TAKE TWO: NY/LA

A miscellany of things that caught my eye in New York and LA.

 

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Ah, New York pizza, how we missed it!  And the streets.

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At the Whitney, an employee replaces wicks in a huge wax sculpture, telling the onlookers, “You know, this is not a performance.” Right, just a gal doin’ her job…

The 8 foot sculpture of Julian Schnabel is by Urs Fischer, who often works with materials that decay and change with time. I wonder how much of the cast wax sculpture has melted since I was there a month ago.

Fischer says, “You could see an artwork as an offering. If you are ready to take something out of it, or if you reject it, it’s up to you. It’s there anyway. That’s what I like about art.” 

 

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Puzzling it out inside a Serra sculpture at the Gagosian Gallery in Chelsea. The exhibit is up until July 29th. Go see it, and maybe you’ll be fortunate enough to have your assumptions about space and physicality skewed, or at least, enriched.

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From the notebooks of June Leaf, at an exhibition titled “Thought is Infinite” at the Whitney through July 17th.

Born in 1929, Leaf has worked and shown in New York for many decades. If it wasn’t for this exhibition of her work at the Whitney I’d still be ignorant of her. She said in an interview: “You can make something and you see it. But then you have to spend your life to get the world to see it.”

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A table top -sized sculpture by Leaf, above, and part of another sculpture, below.

When asked if she thinks of herself as a painter or sculptor, Leaf said she thinks she’s an inventor.

When asked when she knows a piece is finished: “The image has to hit you back, for all of your gesticulating and fighting and stabbing and jabbing, being courageous or weak, or soft or hard. Something tells you when you’ve told the truth. It is a little like falling in love, not that it is equal to that. But, it is a similar moment, where you can’t argue with it; you can’t fake being in love. “

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A companion show at Thorp Gallery in Chelsea closed a few days ago, but Thorp regularly shows her work. Highly recommended.

Another show I enjoyed was Sigmar Polke at David Zwirner in Chelsea. Here is one painting from it, poorly shot with my phone:

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Coffee break under the Highline.

On the other coast, my eye was caught by this palm growing next to a fence. The dizzying angle was surely a reflection of my state of mind.

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At LACMA – the Los Angeles County Museum of Art.  An installation of antique lamp posts by Chris Burden contrasts new and old and repeats the verticality of a nearby high rise and the ever present palms.

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Detail from the kitchen of a private home in Hollywood Hills.

Below, an extraordinary tree at the Huntington Botanical Garden in LA. The silk floss tree (Ceiba speciosa), called palo borracho (drunken stick) in Spanish, grows in South American tropics and sub-tropics. Covered with sharp little spears to keep animals away, its pods produce fluff used like kapok, which it’s related to. Who could resist that figure?

 

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Beside a bonsai exhibit at the Huntington Botanical Garden, a guard began to quietly balance rocks on sculpture pedestals. He had an intense presence. He was heavyset with long, dark hair, and he wore Southwest Native American jewelry. Three young women watched him work, fascinated. It seemed to be something he would just do from time to time. One of women talked briefly and quietly to the guard. He was a man of few words. We heard snatches of the conversation: she was struggling with grief over a family member’s cancer, he offered to help her balance rocks; it would help her heal.

He showed her how, with almost no words – just 100 % concentration. After balancing a heavy rock on its narrow end herself, the woman broke into a smile and tears of joy.

It was one of those serendipitous moments that leave you breathless and without words.

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Framed in LA, above; frames in LA, below.

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More from the Melrose Flea market, a favorite LA Sunday shopping destination.

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Parting LA shot: a spindly cactus reaches for a better view at LACMA.

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Back home, the ubiquitous Doug firs, shot this time through a small pane of blue glass in a frame, balanced on a window. Sometimes the view from home is enough. Sometimes you need to fly somewhere, switch it up.  I’m thankful that I have both options.

 

 

 

 

 


25 comments

  1. I’ve never heard of June Leaf, so very much enjoyed your introduction of her…makes me wonder how many other great artists are out there yet to be discovered (or never to be discovered). The rock-balancing artist you mention later is perhaps one, who may be admired by a few when doing his work but will never become more than that ~ but this too is comforting as he is doing his art and spreading his joy. When I am back in Seattle, I’ll often take a break and walk along Elliott Bay park and see all sorts of amazing rock balancing scenes…so very much enjoyed this addition at the end of your post.

    • Yes, good question – I’m sure there are untold numbers of unknown artists of great merit. Some people are good at art AND self promotion, some don’t have both talents. And self promotion isn’t all bad, is it? Of course it’s not just talent and self promotion either – in her case, I don’t think her work fit neatly enough into prevailing trends at any given time. The interview is linked just before that quote – it’s hard to see.
      As for the Huntington Gardens guard, it’s curious that he gets away with doing what he does while being paid to be a guard. Do his employers see and approve of the spiritual nature of his balancing work, or do they cynically figure they will tolerate it since it visitors to the park are fascinated? I hope he continues! He has a real gift for picking up on the emotional tone of people and working with it. And quietly, too – that is refreshing!

    • Her work reproduces pretty well, so do some searches. She’s interesting. There is a link in this post to a great interview with her, but the damn link doesn’t show with this theme – I have to italicize it or something. Thanks for commenting!

  2. What a wonderful journey you’ve taken me on this afternoon Lynn. The art was fascinating, your pictures a pleasure to look at and your words as always, so nice to read. What better for a Sunday afternoon in a very wet dull England than to be taken to New York and Los Angeles for a stroll around and a peek at what’s going on there in the art world. Thank you! 🙂

    • Oh those wet, dull afternoons! Glad I could oblige. I wanted to post some photos I hadn’t put up and needed to find a common thread, or sorts, so it just came together as I posted. I miss being in or near a city with quality art – Seattle just doesn’t cut it on the art front.

      • I know the feeling Lynn. I used to live in London where I had access to some of the best art in the world. Tate Modern, just across the bridge from St Paul’s was my favourite. Within easy cycling distance of where I lived in Islington I was a regular visitor. I miss that very much. Trips back to London are a real treat. I think the ideal for me here in the UK would be a flat in London and a house in the country to really enjoy the very best of both worlds.. Which reminds me, I really must check those lottery numbers! 😀

  3. Funny thing… I remember visits to the Boston Museum of Fine Art and the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, but I never visited one in San Francisco while I lived there and since then I’ve done that determined push to stay away from large cities. Mother Nature seems to fill that gap which may or may not be there for want of great Art Museums. I certainly don’t notice it. However… I do love and enjoy your images brought back from that concrete jungle that I tremble at. 🙂

    Very lovely post as always!

  4. Wow! what a series of images, and interesting thoughts – what interesting places! My favourites here are the palm trees next to the fence – wonderful pov! – and the wonderful picture and story of the stone-balancing security guard, just wonderful. A 🙂

    • It just kind of came together because I had images from NY & LA I hadn’t posted, but wanted to. A rambling montage, I guess, but I’m glad you enjoyed. I have to ramble in personal way more often.

    • Terrific to hear that, Louis, I know you love art and think about it a lot, as well as the outdoors and all it has to offer. It’s fun to do bits of research and see what I come up with.

    • I’ve seen other people do it, but this man had a special presence, a humility and power. I think there’s even a blog devoted to just balancing rocks. This even was very spontaneous, which was a big part of the charm – different from balancing rocks and photographing and posting them, but that’s has its own value.

  5. What a collection! The photos would be terrific if they were posted without any words at all (favorites: 1, 2, 3, 5, 10. 12, 13, 15). June Leaf is a wonderful artist to introduce; I’d never heard of her. The rock-balancing story is touching. I love the idea of art as offering. And on and on—great post.

  6. Funny isn’t it that larger than life Julian Schnabel has had no trouble getting his art out there while June Leaf has worked away quietly all these years . .. . Love the blend of idiosyncratic bi-coastal details in your shots here Lyn!


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