Monday, December 25, 2006

On A Sunday At The Brooklyn Museum

Last Sunday I took myself to the Brooklyn Museum. It’s a majestic building with an unfortunate new façade that has cut away a lot of the original front including the magnificent grand staircase. Someone I know who lives right across the street from the museum ended her membership because of this crime against architecture. I was to meet Howard for a day of it, and to look at the shows on view. Now normally I wouldn’t go to a museum to see the work of a photographer unless of course it was someone I really liked a lot, and even then I wouldn’t necessarily go, but I thought I would give Annie Leibovitz the benefit of my great big doubt and I had nothing else to do, so why not go. I do like quite a few photographers Frank, Arbus, DeCava, Bresson, Wegee, Evans, Goldin and on and on, but I prefer to look at their works in books. I mean photographs are such an intimate medium. That’s one of the reasons I like it so much, because I can see them up close in a book and really not loose a thing by not seeing it all framed and museumed up. You can also get into a photograph so much better by looking closely at it in a big book than on a wall with a lot of people getting in your fucking way. Which is what I really hate about museums these days, the fucking crowds. Anyway we went, and the photography show in question is titled something pretentious like “Annie Leibovitz A Life In Photography” or something silly like that. To be honest about it, I’ve never given Ms. Leibovitz much thought as an artist. I’ve always thought of her as one of those celebrity photographers who are a step up from the Paparazzi, and even some of those guys are better than she is. I mean do I really give a shit about empty portraits of the rich and pretty. Well yes sometimes I do. I still have a fondness for those great Life Magazine photos that had such a big impact on me as a kid. Those photos and portraits had truth to me (maybe because most of them were in black and white) and spontaneity that someone like Leibovitz just doesn’t have. Maybe we did have greater stars back then with better faces and more talent then the ones of today. Of course some of her photos do include some pretty great people but they all kinda lay there all on the same plane. I wonder how much touching up she does on her photos. They all look so smooth and sharp even the older celebrities whose wrinkles and age do show through still look smooth. Her work like the work of so many celebrity photojournalists look best when one is quickly browsing through one of those slick magazines that I sometimes see. Turn the page and theres another image, another message. Quick! quick! quick! I also don’t think that I would turn her down if she called me up on the phone asking me to pose for her. “Oh Ira Joel I must photograph you for the latest issue of Vague” but I don’t think I have to worry about that happening any time in the near or far future. Anyway the crowds were huge, and I couldn’t stand it after a while, and Leibovitz just isn’t worth it. Hell I even gave up after a while at the very crowded Diane Arbus show last year at the Met, and I love her work. I have a great fondness for the old Brooklyn Museum itself; which was the museum of my youth. My uncle Natie would take me and sometimes, Howard, Freddy & Marco there and we would run and giggle through those great marble halls. Now I don’t run so much except to get the hell out of an exhibition I don’t like, and I certainly still giggle. So Howard and me had a bite to eat in their very lemon green cafeteria the color of which sort of kills your appetite. After that we went to the Egyptian collection that is so great, and so much better than anything upstairs and so full of great objects and things that I got all inspired to make art and it was empty just our footsteps echoing through the big rooms full of mummies and jewelry and all that other great stuff that we love. And of course when in doubt there is always the gift shop


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