MoMA #ArtSpeaks

It has appeared on my calendar the last Tuesday of the month for a year I’ll bet. And today I finally made it.  MoMA #ArtSpeaks Today 12-3.

Reflecting on the first presentation which lasted 7 minutes, I think this is where you will find me on those last Tuesday’s of every month.  I loved what MoMA is doing.

The first thing on the program was at the Charles White Retrospective. I had no idea what to expect so I pre-walked the exhibit.  White was a prolific African American Artist who worked for the Illinois Art Project a subsidiary of the WPA.  He painted Murals as seen below.  He painted portraits, album covers, book covers, you name it, he painted it.  He was very concerned with the plight of Black America.  And this was evident in his work. 

And so begins #ArtSpeak.  A young woman named Courtney was introduced. She spoke for seven minutes about how this work was familiar to her from her grandmothers Insurance Calendars.  She spoke about her identity and going to Howard University.  I spoke to her afterwards.  She works in the media department.  She never studied art.  We talked about the subject of the painting, the tree referencing both lynching and the Tree Of Life.  Who are the people on the path following Sojourner Truth?

On to the next #ArtSpeaks moment.

This was down in The Judson Dance Theatre Exhibition in the Downtown Gallery.  We had been here several weeks ago and seen these plywood and rope pieces that really meant nothing.  


These would be the subject of Curator Ana Janevski’s talk.  How eye opening it is to have someone speak about what these things were/are. 









You can imagine how confusing it is to walk into a gallery and not know what this stuff is, or how it relates to Judson Dance.

It was enough to learn that Judson Dance was part of the movement in the 60’s happening in New York (and other places I assume) to find deeper ways to express feelings through art.  




And so she began.. on and on about kinetic awareness, outdoor dance of Anna Halprin, the  Judson Church basement.  What???

Then she gets to the meat of it.  As the curator she feels the work, because it is placed  in the center of exhibition tells us it’s important.  It is called Dance Constructions by Simone Forti. 

Simone comes to N.Y. during this period of the 60’s. Engaged in thinking “what is it to make art?”

I ask, as she did “What makes them dance constructions?” At first presentation she herself didn’t think of them that way.

Words were flying, all jumbled but making sense.. In the 60’s in Greenwich Village Forti  had collaborated with people like Claus Oldenberg and in a studio somewhere she presented “seesaw”.  With two people balancing. Finding equilibrium, so it was performance.

But also the pieces have a double life. They stand on their own as sculpture. And again when used in performance.

More words… Collaboration. No winner or loser. Negotiations

And then a shocker.. The slant board that the museum bought is not the original,  the acquisition was of the instructions on how to build it? And Forti came to the museum in the weeks before the opening this year to help assist in the build and the preparation for the performances? 

She was not part of Judson dance theater but existed in the same time and space.  Therefore she is included in the exhibit.  And as I mentioned previously, according t the curator of the exhibit, she was central to what was happening. 

The works were radical. People knew they saw something but didn’t know how to react.  What is all this?

It is interesting and I need to think about it if I want to start making more sense of all I am seeing today .. and tomorrow.  There will be a performance in an hour so I wander…  Join another #ArtSpeaks back at the Charles White and then back down to the performance space.. I’m writing on my phone, waiting.. and I look up.  I see a cluster of people, a huddle – one of the first dance constructions.

What had the curator said earlier? “It’s all. PERFORMANCE. Proximity.”

They spend time allowing each other to break from the huddle only to climb across the top and rejoin.  No one ever looked up, no one spoke, or gestured, they just worked as parts of a whole. And then they finish.. and two girls walk towards the big wooden crates set on the floor.  One lifts one end of the box closer to  me, the other lies down and the box is lowered.  The first girl walks to the other box and lowers it over herself.  We wait.. we wait for what must be half an eternity.  ten minutes, perhaps 15. 

I am in room full of people quietly waiting. Only three of us had put our phones out.. me too write this ( is that rude?).  And then these two young men walk in.  Are they part of it?  will they be shocked if the boxes lift and the girls come out?  what’s going on?  is this part of the experience? 

Is it about what’s happening and or what I’m thinking while it’s happening what it’s about. I’m very confused. I like it. It’s imposed thinking time.

And then they emerge

they walk away and the next piece begins. 

A pot filled with nails. He shakes. She sings. It is loud. Then goes silent. What a rush. Peace returns.  What next?  Before the thought is finished they are

climbing.  Circling around each other, no rhyme or reason, no words, just amongst each other.  It goes on so long I am uncomfortable, will it ever end.  So many people have left the room but I want to stay on.  How will it end? 

and they walk away…

And another player gets up and gets on the rope that is just hanging in a loop from the ceiling.  Its just rope – Why is it art? And she is spun around. And we watched her hang while the screech that was not music sounded. Almost like a car crashing into the orchestra

The room is almost empty. Six of us are sticking it out. And eleven performers.

At some point she changed her standing foot. 

and then she gets down, they walk away. it is over…

I find a quote…

In Thinking With the Body (2014, University of Chicago Press and Hirmer), curator Sabine Breitwieser wrote about Forti’s Dance Constructions, “One could look at the Dance Constructions as problematizing everyday or, as you call them, pedestrian movements. If you take something out of an everyday context and isolate it, then it becomes something else. Using a rope to scale a steep ramp in Slant Board, for instance, evokes a typical climbing movement, but you’ve turned it to an isolated action that lacks a purpose, that exists just for itself.”[8]

Hah!  it lacks a purpose!  There is nothing to say… I go on to the next event. 

Back to Charles White where another young woman is talking about Spiritual. 1941. Self awareness, power, strength. It is heartbreaking.

Again, words – Not vulnerable to objectification. Nude from a distance but not.  Figure outlined in white. Spirit of connectivity black Americans feel for one another. Africans in diaspora

She makes it personal. Her family is from Liberia but she didn’t know black experience because she grew up in a suburban and white town. Seeing this art, she feels validated. I think this is the same feeling as the girl from Howard university who spoke earlier. 

I meet Jess who runs the adult Ed.  What a wonderful thing she is bringing to us, to me.

And my day here is done.  I walk out to the street. It is a beautiful day.  In the back of my mind I had wanted to go down to City Hall Park where there is a piece from the Mutual Art Society on display only for the next few days. And as part of my explore NY ( meaning figuring out where the heck I am) I want to go to the World Trade Center, walk pst City Hall Park and on too…

And so I do.  I have gone past the WTC a number of times, seen bits and pieces but today I wander further.

I am overwhelmed by this hole.

Amused by 

Is this a tiny house wall?

On to the park

It’s fun, these colanders stacked up , but Im not sure why its art?

Now these Like… Made from plexiglass… I almost buy one, but its not really RV friendly… or would perhaps just one flower be perfect?

I’m heading home… this is an old subway floor, what the writing above is I don know.  Im not up to google research about it.  I’m ready to be home.

what a wonderful day… 

UPDATE:  the vanilla cookie was great, the brownie questionable and the salted chocolate chip cookie really good.

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