Tag Archives: moma

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.

Lame Adventure 56: Sneezing Numbers for May

Last month I had my birthday.  It was an ordinary one, not the crisis kind that reminds me that, thus far, I’ve essentially misspent my entire life from cradle to (as I inch closer) ash.  Besides, I can think that thought any day of the week, especially when I ponder how overseeing tile labeling is my current <cough> get rich slow career.

On my birthday proper, May 4th, when my UK-bound colleague, Elaine, set foot in the office at 8:54 am, I sneezed twice with hurricane force and had a light bulb.  I thought, “I wonder how many times I’m going to sneeze this entire year until my next birthday?” I also happened to have a small spiral bound memo book in my satchel, a perfect notebook to start jotting daily sneezing notes.  I call it My Book of Sneeze.

My Book of Sneeze

I also considered writing a second blog, one entirely devoted to nothing but my sneezing.  Before setting that one up, I ran this idea by Milton who opined in a voice that sounded very similar to someone who had just been force fed a tennis ball courtesy of Serena Williams following a bad call.  My close confidant gagged, “Please don’t. You don’t want to know the kind of person that would follow something like that.”  Next, I suggested just summing up my entire month of sneezing in a single post here and that met his seal of approval, followed with this reflection, “I can’t believe you’re really going to count all your sneezes for an entire year.  That’s fuckin’ crazy.”  One man’s crazy is one woman’s blog post.

My sneezing highlights and statistics for the month of May from the 4th through the 31st are as follows:

May 4th – birthday: 7 sneezes; two scoring solid 5’s on the sneeze-o-meter with 1 being a suppressed sneeze that explodes inside one’s head and 5 being delivered with such velocity that children and pets (including fish) hide.

Monday May 17th – high count sneeze day: 8 (2 at work; 6 at home).

Home: 44 sneezes

Work: 25 sneezes

Other (walking on street, while visiting friends, in a store, etc.): 14 sneezes

Subway: 4 sneezes

Volunteer Ushering (Gabriel at Atlantic Theater Company): 1 sneeze

No sneeze days: 4

Overall, I sneezed a total of 88 times during those 28 days in May for an average of 3.1428571 sneezes per day.  Onto June!

I suspect that the power of suggestion from this woman's daisy decorated headpiece, whether artificial or real, is what prompted me to sneeze twice while observing her sit opposite Marina Abramovic at MOMA on Monday, May 31st.

Lame Adventure 55: Go to MOMA, Get Arrested

Since today is Memorial Day and I do not have to be at work (yea!) I decided to log onto the Museum of Modern Art’s live feed of the final day of performance artist Marina Abramovic epically sitting in the museum’s atrium.  I figured something interesting might happen and I figured right.  Barely thirty minutes into the first hour, a svelt young Karen Finley wannabe appeared.  She approached Marina clad in what looked like a simple cotton shift, immediately lifted her dress revealing her nude body and the museum’s guards from possibly every corner and floor of the building descended instantly ending the presence of the naked woman with the artist.

See for yourself.

Marina waiting for her next guest and blowing her nose proving that allergy season affects everyone.

"What'd I do wrong?!" Hogging the spotlight?

"My job is to open my jacket in instances like this."

"You guys are so overreacting! Everyone's naked on the sixth floor!"

"Hey, look at my authority! I can open my jacket, too!"


The Abramovic endurance test sitting performance has ended.  She has achieved her goal of sitting more than 700 hours staring across at over one thousand sitters.  MOMA’s guards continued to be extra vigilant following the aforementioned stripping incident, but I only noticed one other young woman who had the potential to set them off.   She was clad in a dual purpose lavender color skeleton suit – perfect to wear when sitting across from Marina Abramovic or when scuba diving.  It might also make a good method of birth control if inclined to turn off one’s mate.  This woman seemed rather emotional and I do not think it was due to any feelings of embarrassment.

"It's laundry day, this is all I have to wear."

"Oh God, did I turn off the iron!"

A sitter nearing the end of the piece was an ersatz Marina doppelganger, but in male.  The guards hovered in the background no doubt ready to make creamed corn out of him should he attempt any funny business.  He didn’t.

"I like your style."

"Move on before we move you on."

Around 4:30 an army of guards arrived and I wondered, “Hm, is Obama gonna take a seat?”  Not quite, but this Buddhist monk, the Dalai Lama, or the Dalai Lama’s body double showed up.  He roused Marina’s attention.

After about ten minutes or so even his serene presence did not stop the guards from whispering something like, “Time’s up, pal; move on,” in his ear.

"Hey padre, gotta go."

Finally, the final sitter arrived, MOMA’s Chief Curator at Large Klaus Biesenbach arrived and Marina probably thought, “Thank you Jesus, quitting time!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!”  Or maybe not.

Klaus, the final sitter, and Marina.

"Marina, it's time to get up."

"Ugh. I never want to sit again."

"I hope I don't trip on this thing."

"Hey, I did it!"

"Thanks for watching. Exit through the gift shop."

Marina surrounded by the performers who recreated her performances.

The Artist is No Longer Present.