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Showing posts from February, 2012

Art Trip Up the River: A Visit to Dia:Beacon

As an art destination, Dia:Beacon has long been on my to-do list. Ever since the museum’s opening in May 2003, I've wanted to travel up the Hudson River to Beacon, New York to check out this factory repurposed for art. Housed in a former Nabisco printing plant, the museum's vast interior is known for providing the needed light, space, and air for the Dia Art Foundation's unsurpassed art collection. For whatever reasons, I've delayed going, but recent in-town visits to see the work of Dan Flavin at The Morgan (see previous post) and John Chamberlain at the Guggenheim made me want to see more of their work. So finally, this past Sunday, a particularly bright day of clear blue skies and cool temperatures, I made the trip.


A visit to Dia:Bacon is not only easier than I imagined but also more affordable. The train ride lasts about an hour and twenty minutes, though seemingly faster while gazing at the famous Hudson River Valley landscapes along the way. As one of several …

New York Museum Exhibitions: Dan Flavin's Drawings at The Morgan

Several museum exhibitions have opened in New York City over the past couple of weeks, including blockbuster retrospectives of Cindy Sherman and John Chamberlain, but a smaller and more focused exhibit of the drawings of Dan Flavin at the Morgan Library & Museum yields the most surprises. While the big shows at MoMA and Guggenheim provide a great deal of interest, those galleries are filled with works we expect to see. Not so with the Flavin exhibit. While most will know the artist for his fluorescent sculpture, his works on paper expand our understanding. Drawings have a way of revealing the artist in an intimate way, as if we are looking over their shoulder while they look around and think about the world.


Organized by Isabelle Dervaux, Acquavella Curator, Modern and Contemporary Drawings, the Flavin exhibit presents phases of the artist's life as well as a selection from his own art collection. The earliest works reveal several important influences, all of them more or less…

A Walk to Stuyvesant Square

(updated 2017) While lacking the mystique of nearby Gramercy Park, Stuyvesant Square makes a pleasant destination for a walk. One certain advantage is that the fenced park is open to the public. No key is necessary.

Bounded by E. 15th Street to E. 17th Street and curiously bisected by Second Avenue, the park sits on land that once belonged to the Stuyvesant family. In 1836 Peter Gerard Stuyvesant (1778–1847) made the land available to the city with the understanding it would become a park. Planned in similar fashion to other squares, the park opened to the public in 1850 and became a fashionable residential destination in the latter half of the nineteenth century. The opening of St. George's Church solidified the social standing of the area, especially boosted by the church's chief patron and warden, John Pierpont Morgan.


Subsequent renovations in the twentieth century modernized Stuyvesant Square. The eastern side now serves as gateway to many medical buildings, most of the…

For Presidents' Day: U.S. Presidents in New York City

(Revised February 2013) The Big Apple has played an important role in the history of the U.S. Presidency, including the two Presidents whose birthdays are near this date - Abraham Lincoln (February 12) and George Washington (February 22). In celebration of Presidents' Day, enjoy this compilation of presidential-themed posts previously published on Walking Off the Big Apple.

The Reagan-Bush-Gorbachev Meeting on Governors Island: A Debriefing and a Walk
On December 7, 1988, President Ronald Reagan and Vice President George H. W. Bush met with Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev on Governors Island, then the headquarters for the Coast Guard. Documentation of the events that day remained secret for twenty years, but the release of both Soviet and American materials, analyzed and posted by the National Security Archive (see sources at end of post), provides a vivid picture of the dramatic events that unfolded around the meeting. Furthermore, now that Governors Island is open to the public,…

Present in an Age of Chaos: "The Ungovernables" at the New Museum

The day before the public opening of the New Museum's 2012 Triennial, the museum's second iteration of its generational survey of young artists, a water main broke a few blocks from the museum, gushing water onto the street and creating a lake that temporarily flooded the intersection of the Bowery and Delancey.

This literal rupture in the urban fabric halted the normal tidal flow of morning traffic, and it took workers a couple of hours to restore order. The unplanned breakdown and its accompanying visuals - workmen in hardhats tearing up the pavement, multiple police cars with flashing lights, and helicopters surveilling the scene overhead - seemed an appropriate backdrop for the work displayed by the young artists inside the museum. This is their new normal.

Living in an uncertain epoch that teeters toward wholesale breakdown in the social and political order, the artists and collectives in the appropriately titled The Ungovernables display an unwillingness to serve as pas…

A Winter's Day Walk in Inwood Hill Park and Fort Tryon Park

(Update note, August 2013. This post needs serious updating. Inwood is now bustling with new businesses and amusements, especially in summer.)

With the present chilly gray day excluded, most of our winter days this season have been warm enough and cheerily sunny enough for something akin to a hike. Many days have hit the high 40s with several flirting with the 50 degree mark. It's good walking weather. But if more than a simple walk in the park meets one's fancy on such a winter's day, a rigorous walk through Inwood Hill Park and Fort Tryon Park should do. The parks of Upper Manhattan offer the opportunity to engage in the kind of strenuous exercise we typically associate with more bucolic areas farther north on the Hudson.



The A train's stop at Dykman Street is a good place to begin an exploration of both parks. Emerging from the station and into the busy commercial intersection of Dykman and Broadway, visitors should notice immediately that the flatter terrain of mo…

A Parisian Detour: Eugène Atget at MoMA

(revised 2017) Photographer Eugène Atget (French, 1857-1927) made over 8500 pictures of Paris during his prolific life as an artist - the romantic city's cobblestone streets, its windows with store mannequins, luscious but tamed parks, mysterious courtyards, his own neighborhood in the 5th arrondissement, and much more - but he did not take one picture of the Eiffel Tower. Not one.

Atget didn't like to pander to the postcard set. His Paris was the ephemeral pre-modern city, a place of irregular streets and organ grinders, and less the modern city of planner Baron Haussmann's domineering boulevards and that new soaring engineering marvel constructed in the Champ de Mars in 1889.


A 2012 exhibit at The Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) titled Eugène Atget: "Documents pour artistes" displayed a handful of Atget's well-known images but, pleasingly for those already familiar with these works, many more less well-known pictures from MoMA's extensive collection. Curato…

The Wow Factor: A Stroll in Brooklyn Bridge Park, and A Visit to Jane's Carousel

(revised and updated) A stroll to Jane's Carousel in Brooklyn Bridge Park  -

One of the many charms of living the life of a flâneur, aside from being oblivious to the fact that it's the wrong time (21st century, not the 19th) and the wrong city (New York, not Paris) is to embark on a long walk in a city park without caring about much of anything and then suddenly being struck by a surprising view.



The academics among us talk about the notion of visual culture, a relatively new paradigm popular among art historians that suggests that our life is characterized by the tendency to visualize knowledge. Whatever can be discovered and understood will eventually be visualized, in large part because we now have the technology - or soon will have it - to see amazing things. The paradigm that visual culture seeks to replace is the post-modern notion that everything is a "text" that can be deconstructed and read. Visual culture posits the notion that sometimes a dependence on t…

Navigating Fort Greene: Between BAM and the Barclays Center

(updated 2015) En route to a performance at the either of the main venues of the Brooklyn Academy of Music, the BAM Harvey or the Peter Jay Sharp Building, especially near the train stations that service the Brooklyn neighborhood of Fort Greene, it is possible to observe many visitors from other boroughs looking tentatively around in every direction to get their geographical bearings, as if they were lost. I would wager that they are lost.

Where Lincoln Center and Carnegie Hall are served by immediately adjacent subway stops, making it possible to see these venues right away after climbing stairs to the street, the BAMs are visually obscured and thus take some time figuring out. I would also wager that more than a handful of performing arts patrons fail to make curtain time because of the wily geographical charms of this neighborhood.


Let's solve this confusion by exploring Fort Greene on foot, because the more we walk an area the more we get to know it. Residential streets with …