The Casual Blog

Tag: Picasso

Taking in some art, sport, and food in New York

14 11 02_3603Last Friday I attended the Software Freedom Law Center’s tenth anniversary conference in New York, wishing my friends at the SFLC happy birthday and learning something about the state of the art in FOSS law. Afterwards I met up with Sally and daughter Jocelyn at the Warwick Hotel for a Manhattan weekend. I had in mind to see some painting, some photography, some opera, and some ballet, all of which we did, plus some good food and conversation and the New York City Marathan.

As for the painting, on Saturday we went to the Metropolitan Museum, where we focused mainly on the exhibit of recently donated Cubist paintings by Picasso, Braque, Leger, and Gris. Cubism has never been my favorite thing, but I was curious to see some reputed masterpieces not shown in public for generations. The exhibit ultimately had its way with me.

I’d known that Braque and Picasso collaborated, but I hadn’t understood that they were basically partners and co-inventors of the Cubist style. What remarkable courage for guys in their mid-twenties to work exclusively in a style that was so radically new and difficult. They must have known it would be tough to sell at a time when, I’m guessing, they needed money. How excited they must have been to be seeing visions no one had ever seen before, and imaging they would permanently change the cultural/visual world. And they were right!

Engaging with art, and particularly art that requires commitment and struggle, changes you at a fundamental level. Your brain rewires itself, neuronal axons and dendrites making new connections. You are a subtly different person afterwards, who sees the world a little differently.

And though it involved some commitment and struggle, I warmed up to the paintings. There is steely rigor, but there’s more than that. There are moods, from sunny to brooding, and a surprisingly amount of humor. But you have to give the paintings some time and let them speak.
14 11 02_3558

We met Jocelyn for lunch in a Korean place on 37th Street, where our table got covered with savory little vegetarian plates and vegetable dumplings. Our waitress intervened when she realized Sally didn’t know she was supposed to spice up and mix up her kimbap. It was drizzly and chill when we came out and walked up 6th Avenue to the International Museum of Photography.

There we saw an exhibit called Genesis by the Brazilian photographer Sebastiao Salgado. The black-and-white photos are of remote, vulnerable, and magnificent places around the globe, including Antarctica, Galapagos, Patagonia, Indonesia, and Africa. I was very moved by this art. The works were big, some like large posters, and they had lots to say. Some of the landscapes have a stately lyrical classicism, and his photos of indigenous people are frank and intimate. He succeeded in his aim of making me think more about how beautiful and fragile is our planet.

We had dinner at Robert restaurant on the 9th floor of Museum of Arts and Design looking out at Columbus Circle. The room had the energy of forward leaning design, and the food and service were both really good.

Then we walked up to the Metropolitan Opera to see The Death of Klinghoffer. After all the recent controversy (charges of anti-Semitism, which I thought were way off base), I had some worries that there would be protesters, and a tiny worry that there might be a homicidal fanatic ready to attack. But happily there were only normal opera folk. Sally and I both thought John Adams’s music was beautiful and expressive. However, I found the staging static and dull. I’m not sure how much this problem was a matter of direction and how much is inherent to the work. On the whole, I was glad I saw it, but a little disappointed.
14 11 02_3565

Sunday morning was clear but chilly as we walked up from the Warwick Hotel to Central Park South to a spot about half a mile from the end of the New York City Marathon. We saw the first wheelchair competitors, then the first women, and then the first men. After almost 26 miles, most looked like they were in a hard, painful place. But they were booking! The leaders were preceded by a truck with a sign showing the elapsed time. It was particularly interesting to see how close the fight was for number one and two for both women and men. As they passed us, both pairs were so close that I thought perhaps they were friends that enjoyed running together. The women’s finish was the closest in the history of the race, and the men’s was also quite close.
14 11 02_3585

After a quick lunch, Jocelyn came with me to Lincoln Center to a matinee performance of American Ballet Theatre. We saw Sinfonietta (music by Janacek, choreography byJiri Kylian), Bach Partita (Bach, Twyla Tharp), and Gaite Parisienne (Offenbach, Massine). I greatly enjoyed it all, but particularly adored Gaite Parisienne. It was like Nutcracker for grownups: sumptuous, slightly risque fun. Hee Seo was a gorgeous Glove Seller, and Herman Cornejo was a manic, hilarious Peruvian. There were a LOT of really good dancers!

After Jocelyn got on the subway to go home to Brooklyn, I had a little time before we were due to head to the airport. I walked down Fifth Avenue and over to the skating rink at Rockefeller Center. I noted that the varied collection of flags from many nations had at some point been replaced by all US flags. Good looking flags, though .

Thanksgiving in New York

There’s just something electric about New York City! Flying in last Wednesday, I passed close to the Statue of Liberty. Liberty! Then the splendid dense verticality lower Manhattan, and the gleaming skyscraping icons of midtown. It’s Oz!

The original plan for the Tiller clan to meet up for an urban Thanksgiving got off to a rocky start because Stuart, our dog, appeared to be dying. He threw up all over the apartment for a couple of days, and then spent several days in the animal hospital unable to eat. Exploratory abdominal surgery failed to yield a clear diagnosis, but made him weaker still. The day before we were scheduled to leave for NYC, Sally declared she couldn’t stand the thought of his being miserable and alone at the end. He’d been a beloved friend to us for eight years. So she decided to bring him home for hospice care. She urged me to proceed with the plan to meet the kids, who were already there, and so I headed north, with mixed feelings. (P.S. Stuart started improving the day after Sally brought him home and is still with us, frail but looking perkier every day.)

Wednesday afternoon I rendezvoused with Gabe and Jocelyn at the Hotel @ Times Square, a modestly priced (by NYC standards) but clean establishment at a great midtown location. Jocelyn was just back from two months backpacking in Columbia, Ecuador, and Peru, and I was delighted and relieved to see her. Not a day went by during her trip when I didn’t worry about her being kidnapped or worse. She seemed very chipper and glad to be back to the land of flush toilets and hot showers. Gabe came in from Colorado looking handsome, hale and hearty.

I was so glad to see them, and so glad to be back in NYC! When I lived there in my twenties, I could ordinarily not afford taxis, and it was satisfying to take many cab rides with the kids to share some of my favorite places. We went to the Metropolitan Museum and I introduced them to some of my favorite paintings, including the Vermeers. We checked out the amazing holiday windows in the shops on Fifth Avenue, and maneuvered through the mobs of people at Times Square.

On Thanksgiving morning, we’d planned to go to the Macy’s parade, which was passing just a block and a half to the west, but Jocelyn’s left eye was hurting badly, possibly from an infection. We watched a couple of big balloons (including Horton) go by, and then we went looking for medical care. With my iPhone I located an urgent care clinic close by, but it was closed, and the next one we tried was closed as well. We ended up in the emergency room of NYU Bellevue. I expected an endless wait, but it was not so bad. They got us in and out in a couple of hours, and Jocelyn started to feel better soon after.

For Thanksgiving dinner, we went to the upper west side and shared a fine meal with Sally’s brother Bill, his wife Mary Jane, and their daughter Carmen. Everyone was in high spirits, and I was most grateful that they provided delicious non-meat food. Bill was eager to hear more of Jocelyn’s South American journey, and she had some good stories of jungle adventures with snakes and spiders and marathon bus rides. Carmen, now thirteen, seemed amazingly grown up and well spoken. She’d just applied to an arts high school for both acting and piano performance, and played her audition piece, a Haydn sonata.

On Friday, we got a personal tour of the trading floor of the New York Stock Exchange and ate lunch in Chinatown. Late that afternoon, Gabe and I went to the Museum of Modern Art. Gabe was interested in Picasso and Van Gogh, and I never get tired of them. I also spent some time with the J. Pollocks. The big big drip painting finally clicked for me (goose bumps). We met Jocelyn and her friend Pam at a little Italian restaurant on the east side. Pam is an art world person and aspiring critic, and amazingly articulate, warm, and friendly. Gabe mentioned Andy Warhol, and it turned out Pam had some dense but fascinating ideas about him.

On Saturday afternoon, I took the kids to their first live opera at the Met, where we saw Carmen with Elina Garanca in the title role. She was smoking hot! Everything was truly wonderful — singing, sets, costumes, orchestra. And the story is still a bloody shocker. I was a little worried beforehand that the kids might not like it, which, especially in view of the ticket prices, would have been a bummer, but was not — they enjoyed it.

Gabe and Jocelyn had an early flight to Colorado on Sunday, so I was on my own for the last day. I went back to the Met in the morning and spent some time with the Greek and Roman antiquities, looked in on an exhibit of the work of Jan Gossart (Dutch Renaissance), and looked in again at the beloved Vermeers. Then I went to Lincoln Center to see the City Ballet’s Nutcracker.

After many Nutcrackers, I thought I was pretty much nutcrackered out for life, but it turned out not. Somehow it hit the sweet spot of pure joy and wonder. The dancing was delightful, the stagecraft was impressive, and the orchestra sounded great. The child dancers had more-than-usual charisma. Jennifer Ringer as the Sugarplum Fairy seemed a little flat at first, but was gorgeous in the pas de deux. Ashley Bouder was an exquisite Dew Drop. A few weeks earlier I’d ordered a piano version of the Tchaikovsky score and played through parts of it for fun, so I was particularly attentive to the music. It is a masterpiece.

After the ballet, I took a cab to 46th and 12th and visited the aircraft carrier Intrepid, the submarine Growler, and the Concorde. Impressive machines! The Intrepid is a proud veteran of WWII that played a significant role in the Pacific theater and survived some kamikaze hits. The sun was setting at the end of my tour, and the view of Manhattan was beautiful.