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Showing posts from March, 2012

Temporary Public Art in New York, Spring-Summer 2012

If it's spring and summer in New York, then public art will start appearing all over the city. Follow this list for updates of temporary public art projects in New York City.

• Instead of hurrying across Park Avenue, trying to beat the crosswalk countdown, stay awhile on the median to check out the sculptures by Venezuelan artist Rafael Barrios. Lining the Park Avenue Malls between 51st and 67th Streets, these abstract works, although fixed objects, seem to change shapes when the viewer assumes different vantage points. From the side they render nearly flat, but from the front they take on various dimensions. They play with your perception.

When photographed, the sculptures look Photoshopped. It's the darndest thing, as illustrated in this post.


The temporary installation of Barrios sculptures continues through June 30, 2012. For more listings and information on the Art in the Park program, consult the website for City of New York Parks & Recreation.

Temporary Public Art

The Continuing Adventures of the Washington Square Hawks

Update 4/10/12. 8 p.m. The second egg hatched earlier this evening. NYT story here.

Update 4/10/12. According to the NYT, a baby hawk made its debut in the world last night.

Update 4/09/12. According to a NYT report, one of the eggs has a pipped shell, meaning a hatch is coming.

Update: According to expert Glenn Phillips, we can start looking for the eggs to hatch beginning on April 4. See story in City Room, April 4, 2012

This past Sunday, the TV drama Mad Men returned for a new season, but another dramatic show popular in New York also resumed this month. The New York Times' livestream coverage of a pair of red-tailed hawks perched on a 12th floor window ledge outside NYU's Bobst Library provided plenty of drama in 2011, and now the Hawk Cam is up and running again for the 2012 nesting season. Last year, the Hawk Cam's window into the nesting habits of dutiful raptors provided as much melodrama as a Douglas Sirk motion picture. It's pretty good for an unscripted show…

A Pocketbook Full of Architecture

Book review

At a size of 5.4 x 6.5 inches, How to Read New York: A Crash Course in Big Apple Architecture by Will Jones (Rizzoli, February 2012, 256 pages) conveniently slips into a purse or travel bag. For those who like to look at buildings while they walk, as opposed to looking down for the latest text message, this handy book helps sort out the complex features of our city's varied built environment. While out on walks I would enjoy consulting the fifth edition of the witty and comprehensive AIA Guide to New York City by White, Willensky, and Leadon (Oxford 2010, 1088 pages) but preferring an easier burden, I will enjoy the lightness of Mr. Jones's crash course.    

New York City provides a great feast of historical architectural styles, and we all could brush up on our architectural literacy. The intention of the book is to provide a guide to identifying the key elements of Classical & Colonial, Renaissance, Deco styles, and the various eras of Modern. While the sty…

Edward Steichen and the Flatiron Building

March 27 is the birthday of photographer Edward Steichen (March 27, 1879 - March 25, 1973), so let's use the fact as an excuse to revel in his photograph of the Flatiron Building.


The Flatiron, or Fuller Building as it was known originally, at 175 Fifth Avenue sits on a triangular block formed by Fifth Avenue, Broadway and East 22nd Street. The Renaissance-style building, completed in 1902, tapers at 23rd Street, often creating a wind tunnel that lifts skirts and such. Hence, the phrase - "23 skidoo," as policemen were said to announce to those watching the skirt lifting. Daniel Burnham designed the building using a novel method of skeleton steel construction.

About the Steichen photograph:

• Steichen, trained as a painter, was influential in establishing photography as a fine art.
• Steichen photographed the Flatiron Building when it was considered novel.
• He photographed the building at dusk in winter. To take the photograph, he positioned himself on the west side of M…

A Walk for the Blooming Trees

This suggested 2.25 mile self-guided walk north and west of Washington Square Park provides excellent opportunities to see flowering trees in bloom, especially the white blossoms of the callery pears.



In addition to the trees, this area is rich in architecture, culture, shops, and dining. A few recommended stops are noted on the map at the end of this post.



Many more could be listed, but sometimes it's better to leave spaces for surprises and personal discoveries.

Washington Square Village and Silver Towers

(Updated) On this languid, dreamy day, more reminiscent of summer than spring, let me invite you to come down to Washington Square Village and Silver Towers in Greenwich Village to see what all the fuss is about. In an article available on The New York Times website (posted online March 22, 2012, appears in the March 25 print edition), architecture critic Michael Kimmelman weighs in on the much-heated controversy of the NYU 2031 plan, the university's much-discussed proposal to build on and reconfigure the "superblocks" on which these apartment buildings sit. Bless him, for those of us who live within these blocks will enjoy chatting about his article, especially as we stroll outside on this nice day.



NYU's plans for Washington Square Village, the massive apartment complex built in the late 1950s and early 1960s, has understandably riled the residents. This has a long history. In order to pave the way for the Village complex and Silver Towers, the latter designed by …

In the House of Francesca Woodman

For a proper appreciation and assessment of an artist's long-lasting value in art, it's best to begin with a coherent body of work, one that demonstrates a confidence of style or technique or idea, or, preferably, some combination of all of these traits. The meaning of the work can shift over time, of course, as new viewers see the art through the lens of their generational perspectives. Many artists take decades to achieve such a confidence or coherence, but exceptional and gifted souls can take quick flight.



Take the example of Francesca Woodman, whose beautiful photographic works from the mid- to late 1970s currently line the Annex Level 4 galleries of the Guggenheim Museum. She chose herself as her main subject, "a sculptural prop" in the words of curator Jennifer Blessing, dissolving and merging with wallpapers and fireplaces and other sensuous architectural interiors, most often in a state of decay. The daughter of artists, Woodman produced a work that is myste…

The High Line and Chelsea Market: A Good Pairing for a Walk

(revised 2017) The advent of spring, with its signs of growth and rebirth, is apparent both on the High Line, where volunteers are cutting away the old growth to reveal fresh blooms, and inside the Chelsea Market, where new tenants are revitalizing the space. A walk to take in both can become an exploration of bounty and surprise, a sensual walk of adventure and sustenance.


Walking the High Line for a round trip from Gansevoort to W. 30th and then back again adds up to a healthy 2-mile walk. Regular walkers of the elevated park look for an excuse to go there. Especially delightful is showing off the park, a model of its kind, to visitors from out of town.


If you haven't stopped into Chelsea Market lately, you may want to take a detour from the High Line at the stairs on W. 16th St. and walk through the market for a quick assessment or a sampling. Among the sampling suggestions - the turkey chili or rice bowl at Friedman's Lunch, a gelato combination from L'Arte del Gelato,…

A Great Day for the Irish

(updated for 2016) The start of spring and Saint Patrick's Day go hand in hand in New York City, and even more so this year with the arrival of warm weather and the look of an early spring. Everything is turning green this week. A walk through Central Park this week confirmed that the park looks ready to share in the day's celebrations forming a verdant backdrop to the New York City Saint Patrick's Day Parade on March 17.


Let's check out the event details, the weather forecast, nearby watering holes of an Irish nature, and finish with a song by a woman who really knows how to sing about parades.

• Follow the New York City Saint Patrick's Day Parade, a New York tradition since 1762. The parade starts at 11 am on Fifth Avenue at 44th Street and continues up the avenue past St. Patrick's Cathedral (Fifth Avenue at 50th St.), the American Irish Historical Society at 83rd St., and finishes near the Metropolitan Museum at 86th Street. The parade is supposed to end a…

25 Things To Do Near the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA)

(updated 2016) The Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) at 11 W. 53rd Street is near many other New York City attractions, so before or after a trip to the museum, a short walk in any direction could easily take in additional experiences. Drawing a square on a map with the museum at the center, a shape bounded by 58th Street to the north and 48th Street to the south, with 7th Avenue to the west and Park Avenue to the east, proves the point of the area's cultural richness. (A map follows the list below.)


While well-known sightseeing stops fall with these boundaries, most notably Rockefeller Center, St. Patrick's Cathedral, and the great swath of famous Fifth Avenue stores, cultural visitors may also want to check out places such as the Austrian Cultural Forum, the 57th Street galleries, the Onassis Cultural Center, and the Municipal Art Society.

The image above shows an intriguing glimpse of the tops of two Beaux-Arts buildings through an opening of the wall inside MoMA's sculpture…

Where's Cindy? New York Location Shots in the Work of Cindy Sherman

In light of the current Cindy Sherman retrospective at MoMA, let's ignore the usual question, “Who is the real Cindy Sherman?” and instead pose an important but less discussed one, “Where is Cindy Sherman?” And as it relates the evolution of modern New York culture, we should also ask, "When?"


Before we get to the where and when of Cindy Sherman, a few words are in order about art theory and the shifting practice of art. When Sherman attended art school in the mid-1970s, young artists faced a whole new set of possibilities with respect to their direction, and many were set adrift. Feminist artists of the late 1960s and early 1970s, older by a few years than Sherman, had questioned many long-held assumptions in art - the idea of the singular male art genius, the valuation of painting over other media, objectifications of women's bodies, and the patriarchal practices of the art establishment. Their questions helped bring down the reigning paradigm of modernism and repl…

Exploring the East River

This week's subject is the East River. We won't call it mighty, but we can describe it as a complicated but lovable character straight out of a classic Hollywood movie. While the Hudson River on the west tends to play a leading role, as subject of romantic landscape paintings and historic river discoveries, the East River is handed the minor part of the tough smart-talking kid. In the past few years, however, as the city revamps itself as a recreational playground, direct access to the shoreline - meaning something beyond the always exceptional walk across the Brooklyn Bridge - has received more attention in the form of improved shoreline pathways along the east and west shores and the new ferry service. It's time for the East River to land that leading role.


Explore the East River from many view points, north and south -

Tentative Steps along the East River Park Promenade (East Houston to E. 10th)
While the river is historically important, serving as a major shipping la…

From the Steps of the Borough of Manhattan Community College, a Vision of the Simulated City

Longtime readers of Walking Off the Big Apple may remember the photo I took four years ago of a striking vista in Lower Manhattan. It was March 14, 2008, and I was walking up the steps of the Borough of Manhattan Community College on Chambers Street. At the top of the stairs I turned around to go back down, and suddenly this sight of Lower Manhattan came into view. I've never quite experienced anything like it in the city. Suddenly, I felt like I was in simulated city, more in virtual reality than in what we conceive of as real time and space. See original post.


So, walking on Chambers Street again yesterday, I decided to revisit the site. It's been almost four years. First, a few words about the images. I took the March 2008 picture with my old point-and-shoot camera, and the effect produced a sharp image albeit one with relatively low resolution. This time, I took the picture with my iPhone4 using the HDR app. The application takes two pictures, one of low lights and another…

Spotlight on Mid-Century Modern Architecture

This week the theme is mid-century modernist architecture, emphasizing some of the most highly acclaimed buildings in the city. The self-guided walks below include architecture landmarks such as Lever House, the Seagram Building, the United Nations, pockets parks from the 1960s, and post-war lobby interiors. The places are near one another in Midtown East. Enjoy your walks wherever you may live.

A Walk for the Optimistic Modernist: From MoMA to the United Nations
Great modernist architecture and design, in form and function, should be uplifting, utopian, and optimistic, embed with hope for the future. Some people loathe modernist architecture, but it's usually a dislike directed toward the sort of buildings that have corrupted and ravaged this hope, structures that end up crushing the human spirit rather than uplifting it. For fans of sleek International Style and postwar design, and I am one of them, a walk connecting several fine modern buildings and public spaces in Midtown c…