Walking my baby back home or Diane and Paul go boating and get stranded and stuck in my heart
Now that the fall weather has finally kicked in, and my city is the most comfortable it’s been for months and months I have started to venture out to look at art in the museums. I can now get my act together, (get your act together Ira Joel) and get on the subways to here and there and on some occasions allow my eyes to pop out of my head.
Over in the meat packing district that use to smell of blood and meat, that in my youth and nocturnal wanderings would make me gag with disgust now smells of money and fashion, boutique cafes and beautifully restored 19th century buildings that now house stuff that no one really needs except maybe Ivanka and Kim.
It’s over there of course that the new Whitney now looms and where on the 8th floor sits a smallish exhibition of the 100 year old Carmen Herrera’s sharp solidly colored good looking abstract abstracts from 1948 to 1978. So what if it took her 70 years to get some satisfaction its all good as some hipster from Brooklyn might say. Me, I’m not such a great fan of this kind of abstraction, it’s a little too dizzying and optical for my eyes but you gotta admire someone who can paint within the lines and has a wow feeling for flat loud colors, so lets give Carmen a great big hand for sticking to her game.
Also at the big new fashionable Whit is a two floor show of portraits pulled from their permanent collection, a little lazy you might say, but its a crowd pleaser judging from the pleasing looks I saw on the gentle crowds last Saturday. Begin on the 7th floor that’s where all the good stuff is basking, you got your Hoppers, your O’Keeffe’s, your Hartley’s and your Gorky’s portrait of him as a young boy with his mom that is still haunting after all these years, and it’s the first half of the 20th Century that held my attention.
Problems start happening at least for me when I hit the 6th floor and yikes the joint is bursting over with a lot of ghastly contemporary work that the Whitney is stuck with, but no names will be mentioned what’s the point of that. I can almost say for now skip this joint and instead use your time at the Met Breuer where for a buck, (that’s all they ever get from me, let the tourists pay the $25.00 suggested fee) you get two, yes two superb brilliant exhibitions that should bring some tears to your eyes and a kick to your ass.
In The Beginning Diane Arbus is a pin prick of a show that the museum is pushing as a never before seen show of her photographs, which of course is not true for me, since I’ve known her work for ever and many many of the photos and snaps were familiar to me from way back when. The installation consists of many tall gray panels equally spaced apart which holds only one photo each and can bring to mind the skyscraper cold city or a monument to death. It’s a clever but a somewhat coy concept. As I moved from one column in the dimly lit gallery to the next I felt like I was doing some window shopping or sitting on a bus taking in the city lives that can pass before you if you get a window seat. It was not uncomfortable or distracting for me, because each image came up to me as a surprise, a sneak attack on my senses.
Arbus was great, a truly brilliant photographer who took up residence in her soul and this city of her birth, but said to herself I’ve had enough of this shit and ended her life in 1971. Her strongest work for me are her people ones, all kinds of people, young, old, crazy, wounded in the heart, freaks, drags, old broads looking for a gentleman caller, show time gals, tattooed and wigged, wigged out and drugged, circus side shows, times sq. babies Arbus knew them all. This is a torn look at the 50’s and 60’s when New York City was washed out but colorful. Dangerous and wet, silly and profound, not an easy vision to accept for some, who might find her work disgusting and vile. I say bring it on, she was oh so great and beautiful.
As a side bar let me recommend two Arbus items, one is a book and the other is a film. There is plenty of biographical material on her, and I’ve read several of them, but the book that I thought swell is “Hubert’s Freaks The Rare Book Dealer The Times Square Talker and the Lost Photos of Diane Arbus” by Gregory Gibson, and the film that I liked (I might be the only one who saw it let alone liked) is “Fur: An Imaginary Portrait of Diane Arbus” that starred Nicole Kidman as Arbus.
Now after you are done with despair head up to the 5th floor for a magnificent array of 70 works by the great Paul Klee that has the unfortunate title “Humor and Fantasy The Berggruen Paul Klee Collection.” I suppose the Met thinks that we need to be told what we are about to see, well look folks here we have some humor and some fantasy so laugh it up. A better title would be simply “Paul Klee One of Ira Joel Haber’s Favorite Artists who he’s loved since he was a teenager.” What I see when I look at Klee is his amazing use of line and shape, color and shading, texture and abstraction. His scale is small his emotions are big and deep and yes I suppose one can find humor and lightness in his works, I just don’t like to be told what I’m suppose to see. The small intimate works go around the walls in this large space, and because they’re small they make you move in close and really look one work at a time, up close and personal. Klee’s whose life was not a bowl of cherries by any stretch still found miracles in his despair, illnesses and failures, got them down on paper and canvas and left us a whole bunch of beauty. The Arbus show is up until Nov. 27th and the klee will be with us until Dec 31 a perfect ending for the year.