Art & Museums

I was a young adult in the 80s and 90s, so punk music, new wave music and the surrounding culture from that era was what I cut my teeth on when it came to rocking out. I remember all too well subletting an apartment in the East Village when punk was at an all-time glorious, loud, crazy, rebellious high, hearing the chaotic thump of Richard Hell and the Voidoids blasting in bars and clubs, standing among the ripped tee-shirts, tight jeans and pointy black boots that punk lovers wore (even on a sweltering day in August).

It's no secret that fashion borrows from the past to recreate new trends—call it recycling, if you will, and think of the very recent '90s and Britney Spears' midriff and rejoice or mourn it's triumphant return this summer as the ubiquitous crop top (it's happening, trust me.) The Museum at FIT, however, has managed to make this timeless idea new and interesting, drawing up from their archives not only fashions inspired by recent grunge movements and flapper dresses, but even ensembles that take inspiration from ancient civilizations such as Egypt and Greece.

Contemporary art. It's convention-defying, tradition-shattering, rule-breaking and, if nothing else, bold. PULSE Art Fair, the annual art extravaganza which hit Manhattan's Metropolitan Pavilion on May 9-12, had it all: the weird, the fun, the freaky and the thought-provoking. A variety of mediums were represented, from photography to sculpture to paintings. Many of the pieces, I found, fell into the things-I-wish-I-could-furnish-my-apartment-with-but-can't-afford-to category (primarily because I'm not an idle multi-millionaire, but maybe one day...).

Matthew Barney is an artist whom I admire but don’t necessarily understand. His work easily seduces and just as easily repulses. Understanding may not even be necessary. His 2003 site-specific exhibition of photographs, film, drawings and sculptures at the Guggenheim Museum, The Cremaster Cycle, was a mind-bending visceral experience, a total sensory overload and a tough act to follow.

Maybe it’s because so many of us inhabit a boxy room (two, if we’re lucky) that New Yorkers love to look at other people’s homes. We drool over The Times Sunday Real Estate section, with its glossy ads and blueprints, peruse the photos in realtors’ office windows, flock to open houses of apartments for sale. It is for us that the Kips Bay Decorator Show House was invented. Well, actually, the annual project was invented for the Kips Bay Boys & Girls Club, a venerable nonprofit that provides after-school programs for underprivileged children.

The cherry blossom trees were in full bloom in Madison Square Park last Wednesday, and so, for that matter, was Mayor Bloomberg. The occasion was a colorful one: The mayor made his appearance (and a few corny jokes about the nice weather) for the unveiling of Brooklyn-based artist Orly Genger's Red, Yellow and Blue, a large-scale art installation that has transformed the Flatiron public space into her very own fantasy canvas (on view thru Sept. 8).

The closet door just swung wide open. When you walk into the Leslie + Lohman Museum of Gay And Lesbian Art (more like a glorified gallery than a true museum, really) you'll see these words stenciled on the white walls: "In 1953, President Dwight D. Eisenhower signed Executive Order 10450 prohibiting those inclined to "sexual perversion"—members of the LGBTQ community—from working anywhere in the US Government.

I was recently at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, viewing a show of Civil War Photography, which I found to be a very sobering experience. The photography really brought to light the drama of this, the first major war every recorded through the photograph. Young men (18 years old!) staring solemnly into the camera, in full military gear; injured men, with amputations and gun shot wounds, baring their scars of war for the photographic record; scenes of destruction throughout the North and the South; and so much more.

I remember being told to color within the lines when I was a child. The command was spoken with regard to an actual coloring book, but I expect my preschool teacher also meant the phrase to apply to life at large. You know—because four-year-olds are so good with metaphors. Shortly thereafter, however, I remember looking past my mother’s elbow (being too short to look over her shoulder) while she was painting.

I’ve always considered fashion an art form. So it’s a thrill to see Serious Cultural Institutions sharing my view–as the Metropolitan Museum of Art is doing with its current Impressionism, Fashion, and Modernity exhibition. Covering the mid-1860s to the mid-1880s, “when Paris emerged as the style capital of the world”, as the Met’s catalog puts it, the show is devoted to the interplay between the purveyors of fine art (the Impressionists) and those of decorative arts (couturiers and clothing designers like Charles Worth, just emerging as name celebrities at the time).


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