Socrates Sculpture Park: Nari Ward Exhibition

We’ve visited the Socrates Sculpture Park before, quite some time ago (you can find that post here), but I kept seeing photos of the summer exhibition on social media and had to get there before it ended. For the first time in its history, the park hosted an exhibition featuring a single artist, Nari Ward. Ward was born in Jamaica but currently makes his home in New York City. The exhibition, titled Nari Ward: G.O.A.T., again, was both challenging and intriguing.

One of the things that makes this exhibition unique is that the art was created on site. As visitors roamed around the park, the most common features of the exhibition were the concrete goats. The park’s website contains this explanation of the exhibition’s name and the artist’s use of goats to convey his message:

Nari Ward: G.O.A.T., again examines how hubris creates misplaced expectations in American cultural politics. … G.O.A.T. is an acronym for Greatest of All Time, a phrase commonly used in American sports, made famous by Muhammad Ali, and in hip-hop, most notably, as the title of Queens native LL Cool J’s best-selling album. The title alludes to the African-American experience and political theater – common themes in Ward’s work.

The figure of the goat features prominently in Nari Ward: G.O.A.T., again as the artist’s articulation of social dynamics, conjuring the animal’s attributes and symbolic connotations, from an ambitious climber of great heights to an outcast. A flock of goats cast from lawn ornaments traverse the landscape, both in groups and as solitary individuals, manifesting the show’s title. The appropriation of the word goat, turning an insult into a moniker for excellence, demonstrates the power of wordplay, while the modifier again implies historical repetition. Scapegoat, a forty-foot long hobby toy further develops the goat metaphor and highlights another strand of the show: the satirization of virility, masculinity, and monument.

Intrigued about these goats? Here are some photos of the exhibition. It had rained heavily the day before our visit, hence the puddles, but there were plenty of dry spots to walk on.

The exhibition also included a piece titled, “Apollo/Poll.” Here’s a description of the piece from the park’s website, as well as a photo of what it looked like.

The visual anchor of the show is Apollo/Poll, a towering sign that reads ‘APOLLO’, the letters ‘A’ and ‘O’ blinking on and off to spell out “POLL.” The red LED-lit letters echo that of the iconic neon beacon hanging over Harlem’s Apollo Theater, a renowned venue for African American musicians and entertainers. Ward imagines the sign as a reflection on the enterprise and art of self-promotion, performance, originality, and the meaning of communal acceptance.

But the Nari Ward exhibition was not the only thing I found in the park. There were also these examples of community art projects, although I couldn’t find specific explanations of them.

And there was also this discovery, a free mini-library. Visitors were invited to take a book or leave a book at the site.

This exhibition has now ended, but another great exhibition has recently opened. If you’d like to visit the park, you can find directions here on the park’s website.

A Late Summer’s Day in Washington Square Park

Summer’s gone, but the memories remain. Here’s a glimpse of a late summer day in Washington Square Park. The park is a hub of activity, drawing local city residents, tourists, and students from nearby New York University. Whether you wish to people-watch, hear some music, or watch some performance art, there’s always something for everyone – regardless of the season.

 

 

Want to visit Washington Square Park? The West 14th Street subway station is only a couple of blocks away to the west, accessible by the A, B, C, D, E, F, and M trains, or you can take the R or W trains to the 8th Street station and then walk to the southwest.

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. From my understanding, the exhibitions change periodically, but there is almost always some type of art installation at Glyndor House. After viewing the art, 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!

Exploring Elizabeth Street Garden: Nolita’s Little Gem

Throughout the summer and early Fall I’ve tried to stay outside as much as possible, and New York City has offered up many treasures for me to explore further. One of my favorites is the Elizabeth Street Garden. The Elizabeth Street Garden is unique. I’ve found many beautiful gardens in the city’s public park system, and others that are local community gardens. But the Elizabeth Street Garden is of a different type altogether. Although there are many trees, shrubs, and flowers throughout the garden, the main draw is the sculptures and other architectural details salvaged from torn-down buildings over the years. (Some are evidently reproductions as well.)

The site of the Elizabeth Street Garden has a long history as a public space, tracing back almost 200 years to its time as a public school’s open space. Eventually, the school closed and apartments and other businesses were constructed on the school property, but the open space remained. The property became overgrown, and in 1990 the owner of the Elizabeth Street Gallery leased the space and began using it to display some of the gallery’s sculptures. The garden became a beautifully landscaped space, and it was eventually open to the public during limited hours. Unfortunately, in the past few years local residents have learned of the lot’s inclusion in an urban development plan. The garden’s supporters have organized to find a way to protect the garden for the future, but if something doesn’t change the space will likely become a housing development for senior citizens on limited incomes.

The garden is a magical place, a little wild and eclectic. There’s something delightful to see anywhere you look, and plenty of places to sit down in the shade or sun, depending on your preferences, and enjoy the sights, eat a picnic lunch, or read a book. The Elizabeth Street Garden is a neighborhood space. You’ll find parents pushing their babies in strollers, employees of nearby businesses taking their lunch break, and the occasional wanderer (like me) seeking a peaceful oasis in the middle of the city.

If you want to visit the garden, it is located on Elizabeth Street between Spring Street and Prince Street in the Manhattan neighborhood of Nolita. This website shows its open hours. If traveling by subway, the closest stations are the 2nd Avenue Station (F train), the Spring Street Station (6 train), the Prince Street Station (R or W trains), or the Broadway-Lafayette Station (B, D, F, or M trains).

Subway Station Art: Christopher Street Station

It’s been quite some time since I last featured some of New York City’s wonderful subway art, so I thought I thought I would show you the mosaics at the Christopher Street station today. These twelve mosaics, collectively known as “The Greenwich Village Murals,” show some of the interesting and diverse history of the Greenwich Village neighborhood surrounding this station. They were created by ceramic artist Lee Grozwol, in collaboration with fifth and six grade students from a local school (Public School 41).

The murals are divided into four sets of three murals each, with the following subtitles: Bohemians, Founders, Providers, and Rebels. There is a key for each set of murals on the wall nearby, helping visitors to identify each person featured in the murals.

For example, here are the Founders:

And here is the key for that set of murals:

Here are the Providers:

Here are the Bohemians:

And finally, here are the Rebels.

Want to see these wonderful mosaic murals in person? Take the 1 train to the Christopher Street station. There are different panels on each platform, so you will have to switch sides to see them all.

A Walk Along Library Way

Pedestrians traveling 41st Street in Manhattan between Fifth Avenue and Park Avenue may notice special street signs if they pay close attention – that two-block stretch is known as Library Way. Embedded within the sidewalk at regular intervals you will find 96 unique bronze plaques. The plaques were designed by sculptor Gregg LeFevre, and each one contains a literary quote. The quotes were chosen by a committee of literary experts picked by the Grand Central Partnership, New York Public Library, and New Yorker magazine. Although the plaques were installed in the late 1990s, the two blocks were officially renamed Library Way in 2003.

Library Way’s location is not an accident. The street leads straight to the main entrance of New York Public Library’s historic Stephen A. Schwarzman Building, which I’ve previously written about here.

Here are some of my favorite plaques. I think that many of my book-loving and library-loving friends and fellow bloggers, including Anabel of The Glasgow Gallivanter, would enjoy this literary-themed public art.

And I’ll end with this one final quote, which will be particularly meaningful for Americans enduring our current political situation.

There are many more for you to discover if you go to Library Way. I hope you have the opportunity to do so!

Visiting the Selah Exhibition at the Chesnut Gallery

I recently discovered a hidden gem on Fifth Avenue – the Chesnut Gallery at Fifth Avenue Presbyterian Church. The small gallery is currently host to an exhibition by Bronx-based artist Laura James titled Selah. The artist is known for her religious art, and this exhibition highlights that subject matter. Each painting has a biblical influence and is done in a style similar to the Christian Ethiopian art tradition.

Here are a few of my favorite paintings from the exhibition. First, I was drawn to this painting, titled “Guardian Angel.”

This one is titled “The Original Creation.”

Here’s “Man Born Blind,” another interesting one.

I really enjoyed “Fish for Breakfast.”

I’ll leave you with one last painting, “The Image of Gold and the Fiery Furnace.”

These are just a few of the richly colored, beautifully detailed paintings on exhibit. If you’d like to see Selah for yourself, the paintings are only on exhibition at the church until July 30. The entrance to Fifth Avenue Presbyterian Church is located at 7 W. 55th Street, just off of Fifth Avenue.

Subway Station Art: Lexington Avenue-63rd Street Station

I’ve written before about the Second Avenue subway line, which opened for the first time on January 1 of this year. Each of the three new stations has unique public art. (I wrote about those stations here, here, and here.) The new subway line connects with the rest of the system at the Lexington Avenue-63rd Street Station. When the new platform was added at that station, a new entrance was added as well at 3rd Avenue and 63rd Street. MTA Arts & Design added art on three levels: first, on the platform level next to the elevators from the platform to the mezzanine; second, on the mezzanine level; and third, at the street level. All of the art celebrates the old elevated train line that was demolished in 1942.

First, the platform level. There’s a semi-transparent set of panels separating the elevator area from one end of the track. Superimposed upon those panels are stylized photographs of the old elevated train line.

On the mezzanine level is my favorite art at this station, artist Jean Shin’s installation, Elevated. Shin’s work on this level focuses on the people in the neighborhood who would have been the elevated train’s riders before its demolition.

Finally, at the street level are more of Shin’s mosaics – these showing the girders that held up the old elevated line’s tracks being torn down.

If you’d like to see this subway station art for yourself, you can take the F or Q to the Lexington Avenue-63rd Street station. Make sure you enter or exist from the 3rd Avenue entrance/exit, as the Lexington Avenue entrance/exit does not provide access to this art.

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.

JMZ Walls in Brooklyn

There are many different neighborhoods with rich street art traditions in New York City. You might go to Queens, to Long Island City and Astoria, which I’ve written about before here, here, and here. There’s more in the Bronx – as well as Staten Island – and I’ll explore those more in the future in this blog. In Manhattan, you can find murals in Washington Heights (the Audubon Mural Project, which I wrote about here), Harlem (here‘s just part of what’s offered), East Harlem (more on that here), Chelsea, Little Italy, Chinatown, Alphabet City, and the Lower East Side (including the First Street Green, which I wrote about here). And finally, there’s even more offered in Brooklyn – Dumbo (see here), Williamsburg and Bushwick (more on those coming soon), and others.

For this post, I thought I would focus on one particular street art project in Brooklyn, known as JMZ Walls. JMZ Walls is named after the J, M, and Z train lines which run along Broadway in this part of Brooklyn. In fact, you can find all of these murals within just a block or two of Broadway. I’ve also included a few murals from the Dodsworth Street Mural Project, an earlier mural project whose boundaries seem to overlap with JMZ Walls. In fact, it’s really hard to tell where one ends and the other begins.

Here is a description of JMZ Walls by its founders, taken from its website:

JMZ Walls is a group of Bushwick residents who love the diversity and identity of Bushwick. We are committed to providing a unique collaborative experience for artists and our community. We endeavor to seek out available walls for local and global artists to create pieces that will be viewed by the greater Bushwick community. Our goal is to not only beautify our neighborhood, but to provide imaginative works of art the residents of Bushwick would not otherwise have access to. We believe that the streets have the potential to be a gallery to recount the history and progression of New York and the larger global community.

There are so many murals it is impossible to feature them all in a single blog post, so I will concentrate my attention here on my favorites, as well as others that show the diversity of the art work in the neighborhood. Artists’ names – and Instagram accounts, when available – are located below each photo.

BK Foxx (Instagram: @bkfoxx)
WERC (Instagram: @w3rc)
Key Detail (Instagram: @keydetail) and Yu-Baba (Instagram: @juliayubaba)
A Visual Bliss (Instagram: @avisualbliss) and Mr. Prvrt aka Justin Suarez (Instagram: @mrprvrt)
Lexi Bella (Instagram: @lexibellaart)
Kaldea Nakajima (@kaldea)
MURRZ (Instagram: @_murrz) and JCORP (Instagram: @jcorptm)
Ramiro Davaro-Comas (Instagram: @ramirostudios)
Marcelo Ment (Instagram: @marceloment)
Marcelo Ment (Instagram: @marceloment)
La Femme Cheri (Instagram: @la_femme_cheri) and Kimmy Grace (Instagram: @magicalblahblah)
Vince (Instagram: @vballentine99)
Kwue Molly (Instagram: @kwuemolly)
Huetek (Instagram: @huetek)
Thiago Valdi (Instagram: @thiagovaldi)
L7Matrix (Instagram: @l7matrix)
Caro Pepe (Instagram: @caro.pepe)
Tee Marie/Brooklyn Tee (Instagram: @brooklyntee)
Zesoner (Instagram: @zesoner)
Fumero (Instagram: @fumeroism)
Eelco Virus (Instagram: @iameelco)
Shiro (Instagram: @shiro_one)
Adam Kiyoshi Fujita (Instagram: @adamfu)
Turtle Caps (Instagram: @turtlecaps)
Shower Scene from Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho – BK Foxx (Instagram: @bkfoxx)

Want to explore the JMZ Walls and Dodsworth Street Murals for yourself? The easiest way to access them is from the J, M, and Z trains. All of the murals I’ve posted photos of here are located off of Broadway between the Kosciuszko Street station and Marcy Street station. You can also access them from the stations in between, including the Myrtle Avenue, Flushing Avenue, and Lorimer Street stations.