Tag Archives: modern art

Lame Adventure 433: A Koons of One’s Own

If you happened to visit Rockefeller Center, as I did recently, you might notice a 37-foot tall sculpture weighing 150 tons festooned with 50,000 flowers that looks distinctly like either a monumental Chia Pet (continuing where last week’s Lame Adventure left off), or half a child’s hobby horse and half a child’s dinosaur toy  in front of the Comcast Building* at 30 Rock.

Comcast Building

The Comcast Building.

Say hello to Split-Rocker, a sculpture by artist Jeff Koons standing where the Rockefeller Center Christmas tree will tower three months from now.


Split-Rocker (the bronze gilded statue is full-time resident, Prometheus).

If I had any say about this, I would suggest that “we” throw tradition to the wind, save a tree and hang holiday bells over Split-Rocker. Unfortunately, that is not in the cards. This whimsical exhibit will close on September 19th. But the Whitney is currently showing a retrospective of Koons’s work through October 19th.

Koons designed Split-Rocker in 2000. It was originally exhibited at the Palais des Papes in Avignon, France. He made two and owns one, the one on display in New York. Once it is dismantled, maybe it will head into storage in his garage in York, Pennsylvania. The other Split-Rocker belongs to billionaire industrialist, Mitchell P. Rales and his wife, Emily. They’ve had theirs on display in Glenstone, their private museum in Potomac, Maryland, for about a year. If you cannot visit New York in the next four days, you might want to give them a call.

Koons claims that his inspiration for this sculpture was a toy pony owned by one of his sons and a toy dinosaur.

Pony side.

Pony side.

Dino side.

Dino side.

The dinosaur owner was not identified, but considering the proliferation of toy dinosaurs that have ruled toy stores for the past twenty years it could have belonged to Any Kid or possibly someone age forty-five — coincidentally, Koons’s age in 2000.

Recently I read a lovely essay in the New York Times written by Bill Hayes about visiting the Metropolitan Museum with his two nieces, who are fourteen and eighteen. His older niece is an aspiring photographer who was blown away by Garry Winogrand’s photographs. His younger niece was more taken with the paintings, particularly Monet’s Water Lilies. This was the first time she had seen a Monet water lily painting. Bill told both girls that they could fall in love with a work of art, just as they can fall in love with a song. That work of art is theirs.

I cannot say I fell in love with Split-Rocker, but I thought it was fun. When I crossed the plaza to take a head on photograph of it, I noticed that there was a Metropolitan Museum gift shop. The windows were filled with Split-Rocker souvenirs.

Buy Split-Rocker stuff here.

Buy Split-Rocker stuff here.

The plate caught my eye, I could see myself having a slice of baked salmon on it, and so I entered the store looking for it.

Split-Rocker plate, perfect for display or dinner.

Split-Rocker plate, perfect for display or dinner.

I could not find it anywhere. I asked a clerk who was yawning where it was, wondering if it had sold out? She explained to me that if I were interested in it, she would contact the Met on my behalf.

Me: That’s very kind of you. How much is it?

Clerk: $500.

I parroted what she said, and she parroted me. There was a lot of parroting going on, but now I was intrigued.

Me: So how much is the vase?

Split-Rocker, the vase.

Split-Rocker, the vase.

Clerk: $5000.

I said nothing. She looked amused, indicating to me that she must be very used to stupefied expressions.

Me: Is there a Split-Rocker tee shirt?

I figured that in the law of averages wearable Split-Rocker might sell for $50.

Clerk: No. But the little book sells for $15.

Split-Rocker bargain book.

Split-Rocker book (not available on Amazon; I checked).

I refrained from barking:

Me: Finally! A bargain!

I thanked her for her time and left. I’m perfectly content with owning my memory of seeing Split-Rocker and enjoying some of the 50,000 flowers for free.

Actual living flowers in Split-Rocker.

Actual living flowers in Split-Rocker.

For those of you who will not make it to New York in time to see Split-Rocker in person, here’s the Lame Adventure movie.

* For you history buffs, this building was originally known when it opened in 1933 as the RCA Building. In 1988 until 2014, it was the GE Building. Now, Comcast owns it. Saturday Night Live, Jimmy Fallon, Seth Myers, NBC News and MSNBC all tape their broadcasts here.

Lame Adventure 416: “What are we here for?”

On a recent pay-what-you-want Friday evening at the Whitney Museum of American Art, Milton and I were among the first of the small spenders. We each paid five dollars, significantly less than the usual $20 admission fee.

Prized $5 ducts.

Prized $5 ducats.

Milton: What are we here for?

Neither of us had ever visited the Whitney before. I reminded him that it was for the Biennial; an exhibition the Whitney holds every other year showcasing contemporary art produced by lesser known as well as up and coming artists.

This year’s Biennial is the last at the Whitney’s current Madison Avenue at 75th Street location, an iconic building designed by Marcel Breuer.

The Whitney's facade resembling upside down steps.

The Whitney’s facade resembling upside down steps.

Next year, the Whitney will relocate to a much larger space designed by Renzo Piano in the very trendy Meatpacking district in lower Manhattan. After the Whitney moves, the Metropolitan Museum of Art will have exhibits and educational programming in that space. It is comforting to know that one building remains on Manhattan Island that has yet to go luxury co-op.

Three of the Whitney’s five floors are devoted to the Biennial that is on display through May 25th. But the top two floors feature an exhibition called “American Legends: From Calder to O’Keeffe” that runs through October 19th. Possibly due to the proliferation of smart phones attached to every 21st century museumgoer’s mitt, attendees were allowed to snap shots with abandon.

The first paintings we saw when we exited the fifth floor elevator were works by Jasper Johns.

Do I have triple vision?

Jasper Johns. Three Flags. 1958.

We saw exquisite paintings by Edward Hopper.

Edward Hopper. Early Sunday Morning. 1930.

Edward Hopper. Early Sunday Morning. 1930.

When we entered a gallery with flower abstracts, I declared:

Me: This has to be Georgia O’Keeffe, it’s so vaginal!

Georgia O'Keeffe. Music, Pink and Blue No. 2. 1918. (Sure looks like something else to me.)

Georgia O’Keeffe. Music, Pink and Blue No. 2. 1918.

The symbolism in a Jacob Lawrence painting from 1946 called War Series: The Letter made me reflect on how I feel about labeling tile at The Grind.

Jacob Lwrence. War Series: The Letter. 1946. (Or the agony of tile labeling.)

Jacob Lawrence. War Series: The Letter. 1946.

Milton was particularly unimpressed with the paintings by Burgoyne Diller.

Burgoyne Diller. Untitled. 1962

Burgoyne Diller. Untitled. 1962.

Milton: It blows my mind that something like this is considered significant. If your kid brought that home, you’d throw that shit away, or you’d find a way to hide it.

We entered a gallery where we were greeted with this painting by legendary pop artist Roy Lichtenstein.

Roy Lichtenstein. Bathroom. 1961.

Roy Lichtenstein. Bathroom. 1961.

Milton: I can’t look at this room. I hate this!

Roy Lichtenstein. Still Life with Crystal Bowl. 1963.

Roy Lichtenstein. Still Life with Crystal Bowl. 1972.

Milton stormed into the next gallery where he was welcomed by this oil on linen portrait of poet, art curator and critic, John Perreault, painted by Alice Neel.

Alice Neel. John Perreault. 1972.

Alice Neel. John Perreault. 1972.

Me: At least you found something to look at.

Milton: Not that I enjoy it.

Milton has never been shy about how much he despises the paintings of Alexander Calder.

Calder. Contour Plowing. 1974.

Alexander Calder. Contour Plowing. 1974.

But he admitted that he liked this sculpture.

Calder. The Brass Family. 1929.

Calder. The Brass Family. 1929.

Milton: That’s fascinating. What’s it made of, wire hangers?

We moved onto checking out the Biennial. We first noticed that on every floor there was a speaker with plush toys emitting groaning noises.

Plush toys, scarves, stereo speakers and groaning.

Plush toys, scarves, stereo speakers and groaning.

This was from the 2013 collection of the artist, Charlemagne Palestine called:








Apparently, spelling has lost relevance.

When we entered the exhibit, these were amongst the first works we saw.

This is great art.

This is great art?

This is big red art.

This is big red art.

Marble sculptures n

Alma Allen marble sculptures on wood bases.

These sculptures of marble on wood are by Alma Allen, a self taught artist who works independently of any movement.

Milton: I don’t know what that shit is.

Philip Vanderhyden recreated People in Pain, a massive installation in crumpled vinyl backlit with now primarily forgotten movie titles from the 1980s. Gretchen Bender originally conceived it.

People in Pain.

People in Pain.

When we saw the title to the film, Ironweed, film expert Milton observed:

Milton: The only people in pain were the audience.

On the next floor, Milton seemed particularly fascinated with this wall of tee shirts.

Wall of tee shirts.

Wall of tee shirts on hangers.

Me: Do you like the tee shirts?

Milton: I hate them.

We encountered this cast salt wall hanging, Limbs of the Pacific, but I prefer Milton’s name for it:

Limbs of the Pacific.

Limbs of the Pacific.

Milton: Fuckin’ sandpaper!

Someone did a painting of the actor James Dean masturbating in a tree.


Rebel Without a Cause All Right.

Milton liked the concept but pronounced the painting:

Milton: Awful.

There was a series of paintings by Etel Adnan that were variations of this.

And we must work day jobs?

And we must work day jobs?

I stopped to look at this sculpture hanging on a wall, but I didn’t get its name, so I’ll improvise to the best of my ability.

Throw Something on the Wall and Call it Art.

Throw Crap on the Wall and Call it Art.

We saw these eight briefcases that musician, recording engineer and anti-war protester, Malachi Ritscher, used to store hundreds of concert recordings made on digital audiotape and cassette.

Eight brief cases, but feel free to count them.

Eight brief cases, but feel free to count them.

In 2006 Ritscher self-immolated himself near the Kennedy Expressway in Chicago to protest the Iraq war. I like to think that there are easier ways to be included in this exhibit.

We left the exhibit in silence until Milton spoke:

Milton: This breaks my spirit. Someone’s junk being honored!

But there was one bright spot: this fellow attendee’s tie.

Fellow attendee wearing floating tie.

Fellow attendee wearing floating tie.

Lame Adventure 404: Morons Mingling with Magritte

As tempting as it is to hash incessantly on this site about the foibles, peccadilloes and images of winter, give it up for Milton who decided that it was time to go indoors now that it is once again mild outside. Last Friday, we headed to the Museum of Modern Art to view “Mystery of the Ordinary”, an exhibit of the work produced by the Belgian surrealist René Magritte in the years from 1926 to 1938.

We decided to go on Friday after we were cut loose from our respective grinds. From 4 pm until closing admission is my second favorite four-letter f-word.

Free with ticket.

Free with ticket.

In addition, Friday was our last chance to see this show for zero cents because it closed the following Sunday. It travels next to the Menil Collection in Houston, and after that to the Art Institute of Chicago.

MoMA allows visitors to view the exhibit, but whether you pay or not, signs announced that photography was forbidden. This makes sense because MoMA wants visitors to purchase the catalogue. There were guards hovering approximately every two feet bellowing reminders:

Guards: No photography!

Sign outside exhibit entrance with human fur ball in corner.

Sign outside exhibit entrance with human fur ball in corner.

These words of warning, that were repeated often, had little impact on the iPhone wielding masses. We did not see any guards asking violators to delete their images. We were certain that if either of us had tried to snap so much as a corner of a picture frame with our phones, not only would our phones be confiscated, but also our hands severed. For those of you curious to see a glimpse of the many iconic Magritte paintings in this show, the New York Times was granted permission to snap away. Click here to see their photos.

Milton could not believe how crowded it was to see a display of familiar paintings in person that everyone has seen reproduced a million times. There was the train coming out of the fireplace, the big eye and guys in bowler hats. What blew his mind even more was that there were two lines: one for fare beaters like us, and another, for members. MoMA membership allows free admission all year round. That prompted Milton to ask:

Milton: What kind of idiot would attend on a free night?

Members had since late September to see this exhibit six days a week before the final 4-8 pm Friday night free-for-all. Possibly, a member who would be unfazed about attending with the herd is This Woman who announced:

This Woman: A lot of the pipe-ones are famous.

Full confession: we walked through the entirety of the exhibit twice because I was obsessed with seeing The Son of Man, the painting of a guy in a bowler hat with an apple obscuring his face. You know the one. I insisted to Milton that it had to be there. We were baffled how we could have missed it. Milton suggested:

Milton: Maybe it’s very small.

We approached the human equivalent of the Jolly Green Giant, a guard so tall I addressed his belt buckle:

Me: Excuse me, but can you tell us where’s the painting of the guy wearing the bowler hat with the apple in front of his face?

Guard: I think I’ve seen it here. Look in the back, unless it’s not there.

Me: Okay. Thank you very much.

We proceeded to circle the exhibit again for that second time. Milton’s head was spinning:

Milton: That was a complete non-answer! It might be there, or it might not!

But, if it was, we missed it a second time.

Milton: Maybe it’s on loan or on another floor in the permanent collection?

Me: If it’s in this building, it has to be included in this exhibit. It would be idiocy to exclude it!

We left the exhibit and leafed through the entire catalogue. Son of Man was not there. When I returned home, I researched that painting online. Magritte painted it in 1964. Who’s the industrial-strength idiot now?

A post-script: after we completed our two visits to the Magritte exhibit, we wandered next door to the much less attended Isa Genzken retrospective that is running through March 10. MoMA calls Genzken, “arguably one of the most important and influential female artists of the past 30 years.” Milton’s initial impression of her work was a tad different:

Milton: This reminds me of bad houses in the 70s.

We were allowed to photograph her work at will. Here is a sampling of what’s on display.

70s-type thing.

70s-type thing that irked Milton.

Welcome and photograph your heart out!

Welcome and photograph your heart out!

Lady Gaga look-alike.

Channeling Lady Gaga.

Baby in the corner.

Isa leaves baby in the corner.

My brain. 1984 (Note: actual name of piece and sign of sense of humor. We hope.)

Pile of Rubbish. 1984

Pile of Rubbish. 1984 (Note: actual name of piece.)

World Receiver. 1988-1989. Apparently Isa created dozens of concrete receivers in the early 1990s.

World Receiver. 1988-1989. (Note: Isa created dozens of concrete receivers in the early 1990s.)

What are we looking at?

The joke’s on us piece. No clue what we’re looking at. This was one in a series.

Milton's trash is Isa's art.

Milton’s trash is Isa’s art.

"Milton, watch out — don't step on the Barbie on the floor!"

“Milton, watch out — don’t step on the Barbie on the floor!”

Milton, "This could be my room."

Milton, “This could be my room.”

Executive office with Scrooge McDuck.

Executive office with Scrooge McDuck on desk reminding wage slaves who’s in charge.

Milton, "This is something interesting. I don't know what."

Milton, “This is something interesting. I don’t know what.”

"Why didn't we think of this?"

“Why didn’t we think of this?”

On closer inspection: packed with teeny, tiny toy cars.

On closer inspection: packed with teeny, tiny toy cars.

Isa display on MoMA's first floor lobby for those feeling it for luggage lost at the airport.

Isa display on MoMA’s first floor lobby for those feeling it for lost luggage.

As we left Isa’s retrospective Milton concluded:

Milton: This should be a lesson: if we haven’t made it it’s our fault.

Lame Adventure 398: The Million Dollar Migraine

In time for the holiday shopping season there’s an opportunity to own an authentic painting by Pablo Picasso worth one million dollars for $135.

Man with Opera Hat

Man with Opera Hat (Pablo Picasso 1914).

This is for a lottery that will be held December 18 in Paris. Tickets cost 100 Euros or $135. Only 50,000 tickets will be sold and it’s for a charitable cause, a fund-raising project to benefit the International Association to Save Tyre (AIST), a city in Lebanon that has taken a beating in military conflicts for decades. Tyre is a UNESCO World Heritage site. Its history goes back to the Phoenicians, making it slightly younger than dirt. The money raised would support two cultural initiatives: an arts center and a scholarly institute. This chicken would sooner study art in an infinitely safer place such as sitting on the third rail of the subway track. But possibly, Lebanon will transform into a country of unicorns and rainbows when this arts center opens. Why not donate 135 clams to a worthy cause and have a one in 50,000 shot at owning the ultimate conversation piece?  I don’t happen to have a spare 135 clams, especially during holiday spending season, and the painting lives in France. Here’s the fine print:

Party of first part excerpt.

Sending it stateside in time for a Christmas delivery reeks of hassle. A proxy could prove to be unscrupulous; someone named Jean-Claude d’Oily who might swap it out for a picture that looks more like this.

"Hey, this isn't in color!"

“Hey, this isn’t in color!”

Transporting a million dollar Picasso is complicated. It might behoove the winner, such as someone like myself, to take a trip to France to personally retrieve it. That would eliminate the shipping fee. As a woman of modest means I would need to cut more costs. Another way to pinch pennies is to avoid staying in a hotel. This would be a no time for sightseeing, grab and go operation, where we fly in and fly out. Naturally I would travel with my human shield: Milton.

Milton in his Thinking Cap.

Milton in his Thinking Chapeau.

With Milton in the dual role of protector and navigator — I have no idea where that warehouse in Gennevillieres is; we could inconspicuously transport it back to my humble abode in a Le Bon Marché department store shopping bag. This painting only measures 9 ½” x 12”. In fact, I could easily slip it into my messenger bag. Who would suspect that we would transport a million dollar 99-year-old Picasso in a shopping bag much less a canvas satchel along with a comb, antacid tablets and hand sanitizer?

The French: Can you believe those two stoo-peed Americans with the sanitized hands?

But it is as guaranteed as death, (value added) taxes and middle age weight gain that Milton will give me guff should I try to stuff it in the plane’s overhead bin.

Milton: No, you are not putting your Picasso in the overhead bin! That’s simply unheard of!

Me: Like it’s customary to carry a Picasso out of France in a shopping bag or satchel? Where the hell am I supposed to put it, or should I ask Brigitte Bardot over there?

Milton: Brigitte Bardot?

Me: That flight attendant. The blonde.

Milton: You think she looks like Bardot? Please. Mitzi Gaynor in 1975 if you’re looking at her through cataracts.

Me: Can we stay on topic here? It will be fine in the overhead bin. Let’s not over-think this.

To keep the peace, I’ll place the painting under the seat in front of me. So we get it back to New York without incident i.e., no one gets mugged or murdered. Then what do I do with it? Hang it on the wall in my crappy apartment?

Milton: Before you do anything else, you must insure it!

That means I have to call Geico, get past that annoying Gecko, and research how much they’ll fleece me. I anticipate that phone conversation would be priceless and knowing my luck I’ll be arguing with a customer service drone of indeterminate gender named Begonia. Maybe I could just slip my Picasso into one of those renter’s insurance policies costing $14.25 a month that more than covers all of my other worldly goods worth a combined value of $3,497 when I factor in my spin bike and the three-pack of socks I purchased in October. I could plead ignorance that I had no idea that storing a million dollar painting on a shelf next to my paper towels might increase the cost of my policy 75-fold.

While eating brunch with my pal Lola, who was born and raised in Spain but has lived in New York for decades, I mention this potential life crisis.

Me: My life is a never-ending headache — real or imagined.

Lola: If you win this painting, I’ll tell my sister to pick it up.

According to Google Maps, driving from Spain to France is the same distance as going from New York to Cincinnati, approximately 640 miles.

Google maps NYC to Cincinnati

Google maps Spain to France

Lola: I’ll sell it for you when I’m over there. Buy your ticket.

But I will resist the temptation. If I lose, I would be out the $135 I’m intending to spend on Christmas presents for all those nearest and dearest me: custom made soap-on-a-rope. But maybe you will want to take that one in 50,000 chance. If so, click here.

Lame Adventure 376: Glimpse of the Future, Gander at the Past

I am hanging out with my friend Coco in SoHo, a neighborhood in lower Manhattan to anyone unfamiliar with this island. SoHo means South of Houston Street, and Houston is pronounced like Mouse-ton with an h, not like the city in Texas, or the movie director, John Huston, Anjelica Huston’s dad. Eagle-eyed Milton took this gotcha shot of Anjelica last year with his iPhone when we were people watching outside the New York Film Festival.

Anjelica Huston at the New York Film Festival in 2012.

Anjelica Huston at the New York Film Festival in 2012 unable to escape Milton’s iPhone.

Fast forward back to the present, Coco and I are walking south on West Broadway, a street rife with expensive boutiques I never enter and art galleries that can be interesting. Coco is very excited because she wants me to see something. She’s walking so fast, she’s almost jogging; she cannot wait for me to see this sight. She stands in front of a window, antsy.

Coco: You’ve got to see this!

My reflexes are a tad perverse. I look at the window right across from me, into a salon. I look back at her quizzically.

Coco (insistent): Look here! In this window!

Coco resists banging her head on the pavement. If she is thinking something rude about the inefficiency of my ability to comprehend, she resists mentioning it out loud. I walk over to join her outside the Eli Klein Fine Art gallery barking:

Me: What?

Industrial strength sign.

Unassuming sign.

Coco smiles devilishly. I see it: a lifelike sculpture by artist Shen Shaomin of a hag who checked her modesty at the door. She’s sitting naked as a jaybird on a deck chair sunning herself. It’s called, I Want to Know What Infinity Is.

I Want to Know What Infinity Is, 2011-2012

I Want to Know What Infinity Is, 2011-2012

Is this, the artist’s rendition of what a woman who lives to be older than dirt can anticipate — catching rays and forgetting about wearing a bathing suit? Am I looking at myself in approximately 50 years? Will my flab be overcome with sag? I update the grocery list in my mind:

Mental grocery list: bananas, pita bread, yogurt, someone who’ll still love me when I’m completely decrepit and will ensure that I’m always clad.

Coco is marveling at the sculpture’s stick thin calves and how gravity has taken such a toll on the breasts. Until my friend mentions that the two dark pointy nubs are actually nipples, I did not realize that those were breasts draped on the sides over the ribs. I assumed that I was looking at leathery flesh dotted with buttons. Because I have a few decades on my pal, and I’m much closer to looking like this withered snoozing crone than she, and that is not a comforting thought.

I wonder if there is someone out there that would actually buy this sculpture and display it in his or her house? It would be quite a conversation piece:

Sculpture Owner: Someone else bought Munch’s The Scream. That was when we decided to go in a completely other direction.

Shen’s even equipped this sculpture with a motor to make it appear to be breathing. I’m not sure how many D batteries are required nor do I know if they’re included with purchase

Foot traffic continues to move at a steady pace past the gallery. Let’s face facts; New York City pedestrians come very close to having seen it all.

Eh, just your average old lady tanning au naturale.

Eh, just your average old lady sculpture tanning au naturale.

Across the street, something even more shocking than this silica gel replica of a naked centenarian catches my eye. Once again, I’m completely captivated.

TV antenna in modern day Manhattan or rooftop art?

TV antenna in modern day Manhattan or rooftop art?

I cannot recall the last time I’ve seen a TV antenna in the thirty years that I’ve lived in Manhattan. It’s possible that I’ve never seen one here until this very day.

Me: Coco! Look up there!

Let's do the time warp again!

Let’s do the time warp again!

I point. Coco looks up. It’s her turn to look at me quizzically.

Me: Who still has a TV antenna in Manhattan in the year 2013?

Coco ignores my question and returns her attention to the sculpture.

Coco: Look, she even has a bunion on her foot!

Maybe in this case, "Untitled" would have worked better?

Maybe in this case, “Untitled” would have worked better?

To see more of Shen’s fascinating, freaky and disturbing work, click on this link. As with the elderly woman sculpture the animals in the series I Sleep On Top of Myself are motorized to appear to be breathing. As my grandmother would say:

Lame Granny: What will they think of next?

In Shen’s case, maybe we don’t want to know, but I imagine that if I saw it, I would not be able to look away.

Lame Adventure 369: What a Scream

Last week, I suggested to Milton that after work on Friday might be a good time for us to visit the Museum of Modern Art. Every Friday between the hours of 4 and 8 p.m., admission is free — our second favorite four-letter f-word.

Nice price.

Nice price.

Milton’s favorite four-letter f-word is:

Milton: Food.

Time was running out for us to catch Edvard Munch’s The Scream for it is on display only until April 29. Last May, a private collector who is believed to be a businessman named Leon Black, purchased this iconic artwork to the tune of $119.9 million. Black’s net worth as of September 2012 is $3.5 billion, so he’s still living well within his means.  Visitors are permitted to photograph it provided they turn off their camera’s flash. Museum-goers that fail to play by the rules are hauled off by security to the fourth floor where they’re forced to stare at this oil on canvas painting by Brice Marden for an hour as punishment.

Return I

Return I. 1964-65

When Milton viewed at it he declared:

Milton: I’d get more turned on looking at a piece of sheet rock.

MoMA is always crowded after 4 pm on Fridays. Many of the visitors are tourists as well as locals eager to pass on paying the $26 admission fee. We knew that The Scream was on exhibit on the fifth floor so we headed there first. We checked out a few seminal paintings in MoMA’s collection.  Milton particularly loved this one by Modigliani.

Anna Zborowska. 1917

Anna Zborowska. 1917

I photographed the one next to it to placate my readers who are always salivating for some nudity. You know who you are.

Reclining Nude. 1919

Reclining Nude. 1919

A guard told us to cut through the gallery showing Monet’s water lilies to reach The Scream.

Water Lilies. 1914-1926

Water Lilies. 1914-1926

Then, head for the clusterfuck. She did not use the word ‘clusterfuck’, but she told us what we anticipated: that it would be crowded.

Scream mania.

Scream mania.

When we found it we first saw the throng standing before it, some as if they were in a trance.

The Scream. 1895

The Scream. 1895

When we finally reached it Milton was clearly unimpressed and was not shy about declaring that, but he kept his voice low so we were not beaten with an easel. We moved onto another Munch called The Storm.

The Storm. 1893

The Storm. 1893

This one rated Milton’s seal of approval. Besides creating four versions of The Scream, Munch also made 30 lithographs of it. Here’s one.

The Scream. Lithograph. 1895. Signed in 1896 (Guess Munch had higher priorities before he got around to signing.)

The Scream. Lithograph. 1895. Signed in 1896 (Guess Munch had higher priorities before he got around to signing it.)

There was no crowd around it, so clearly the crowds are drawn to colorized terror. Before ducking out of the Munch exhibit, we also saw this self-portrait he painted in 1895, the year he made The Scream.

Self portait of Munch at age 31. 1895. Signed 1896.

Self portrait of Munch at age 31. 1895. Signed 1896.

Next, we glimpsed a Van Gogh.

The Starry Night. 1889

The Starry Night. 1889

We caught some Brancusi sculptures that irritated Milton. He particularly hated a piece in wood.

Milton: What’s this called?

I relished my response.

Me: Cock.

The Cock. Paris 1924

The Cock. Paris 1924

Milton gave me the hairy eyeball.  I added:

Me: It does look kinda chicken-y.

When we entered the gallery displaying Mondrian, Milton groaned.

Composition in Red, Blue, and Yellow. 1937-42

Composition in Red, Blue, and Yellow. 1937-42

Milton hates minimalism.  When he saw an oil on canvas by Patrick Henry Bruce that took Bruce two years to paint that he called Painting, Milton said that the only thing he liked about it was the box frame.

Painting. 1929-30

Painting. 1929-30

We savored one of Milton’s all-time favorite paintings, Picasso’s Les Demoiselles d’Avignon.

Les Demoiselles d'Avignon. 1907

Les Demoiselles d’Avignon. 1907

Then, we headed down to the fourth floor, the floor Milton refers to as:

Milton: The Joke Floor.

We took the stairs.  Under the staircase, we saw this sculpture called Untitled by Robert Morris. 

Untitled. 1968 What Becomes of Sweaters. 2013

Untitled. 1968

It’s made from felt, copper tubing, asphalt, steel cable, lead and double-sided mirrors. The architect Philip Johnson donated it in 1984, possibly after he did some major spring-cleaning. Milton came up with his own name for the piece:

Milton: What Becomes of Sweaters.

The Joke Floor pieces that have convinced Milton that he and I are in the wrong line of work, or we must be sleeping with the wrong people, include this oil on cotton by Robert Ryman called Twin.

Twin. 1966 (Or, Why Didn't We Think of This 1? 2013)

Twin. 1966

This ten-foot-tall plywood plank by John McCracken called The Absolutely Naked Fragrance.

The Absolutely Naked Fragrance. 1967 (Or, Why Didn't We Think of This 2? 2013)

The Absolutely Naked Fragrance. 1967

And Milton’s personal most-favorite-piece-to-hate, Primary Light Group: Red, Green, Blue by Jo Baer.  Fortunately he did not read the description for these three panels actually belong in a series of twelve.

Primary Light Group: Red, Green, Blue. 1964-65

Primary Light Group: Red, Green, Blue. 1964-65

As we walked past a Frank Stella painting, Milton asked:

Milton: What is this, an airline logo?

Me: It’s called Empress of India. That’s apparent.

Empress of India. 1965

Empress of India. 1965

As I was photographing the Stella piece, I heard convulsions — coming from Milton. He was overcome with laughter when he saw a new museum purchase, Richard Serra’s Delineator

Delineator. 1974-75

Delineator. 1974-75

This massive sculpture is comprised of two sheets of hot rolled steel. One laid out on the gallery floor and the other, overhangs the floor piece. What reduced Milton and then me, to two laughing fools, was the little origami sculpture lying in the center of it. It was hard to zoom in to get a focused shot.

Delineator origami a.k.a. "What the hell is that?"

Delineator origami a.k.a. “What the hell is that?”

We nearly missed seeing the piece suspended from the ceiling. Fortunately, Milton noticed it and he asked:

Milton: What is that, mold?

Delineator ceiling sculpture.

Delineator ceiling sculpture.

Later, I learned that the biggest joke had been on our fellow museum-goers and us. I had photographed the sign describing the piece, but didn’t read it. I’ll admit it, I was laughing hysterically as I snapped this shot.

We should have read this.

Milton and I missed our opportunity to Riverdance on a MoMA installation!

Someone not only walked on it, but they placed that little sculpture on it that the museum janitor probably trashed later. It’s not part of the exhibit even though everyone viewing it with us assumed that it was, and of course, everyone played by the rules and we thought that included not walking on art. Now that’s a scream.

Lame Adventure 298: Untitled #298. 2012.

I asked my friend Albee if he was available to join me on Good Friday to take advantage of Target Free Friday at the Museum of Modern Art.  He said his only plans that day were to return some library books so we made a date.  After 4 pm on Fridays the $20 admission fee is spotted by the retail giant, Target.  I need a dental cleaning; I so wish they’d pick up that tab.

11 West 53rd Street entrance.

We met outside the 53rd Street entrance about ten minutes to four.  It was busy but there was no discernible line so we stood and chatted.  After we saw Roz Chast, the cartoonist for The New Yorker exit smiling, we decided to enter even though it was now five minutes to four.

Front entrance.

We walked into the bustling lobby and stopped to photograph the poster of the exhibit we were there to see, the 35-year career retrospective of photographer Cindy Sherman.

Dental work needed here.

I knew that the exhibit would prohibit photography.  Albee wanted to head straight for the sixth floor gallery, but I thought we might need a button or a badge to gain gallery entry.  We asked a person sitting at an information desk about this and were told that we needed tickets, “Go out that door, turn right and get one.”

Albee and I mirrored each other’s “how simple can that be” expressions.  We followed orders, marched through a sea of coming and going visitors to exit through a door leading out to West 54th Street.  We saw a few people trickling in.

Albee:  This line’s nothing!

Yet the longer we walked down West 54th toward 5th Avenue, the longer the line grew.  Albee amended his initial observation:

Albee:  I stand corrected.  Will we ever find the end of this line?

After walking past hundreds of people that had the same plans as us, we did finally find the end.  When we did, the line moved quickly and within no more than ten minutes we had our tickets and were back in the museum proper and making our way through the horde to the sixth floor gallery and Cindy Sherman-land.

Free ticket!

Just as I was looking at the “No Photography Allowed” sign, a woman whipped out her iPhone and snuck a shot of the monumental 18-foot tall mural of five Cindy’s standing against a backdrop of a black and white image she took of Central Park.

Cindy Sherman Mural. Photo from MoMA web site.

It really is not necessary to take sneaky pictures with one’s smart phone for much of the exhibit is available on MoMA’s web site.

A man fixated on Cindy wearing a worn expression while clad in what Albee called “a genitailia suit” and holding a plastic sword asked his companion, a woman:

Man:  What’s the message?

Woman: It’s just weird.

Possibly they were confused and thought they were entering an actual Target for free stuff.  For anyone unfamiliar with the work of Cindy Sherman, her subject is primarily herself in various guises and poses.  In earlier days her backgrounds were created with rear screen projections.  Today, she is adept with creating her backgrounds digitally.  She works alone and does all of her own hair, makeup, styling, props, the aforementioned backgrounds, etc.  In the case of her mural, instead of using make-up she made the transformations to her face digitally.  She is such an intense do-it-yourself type, if her images had musical accompaniment she’d probably write her own scores.  The exhibit, comprised of 170 photos, is silent aside from the overheard visitor’s comment such as one woman noting about an image where Cindy appears as four aging party girls that could have been called “Cindy Sherman’s Desperate Housewives”:

Untitled #463. 2007-2008. Photo from MoMA web site.

One Woman Noting (blathering loudly):  Oh look, she’s up there on the right hand side, too!

Albee (mumbling quietly): It’s not “Where’s Waldo”!

Much of what we saw was grotesque, disturbing, vulgar, witty and fascinating – often all at once.  Her career took off with a series of seventy black and white photographs she produced over a three-year period between 1977-1980 called Untitled Film Stills.

Untitled Film Still #6. 1977. Photograph of post card available in MoMA gift shop for two bucks.

These images bring to mind Hollywood, Art House, Film Noir and B-movie starlets of the 1950s and 1960s.  All of them are recognizable types for she has masterfully captured the various women of that bygone era that we can still see any day of the week when we switch on Turner Classic Movies.  Pretty impressive for someone that was only 26-years-old when she completed this series. When I was 26 I had finally mastered separating the darks from the lights when doing my laundry.

Aside from naming all of her photographs Untitled with a number, one of her favorite subjects is clowns.  This one, Untitled #424 elicited one shuddering young man to blurt to his female companion:

Untitled #424. 2004. Photograph of post card available in MoMA gift shop for two bucks.

Young Man: These are creepy man!

I could not have said it better myself.  As impressed as I was with the exhibit, if I was filthy rich and could afford to buy one of her pictures (which have sold for millions), I certainly would not hang it anywhere where I’d ever be alone with it.  There’s an eerie quality to her work and you almost feel the eyes following you.

When she entered middle age she took on women and aging with a vengeance.  Her series, Society Portraits, produced in 2008, are women that appear to be trophy wives of a certain age.  Many of them reminded me of Nancy Pelosi.  This one in particular gave Albee the willies:

Untitled #469. 2008. Photo from MoMA web site.

Albee: I don’t want to ever be married to that.

Another gallery that reeled us in is her History Portraits, a series where she takes on both genders that she produced between 1988-1990 that MoMA has aptly described as “poised between humorous parody and grotesque caricature.”

Untitled #213. 1989. Photo from MoMA web site.

Of course, this same phrase could just as easily describe what one sees while riding the subway at rush hour.  Got unibrow?

The exhibit runs through June 11.  Target Free Fridays start at 4 pm and lasts until closing, 8 pm.  If you visit, do what we didn’t do, get in line on the West 54th Street side of MoMA.  Follow our lead if you’d prefer to escape the crowd when you’re ready to exit, go through the Sculpture Garden, but try not to knock anything down.

Sculpture Garden residents.