. Lining one wall of the exhibition are a dozen “discovery boxes,” each of which features a uniquely decorated exterior. Wood, metal, paper, wire, and cloth are just several examples of these touchable materials. On closer inspection, the boxes turn out to be cabinets that open – inside each box are activity kits with materials and prompts that correspond to the decorative exteriors.

I selected two discovery boxes to explore, and found both to be delightful and educational. The first box I picked focused on paint. As I unpacked my kit, I found nine miniature painted canvases, each displaying a unique painting technique (drippy, bumpy, and matte, to name a few). The accompanying activity called for me to match painting terminology with each of the canvases. My second box was especially fun – this time I selected one that focused on food as an artistic material – that’s right, food! This kit explained how artists sometimes incorporate food and spices into their work, and was complimented by five distinct spices for children to smell and consider.

Photo by: Sara Boyle.  “A Sample Discovery Kit Activity.”  March 28th, 2011

In playing with these discovery boxes and watching young children do the same, I was struck by how successful the activity seemed to be. The children I observed seemed very engaged with their kits, and I really appreciated how expertly MoMA integrated references to art in its collection within the prompts. After exploring the discovery boxes, I felt that the exhibition developers succeeded in designing a fun yet meaningful activity for children.

The side of the Lab opposite the discovery boxes has large windows that look out onto the Museum’s garden courtyard. Here young visitors can engage in digital painting on several computers. The Lab’s facilitator told me that this activity is especially popular, and upon exploring it myself, I instantly understood why. The digital painting program is fun, easy to use, and incredibly realistic. From the perspective of an exhibition designer, this activity is a home run win! Children simply touch a paintbrush to the screen of the computer, and from there are able to create their own artistic masterpieces. The program allows users to select from a variety of paint colors, as well as brush sizes. It even mixes paints as you toy around with it, a feature that’s shockingly reminiscent to actually painting. Finally, the program allows you to zoom in as you work, thus offering a close-up view of the canvas.

Around the Material Lab there are a variety of other stations and activities for young visitors to engage in. Rubbing and collage stations offer children opportunities for take-home art projects, and there is also an area where children can experiment with manipulating light. A large cabinet can be arranged with objects as children see fit, and this is meant to mimic the artwork of Joseph Cornell. To the rear of the Lab, an impressive bookshelf offers supplemental reading materials. As a final playful touch, the room features an “accordion chair” which can literally be bent, stretched and shrunk in dozens of ways.

Photo by: Sara Boyle.  “The Amazing, Bendable Accordion Chair!” March 28th, 2011.

All in all, I found the Material Lab to be an absolutely delightful interactive space for children to explore. The facilitator told me that the target audience is children aged four to twelve years, but from what I observed, even very young children and adults can greatly enjoy the space! I found that in many aspects, the Material Lab reminded me of the Discovery Room at the American Museum of Natural History, the only major difference being a focus on art as opposed to the sciences.
On the MoMA website, the exhibition’s creators describe their big idea for the Lab as follows:

“Our main goal for Material Lab was to engage a broad audience through tactile, interactive, creative, and exploratory experiences, and to encourage discovery through experimentation. It was also important that the lab have a clear connection to MoMA’s collection, and not simply exist as a play or craft space” (www.moma.org/explore/inside_out/2011/03/10/making-discoveries-creating-material-lab, Accessed 27 March 2011).

From exploring the Material Lab myself, I feel the exhibition designers unquestionably succeeded in creating a fun and meaningful space for young visitors to explore aspects of the Museum. All of the activities in the Material Lab are engaging and relate directly to the artwork at MoMA. I highly recommend other exhibition designers to visit the MoMA Material Lab as a source of inspiration, and would instantly recommend it as a weekend destination for families with young children.

Amazing Historic Site in NYC: The Weeksville Heritage Center

Let’s get out of Manhattan for a little while and give the other boroughs some love, namely Brooklyn, home of an absolutely amazing place: the Weeksville Heritage Center.  Both the story behind the Heritage Center and the site itself are incredible.  Throughout the 19th century, Weeksville (located at 1698 Bergen Street between Buffalo and Rochester Avenues in Bedford-Stuyvesant) was the location an important free black community.  This neighborhood community played a key role in the American abolitionist movement.  After it stopped serving as this a settlement for free black citizens, the site remained for a time forgotten.  In 1968 it was “rediscovered” by local historians who read mention of it in books and noticed it when flying above the area.  Today, the Weeksville Heritage Center is a crucial historical landmark and registered as a historic place.

Below are photographs of Weeksville today, including its gorgeous gardens:

"Weeksville Now."  Image from: http://maap.columbia.edu/mbl_place/40.html.

Weeksville Gardens.  Image from: http://www.weeksvillesociety.org/?page_id=43.

As far as historical sites go, Weeksville is definitely one of my favorites.  In addition to the beautiful homes and grounds, the Center is rich with history on the community that once lived there, as well as information on the abolitionist movement.  I also really like the Center’s staff, who are extraordinarily kind and dedicated to preserving such a beautiful and important piece of New York history.  It is also notable that the Weeksville Society makes significant outreach efforts to the local community, which I think is an important role for all museums and historical centers to play.

The Heritage Center is a very impressive visit, and well worth the trip from another borough! The Center is particularly breathtaking during the spring and summer months!  More information about the Weeksville Heritage Center can be found by visiting the website of the Weeksville Society here.

Some Neat Subway Art

I recently discovered that Ralph Fasanella’s 1950 painting “Subway Riders” is permanently on view near fare control of the Fifth Avenue/53rd Street Subway Station (E & M trains).  How very cool!

Ralph Fasanella, “Subway Riders.” American Folk Art Museum.  Image from: www.folkartmuseum.org.

Here’s the painting as seen from the station:

Image from: http://folkartcooperstown.blogspot.com/2010/03/incidental-masterpiece.html

However, the other week when I was down there I noticed it was temporarily covered up :(  Hopefully this was a short-term situation, and the Fasanella painting will soon again be viewable to all of those happy-go-lucky New York subway commuters.

Subway art that I see much more regularly and absolutely love are the glass tile mosaics at the 66th Lincoln Center station (1, 2 trains) by Nancy Spero.

Nancy Spero.  Glass Mosaic.  Image from: http://nyclovesnyc.blogspot.com/2009/11/subway-art-nancy-speros-glass-mosaic.html.

Makes the (joyful) subway treks that much more aesthetically pleasing!

Opening Today at MoMA - “German Expressionism: The Graphic Impulse”

Today is a very exciting day (that is, if German Expressionism rocks your boat)!  The Museum of Modern Art (11 W. 53rd Street, between 5th & 6th Avenues) is opening its new exhibition “German Expressionism: The Graphic Impulse.”  In displaying over 200 prints from their collection, MoMA will give visitors an opportunity to view some fantastic examples of Expressionist artwork from the beginning of the 20th century.

I’m particularly excited for the series of woodcuts by Käthe Kollwitz, one of my favorite artists of all!

Käthe Kollwitz, “Widows and Orphans” 1919.  Image from: http://www.spartacus.schoolnet.co.uk/ARTkollwitz.htm.

Of course, there are plenty of other Expressionist prints on view to satisfy many dark hearts and dreary souls:

Emil Nolde. Young Couple. 1913. Lithograph.  Museum of Modern Art. Image from: http://www.modemonline.com.

Museum of Modern Art.  Image from: http://newyork.timeout.com/arts-culture/art/731629/german-expressionism-the-graphic-impulseegon.

After I get an opportunity to visit the exhibition, I will be sure to post a review of it.  If anyone else gets an opportunity to go, I hope that it’s enjoyable!

Here’s to hoping that the MoMA won’t be packed like a sardine can as is typical.  Also, I’m making sure to bring my museum ID because I don’t have 20 bucks to drop on just getting through the door! Yeesh!

More information about the MoMA and this exhibition can be found by visiting their website.

Eugene Von Bruenchenhein: “Freelance Artist—Poet and Sculptor—Inovator—Arrow maker and Plant man—Bone artifacts constructor—Photographer and Architect—Philosopher”

Whew a long title for an exhibition, but there we have it!  Eugene Von Bruenchenhein, a Wisconsinite Renaissance man and big name in the realm of folk art, is currently one of the primary focuses at the American Folk Art Museum (45 West 53rd Street between 5th and 6th Avenues).  And so in what follows, I hope to encourage you to visit the museum and explore the exhibition on this impressive and versatile artist.

The title of this exhibition, based off a plaque that Von Bruenchenhein carved himself, reveals perhaps the biggest take-away from the show: the incredible diversity in the artist’s ouevre.  The exhibition itself includes photographs, ceramics, paintings, chicken bone sculptures (that’s right! Chicken bone sculptures!), and drawings.  It is a delightful show, and I think that it does a great job of capturing the range of Von Bruenchenhein’s art as well as his incredible talent.

One of the associations people make most readily with Von Bruenchenhein is his impressive photographic collection.  With his wife Marie serving as his creative muse, Von Bruenchenhein amassed thousands of photos, oftentimes with her as the primary subject.  Below is just one beautiful example of a Von Bruenchenhein photo featuring Marie:

Eugene Von Bruenchenhein, “Untitled.”  Gelatin Silver Print. Photo by: Galvin Ashworth, from http://www.homeoffolkart.com.

In painting, Von Bruenchenhein was an innovative genius.  A resourceful artist, Von Bruenchenhein would often paint on cardboard with using his fingernails, or homemade hairbrushes.  The result is beautiful, dreamy citadels that rise up into the sky:

Eugene Von Bruenchenhein, “Edison Complex.” July 1978.  Oil on corrugated cardboard with masking-tape binding.  American Folk Art Museum.  Photograph from: http://www.homeoffolkart.com.

And of course, as mentioned above, one of the biggest highlights of the exhibition is the chicken and turkey bone sculptures, which the artist made out of left over dinners, paint, and model airplane glue.  They are impressively delicate and defy the laws of gravity, often rising several feet into the air:

Eugene Von Bruenchenhein, “Gold Tower.” c. 1970s.  Pain on chicken bones and turkey bones.  American Folk Art Museum.  Photograph from: http://billwest.com/blog/.

Truly, Eugene Von Bruenchenhein was a creative genius dedicated to creating amazing artwork.  The show at the American Folk Art Museum will be up until October, and if you have an opportunity to go and see it, do!  More info on the Museum and the exhibition can be found here.

A Review of The New Musuem of Contemporary Art

Let’s start this posting with a few quick notes from the editor before we jump into the review of the Museum:

These past few weeks have been extremely hectic (doesn’t March always seem to turn out that way?).  As a result, my posts have been derailed for longer than I would have liked. As a result of all the school and work related stress, I confess I’ve been feeling a bit like this guy:

Art by George Condo.  Photo from: http://nosmarties.com/2011/know-arties-george-condo-the-new-museum-nyc/.

But today I finally have a free moment to breathe and thus attempt to return to a regular posting schedule.  I’m also working on preparing other posts for the queue so that I can mitigate gaps in my blog. Thank you for your patience, we’re back in business!

Also - I’m really happy to see that the blog has been garnering some interested readers! Writing about museums and exhibits that I encounter has definitely helped me with my graduate school work, as well as my work in museums. So cheers!  I also hope everyone has a great weekend!

Now without further ado, let’s discuss the New Museum of Contemporary Art (235 Bowery, NYC).  A few weeks back, I wrote on my blog how excited I was to visit the Museum, especially to see the Lynda Benglis exhibit.  Now let me say, before I begin to dig in on a quite…negative…critique that I usually love (love love love!) contemporary art.  Despite this, I found the New Museum to be seriously disappointing.

Let’s start as positively as possible - I went on a Thursday night, so I got in for free.  So there’s a perk.  Maybe I was a little irritated from the beginning because my friend and I showed up to the Museum in the middle of a veritable deluge (it was pouring rain that night) - I recognize, of course, that the New Museum doesn’t control the weather.  But let’s give kudos for awesome visitor service.  The staff was friendly, and also kindly thought of handing out plastic bags for visitors to store their dripping umbrellas in.  However, this thoughtful visitor service didn’t compensate for museum overcrowding.  Because there were so many people by the time we arrived, I wasn’t allowed to check my bags (thus my work weary body was forced to tote two heavy purses around the museum with me).  Again, I recognize perhaps this is out of their control.

What was really disappointing about the New Museum was the limited amount of art on view.  There were two artists on display in total: Benglis and George Condo.  I was hoping for more artistic variety than was available, and as a result I was discouraged.  Also - with a few notable exceptions, I strongly disliked the art by George Condo.

I respect Condo for being a big name (clearly a lot of people are fans, so that says something, right?) and I also admire how prolific of an artist he is (anyone who can churn out that much artwork deserves props), but stylistically he just doesn’t do it for me.  I guess that’s a personal problem, but since half the artwork at the New Museum at the moment is by him, it inevitably tarnished my experience.

Collection of George Condo’s Artwork.  The New Museum of Contemporary Art.  Photograph from: http://jendar.blogspot.com/.

The photograph shown above captures one of the highlights of the Condo exhibition for me - I really enjoyed seeing this large clustering of his paintings.  The exhibition “George Condo: Mental States” clearly stuck to the point, examining the artist’s portrayal of human emotions. But all in all, it just wasn’t for me.

Lynda Benglis’ exhibition was more up my alley.  Phantom and other sculptural pieces were impressive yet playful.  The collection is fun to walk through, and has a very organic feel (many of the works seem reminiscent of geological processes such as melting and lava flow).  So if you’re into art that looks like someone vomited up Play-Doh (not necessarily meant to be taken as an insult!), than I highly suggest you stop by the New Museum.

Lynda Benglis, “Contraband,” 1969. Pigmented latex.  Photo from: http://museumpublicity.com/2011/02/11/new-museum-opens-benglis-exhibition/.

Why I Love The Frick

I’m feeling whimsical, and so I felt like writing a little blurb discussing why The Frick Collection (1 East 70th Street) holds a special place in my heart.  Here are five (there are many more, I had to limit myself!!!) reasons why I love The Frick.

1.  Is this my house chateau?

The Frick Garden Court.  Photo by John Bigelow Taylor. 

From: http://www.robertaonthearts.com/InTheGalleries/idG13.html.

One of my favorite things about The Frick is how easy it is to lose yourself in its architectural elegance.  The palatial feel with which Thomas Hastings designed the building (originally the private mansion of steel magnate Henry Clay Frick) makes it easy to forget that you’re in a museum and not just simply walking around your own elaborate estate.  While The Frick Garden Court (pictured above) is among one of the most gorgeous sights, each room that you wander into is exquisitely decorated.  

2.  Rococo À Go-Go

Another reason I love The Frick is that I’m an absolute sucker for Rococo, which abounds within the Museum’s collection.  Let’s be realistic: I’m not going to get the opportunity to visit Versailles again anytime soon, so whenever I feel the need to satisfy my longings for delicate colors, lavish embellishment and all around sensual, extravagant indulgence, I’m heading to the Frick instead.

The Frick Collection: The Fragonard Room. 

Photo from: http://matthewtatom.blogspot.com/.

3.  Sundays are Pay-As-You-Wish

Every Sunday from 11 AM to 1 PM The Frick Collection is open to visitors on a pay-as-you-wish basis.  For those of us that are tightening our purse strings, this presents a wonderful opportunity to visit the Museum without breaking the bank (the typical admission price for adults is $18.00 - ouch!!  For students with an ID, a modest $5.00 fee will get you through the door).

4.  Book Nerds

If you are looking to root through the archives of the Museum’s collection or art more generally, The Frick’s Reference Library is a wonderful public resource.

5.  Rika Burnham

Finally, last but certainly not least, The Frick has Rika Burnham, presently the Head of Education at the Museum.  Rika is a phenomenal and highly influential art educator, and her methods of discussing art with visitors is nothing short of inspiring. 

So there we have it, in a quick little blurb, those are 5 reasons why I love The Frick.

For more information on The Frick, visit their website: http://www.frick.org/index.htm

The Roerich Museum: A Hidden Gem

In today’s post, I hope to reveal to you one of the seemingly countless gems hidden in New York City: the Nicholas Roerich Museum, located in the Upper West Side at 319 West 107th Street (Between Riverside Drive and West End Ave).  Tucked away in a beautiful, unassuming brownstone, the Roerich Museum is a small but delightful museum that showcases an absolutely beautiful collection of Himalayan Art.  If you’re looking for a new museum to visit, especially one that’s off the beaten path of tourist attractions in the city, the Roerich is the perfect place to drop by.

Photo by: Guy Dickinson.  “Nicholas Roerich Museum in New York City.”  http://www.flickr.com/photos/gfhdickinson/4002245707/.

Upon entering the Museum (which would be easy to walk by if you’re not looking for it!) you may at first feel as though you’ve accidentally stumbled into the home of a wealthy art collector.  With its austere architecture and cream colored walls displaying hundreds of paintings and artifacts, this little museum is packed to the brim with breathtaking artwork.  And miraculously, despite its tiny dimensions, the Museum never feels cramped or claustrophobic. Instead, I found the space to be beautifully arranged, and navigating through the Museum is as zen a process as looking at the Himalayan Art on display.

Photo by: Greg Kuchmek.  "Nicholas Roerich museum, NYC." http://picasaweb.google.com/lh/photo/1rtm51GuvCHC6mcUVsXSJw

Nicholas Roerich was a prolific Russian-born artist, and from visiting the Museum, it’s easy to appreciate his artistic talent, as well as the inspirations he drew from the natural world.  Below is an image of one of my favorite paintings in the collection.  I feel “Krishna” adequately expresses the tranquility that both the museum and its collection exude.

From the Nicholas Roerich Collection. 

Krishna. From “Kulu” series. 1929 . Tempera on canvas. 74 x 118 cm


So if you’re looking to spend an afternoon in quiet reflection (amongst the backdrop of some gorgeous art work), I highly recommend checking out the Roerich Museum.

The Roerich Museum is open Tuesdays thru Sundays from 2 to 5 PM.  More information about the Museum and Nicholas Roerich can be found by visiting their website.