Saturday, August 12, 2006

Missed opportunities... and local options.

My trip to NYC and Asbury Park concluded, I now have time to reflect on what I've seen, and what I didn't get to see. A representative example of the latter is Full House: Views of the Whitney's Collection at 75, featuring works of abstract expressionism, minimalism and pop art. The Whitney is highlighting Edward Hopper, one of my favorite all-time painters, with an entire floor of exposure. The DADA exhibition at MOMA was something else that intrigued me. I don't know enough about the movement, and this would have been an excellent opportunity to learn more.

I had several general decisions I had to make regarding how best to spend my time. After a discussion of my beach community documentation project, a docent at the Brooklyn Museum had recommended that I take a drive up to Rye's Playland. It is the only amusement park in the country that is owned by a governmental body, and therefore has maintained some of its essential and unique traditional character. It is supposed to be an architectural masterpiece, and has several rides not found anywhere else- including a version of the steeplechase. A visit to this boardwalk park would have complimented my project well. It was a question of taking a look at a whole bunch of other folks' work, or continuing to work on my own. It's difficult to turn down the chance to see the hotbed of contemporary art- certainly a temptation I couldn't resist.

Having decided to view, rather than to make, art... I needed to choose between masters of the last century, or emerging artists of the twenty-first. The internet is inundated with examples of the classic works of the masters, with plenty of commentary to guide the student. A careful study of these greats will help build a conceptual understanding of the history of American modern art. As mentioned above, there were several exhibits I would have liked to visit. It would indeed have been instructive to stand in front of these works in person, noting the subtle marks of technique. Ultimately I felt that my interests would be best served by exploring the directions the art stars of the future are pursuing. My previous blog entry gave only the most minor view of a small prtion of what I saw. It's overwhelming to confront the mass amount of work available in such a short time span. I did my best, and got a pretty good introduction.

Of course there were all the closed galleries in Williamsburg that I wanted very much to check out- such as Pierogi and Tastes Like Chicken. At least there was no specific show I wanted to see there. There is no amount of time that would allow me to see everything in NYC worth seeing, and I just have to make a commitment to myself to return annually, and chip away at the long, ever-changing list of essential art.

Meanwhile, back home in Pittsburgh, I can jump right back into a smaller world of art and culture. And I have the ability to see most of everything that is worthwhile. Last night I went to Coca Cafe in Lawrenceville to see the solo show of Victoria Cessna. She's a personal favorite of mine, and the creator of one of the most cherished pieces in my collection. This show was no disappointment. Cessna's method includes the use of found photos as source material for her paintings. The event was well-attended and accesible to all-comers.

Victoria suggested I check out the work of her friend David Wallace. (You can learn more about him here.) He has an opening at The Vault, in Brighton Heights, tonight. I haven't been to the venue before, and am excited to learn about yet another hidden treasure of Pittsburgh.

And speaking of hidden treasures... after Victoria's show I went up the street to a hole-in-the-wall bar to see my friends Local Honey (a foot-stomping, working-class, Patsy Cline inspired, female-fronted, alt-country outfit out of Polish Hill). Belvedere's is exactly the type of place I can envision NYC-artist expats flocking to. Its small front room bar gives no indication of the large VFW-style wood-panelled backroom performance space. The bingo-style foldable tables and low ceiling provide it's indie-hipster credibility, and it's $1 drafts of Yuengling meet the accompanying budgetary considerations. Lawrenceville is clearly on the ascendent.


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