Friday, May 27, 2011

Late May in New York!

We love New York! There’s just never enough time. We managed to squeeze in a couple nights of theatre, meals with friends, a comics convention and lots of art!

On our day in the Village, we met our good friend Tom Griscom (see his fab photos here), and saw the stunning Eisner show at MoCCA (through 8/14/11). It was great to see so many of Eisner’s drawings and paintings in real life, set in a context that really helped the viewer (me) to understand and appreciate his life and career. I was impressed anew by Eisner’s line work, sense of composition and his intuitive use of body language to lend an immediate sense of personality to his characters. Also included was a smaller show featuring tributes to Eisner by colleagues and disciples. Kudos to curators Danny Fingeroth and Denis Kitchen for assembling an excellent show (photos here).

The Broken Kilometer, photo by Thomas Kellein
We continued our gallery tour with visits to two long term installations by Walter de Maria, The New York Earth Room and The Broken Kilometer, both supported by the Dia Art Foundation. I can’t describe The Broken Kilometer better than Thomas Kellein did in Tate Magazine on the 30th anniversary of the installation: “'There’s a faint hint of incense. The calm that you sense on entering the gallery is only intensified by the creaking of old floorboards. Outside we have left behind us countless boutiques, passers-by and clamorous restaurants. As soon as we step inside, passing a low wall where there are brochures laid out, the magnificent work greets us. Five hundred gleaming gold-coloured rods, receding into the distance, laid out majestically in a five-sectioned plane. Our gaze roams to and fro, lingering on columns, a double-window on the left wall, a white rope in front of us at knee-height. Do not enter, just look. A devotional image with no figure of Mary, no Joseph and no Lord God. Just pure brass, illuminated by some other sun for our benefit alone, it seems.” We were astonished and sat with it for a while, almost meditating. The Earth Room was also amazing, I won’t spoil it with a description if you haven’t seen it. As we were leaving, Tom said “That’s one great thing about New York, amazing things like this are hidden away in old buildings all over the city, just waiting for someone to discover them.”

The Duchess of Guiche, 1784.
Elizabeth Louise Vigee Le Brun
Also waiting was the Met and its incredible collection. I’ve been so many times, it’s like visiting old friends. Among its many treasures are quite a few works in pastel by Degas, a medium which I feel is greatly undervalued. Pastel is difficult to work with, but the texture and the richness of color can be deeply rewarding. I was pleased to see the special exhibit Pastel Portraits: Images of 18th Century Europe. Included among these was The Duchess of Guiche, 1784, a rare surviving pastel portrait by one of my favorite Neo-Classical artists, Elizabeth Louise Vigee Le Brun. The detail in the eyes, hair, lace and ribbons is stunning, as well as the fact that this fragile painting has remained crisp and unsmeared over all this time.

Thor by Chris Giarrusso
Getting back to comics, we attended the NY Wizard World spring convention. It was held on two floors of the Penn Plaza Pavilion. It reminded us very much of WonderCon about ten years ago, back when it was still in the Marriott’s basement in Oakland.  We enjoyed chatting with Craig Yoe, who was very proud of his Archie history from IDW, and his show Comics Stripped which is still on view at the Museum of Sex over on 5th Avenue. We chatted with Jerry Robinson (The Comics: An Illustrated History of Comic Strip Art), and got this cute “Mini-Thor” sketch from Chris Giarrusso. I also picked up a copy of the graphic novel Aaron and Ahmed: A Love Story from James Romberger (and Jay Cantor with Jose Villarrubia) and a very interesting independent comic about life on Earth as seen through the eyes of Martians called Martian Debut by Antonio Romero. We had a good time, but the space was chaotic and stuffy. The autograph area downstairs was unbearable (no crowd control, tight space).

We rounded the visit out with Broadway debuts by two veteran actors: John Larroquette, who was very funny starring opposite Daniel Radcliffe in the classic How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying, and Ellen Barkin as part of the tight ensemble cast of The Normal Heart. Both very much deserve their Tony nominations. Honestly, Succeed could have sucked if it came off feeling really dated, but Radcliffe had great energy and was perfectly cast, and we were blown away by the inventive retro design and choreography. Normal Heart, the 1985 AIDS drama by Larry Kramer, was touching, funny and grim all at once. Joe Mantello, Barkin and the rest of the cast all gave powerful performances.

For some reason, all our friends craved Italian on this trip, and we enjoyed meals at Angelo's on 57th, Emporio and Il Corallo Trattoria in the Village, and our personal favorite, Bond 45 in the theatre district. All these places were different as night & day, but all good.