Tag Archives: MOMA

Van Gogh Exhibit-Jan 4TH 2009

Thank God it’s not too cold today, 41 degrees and sunny. The last hurrah before beginning the new work year, it’ll be Memorial Day before I get another day off. I’m always a little sad after New Years day, as we get older things are getting tougher and time seems to be growing short. Maybe it’s just a by product of  living in a accelerated society, but this new year has alot riding on it for me personally and the country as a whole. I get on a train bound for Penn Station in New York to catch the Van Gogh exhibit before it closes in a week or two. I get my window seat and settle down, soon a troop of cute young girls enters the car, they are all in their mid-teens and I figure my ears are going to be tortured by silly girl talk and squeeky laughter. They seemed to be chaperoned by an older woman, probably going on a fashion field trip based on the jist of the talk I hear around me. Two girls sit across from me and play with their phones and message back and forth, the one closest to me has on such low rider pants I can see her red thong and half her bottom coming out! I don’t see how anyone can be confortable like that, I start to get the shakes if I get a hole in my sock and have to spend the day with a toe sticking out!  But it’s nice to look at so I’m not complaining, I guess if I had a body like that I wouldn’t mind showing it to anyone who wants to look. I’m sure they were all glad they didn’t get stuck sitting next to me, thong girl gets up and starts taking pictures of everyone in her group and pulls up her pants at the same time. No doubt one of her friends caught me looking and texted her to cover up, so back to looking out the window. The relative quiet is broken when two moms and three daughters get on the train, the three little girls are heartbreakingly cute in their wooly caps with pom pom tasssels tied under their chins. They laugh at everything and giggle constantly, an older girl, a cousin probably  seems to be in charge of wrangling them and taking pictures over and over. “Ready …1…2…3!

I get out at Penn Station and walk down 8 Th Avenue towards my brunch destination for today, Maison is located at 53rd St & 7 Th Ave and is purported to be a taste of Brittany, that rugged region that juts out into the Atlantic and Maison claims to be modeled on the quaint restaurants that are found there. But it is a sprawling place where the walk to the bathroom is a hike requiring you to pass through a covered breezeway, go into another building,  around another seating area and up two flights of old stairs…whew! I make my way back into the main area which looks like a circus tent, or the inside of an umbrella that opens in the summer to allow smokers the pleasure of eating while smoking. But the thing you will notice right away is the floors, they bounce when you walk, so as you sit and look at the menu you will find the table shakes up and down every time someone walks past. This is very annoying but the food looks good so I wait with my bouncing table for my food. It takes forever for my food to come and my coffee was delivered without the milk I asked for but rather cream, so I wait and look around me. A gay couple sits next to me, an older guy with a younger Latino partner, I notice right away that everything the young guy says is put down by his partner and I feel sorry for him, all his suggestions for the garden are wrong, the interior decorating is wrong, etc. I can’t help feeling for this guy because it reminds me of my ex- girlfriends attitude towards me,  but can’t help also feeling like he treats this guy any way he wants because he’s a foreigner and doesn’t speak English well enough yet to tell him off properly. But it’s none of my business, still I can’t wait till they leave, the tables are so close and I just can’t shut off my hearing.

My Pizette arrives finally and my milk so I’m good to go, the pizette is a delicious tart of goat cheese, roasted red peppers, anchovy paste, nicoise olives and Gruyere cheese, it is delicious but a little heavy on the anchovy paste and big enough to be a lunch. Next my main course arrives, a Croque Madam is supposed to be a crispy pressed sandwich of black forest ham and Gruyere toasted on bread with lots and lots butter.  But what I got was more like a Monte Cristo with a fried egg on top, and since I have ordered this sandwich in another French bistro and got the exact same preparation…I can only guess that in these fast paced times this is what you get now, not the original hand held lunch designed for bridge games. The food was good enough but the service is terrible, the staff is clueless, probably underpaid, and are all tired college students and actors looking for a break. I leave thinking that I would try it for dinner some time in the future but right now I walk up the two blocks to the MOMA and find it packed!

I go inside easily as a member I don’t wait on lines except at the coat check, and there I meet “The Coat Nazi” a bellowing museum employee who not kindly leads us mice out of the maze to stand on line for each of the coat check windows. He walks back and forth loudly barking orders like a drill Sergeant! “Stay in single-file!”-“Shoulders against the wall!”-“What letter are you?…Step this way!”-“Hold right there!” and this goes on and on. I know he’s only trying to do a difficult job and has to deal with a crowd of sheep who talk amongst themselves and wander but there’s a way to do this with tact, comedy, and respect. Many people laugh at him and so do foreign speaking people who ignore him, he really shouldn’t be doing this job, the man has no patience.

Finally I get upstairs to the exhibit, it is very crowded, it’s hard to see the paintings but I just stand and listen to the audio guide and wait till I can get a good look. I like Van Gogh’s early work, the landscapes are earthy and have much feeling. I think he’s very under rated as a painter, yes he’s famous for the Starry Night style that he developed, but the mood of his work is what strikes me, I “feel” what it’s like to live in that part of the world at that time when I look at his early work and I feel also the somber mood he was in when painting some of them. My favorite is actually “Starry Night Over The Rhone” rather than the other more famous one. I read all the text on the walls too, it’s a great way to get a good education. Then I go up to breeze through the Juan Miro’ exhibit again, which I still have to write about  and downstairs to watch a projection of Pipliotti Rists “Pour Your Body Out”, it is beautiful and colorful and the actress in the movie is gorgeous, her naked body shown just enough to keep the attention of all the men present. The movie has a message too about the human condition and how we pollute the planet, destroy our environment and consume like the animals we kill and eat. I leave the museum as always feeling a little changed, the experience changes you and that’s good. If you feel that way the artists did their job.

Walking down 6 TH Ave I feel a little sad that Xmas is over, I pass Macy’s and see that the Miracle on 34 TH Street scenes are still on display in the windows, depicting pivotal scenes from  my favorite holiday movie but only in black and white. Nearby many businesses have taken down the lights and decorations. I cross the busy streets and finally I decend into Penn Station and grab a coffee for the ride home with 5 minutes to spare before the train leaves. I write on the way home and I’m back in my car by 4:10, not a bad day I think as I drive home still plenty of time to things before bed.


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Juan Miro’ Exhibit Part 2-Nov 29Th 2008

 I walk to 2nd  Ave up to 3rd but then after a while I start going back up towards midtown, the brisk air is warmer now and my meal has renewed my strength so I walk to Union Square  taking the 6 train back up to 51 St Street then it’s a short walk up to MOMA. I go in and quite frankly I didn’t know what to expect from Miro’s work, I wasn’t a big fan of his work really. I mean the pieces I had seen other days in various shows looked all the same to me, repeated shapes and colors with thin black lines connecting things together. I as a painter would stop short of saying “a kid could paint that” because I know that it’s not true but I have to admit I didn’t get his work and figured the only reason he was famous was because he did it first. But now after seeing the exhibit as a whole I can tell you I was wrong. Miro’ wanted to as he put it “assassinate painting” and he did just that, and although the other Surrealist painters made fun of his childlike symbols and bourgeois reserve, the leader of the movement Andre Breton was quoted as saying “that he might have been the most surreal of us all”  that was high praise from a bullying control freak like Breton.

 When you look at the early works on unprimed canvas you see some very simple shapes, and a few with words painted in and you think to yourself that you might be embarrassed to show these to a gallery.  But then you move on to the paintings called Dutch Interiors you see a man who is taking classic paintings and dis-assembling them in his own fashion. The effect is breathtaking because the thought that went in to breaking down the classic work took much time and effort, seeing them side by side you pick out all the details. Miro’ has left nothing out, nothing to chance so as he said “I create nothing it’s all there” he is correct. I move on to the most impressive part of the exhibit for me which is the collage studies and resulting paintings of 1933. These are a mind blowing exercise in genius I think, he has taken advertisements in newspapers for crutches, telephones, coat racks, medicine bottles, even a political cartoon and he has arranged then in a seemingly senseless collage on paper (senseless to the uninitiated, collage isn’t easy) then working from that collage has transformed the collage shapes into a much larger work. The absolute way in which he made recognizable objects into shapes that hark-en back to their models is when my opinion of Miro’ went through the roof! I can clearly see now why Breton spoke so highly of his work, but what I see too is that he was really in my view the first Abstract Expressionist artist,  I see more of Miro’ in the work of Alexander Calder, Robert Motherwell.  Why even Jackson Pollacks non drip figurative work lends itself to Miro’s trail blazing. The series from 1935-36 painted on Masonite and copper are just astounding in their luminosity, the pieces on copper actually seem to glow from the copper as the Tempera used on Masonite glows from the medium instead of the surface. These small paintings are among my favorite and would love to own one. But these paintings also recall the shapes from the Dutch Interiors and represent a break in style from the Collage Paintings of 33. The exhibit concludes with a series of paintings on Masonite from 1936 that seem to me to recall the simple pieces from the start of the exhibit, all painted without being primed they look very much like the unprimed canvases of 1927 in style as well as lack of background pigment. These pieces leave me a little flat but in no way decrease my respect for what I’ve seen, the exhibit ends with a luminous piece done in 1937, and here Miro’ changes direction wanting to do something different he adopts a figurative style painting the hallucinatory “Still Life with Old Shoe” a dazzling painting that uses a fork, a potato, and an old shoe to tell the story of the war years as this was painted during the civil war in Spain,  he and his family would not see Spain again for four years. 

 So I leave the museum after a walk around the gift shop filed with excited tourists and art students all wandering like kids in a candy store, I mean you want one of everything here no joke, beautiful home accessories from the design collection are available, glassware, cups, mugs, dishes. Books galore for the armchair art historian and toys for the kids, as well as limited edition prints framed professionally and all manner of scarves, brooches and pins for the ladies. too much for me to even try to remember here, take a look if you get a chance. But right now I’m getting hungry and I’m thinking that a cold glass of Harp at Tracks in Penn Station and some oysters with hot sauce would be just the thing right now. But as I leave the museum and start walking towards 7 th Ave I gotta wonder if I can wait that long, there’s alot of street food between here and there and it smells mighty good my friends. Lets see do I want Shish-Ka-Bob or Gyro, Knish with cheese or dirty water dogs with relish and mustard, or how about a pretzel with cheese sauce, or maybe…..

 I finally decide on Harp and oysters on the half shell, I’ve never tried these before and decide that I would be able to eat them so as not to offend a host at a party but I didn’t need to order them again. I make the mistake of starting up a conversation with a guitar teacher at the bar sitting next to me, he goes on and on about how good he is and I should try him as a teacher. I explain that I had to stop lessons because I couldn’t afford the monthly bill anymore but he goes on anyway ignoring what I’m telling him to promote himself. So I finish my beer and hope that he does not follow me out and get on the same train, when he doesn’t I’m relieved, I wouldn’t take lessons with this guy if I won a million dollars, too much talk, too full of himself to be a good teacher.

 I sit later on the homeward bound train and think about what I saw, during his life he created over 2000 paintings! If nothing else Juan Miro’ taught me not to judge a book by it’s cover, a quiet man who said little and thought much did more for art than I ever imagined.


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Juan Miro’ Exhibit Part 1-Nov 29th 2008

 A brisk morning, the third day of a four day weekend for me, I’m going into Manhattan to see the Juan Miro’ exhibit at the Museum of Modern Art and take some pictures. The next few weekends after this will be spent cleaning and decorating for Xmas, which is right around the corner. So I sit on crowded LIRR train and I imagine “Black Friday” has spilled over into Saturday because of the people crammed into every car like a can of peppered kippers. Like always I listen to the people around me, a good artist/writer has to take in everything otherwise your missing out on good material that’s free!

 A girl across the aisle goes over the details of allegedly unwanted male attention the night before to her two friends. She sure seems to be happy to tell the tale of fingers being run through her hair and close talking…I can imagine the rest. The guy apparently didn’t cross the line into creepy…just horny. Behind me a couple from Jamaica on vacation is studying a map of New York City and discuss the details of their trip in low tones, they are well dressed and call friends on a cell phone to check their info. There is a little tension in the air because of the bombings in Mumbwai. My oral surgery that I mentioned in a previous post went well (see Mouth To Mouth for details as I am catching up on writing after the holiday season) a longish recovery though, but I can eat normally now.

 The sun coming in through the train window is warm and I take off my hat and scarf and coat as I get too hot. I wish this was a express train. Next week I begin a search for a second job, I hope I can find one close to home.The girl is going on about dancing with the awkward horny boy and how he bumped into walls and offered her a condom and explained it’s use! I think she is lucky she wasn’t raped and cut into pieces and put in a dumpster myself, when will these stupid girls learn. I won’t go over the details of my exit into Penn Station, sufficient to say that I found myself on the E train to 23rd St and went topside and began to walk in a zig zag fashion to my destination. I’m looking for 1st Ave but find myself on the NW corner of 6th Ave and and Tenth St, there the Ansonia Pharmacy uses two of thier four windows to show the artwork of various artist. They have been doing this continuously for years, they sponsor and sell the works of painters, photographers, etc. This is a good thing, I haven’t been here in years so I am glad that some things haven’t changed. I walk on and am puzzled to see a strange sight on the ground which led to this poem as yet untitled.


  A cigarette and a surgical glove lie together on the ground. 

  One used to give life, the other to take it away.

   There was pleasure in the smoke, I remember it well.

   So now I wonder when I will face the surgical glove.

   Do those that wear them find pleasure in what they do?

   As we find pleasure in what keeps them wearing them?

   Copyright 2009 Glen Henley

 Well, anyway I think it’s good. I’ve overshot my destination by a few blocks by taking pictures and being drawn to things by curiosity. I got a shot of the Jefferson Market Court House as well as Lafayette St, so being denied last time I was in NYC this time I will be having brunch at Prune, where Head Chef/Owner Gabrielle Hamilton presents with an eclectic menu of childhood favorites with a twist or two. Located on 54 East 1st St between 1st and 2nd Ave, I double back till I’m there and put my name in with the cute red headed hostess. Armed with a free copy of  The Villager to read I stand outside and wait for my table, leaning against a pole I relax. This is a quiet neighborhood… I like it here, across the street is the back of a school playground, next to Prune is a club for young girls with arts, crafts & performance space. A nice place for young girls to gather and feel safe and be themselves. I almost regret  leaving my post when I am called in to eat at the bar after about a twenty minute wait.

 Being a big and tall guy I am a little cramped at the bar but at least I’m in and happy to finally be eating here. I order an egg “En Cocette” ,which is a coddled egg, (served in a ramekin, kinda like soft boiled) and greens on the side in a light vinaigrette accompanied by thick country toast with butter, coffee and orange juice. Next to me a young girl tucks into omelet with hash browns; bacon; lamb sausage; stewed tomatoes; toast and tea. It looks good, the place is alive with people, small and noisy but I read my paper and sip my coffee and wait for my order. My plate arrives it’s not alot of food but it is every bit good and cheap by NYC standards. The egg is peppered and flavorful served over a bed of juicy chicken, tender white and dark meat. The greens are crunchy and cool in a tart vinaigrette, a generous portion. But the toast… unlike any you’ll get in the supermarket, crispy and buttery and delicious. The girl next to me marvels at the bartender, a girl who works non-stop making bloody marys, all different kinds. There’s one that has pickled Brussels sprouts and radish, another has string bean, olives and lemon,  a dozen different kinds of em, I didn’t know that any others existed except the standard brunch issue at eateries in the boring suburbs.

So I strike up a conversation with this girl about the food here, she tells me she comes here for lunch during the week and has tried almost everything served here. Marina is a beautiful girl (about 25 I guess ) and she tells me the burgers here are the best in the city, but sadly only served on the weekdays when I’m usually at work. She also suggests that I expand my small meal and order the garlic lamb sausage like she did. I find out that she came from Russia and has been here a long time, we talk briefly about the advantages of city life vrs suburbs life but after finishing her tea…she leaves (the story of my life) while I wait for my sausage. I pick up the empty stool to my right and place it on my left in the spot by left by the lovely Marina when she departed, people have been trying to squeeze past it all day. It’s jammed between me and a seated guest at the bistro table behind me. I sit and when the sausage comes out I am glad I waited, it was so good I wished I had ordered two, the flavor of the lamb counter balanced by the garlic and Rosemary was so intense I thought that God must have come up with the recipe himself. I was saddened by the thought that it might be weeks or months till I came here again and could taste these flavors, I knew that I would be going to the butcher to try and get some of these beauties soon. I finished my meal and coffee, paid my bill, left a tip, and started down the street. I would have to get to a main avenue to get a cab uptown or perhaps I would just take the subway. I’ll decide whichever presents first I think as walk down the quiet street and enjoy the cold but sunny day.
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