Tuesday, June 17, 2008


On Saturday, Wright and I decided to have a Museum day - one of our favorite things to do in the city. Usually they come after a long drought of museum-going, so as to make the whole day exciting and full of new exhibits. We scour New York and TONY to see what shows are on, and though we generally create a list of five, I tend to encourage sticking to just three museums in a day, so that we don't get too tired and can fully enjoy the experience.

This time, we decided on a simple, close-knit list: we'd first hit MoMA (on a Saturday, its very important to arrive there or at the Met right at the opening to avoid a complete disaster), then (much to Wright's eye-rolling) we'd go to the Henry Darger exhibit next door at the American Folk Art Museum, and finally, we'd walk down to the Morgan Library and have a late lunch. I'll split up this post into three sections, one for each stop.

We spent Friday night at my parent's house in Rye, and took an early train into Grand Central on Saturday morning. It was already getting hot out as we arrived at MoMA, around 11am (the Museum opens at 10:30, FYI). Luckily, it didn't seem that crowded yet, so we rushed right in. Wright and I were both printmakers at UVA, so we usually go strait to the Prints and Illustrated Books room, on the 2nd floor. They had an exhibit on the Art of the Book that I found satisfactory, Wright found lame. They had some great Ruscha lithos as well as various Duchamps, Roths, and Rauschenbergs. A small exhibit, worth a walk through if you're a printmaker or particularly like prints and books (I had thought Wright was included in this category...). Next we stopped into a geometric exhibit, which had a large set of colorful Rymans as well as some nice Kandinskys. I'm not really a huge geometric-art person, but it was another short exhibit that was worth a walk through.

Other than these shows, both very small, MoMA was quite disappointing. The 6th floor special exhibition galleries were closed for installation, so we did the usual run-through of the Painting and Sculpture floors. Wright and I have been to MoMA a lot in the three years that he has lived in the city (he works for JP Morgan, and therefore gets in for free with 4 guests as well - clutch for the $20 admission), so we always love walking through the Permanent Collection and pointing out to each other the various changes that have been made since the last time we were there, often arguing about whether or not they had that Jasper Johns in the left or the right corner previously.

Our other favorite game to play in Museums is the "Which one would you take?" game. In each room we go into, we choose which painting (or sculpture) we'd take if we could only have one. It's a fun game, because you have to balance wanting a piece that you love to look at with the one that might be the most valuable, or the one that might really make a statement when hung in a house. There are times when you love that tiny Derain in the corner, but at the end of the day, its in the same room as Starry Night, so you have to be reasonable about which one you'd really choose. At MoMA, we've both pretty much decided on our favorites in each room (often our opinions differ), but when we go to new Museums, its really a fun game. I'd recommend it, particularly at the end of a long Museum day when you are feeling lazy.

The American Folk Art Museum is right next to MoMA, but it is very different. A MUCH smaller museum (and, unfortunately, much less popular), Wright and I have had mixed experiences there. The first time I went was about two years ago, when my art professor, Dean Dass, told me about their large collection of Henry Darger drawings. Darger was a folk artist (defined as an artist who had no formal training) who died in the 1970's living alone in Chicago. When his landlord went to clean out his apartment (I don't think he had any family), he found stacks and stacks of books, drawings, and collages. Darger had written, on typewriter, multiple, long books, unbeknownst to anyone, and created hundreds of detailed, beautiful illustrations to go along with them. His central piece was 15,000 pages in length, accompanied by over 300 drawings. And no one had ever known this about him.
Though astounding, Darger's work and life story are also very creepy. The tale is an epic about the Vivian Girls, young sisters, who end up in a large and violent war. Many of his drawings were inspired by magazine and cartoon images, either copied or traced. One of the creepiest aspects of his work is that when he drew the girls naked, they had the anatomy of boys -- something that most people assume means that Darger had never seen a girl without her clothes on, and thus figured they looked like himself.

Darger's drawings are bizarre but wonderful, and I hope that you get the chance to see one in person after reading this, because they really are stunning. On view through September is an exhibit entitled Dargerism, which features many Dargers in comparison with the work of contemporary (non-folk) artists who have been inspired by him. The works by the contemporary artists were very interesting - they all work off of him in different ways (my favorite was Amy Cutler) - but, of course, the Dargers are the real draw. Wright and I both loved the exhibit and spent a long time looking at the works on display. No need for any games.

The Morgan Library and Museum is located on 36th and Madison and is truly wonderful. It was redone a few years ago, and is absolutely stunning. They have a gorgeous atrium, and its also fascinating to wander through some of J.P. Morgan's original home (including his office and library). Upstairs, they have exhibits, often featuring items from Morgan's original collection, ranging from original drawings for Alice in Wonderland, by C.S. Lewis, to Beethoven's workbooks, and more recently acquired items, like handwritten letters from Bob Dylan to Joan Baez.

The exhibits on display this Saturday were not worth mentioning, but not a problem, because the real draw of the Museum for Wright and I is the Cafe. Yes, I love art and I love history, but I can't help it - I love food and the food at the Morgan is delicious! The cafe is located in the Atrium entryway, and you do have to have admission to the Museum to go to it (another plus of Wright working for JP Morgan - we get in free. I'm pretty sure it's only about $7 for the non-member though). Wright and I usually split the Soup and Grilled Sandwich, as well as order the Herbed Fries with Brie Fondue. We did just that this time--it was a tomato soup, and turkey and swiss on multigrain grilled. Ugh, it was soo delicious! Wright also loves the Hemingway Daiquiri (yes, there are original manuscripts of many of Hemingway's books and his handwritten letters to Fitzgerald in the collection).

We had a great time on Saturday, even though the exhibits weren't exactly as spectacular as we were hoping for. Luckily, Darger made up for everything! And, most importantly, we just had a great time wandering the city together on a beautiful day.

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