A Saturday Stroll at Wave Hill

I’ve titled this post “A Saturday Stroll,” but it took a little more effort to get to our destination, Wave Hill. We decided on Saturday to go somewhere we’ve never been before, but we didn’t want to travel too far. Ultimately, we set our sights on Wave Hill. Wave Hill is a public garden located in the Bronx community of Riverdale. Although it is located in New York City, it is not directly accessible by subway. Instead, we set out on the Metro North Railroad. If I’d read Wave Hill’s website carefully, we would have known that a shuttle van picks visitors up at the train station; instead, we walked to the garden’s entrance. It was a fairly steep uphill trek of a little over half a mile – although doable, I’d likely wait for the shuttle on a return visit. The road was narrow, and much of it didn’t have sidewalks.

Our uphill efforts were rewarded when we arrived at Wave Hill’s entrance. The gardens are beautiful! Wave Hill started out as a wealthy family’s private home, and it has an interesting history. As a child, Theodore Roosevelt stayed at Wave Hill with his family, and later the famous American author Mark Twain leased the estate. In 1960, the owners deeded Wave Hill to the city, and it eventually opened as a public garden and cultural center.

Almost immediately we came across the flower gardens, which are beautiful at this time of year. The vibrant colors were the first things that drew my attention, but then I noticed the butterflies! There were gorgeous Monarch butterflies everywhere I looked. I can’t even count the number of butterfly photographs I took while we were there, but it was a wonderful experience to see them.

The was such a variety of flowers blooming, and plenty of bees collecting pollen as well. If you enjoy macro photography, this is the place for you.

Nearby, we found the greenhouses. More treasures are located inside, particularly cacti and succulents.

We meander down various paths to other parts of the gardens. Dodging a water sprinkler, we arrive at the arbors. Although I expected to see grape vines, I was fascinated to find squash and gourds hanging from above as well.

Let’s explore further. At the end of another path we found Wave Hill House, the estate’s former mansion, now home to the cafe.

There were paths to walk through the shaded woods. Along the edge of the woods stood these evergreen trees, showcasing the range of colors and textures provided by nature. There were so many shades of green!

Coming through on the other side of the shaded woods, we climbed back up the hill to experience the views of the Hudson River and steep cliffs of the Palisades in New Jersey. Across the wide expanse of lawn we discover pairs of wooden chairs, perfectly situated to appreciate the gardens and river views. We had to stop for a while and take everything in.

Just when we thought we had exhausted all paths, we discovered Glyndor House, another large house on the property that is now home to the Glyndor Gallery. The current exhibition is titled “Call and Response,” and includes art responsive to the gallery’s location in the midst of Wave Hill. Here are just a few of the art installations we enjoyed at the Glyndor Gallery.

Lynn Koble, Tell-Tale, 2017
Daniel A. Bruce, Wanderfolk Whirligig, Fall, Winter, Summer, Spring, 2017
Steven Millar, Many-eyed object, 2017
Tai Hwa Guo, The Floristry in Wave Hill, 2017

 

Jung Eun Park, Denizens, 2017
Amie Cunat, Arbor in Tar and Charcoal Gray, 2017

From there it was time to take our walk back to the train station. This time, the walk went much quicker, as it was all downhill.

Want to visit Wave Hill and see the gardens for yourself? If traveling by public transportation, you’ll be glad to know that I discovered (after our trip, of course) that Wave Hill runs a free shuttle van between the gardens and the train station, as well as to the West 242nd Street subway station (1 train). Details about travel to Wave Hill, as well as directions for those traveling by car, are available here.

I think our stroll at Wave Hill is a good one for Jo’s Monday Walks. Have you checked out Jo’s blog? I recommend it!

A Farm in the City: Queens County Farm Museum

One thing people usually don’t expect to find in New York City is a farm, but there are a number of urban farms. Most of the urban farms have been founded recently and are located in unique locations – small greenspaces, even rooftops. Those gardens are creative in addressing the farming challenges of a major city, but there’s still one farm, surrounded by the city, that carries on farming in the traditional way: the Queens County Farm Museum.

The farm’s website contains the following description of the Queens County Farm Museum:

Queens County Farm Museum’s history dates back to 1697; it occupies New York City’s largest remaining tract of undisturbed farmland. The farm encompasses a 47-acre parcel that is the longest continuously farmed site in New York State. The site includes historic farm buildings, a greenhouse complex, livestock, farm vehicles and implements, planting fields, an orchard and herb garden.

We visited the museum on a Spring day when not too many people were around. It was as if we had left the city entirely and traveled somewhere in rural upstate New York.

As visitors enter the farm property, one of the first buildings they come to is the Adriance Farmhouse.

The earliest parts of the farmhouse date back to 1772, although it was added onto in the 19th century. The farmhouse now has New York City landmark status.

Across the way, there’s a small shop where you can get a coffee or purchase seeds, eggs, fresh produce, or other farm-related gifts.

Let’s see what else may be discovered on a stroll around the farm. Certainly some things we might expect to see on a farm – but not so common in New York City!

There was some unusual excitement on the farm while we were there – filming for a television cooking show! (From the look of things, this appears to be for the Food Network show Chopped – one of their grilling competitions.) We didn’t get to see any of the famous judges, but we did spy the set. This photo also demonstrates that the city isn’t too far away, as evidenced by the high rise buildings in the background.

Want to visit the Queens County Farm Museum? It’s located at 73-50 Littleneck Parkway, in Floral Park. The website contains directions for traveling by car or public transportation here. As a bonus, the farm is free except for a small number of special events dates.

The Noguchi Museum

There are so many excellent art museums in New York City that most people fail to go beyond the most well known: the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Museum of Modern Art, the Guggenheim Museum, the New Museum, the Whitney Museum, the Brooklyn Museum. All of them are great museums, and I’ve written about many in this blog. But there are others, less well known, that are worthy of a visitor’s time and attention. One of the best, in my opinion, is the Noguchi Museum. Located in Long Island City, the Noguchi Museum houses the work of Japanese-American sculptor Isamu Noguchi (1904-1988).

One of the things that makes this museum so special is the architecture. When Noguchi decided to build his museum in Long Island City, he designed an amazing space to house his art. One part of the museum is an old industrial building that Noguchi repurposed. To that building, Noguchi added a modern structure and a walled garden. The combination of hard, industrial lines, concrete, old wood floors, natural light, and drywall showcases his work to great advantage.

The outdoor space is my favorite. There are two types of outdoor space. Part is mostly enclosed by the walls of the building, but with open spaces near the ceilings. These open spaces let in light in special ways, casting unique shadows. The day I visited, there had been some rain earlier in the afternoon. The damp floor and even slight puddling in places only added to the overall artistic environment.

The garden is a tranquil oasis, a green space that’s the perfect foil for more of Noguchi’s sculptures. There are several places to sit for a while, enjoying the beauty of the garden environment. The combination of natural materials with stone and metal is striking, and the height of the walls surrounding the garden provide a welcome refuge from the busy outside world.

Inside, there are sculptures spanning Noguchi’s professional career and utilizing a range of techniques, styles, and media. I enjoyed the contrast between different types of stone, textures, and scale.

There’s a special exhibition right now titled “Self-Interned, 1942.” As a resident of New York City during World War II, Noguchi was not required to enter a Japanese-American internment camp, but he voluntarily spent several months in the Poston War Relocation Center in Arizona with the hope (unrealized, unfortunately) that he would be able to develop an art program for the camp. The exhibition includes both art and artifacts from that time period. This exhibition is only open through January 2018.

Finally, Noguchi was also known for his lamp designs, and there is a room with a number of examples of those designs.

Want to see the Noguchi Museum in person? The Museum is located at 9-01 33rd Road (at Vernon Boulevard) in Long Island City. If you are traveling by public transportation, you can take the N or W trains to the Broadway station, and then walk 8 blocks west on Broadway until you reach Vernon Boulevard. Turn left and walk 2 more short blocks to the museum. (You will see Socrates Sculpture Park at Broadway and Vernon Boulevard, another great place to visit.) If you don’t want to walk that far, you can also take the Q103 bus, which has stops near many of the other subway stations in Long Island City. (For specific directions, use the Trip Planner on the MTA website.)

Note: The Noguchi Museum is not open on Mondays or Tuesdays. On the first Friday of each month, admission to the museum is free – and there are also extended hours on First Fridays during the summer, as well as a cash bar.

Art of the In-Between at the Metropolitan Museum of Art

Every May, regular visitors to the Metropolitan Museum of Art know that one of the best exhibitions of the year is about to open –  the Costume Institute’s Spring Exhibition. The exhibition begins with a grand, star-studded gala. Famous musicians, actors, and public figures dress in festive attire inspired by that year’s exhibition theme, and then throughout the summer visitors flock to the museum to explore it. This year’s exhibition is a real treat, a fashion-based art exhibition that requires visitors to interrogate their own assumptions as their ideas of fashion are challenged. Titled Comme des Garçons – Art of the In-Between, the exhibition focuses on the avant-garde work of designer Rei Kawakubo.

Here’s the museum’s overview description of the exhibition (you can find the full exhibition guide here on the museum’s website.):

The galleries illustrate the designer’s revolutionary experiments in “in-betweenness”—the space between boundaries. Objects are organized into nine aesthetic expressions of interstitiality in Kawakubo’s work: Absence/Presence, Design/Not Design, Fashion/Anti-Fashion, Model/Multiple, Then/Now, High/Low, Self/Other, Object/Subject, and Clothes/Not Clothes. Kawakubo breaks down the imaginary walls between these dualisms, exposing their artificiality and arbitrariness.

There are approximately 140 designs in the exhibition, making it a feast for the eyes. I’ve included photos of some of the designs below, with notes about what aesthetic themes they are associated with. As you can see, there is a real range of ideas represented in Kawakubo’s work.

First, we have Object/Subject:

This one is Good Taste/Bad Taste:

Here, we have Elite Culture/Popular Culture:

Now, Male/Female:

This striking piece is an example of Fact/Fiction:

And this one is War/Peace:

I love the contrasts between these next two, labeled Beautiful/Grotesque:

And finally, ending with my favorite gallery in the exhibition, Order/Chaos:

Comme des Garçons – Art of the In-Between is open to the public through September 4, 2017, so there is still plenty of time to see the full exhibition in person.

Heading Indoors to the Brooklyn Botanic Garden Conservatories

The weather’s terrible in New York City today (in fact, I’m home writing this because the university closed for the day), and this winter weather is making me long for spring. I thought I would take us somewhere warm, with flowers and green plants – but where should we go? How about the conservatories at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden? We can travel to multiple climate zones in a single afternoon! I’ve written about the Brooklyn Botanic Garden’s Bonsai Museum previously (you’ll find it here), but there are several other indoor garden spaces nearby.

As soon as we enter the conservatory complex, things are looking promising. We come across this sculpture suspended from the ceiling, made entirely of botanical materials. Doesn’t it look intriguing? The sculpture, titled Windfall, is by artist Shayne Dark. It was created using apple wood root balls and aircraft cable.

Let’s head downstairs to the conservatory entrances. First, there’s the Warm Temperate Pavilion. What geographic areas are located in warm temperate regions? The botanic garden’s website includes this list: “the Mediterranean basin; South Africa; Australia; New Zealand; Eastern Asia; western coastal regions of North America (mainly California); and western coastal regions of South America (mainly Chile).” The entrance to the pavilion makes me feel like we are exiting a cave and going back into the light.

Here are a few of the plants and flowers we spy as we stroll through the Warm Temperate Pavilion.

Next stop: the Tropical Pavilion. The Tropical Pavilion includes representative plant life from the Amazon basin in South America, as well as tropical areas of Africa and eastern Asia.

The Desert Pavilion has interesting cactus specimens – some I’ve never seen before.

Finally, let’s step into the Aquatic House, which is also home to the botanic garden’s orchids.

It might be a snowy, icy, windy day outside, but our tour of the Brooklyn Botanic Garden Conservatory has me feeling much warmer! I hope you are staying warm as well.

The Conservatories, as well as the rest of the Brooklyn Botanic Garden, are open all year around. If you’d like to visit the Brooklyn Botanic Garden yourself, you’ll find directions at the end of a previous post I wrote about the Garden, found here.

Chinese Food Inspiration at the Museum of Chinese in America

One of my favorite museums in New York City is the Museum of Chinese in America, located in Manhattan’s Chinatown. The long-term exhibition, tracing the history of the Chinese experience in the United States, is excellent. But I always look forward to the temporary exhibitions. (I previously wrote about one of those temporary exhibitions here.)

The current temporary exhibition, titled Sour, Sweet, Bitter, Spicy: Stories of Chinese Food and Identity in America, is the best one yet. The main part consists of a large space, set up to resemble a dinner table. Around the table are 33 place settings, each representing a Chinese or Asian-American chef. At each place is a small ceramic sculpture symbolizing that chef’s food influences, as well as a card giving more information about the chef’s personal background, food inspirations, signature dishes, favorite ingredients, and choice of ultimate comfort food. Museum visitors are invited to sit down at each place and learn more about the chefs.

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It’s worth taking a closer look at some of the beautiful ceramics. There are larger pieces in the middle of the table that symbolically represent various geographic good influences. Then, each chef’s place setting has a smaller ceramic sculpture that includes the geographic symbols from the larger pieces. All ceramics in the exhibit were created by two ceramic artists: Heidi Lau and Lu Zhang.

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Symbolizing Beijing (Jing) influence
Symbolizing Sichuan (Chuan)
Symbolizing Sichuan (Chuan) influence
Symbolizing Chino-Latino influence
Symbolizing Chino-Latino influence
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Symbolizing Taiwan

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Around the room, large screens hang on the wall. Visitors can sit at the table and listen to some of the chefs talk about their personal experiences with various topics, such as immigrating to the United States, growing up Chinese or Asian-American, and their food influences. The videos really add another layer to the whole experience – being able to see and hear the chefs that you are reading about, maybe even as you sit at that chef’s place at the table.

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MOCA’s website has the following explanation of the exhibition’s title, which I found compelling: “In Chinese the saying Sour, Sweet, Bitter, Spicy refers not only to the delicate balance of flavors that defines Chinese cooking but also the ups and downs of life.”

Once visitors finish in the first room, there is a second, smaller room across the lobby that offers another approach to the exhibitions theme. In the smaller room, each chef loaned the museum an item from his or her kitchen. The artifacts are very practical, but also very personal. On a surface level this room may seem less impressive, but if you read the descriptions for each item you begin to understand the chefs’ connections to the food they create.

For example, Wilson Tang loaned these moon cake molds to the museum:

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And Ken Hom has loaned his cleaver:

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Want to see Sour, Sweet, Bitter, Spicy in person? The exhibition was originally scheduled to end on March 26, 2017, but it has been so popular that the museum has extended it to September 10, 2017. The Museum of Chinese in America is located at 215 Centre Street in Manhattan.

Touring an Assyrian Palace at the Metropolitan Museum of Art

Since the recent announcement of the travel ban here in the United States, a number of museums in New York City have found several ways to show dissent or show solidarity with people from the seven countries affected by the ban. For example, the Museum of Modern Art has a special exhibition of art by Muslim artists from the countries included in the travel ban. The Museum of the City of New York has focused on curating images of activism in the city, such as the use of the #activistny hashtag on Instagram, as part of an ongoing exhibition titled Activist New York. MCNY also has a new photography exhibition opening soon titled Muslim in New York.

The Metropolitan Museum of Art has a rich collection of art from Muslim countries, as well as other art from the ancient world that comes from the countries included in the ban. The Met programming has been more subtle than other NYC museums in this respect, but there is always great art on display from the ancient Middle East and historical Islamic world. And the museum regularly offers a tour of those galleries called Arts of the Islamic World.

Today, I thought I would take you on a tour of one of my favorite galleries in this part of the museum, Gallery 401. This gallery present carved stone reliefs from the palace of Ashurnasirpal II, who ruled over the Assyrian empire (located in modern-day Iraq) from 883 to 859 B.C. Although the reliefs from a variety of locations within the palace originally, they are displayed as a single reception room with a high ceiling.

The first thing you are likely to notice as you enter the room are the statues on either side of the entrance – a winged bull and a winged lion, each with human heads.

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There are also some magnificent reliefs along the other walls of the room. Here is just a sample of what you will see.

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Although this isn’t a great photo of the reliefs, I thought the view of the group tour would give a better sense of the size of the room and the art.

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If you get the chance to visit the Metropolitan Museum of Art, I recommend that you explore this gallery in person – it’s worth the visit. The museum is located on Fifth Avenue at East 82nd Street.

Exploring the New York Public Library

As I’m a voracious reader and lover of books and libraries, the New York Public Library – and specifically the Stephen A. Schwarzman Building – is one of my favorite places in New York City. Although the library now has annexes all over the city, this building, which first opened to the public in 1911, is the one that most people associate with the NYPL. Today, I thought I’d take you on a tour of the library.

Here’s our view as we get ready to cross Fifth Avenue and approach the main entrance to the building. As you can see, the building is an example of Beaux-Arts architecture. Doesn’t it look promising as we approach?

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As we cross the street, we see the famous library lions. Since the 1930s, they’ve been known by the names Patience and Fortitude.

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During the Christmas season, the lions wear evergreen wreaths studded with pinecones and trimmed with a red bow.

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On either side of the main entrance are magnificent fountains. If you look closely, you may be able to see the netting that prevents birds from perching on the statues.

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Make sure you look around as we go through the entrance. The details on the huge bronze doors are incredible, and the arched ceiling of the portico is also magnificent.

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We’ve entered into the grand Astor Hall. The white marble reflects the light shining through the front windows.

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Here’s one of my favorite details in the entire library – a small marble plaque set into Astor Hall’s floor. The plaque remembers Martin Radtke, a Lithuanian immigrant to the United States who educated himself during regular visits to the library over the course of his life. Upon Martin’s death in 1973, the library discovered that he had left his savings to the library – $368,000 in all. How special that he has been honored in this way.

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There’s so much more to see as we explore the library’s many rooms and corridors. Can you imagine sitting at one of the tables for a while, reading a book you’ve requested from one of the librarians? If you have the time, we can catch up on some news in the periodicals reading room, or explore an atlas in the Map Division reading room. And there’s so many interesting architectural details and art to experience as well. Don’t forget to look up! The ceilings display more fine craftsmanship.

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Periodically throughout the hallways you may spy these lions along the wall, remnants of the original water fountain system. You can’t get a drink of water from these fountains today, but they are still fun to see.

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One of the most impressive rooms in the library is the Rose Reading Room, which stretches the length of a football field. The Rose Reading Room has just reopened after a lengthy restoration process. The ceilings are beautiful in this room as well, and there are so many other interesting architectural details to explore.

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Let’s not forget to head down to the ground floor. As we exit the elevator, we spy this rare artifact: a set of pay phone booths! Unsurprisingly, none of them are in use.

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And then we come to the library’s Children’s Center. The entrance to the Children’s Center is guarded by lions as well, although these two are made of Lego blocks.

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The Children’s Center is a magical place, with a mural of various New York City landmarks stretching around the room.

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Best of all there are the original stuffed animals that inspired author A. A. Milne to write the children’s book Winnie the Pooh.

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I hope that you enjoyed our tour. There are even more treasures to be discovered if you visit the New York Public Library for yourself. The library even offers free tours on a daily basis. The Stephen A. Schwarzman Building is located on Fifth Avenue in Manhattan, between 40th and 42nd Streets. (Yes, the building stretches the length of two city blocks – but the short blocks!)

A personal note: I wrote this post as a tribute to a wonderful friend and family member that we lost this week. Roy lived an incredible life, full of love and family adventures. His wife Rosie, my cousin, has become a close friend as we’ve collaborated on family history projects. Roy had lost his eyesight over the years, but he still participated in numerous book clubs and loved to read. He was one of those special people who are life-long learners. Somehow, writing about a library seemed like the perfect way to honor his memory as his family prepares to celebrate his life tomorrow.

Brooklyn Botanic Garden’s Bonsai Museum

During the cold winter months, you might not usually think of visiting a botanical garden. But the Brooklyn Botanic Garden’s C.V. Starr Bonsai Museum (as well as other indoor conservatories) make this garden a perfect place to visit on a cold, blustery day. What makes the Bonsai Museum so special is that it’s home to a collection of approximately 350 trees – the Brooklyn Botanic Garden’s website states that it is “one of the finest in the world.” Most of these trees are not on exhibit at the same time; instead, curators rotate trees from the collection in and out of the modern and light indoor verandah.

I last went in late fall on a windy day, and the exhibition included both evergreen and deciduous trees. Here are some of my favorites, which all posed for photos. I particularly like the architectural effect of the trees that are almost stripped bare of leaves. They cast some great shadows as well!

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One of the great things about the Bonsai Museum is that different trees are on display throughout the year. Who knows what you might find when you visit! You’ll find the directions to the Brooklyn Botanic Garden at the end of a previous post I wrote about the Garden, found here.

Kerry James Marshall at the Met Breuer

One of the wonderful things about art is that it offers so many different perspectives of the human experience. As an art lover, I appreciate that museums in recent years have worked to make art offerings more inclusive, allowing visitors to be exposed to those different perspectives. That is one reason why one of the current exhibitions at Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Met Breuer annex excites me. The exhibition, titled Mastry, offers almost 80 works by African-American artist Kerry James Marshall. Mastry covers two full floors of the Met Breuer building, and the artwork reflects Marshall’s unique perspectives of African-American life.

I found this description, taken from the museum’s website, very appropriate: “[T]his … exhibition reveals Marshall’s practice to be a complex and compelling one that synthesizes a wide range of pictorial traditions to counter stereotypical representations of black people in society and reassert the place of the black figure within the canon of Western painting.” As I looked at the paintings, I was struck by Marshall’s choice of very dark pigment for the figures – accentuating their blackness in a compelling and beautiful way. Most paintings had multiple layers – paint, then pieces of text, advertising, photos, or other images, then more paint. The closer you look, the more symbolism and detail you’ll discover.

Here are some of my favorite paintings from the exhibition:

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I also really liked the series of paintings contrasting the dream versus the reality of public housing projects. The paintings are known as the “Garden Project” series, as the housing projects all had the word “garden” in their names. Here are three of the paintings from the “Garden Project.”

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To give you a sense of the scale of Marshall’s artwork, here is one of the paintings with museum visitors in front of it. (This one also shows how much patience I had to have in order to get the other photos I took!)

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Want to see Kerry James Marshall’s Mastry for yourself? The exhibition is only open through January 29, 2017, so you’ll have to hurry. The Met Breuer is located on Madison Avenue at 75th Street. If traveling by public transportation to the museum, you can take the 4 or 6 train to the 77th Street Station. There is also a bus stop for the M1, M2, M3, and M4 buses close by.