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Showing posts from January, 2011

A Walk for the Roses: Will Ryman's Installation on Park Avenue

Park Avenue is ordinarily not that much fun for pedestrians. A thoroughfare dominated by formidable and expensive apartment buildings and with few shops, Park Avenue is more amenable to vehicular traffic than foot traffic. It's inhumanly wide, so that even the most in-shape pedestrian, hurrying to cross the street, gets stuck in the median. As a site-specific installation, Will Ryman: The Roses, a work consisting of glorious 38 blossom sculptures from 57th to 67th Streets, helps ease this everyday city stress.



Towering 25-feet tall stems, a few gathered bouquets near the ground, and many strewn petals, all fabricated in tough weather-resistant materials, make for visions of pink and rose beauty for winter-weary New Yorkers. Don't miss the bugs. Ladybugs, beetles, and bees have landed on top of the blooms or under a petal, or they're scurrying up a stem. This stretch of Park Avenue possesses an undulating topography, so The Roses can be seen from varying vantage points. Also…

Pictures from 70 Days of Walks: Days 22 - 28

Yes, it snowed. It snowed a lot. Before that, it was cold. Very cold.


Never mind all that. I have become part of the weather now, a singular force at 5' 4" in a parka and hat, moving in a general north by northwest direction and then shifting to the south. Actually, I walked in every direction this week, facing the fronts arriving from wherever they came. Mostly, I wanted to walk downtown.


I was after the light. The light in New York this week, as the snow piled on top of snows, was spectacular. As fronts moved quickly, the sky would clear, leaving behind a luminous sky, the kind you see in American landscape paintings or in Maxfield Parrish pictures. Artificial light from fluorescent and LED lights, red and green stop lights, street walk signs, street lamps, and car lights danced with the white lights of bountiful snow. The sun, low over the horizon to the south, found a way to light the tops of buildings and the occasional puddles of slush on the street.


The Snowiest January Ever: Images from a Morning Walk

According to the Weather Channel, 19 inches of snow fell in New York yesterday, as measured in Central Park. An unexpected amount of snow fell yesterday morning, and a considerable snow fell overnight.

Total snowfalls for January 2011 have broken the all-time record for the month.

Schools are closed. City bus service has been suspended.

That leaves walking.




At the Morgan Library and Museum: The Kasper Collection and The Diary

Mannerism and Modernism: The Kasper Collection of Drawings and Photographs
Through May 1, 2011

The New York-born fashion designer Kasper (Herbert Kasper, b. 1926) may be best known for his collection of feminine dresses for Joan Leslie, but his private collection of drawings and photographs, a selection of which is currently on display at The Morgan Library and Museum, celebrates his keen eye for art. In building the impressive collection, Kasper did not acquire works indiscriminately but focused on three primary areas - Old Master drawings, mostly in the sixteenth century Mannerist period; twentieth-century drawings of the likes of Picasso, Degas, Matisse, and Dubuffet; and works of contemporary photography by emerging artists, many of whom became established art world names.


The latter collection of contemporary photographs is quite stunning in context. While we would expect to see a fine drawing from a student of Raphael or of Caravaggio at the Morgan, a museum with a deep collect…

Befriending Mr. Chickadee: Winter Birding in Central Park, circa 1900

"New York is the metropolis of sparrowdom."  - from "New York's Winter Birds," The Osprey, 1900.
Looking back to 1900 to see how New Yorkers spent their winter, a few dozen people, maybe many more, were trying to tame chickadees in Central Park. New York City is known as one of the best birding spots in North America, and a search for winter birding activity in Central Park, a favorite spot, turns up several entertaining items from 1900, give or take a few years. What makes the following reading fascinating is that the bird observers of 1900 displayed an eagerness to prove a likeness between the feathered friends and their fellow New Yorkers.


1. "Winter Birds in a City Park" by James B. Carrington, Popular Science Monthly, Jan. 1900, p. 366

According to writer Carrington, a winter walk in Central Park is made pleasant by observing winter birds, among them, a hardy robin "who perhaps prefers the dangers of a northern winter to those of the long jou…

Pictures from 70 Days of Walks: Days 15 - 21

"Polar high pressure." This is the phrase I read this morning in the National Weather Service's discussion of upcoming weather conditions in New York. This past week may feel somewhat balmy in comparison.


"The average city dweller regards snow as a nuisance. It interrupts transportation, and interferes with wire communication; it makes automobiling impossible, so that we are reduced to the necessity, so humiliating to some of us, - of walking, and of wearing cumbersome rubbers or boots."- from the essay "Snow, An Asset or Liability?," The Mentor, Volume 8. (New York: Mentor Association, 1921)

The rain or snow or blowing wind this week made walking at times difficult. I fantasized that I would later be found, like Per Hansa in the novel Giants of The Earth, as a frozen figure in a snow storm. Growing up in Texas, reading the story about Norwegian immigrants struggling to build a life on the Dakota prairie scared me. My school made us read it in seventh …

Taking a Constitutional Walk

A long time ago individuals going out for a walk, especially to get fresh air and exercise, often referred to the activity as "taking a constitutional walk." The word "constitutional" refers to one's constitution or physical makeup, so a constitutional walk was considered beneficial to one's overall wellbeing. (Or, as some would prefer to call it, "wellness.") The phrase is more common in British literature than in American letters.

As early as the mid-nineteenth century, many American commentators expressed concern that their countrymen were falling into lazy and unhealthy habits. Newspaper columnists and editorial writers urged their readers to take up the practice of the "constitutional" walk.



One such essay, "Walking as an Exercise," originally printed in the Philadelphia Gazette and reprinted in New England Farmer, Volume 11, 1859, urges the people of farm areas to take up walking. City dwellers seemed to have the advantag…

Tentative Steps along the East River Park Promenade

With a blustery weather week of ice and snow, it's probably not the most opportune time to discuss the merits of a constitutional walk along the East River. Yet, while on a recent walk to a revamped section of the East River Park Promenade, a stretch north of the Williamsburg Bridge from E. Houston St. to E. 10th St., a few joggers and walkers didn't seem to mind the chilly excursion. The sky was mostly clear, with a few clouds adding visual interest. And never mind the fact that that the Parks web page on East River Park, at the time of this adventure, stated that this particular section of the waterfront promenade was closed for renovations. The more accurate statement could be found on the Parks sign for the John V. Lindsay East River Park Promenade, as it is so named, near the water's edge: "Sections of the new promenade will be open to the public as they become ready." This section seems ready enough.

While the river is historically important, serving as a m…

Pictures from 70 Days of Walks: Days 8 - 14

While setting out on daily walks this week, part of the ongoing project Pictures from 70 Days of Walks, the harsh weather made me seriously reconsider my commitment. It was literally freezing outside, with a cruel wind blowing down the urban canyons. For the first half mile or so, my thoughts often focused inward, stuck on the monotonous thoughts of the brutal wind. I can take the cold. I just can't take the wind.


Around the one-mile mark of these 2.5-mile daily walks, I'm warmed up sufficiently to shift my focus outward and to begin noticing the winter lights and colors dancing on the architecture. By the second mile I've hit my stride, and if I stay in the moment I can shift into a higher state of awareness and observance.


Economy Eye Candy: An Eclectic Walk on the Lower East Side

The idea for the previous post about Isa Genzken's Rose II sculpture on the facade of the New Museum came about as the culmination of a colorful stroll through the East Village and Lower East Side, and here I'll sketch out some of the features that made it full of color. The walk takes in this area's characteristic visual funkiness and bright splashes of eclecticism, qualities that distinguish it from many other more uniform parts of the city. The images here are from the second part of the walk, primarily from Clinton and Rivington Streets.


Technically, the East Village was for a long time considered part of the Lower East Side, but most people over the last few decades have agreed to set the southern boundary of the East Village and the northern boundary of the Lower East Side at E. Houston Street. Similarly, Houston St. divides SoHo from NoHo. It's not like crossing Houston Street implies a gateway into a radically different neighborhood, but the street is wide enou…

A Rose for the New Museum

Man may be the measure of all things, as Protagoras would claim, but for the next ten months or so, somewhere in the vicinity of the Bowery and Prince Street, a rose may provide the measuring stick. The New Museum's second presentation of their Façade Sculpture Program, a work titled Rose II (2007) by Berlin-based artist Isa Genzken, offers the strolling public the spectacle of a twenty-eight-foot tall long-stemmed blushing rose. The rose, made of stainless steel, aluminum and lacquer, stands upright and rigid, perched on an outdoor ledge of the museum (235 Bowery), quite graceful and nimble considering there's no vase to set it up so straight.  


Scaling up people and objects for the purposes of public art is nothing new. The examples in New York include hundreds of larger-than-life statues of famous historical figures, some with their horses, as well as many lions, a charging bull, and several bears. The most famous of all public art sculptures would be that statue of a very…

Central Park West: The Theater of Architecture

A stroll along Central Park West works well for those who like their walks straight and uncomplicated, their architecture on the theatrical Art Deco side, and their nature decorated with seasonal beauty and well-designed artifice.


This walk, from the northwest corner of the park at 110th Street straight down to W. 59th Street - the entire west side of Central Park - emphasizes the theatrics of the architecture. (Images below shows sites from north to south in sequence.) Many of the apartment buildings along the way share a resemblance to the theatrical Art Deco movie palaces of the 1930s, especially the twin-towered apartment buildings of the Century and the Majestic (by architect Irwin Chanin), the San Remo (Emery Roth), and Eldorado (Roth and the firm of Margon and Holder). It's not surprising that several entertainers live in these buildings, but the well-reported incident from a few years ago of one apartment building turning down Madonna as a resident underscores the presence…

Pictures from 70 Days of Walks: Days 1 - 7

The first post of the new year on this website, A Winter Walk in Hudson River Park, suggested a new way to think about diet and exercise resolutions. This post is the first follow-up, offering clarifications and more ideas, illustrated with images from the first daily walks of 2011.



In place of weight loss as a primary goal, another mission - seeing new things and living a larger life - is substituted, so that the experience becomes the primary goal and losing extra pounds become the ulterior, or underlying, motive.


A Roundtrip Walk to Stuyvesant Square and Vicinity

A walk north to Stuyvesant Square, a park situated between E. 15th St. and E 17th St. and named in honor of Peter "Old Peg-Leg" Stuyvesant (c. 1612-1672), Director General of New Netherland, could begin on Stuyvesant Street and 3rd Avenue in the East Village and then proceed to St. Mark's Church in-the-Bowery at the street's intersection with 2nd Avenue. It would be a relevant starting place. "Pieter" or "Petrus" Stuyvesant is interned here. The current church, built by his great-grandson, is on the corner where the Stuyvesant family chapel once stood during the Dutch period. The church and its grounds are worth exploring, but there will be other remarkable sites along the way ahead, including many more references to Petrus, Pieter, Peters, and Pete's.


Between E. 15th Street and E. 17th Street, Second Avenue bisects Stuyvesant Square. On the west side, several houses of worship dominate the park - the modernist St. Mary's Catholic Church o…

A Walk to a Mews and Alley, Unplowed

(Also read this updated story from April 2012 on Washington Mews as it undergoes a renovation.)

Even as the snow started to come down, and the snow was blowing hard by that Sunday night, one wondered when the plows would come. As the night fell into day, the city awoke under a great canopy of powdery snow, the kind more typical of Aspen or Vail than Uptown or Downtown, and the snow had arranged itself in artistically creative drifts. As the snow fell from the sky, it turned cars into white abstract sculptures, burying the hoods and roofs and settling around the tires, demobilizing even many in motion and abandoned in the middle of the street.

The scene on Monday morning presented a pretty sight, but still the plows, for many, especially in the outer boroughs and on side streets throughout the city, were nowhere in sight. The plow trucks, as expected, took care of the big avenues first, and then the smaller side streets, although hours and days would go by before many of these were cle…

A Winter Walk in Hudson River Park, with a Plan for New Year's Diet and Exercise Resolutions

The first day of a new year typically brings with it the common resolutions to exercise more and eat less. Plans are made to stick to an exercise schedule and to cut back on calories, both designed in tandem to undo some of the damage of the holidays - the gluttony and the sloth, the multiple sins of one more cookie and another hour of sitting and watching TV on the couch. The season of penance begins.



It's a relief the holidays are over. One more week of such indulgences, and the clothes in the closet would not fit. Come January 1, many who make New Year's resolutions visualize a healthier and leaner self in the near future, some 6 to 10 weeks from now. Visualizing oneself as a movie star - ha, ha, ha - is nevertheless a good beginning.


As many well know, it's easy to slip on these goals. The weather takes a turn for the worse, and the natural inclination is to stay home. A winter cold or flu arrives, thwarting our dreams of running through the park. A thrilling jog along…