At the Whitney Biennial (Or, an art review for people who don’t care to know much about art)

baseball field whitney biennial

I usually fail at my attempts to make it to the Whitney Biennial. Every two years the Whitney does an exhibit of contemporary art, which often features work by the young and unknown, to show us where art is right now. I like to think of it as an extended Fashion Week for the art world.

This year, during the last two hours of the last day of the full exhibit, I made it.

Now, unless you go see a lot of contemporary art – contemporary meaning current, or now, and not to be confused with Modern Art which is from a set time period – going to the Biennial is a strange experience. I love museums but don’t go out of my way to see the non-performing arts much otherwise. And when you go to museums, you are far more often than not, looking at the past.

There is little to compare the work to, nothing to pull time markers from as you might do when wandering the Museum of Modern Art where you can see each generation effecting the next and where various movements can be put into context by their times.

Seeing contemporary art is seeing something that is commenting on a time for which you do not yet have hindsight or any idea of what is coming next. As I am the kind of person who likes to wander up and experience art with little knowledge of it, this suits me well.

There’s a sense of adventure to not knowing what will come next. Unlike visiting the Lourve or other great museums, there weren’t any hugely famous pieces expected. Wandering the building with my fiance, we started at the top and worked our way down.  Most of what I saw didn’t really stick with me.

My favorite piece was a field of baseballs that were penned in on the ground filling up a substantial section of one of the floors. Being a huge baseball fan I appreciated the whimsy of it. It made me think of the movie The Sandlot. But I also wondered if I would like it as much if it were presented someplace else. The layout of the space, including the angled window and doorways that let light in were a nice balance to the simplicity of what was on the ground. Even those who don’t love baseball the way I do would be hard pressed not to stop for a moment and take in the scale of the thing, though I could also see it being the butt of some joke about the lack of work in some works of art.

A sort of scavenger hunt started as my fiance and I ran up to a variety of black and white photos of space that were placed throughout the museum. He proposed to me earlier this year after seeing a space show so that’s right up our alley. The small framed images, clearly ripped out of some larger book, grabbed our attention away from most of the paintings and installations we saw.

One room, which featured many projections of two musicians along with what looked like far away images of seashores or close up images of some kind of biology, didn’t especially move me. But I was impressed by the passionate playing of one of the musicians. While I doubt the piece was intended solely to highlight the fervency one could have for what I believe was a cello, it did that for me at the very least.

The crowd was an interesting mix as well. There were the standard stereotypes one expects at such an exhibit – young people with strange hair, fit middle-aged people with interesting glasses, old women wearing brightly colored clothing that is cut at odd angles – in addition to the usual tourists. There were also a lot of kids, which I didn’t expect. I kept happening upon this one pregnant woman who was there with what I can only assume were her two kids. Both kids looked younger than seven years old. Every time I saw her it looked like she was trying to talk the kids through the art, actively trying to engage them. It was charming.

As we approached the ground floor, we weren’t quite sure what we had seen. We both knew we did not like the installation that reminded us of any number of horror films that portray kids as creepy. I wished we had been able to move further into some installations which were crowded. Mostly I thought it was odd that there were so often a large number of people huddled around the text that accompanied some of the pieces but so few people looking at the pieces themselves.

The art made us think of all kinds of things, from movies to times, places, and random images as art is wont to do. The only thing I am sure of is that we had fun.

How the Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree Gets Ready

The Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree is an icon of New York City during the holiday season. Even people who have never seen the tree in person probably recognize it from postcards or television. But how do they get the tree up and ready to be the star of Rockefeller Plaza?

This video will give you a glimpse at how riggers put the tree up, how they decorate it, and the way it looks in its final state.

A tree rigger holds a rope attached to the tree.

A little backstory on this year’s tree: This is the 79th annual tree at Rockefeller Plaza. Nancy Keller of Mifflinville, PA donated the tree after being approached by a representative from Rockefeller Center who spotted the tree on her property. Keller and her family were on hand the morning the tree arrived in New York.

It was driven up to NYC on a flatbed truck and put up on Friday November 11th. It was lit on Wednesday, November 30th. The tree will be on display through the first week of January. After it is taken down, the wood will be donated to Habitat for Humanity.

One thing that was hard to capture on film is that the tree is also held in place by cables. If you visit, take a look up and you will see cables attached to the top of the tree and connected to 30 Rock, the famous building that anchors Rockefeller Plaza.

To read more about the details of who hoists the tree and how, check out this great little article from Popular Mechanics.com

[image and video by Daisy Rosario. Song in video courtesy of Amil Byleckie via freemusicarchive.org]

 

The Last Bridge of the NYC Marathon

The New York City Marathon is an all-city affair, passing through many neighborhoods throughout the five boroughs. There are five bridges on the marathon route. The uphill incline that begins each bridge is a challenge for runners, particularly as they get more tired throughout the race.

The Madison Avenue Bridge, which connects the South Bronx to Harlem, is the final bridge on the route. From there runners turn left onto Fifth Avenue and head down towards Central Park and the finish line.

Watch this slideshow for the sights and sounds of the marathon as runners make their way over the final bridge.

[all images by Daisy Rosario]