A guide to art in NYC, with families in mind.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Romare Bearden: "A Black Odyssey" at the Miriam and Ira D. Wallach gallery

"Poseidon the Sea God, -Enemy of Odysseus,"
 Romare Beardon 1977*

The Miriam and Ira D. Wallach art gallery was established in 1986 for the students and faculty of Columbia University.  It is located on its campus at 826 Schermerhorn Hall, home of the department of Art History and Archaeology.  I didn't realize it was open to the public until I saw write up in the Columbia Spectator about it's current show,  “Romare Bearden: A Black Odyssey”.   The gallery is tucked away on the 6th floor of the building.   This was the first time that I was seeing this body of work and it felt like discovering a new treasure.  The exhibition is comprised of, collages, watercolors and drawings depicting scenes from the classical Greek poem, The Odyssey.   In this series of collages,  Bearden re-tells the story of the war hero Odysseus trying, to find his way home while infusing it with African imagery and allegory.   For example the Greek god Poseidon is depicted with an African mask in "Poseidon the Sea God,-- Enemy of Odysseus," 1977.  His signature style of combining glossy clippings from magazines along with colored papers and cloth does not appear in this series.  Instead he cut out vibrantly colored papers and layered them to form images in a style that references Matisse’s cut outs.  Romare Bearden connects the narrative of the African diaspora with the theme of human displacement that occurs across cultures and history.  Your teens who are studying Greek literature will especially appreciate the narratives that they have read come to life in these images.   This exhibit is up until March 14, 2015. 

Miriam and Ira D. Wallach gallery

*Collage. Courtesy Thompson Collection, Indianapolis, Indiana. Art © Romare Bearden Foundation, Licensed by VAGA, New York

Thursday, October 23, 2014

"Amen: A Prayer for the World " at The Cathedral of St. John the Divine

What would a prayer for the World look like?  What would you pray for?  This is the question that 48 artists (30 Eastern and 18 Western)  were asked to think about, when they were approached by the interfaith arts organization called CARAVAN.  In asking artists from different cultures in the East and West to decorate sculptures, they hoped to create a call for a spiritual and symbolic bridge between countries.   That bridge would extend across the world in the form of a traveling art exhibition.
To begin the process a unifying template was needed, so CARAVAN asked Egyptian artist Dr.
"Pink Camouflage"  Ammar Abou Bakr
Reda Abdel Rashman (known for fueling his contemporary art with ancient Egyptian themes)  for his help.  He sculpted four different fiberglass figures in prayer positions and left them blank. The variations signify diversity in cultures and forms of prayer.  Copies of the blank figures where delivered to the 48 artists and the finished project was first exhibited in July of this year in Cairo, then Washington D.C. and it is now here in New York City at The Cathedral of St. John the Divine.  Each piece is as diverse in message as in decorative techniques.   The exhibit is  displayed behind the rotunda of the Cathedral.  In and around its small chapels. Some of the figures are arranged together as if in a group meditation and others are placed solo along the corridors.   The experience varies from solemn to uplifting as you walk from piece to piece and read about the different topics that the artists have chosen to  focus on.  When seeing all of the different points of view expressed in this exhibit it is not surprising that practicing tolerance and respect of religious and political beliefs between nations sometimes feels as elusive as a dream.  This exhibit is perfect for all.  Small children and some adults should be reminded not to touch the figures.  There is suggested admission fee. Pay what you can. The exhibit is up through November 23, 2014.

The Cathedral of St. John the Divine.  www.stjohndivine.org
1047 Amsterdam Ave at 112th street

Monday, October 13, 2014

Ralph Fasanella: "Lest We Forget" at The American Folk Art Museum

This month the American Folk Art Museum features the art of Ralph Fasanella, in an exhibit entitled : Lest We Forget.   The Bronx born artist was the youngest son of Italian immigrants who worked, as laborers to raise their family of six children.   His father was an ice delivery man and his mother worked in a dress shop, drilling holes in buttons.  His mother understood the importance of labor unions and was an anti- fascist activist.  Mr. Fasanella’s paintings tell stories of the plight of laborers, and political unrest in post -war America.  The phrase “Lest we forget” appears in many of his paintings.  During his young adult life he held many different jobs such as textile worker and truck driver but his main passion was organizing labor unions. He took up painting to exercise his arthritic hands.  His paintings are densely packed with imagery and messages and they are very large because he imagined them being displayed in union halls.  A folk art dealer “discovered” him in 1972 ,and he enjoyed recognition for his artwork in his later years.   This exhibit it perfect for your older children.  The exhibit is up until December 1st.

The Folk Art Museum 
2 Lincoln Square  Columbus Ave and 66th street 

 Ralph Fasanella, “American Tragedy” (detail) (1964), oil on canvas, 40 x 90 inches / 101.6 x 228.6 cm 

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Librado Romero: Journey

Patagonia, 2008  Librado Romero
 Some libraries are fortunate to have a space designed specifically for cultural events and art exhibitions and some are not. My neighborhood library created a makeshift art gallery on the walls of the stairwell between floors.   The Riverfront Library in Yonkers at 1 Larkin Center, boasts a beautifully designed and spacious art gallery on it's fourth floor.    On a recent family trip to the area we visited the library to see the art work of Lee Romero in a one man exhibit curated by Adam Shultz  entitled, "Journey." The former New York Times staff photographer with an artists eye and education, has put together a collection of pieces that give you a firm grasp of the breadth of his work up to this point in time.   Many of his paintings depict magical  landscapes that are inspired by his home town of Calexico,  California.   The viewer often finds him/herself surveying the landscape from a high vantage point.  You feel as if you are in the air and flying over color infused dreamlike scenes. The feeling is liberating and breathtaking as you soar and stretch your wings.   He tells you stories  of his journeys along the way.   Mr. Romero is a master storyteller whose creative medium also includes assemblages from found objects.  This exhibits includes a monumental assemblage sculpture that has been evolving for many years.  It looks like a totem pole/altar and serves as a tribute to loved ones that he has shared his life journey with. The show is up until October 15th and perfect for all ages.
The Yonkers Art Gallery at the Riverfront Library in Yonkers
1 Larkin Center
Yonkers New York

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Dom Quartuccio: "Then and Now"

Have you've ever found yourself trying to describe to a child the changes  that have occurred over time in the landscape of your neighborhood, and felt as if something was lost in the explanation? Did your stories fail to capture the nuances you feel when walking around a familiar place.  It isn't easy to convey the little details that we hold so dear without experiencing the fear of losing the listener.   If only you could  transport yourself and your friend back to that precise moment when the natural light of a particular street corner made you feel safe. Or the way that seeing the shop owner outside of his store everyday as you came home from school made you feel like you were back in your neighborhood (good as home).  This week in Little Italy at the Basilica of Old St. Patrick's  there is an outdoor  photography exhibit that tells a tale of "Then and Now" in a very clear and beautiful way.  The photography of Dom Quartuccio is hung on the outer walls that surround the church.  Mr. Quartuccio,  a professional photographer,  was born in 1924, in Little Italy.  He has paired with the photography curator Mark Bussell,
 to tell the story of his love for his home town neighborhood and the people who have lived there.  At the suggestion of  Mr. Bussell,  the photographer revisited select places in some of his past work and took photographs to produce a before and after documentation of the life then and now. You will see, his aside from the obvious differences in architecture and fashion of the times, something in the way that black and white film allowed a photographer to capture light with precision of a master arbiter.  The before and after combinations include a couple getting married in the Basilica in 1953 now, some happy folks at Milano's bar in 1947 and in 2014,  and families living on Elizabeth street hanging out on their fire escapes in 1947, and not at all in 2014.  This exhibit clearly gives the viewer of sense of what has been and what is around us now.  I really felt nostalgic for my own neighborhood even if it was way uptown.   The exhibit "Then and Now"  is up until September 29th  so take a stroll over there soon.


Saturday, September 20, 2014

Morning Side Lights: Odysseus on the A Train

Imagine your  children participating in a parade along side other children holding beautiful lanterns that they have made.  The glowing laterns emit soft lights that warm every one of the happy faces as they go walking along.   Today you can participate in a workshop held by the Morningside Lights group that have been holding workshops at the Miller Theater which is located at Columbia University. The University is a major subsidizer of this wonderful project. The weekend long arts workshop is produced by a group of directors from the Professional Arts Workshop.
This years theme is Romare Bearden's and his 1977 collage series, "A Black Odyssey"  inspired by Homer's epic.  Hence the name of the project  "Odysseus on the A Train ."
September 20-26 is the Lantern and instrument building workshop and September 27th will be the Procession at 8 p.m.  at  Morningside Park (116th street and Morningside Avenue.  If you can't make the workshops do attend the parade, it is really glorious to just watch.


Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Phoenix: Xu Bing at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine

I admit that I am  really behind the curve in posting about the 'Phoenix:Xu Bing" exhibit  at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine but, I am a little concerned about the new admission process at the Cathedral.  It is now impossible to just enter the nave of the Cathedral, without being directed by a guard to the Visitor Center.   The person at the cash register will tell you that the fee is $10.00 dollars to get in. They don't mention that is a suggested admission so if this fee is not in your price range offer what you can.  I am all for the Church raising money to keep open but they should  be more careful to mention that is is a suggested price, verbally,  I think it is written in small print somewhere.   Anyway  once you are in you will very glad you did donate something because the exhibition is breathtaking.  The two very large and  exotic looking  bird sculptures hanging from the nave are called Feng ( the male) and Huang ( the female) respectively.  Together they weigh 12 tons and are made from the detritus of  construction building sites in Beijing China.  The artist Xu Bing embarked on his project in 2008 and took 2 years to create and assemble them with his team of assistants.  They have traveled a long way making stops at the  Today Art Museum in Beijing, the Expo 10 in Shanghai, MassMoCa in North Adams, MA and finally the   Cathedral of St. John the Divine.  They will be displayed here through 2014.  This exhibit is perfect for all ages.

The Cathedral of St. John the Divine is located at: 
                                       1047 Amsterdam Avenue
                                        at 112th Street  in Manhattan

                                        The Cathedral is open 7:30 am – 6 pm daily. 
                                        The Visitor Center and Cathedral Shop are open 9 am – 5 pm daily.

Friday, July 11, 2014

Dos Generaciones: Mexico & New York El Taller Latino/The Grady Alexis Gallery

My recent visit to The Grady Alexis Gallery located in El Taller Latino, was to see the exhibit " Dos Generaciones: Mexico & New York."  El Taller is a cultural center located on 104th street and Broadway in Manhattan.  The exhibit displays a photographs that were made in collaboration between parents and their children.  Their objective was to document to say anything that was interesting or important in  their lives with photography.   There are four groups of parent and child teams represented in the show.  This exhibit is very empowering to the participants and the viewer. The participants were able to express their ideas and feelings to each other and to their audience in a way that may or may not ever have considered.  The viewer is exposed to a new window into a community they may not be familiar with.   Andrea Arroyo is the curator and she presents  this exhibit  in collaboration with  the group Mano A Mano: Culture Without Borders.  The subject matter varies as does the level of execution but the editing is strong and surely the best work is shown in a respectful way.   The short bios of the family members are also interesting  to read.  All of parents in the creative teams are immigrants from Mexico and the children are born in the U.S. I enjoyed the show enough to go twice and I plan to bring my daughter up to the Taller to see the show too.   I hope that she will get inspired to do the same project with me this summer.   The show is up until July 16th and I do hope they will extend it!

Guadalupe by Natalie Cortes age 12 

El Taller Latino has been long been a beehive of cultural events and performances on the Upper West Side.  It has hosted musical greats such as Pete Seeger and Philip Glass and The Beastie Boys to name just a few.  The Taller has also been of service to it's community as a Spanish language eduction center and a promoter of Latino culture enrichment programs for children and adults.  The honey from El Taller Latino has never stopped flowing but it looks like it will be in another location soon. Bernardo Palombo the gallery owner and founder of the non profit  El Taller Latino.   Mr. Palombo told me that the center will be closing in October of this year  due to an exorbitant rent hike.  Their $8,000 a month rent will quadruple and leave them no choice but to turn of the lights.  I am saddened to hear this as will many many Upper West Siders,  New Yorkers and World Wide fans.  Miraculously they have found a spot on the east side with ART SPACE PS109 http://www.artspace.org/.   The east side gains a beautiful and bountiful cultural center with very spirit centered leaders at it's core.

El Taller Latino Americano/The Latin American Workshop
2710 Broadway, 3rd floor at  104th street
212 665-9460
Photo credit top image:  Doll by Rosali Arteaga   age 12

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Art on Astor Row: "Sum of Histories" a pop-up exhibit

clockwise from top:  "Lover's at the Temple," Anthony Smith Jr.,  "Botanica, " Kathleena Howie,
"Island Gurl", Leenda Bonilla,  "Frog King, " Copie Rodriguez,  " "Mem's Friends," Laura James.

A "pop-up" art exhibit has a very short shelf life, here to day gone tomorrow.  Nevertheless,  today is a great day to take a stroll up Lenox Avenue in Harlem and stop in at 48 Astor Row on 130th street and see the art exhibition entitled "Sum of Histories."   A group show consisting of five artists, whose artistic endeavors are at a mid-career point.  Their individual creative paths are not similar but their desire to communicate a narrative with their audience naturally ties them together in this strong exhibit of their work. 
The artists,  Leenda Bonilla,  Kathleena Howie aka LadyK Fever,  Laura James, Anthony Smith Jr and Copie Rodriquez invite you to see to their stories today from 3-6pm

Monday, April 28, 2014

Francine Perlman: " Lost in Infinity "at the NYPL Morninside Branch

Lost in Infinity 2,  mixed medium 23"x28"
Francine Perlman

  One of my favorite things is to come across art work in unexpected places.  A few days ago I stopped at the my local library the Morningside Branch on 113th street and broadway,  to drop off some books.  Since I can never leave the library without taking out a book, I decided to take the stairs up to the second floor and browse around.  As I looked up at the sun drenched staircase, I was immediately greeted by the art work of Francine Perlman that was on display on the walls of the staircase.  I sometimes forget that this library  has made a wonderful use of the walls of it's staircase by designating it as a mini art gallery. They have breathed life into a space that would otherwise go unnoticed, and transformed it into a visually interactive experience.  Ms. Perlman's mixed media art work is  entrancing as the soft lines in each piece buzz and whirl around each other.  I can almost hear the lines and colors play strange and wondrous harmonies within the negative spaces.  I am so glad that the visitors to this library, especially the children,encounter art work such as Ms. Perlman's when they go to pick out books.  Not all children get to visit museums, much less view examples of  abstract art in libraries.   I often meet adults who say that their children are not interested in abstract art.  I think that exposing children to different types of art early on in their lives, may pave the way for  a lifelong interest in it.  At minimum, it will secure good memories of art appreciation with their family.
  Kudos to the staff at the Morningside Branch who are thoughtful enough to keep up this wonderful mini art gallery. They know  that early  exposure to art is the key to future appreciation of all types of art. Be sure to point out Ms. Perlman's paintings to your children as you pass them along the walls of the staircase.  I have a hunch they will be able to create an infinite amount of stories, when getting  lost in the infinity of her imagery.
 The Moringside Branch of the New York Public library  is located  at 113th street and broadway.
Francine Perlman's work will be up until May 31st  library hours M-Th 10-7, F-S 10-5.

Sunday, April 6, 2014

YOHO Artists Open Studio Weekend

Spring is finally here and that means that the YoHo Open Studio weekend event is around the corner! My family's favorite art studio tour will be held on Saturday May 3rd and Sunday, May 4th from noon to 6pm, each day. Make the trip to the historic Alexander A. Smith Carpet mills, an industrial complex in Yonkers that closed in the late 1980's and was slowly, reoccupied by artists who needed affordable studio spaces. The expansive work spaces flooded with natural light became reinvented as a hub of creativity.  Today, YOHO Artists  is comprised of more than 30 participating resident artists, artisans and digital media professionals, working in a wide variety of disciplines, who live in NYC, Westchester and New Jersey and commute to their studios. Last year, the event attracted more than 800 visitors to the studios.   This is the 11th year of this event.   
             When my daughter was younger we appreciated that all the studios were located in one factory building complex making it easy to access them with it's large elevators and wide corridors.  More importantly there were always many friendly artists eager to share their knowledge and allow visitors to watch them working up close.  Over the years the collective has added arts and crafts activities and an art theme game for children to try while on the tour.  One of our favorite artists to visit is Librado Romero.  He is always welcoming, and often invites kids to put some brush strokes on a canvas.  What an thrill that is for them and memorable experience they come away with. Their creative ideas are validated and encouraged by a wise and talented artist.
The Metro North Commuter Rail Service provides easy access to Yonkers directly from Manhattan and Grand Central Station. There is free parking on the site  and elevator access. There is live music scheduled and some refreshments served.  
578 Neppherhan Ave. Yonkers, NY.  10701 
YoHo Artists has a  Facebook page.   
photo: Librado Romero in his studio   photo credit: Mary Hardiman

Friday, February 21, 2014

Laura James: Anna Carries Water

What is the recipe for an unforgettable children's book?   Equal parts magical story and breathtaking  images.  This week a wonderful example of this magical combination arrived in local bookstores and on Amazon. "Anna Carries Water," is written by Canadian-Jamaican writer Olive Senior, and illustrated by fine artist and Bronx resident, Laura James.
Ms. James, is known for sacred art paintings that depict deities, angels and mortals as people of color. She invites viewers of all ethnicities to connect and become empowered, with spiritual narratives.  For Ms. James, illustrating a children's book felt like entering a new community, but her efforts are already receiving complimentary reviews.  Each illustration is an acrylic painting, whose images are infused with intoxicating colors.  All readers will be drawn into the world of Anna as she struggles to overcome her fear and reach her goal.  Her story is takes place in a mountain Caribbean village.  Typically her family goes to a spring to collect water.  Anna wants to carry water with her family but she is afraid of the cows she must walk past in a nearby field.  She eventually conquers her fears and takes her place in the important  family activity of collecting water.  For a look at more of Ms. James's work go to laurajamesart.com.  "Anna Carries Water,"  is a Tradewind Books publication.
For a closer look click on the images. Enjoy!