1970s-Era Denim, Counter-Couture at the MAD Museum, and the Weekly Photo Challenge: Textures

Downsizing got a little all-consuming around here this spring. This week’s ‘Textures’ challenge reminded me I hadn’t shared pictures from Counter-Couture – Handmade Fashion in an American Counterculture, a show we saw at the Museum of Art and Design (MAD) in New York in March. And who wouldn’t want to see, or wear, a flaming horse (or chicken!) flying in the sky —

MAD Museum - Embroidery Detail - Anna Polesny - Fancy Jacket 1974

Detail: Anna Polesny – Fancy Jacket, 1974

These pieces were in the Levi’s Denim Art Contest of 1974. Anna Polesny was born in Czechoslovakia. This embroidery tells the story of her life and travels.

Here’s the winner of the 1975 Levi’s contest —

MAD Museum - Billy Shire - Welfare - Sneed - My Personal Belt - Detail

Billy Shire – Welfare – Sneed – My Personal Belt

The artist’s clothing has been worn by musicians in the bands Chicago and the Doobie Brothers, and by Elton John.

This is an 11-pound jacket. Rockers work hard. Some materials: upholstery tacks, handset studs, rhinestones… and yes, that’s a desk bell, meant to chime when the jacket is worn. There is also purportedly an ashtray, but I believe I remember it was on the back. On the belts: bicycle reflectors, rivets, and luggage-bottom studs.

MAD Museum - Billy Shire Denim Jacket detail

MAD Museum – Billy Shire Denim Jacket detail

Counter-Couture, Handmade Fashion in an American Counterculture is on display at MAD through August 20, 2017.

Now back to downsizing — remember downsizing? I thought I’d donated or recycled all my oldest jeans, but here’s some denim I found in the depths of the closet this spring. My oldest jeans This isn’t even all the old jeans. No embroidery here, but the green jeans are 1970s era bellbottoms. As for embroidery, I do remember having some small well-behaved embroidery patches over holes, but of course nothing on the scale of the wonderful show items. I can offer this colorful inside label —

Green jeans vintage label

Vintage rainbow label in my 70s-era green jeans…

I guess having these makes me Ms Green Jeans. Is anyone else old, um, vintage enough to remember Mr Green Jeans?

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Bologna, The Whitney Biennial 2017, and the Weekly Photo Challenge: Unusual

“It smells like bologna in here,” Sam said.  He meant bologna sausage, aka ‘baloney’. We were at the Whitney Biennial, and he’d been further into the room than I had. Here’s what we found when we went to investigate —

Claim: Whitney Biennial Version - Pope.L aka William Pope.L

Claim: Whitney Biennial Version – Pope.L aka William Pope.L. The hand stitched banner above is by artist Cauleen Smith. (I’m fond of the symmetry of the two red bags)

This is a grid of 2,755 slices of bologna, each tacked onto the appropriately pink background with a black and white photocopy portrait attached —

Detail - Claim:Whitney Biennial Version - Pope.L aka William Pope.L

Detail – Claim: Whitney Biennial Version – Pope.L aka William Pope.L

Playing with words and numbers, the artist’s ‘claim’ is that the number is related to New York’s percentage of Jewish population, though the photographs were chosen randomly. See that drip in the photo above? We were there a couple of weeks after the exhibition opened, and the passage of time was wreaking a little havoc with the materials in this piece.

Claim:Whitney Version - Pope.L aka William Pope.L

Greasy Art Stuff – nope, it’s not archival.

The curator’s note tells us that Pope.L has made other versions of this work, many focusing on Black subjects, and goes on to say that “Claim (Whitney Version) plays with our tendency to project ourselves onto numbers and stokes our awareness that such counting often lays the groundwork for systematic acts of discrimination.”

Conceptual art can challenge the viewer in ways that strictly visual art does not. Still, it’s rewarding to see it through, even though it’s dependent on our patience in being willing to read about it.

Um, there may be one potential problem here —Service dog at the WhitneyWe went on to view the next floor, so can’t say what happened when dog met art. Hopefully, training prevailed.

Claim won the the Bucksbaum Award, which recognizes one artist from each Biennial exhibition. The Whitney will host a show of Pope.L’s work this fall.

What do you think of this exhibition?

More on the Weekly Photo Challenge: Unusual

The Whitney Biennial, 2017 (Catching up with the Past Weekly Photo Challenge: Reflecting)

Want to know what these people are looking at?  We’re in New York at the Whitney Biennial in March, and it’s hard to know whether to look up, down, out, or over.

Samara Golden - The Meat Grinder's Iron Clothes, 2017 Whitney Biennial, NYC

Samara Golden – The Meat Grinder’s Iron Clothes, 2017 Whitney Biennial, NYC

Here’s a view from the platform —

Samara Golden - The Meat Grinder's Iron Clothes, 2017 Whitney Biennial, NYC

Samara Golden – The Meat Grinder’s Iron Clothes, 2017 Whitney Biennial

You can tell this is a huge and site-specific installation, but even standing there in it, I couldn’t tell exactly how many floors were part of it and how many were illusions. The sky was down, or was it up? The traffic was up (and down) and the Hudson River was out (wasn’t it?). To each side were floors of sculpted interiors – with stratified layers of furniture, office, and institutional space, some nightmarish. Were they all even right-side up? I don’t think so.

Samara Golden - The Meat Grinder's Iron Clothes, 2017 Whitney Biennial

The clouds and the traffic, along with the occasional helicopter, provided movement. It was hypnotic. With so much going on, I didn’t take in the social commentary until I read about it. Not unusual, since I’m all about the visual when it comes to looking at art.

Like many recent exhibitions, this year’s Whitney Biennial was strong on social concerns. Suffice it to say that those layers were meant to provoke thoughts of social as well as visual stratification, referring to inequality and our political climate. I’ll share more images from this year’s exhibition in future posts.

How about it – do you look for the social implications or for the visual when you’re reflecting on art?

 

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Travel Like a Pig Enthusiast – Catching Up with a Past Weekly Photo Challenge: Wanderlust

My best travel tip? Always keep an open mind in trip-planning. Sometimes our favorite adventures are things we discover along the way.

On a Southwest Airlines flight to New York City in March, Sam opened the inflight magazine straight to the puzzle page and found this note from a previous passenger. I was charmed and took a photo, but didn’t know until later that there was serendipitous magic afoot, working to set a theme for our trip.

'Pig Enthusiast' note: Sudoku Page/ Southwest Airlines

Archie, pig enthusiast, wishes us a wonderful life. Thank you, Archie.

I didn’t think about this note again until the next day, when we got to the Guggenheim. Here’s what reminded me –

Paul Gauguin, Haere Mai - Detail (Guggenheim Museum, NYC)

Paul Gauguin, Haere Mai – 1891 – Detail (Guggenheim Museum, NYC)

What? Gaughin? Pigs? I must have seen this painting many times, but it was never so memorable before. Backing up for the long view –

Paul Gauguin, Haere Mai  (Guggenheim Museum, NYC)

Paul Gauguin, Haere Mai (Guggenheim Museum, NYC)

At the Metropolitan Museum show Age of Empires, Chinese Art from the Qin and Han Dynasties (221 B.C – A.D. 220) we found these ancient porkers–

Two Pigs - Western Han Dynasty (206 B.C – A.D. 9)

Two Pigs, Western Han Dynasty (206 B.C – A.D. 9). Stone pigs, symbolizing wealth, were placed in tombs in the hands of the dead.

The next pigs-in-show were photo bombed by a chicken –

Pair of Pigs - Western Han Dynasty

Pair of Pigs, Western Han Dynasty (206-B.C. – A.D. 9). Earthenware with pigment. Yangling Mausoleum.

While Sam worked the puzzle page during our flight, I was reading a New York Times review of an exhibition at the Onassis Cultural Center and Museum: A World of Emotions: Ancient Greece, 700 BC – 200 AD. We’d never been to Onassis Center, and made a note to go. Now it’s definitely on our list for future trips.

Not long after we walked in, we discovered that even classical antiquity could be home to serious pig-enthusiasm.

Funerary Stele for a Lovable Pig, Victim of a Traffic Accident, 2nd-3rd century AD, Marble, Edessa, site of Longos, Ephorate of Antiquities of Pella, AKA 1674. Photography Orestis Kourakis.

Funerary Stele for a Lovable Pig, Victim of a Traffic Accident, 2nd-3rd century AD, Marble, Edessa, site of Longos, Ephorate of Antiquities of Pella, AKA 1674. Photography Orestis Kourakis.

“Here lies the pig, beloved by all, a young quadruped.  I left the land of Dalmatia, when I was given as a gift. I reached Dyrrachion and yearned for Apollonian. I crossed every land with my own feet, alone undefeated. But now I have left the light because of the violence of wheels. I wished to see Emathie and the wagon of the phallus, but now here I rest, although I was too young to pay my tribute to death.”   Pella, Ephorate of Antiquities.

In the words of another (famous) pig enthusiast, this must have been “some pig”.

I was prepared for gods and mortals, love, anger, and courage, envy, and the range of human emotions we know throughout history and mythology. What I didn’t foresee were the many touching tributes to animals. Dogs, geese (“Aphrodite’s sacred bird and a symbol of weddings”), and of course, the lovable pig. It reminded me of how far we’re removed from nature in our modern lives.

Sam wondered if the pig had a name, and if so, whether it was lost to the centuries or part of the original inscription but not translated. For synchronicity’s sake, we’d like to think its name was ‘Archie’.

 

More on the past weekly photo challenge: Wanderlust

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Boy Scouts, Gargoyles, and the Weekly Photo Challenge: Surprise

I wasn’t prepared to find a surprise tucked behind the last row of Bob’s boxes on the shelves in the basement …

Detail: Vintage Boy Scout backpack

Vintage Boy Scout backpack, lesson: “Be Prepared” for anything (especially surprises)

It’s big… did kids really carry these? There’s no knowing now if it was his own backpack or if he just collected it at some point.

Vintage Boy Scout backpack

Vintage Boy Scout backpack – 1950-something?

I’d never thought to wonder whether he’d been a Boy Scout. I don’t remember him talking about it. But, right after the backpack surfaced, I found this.

Astronomy Merit Badge

Get your Astronomy merit badge here…

And the morning after that I found a photo of Grade-School Bob in his scout uniform. Synchronicity strikes. But alas, I’ve already misplaced the scout photo. Since I am temporarily out of proof of that instance of synchronicity, I’ll submit the following instead.  Here’s a photo of Bob’s father that I found the same day. I first met him just before we three took this trip to Paris in the 1980s.

Ted (Bob’s father) with Notre Dame gargoyles — Paris, mid-1980s

Later on my same day of unpacking, this mouse pad showed up (remember mouse pads?).

Mouse Pad - Notre Dame Gargoyle

Do you recognize this face?

Little surprises like this keep me going. And, now there are only a few basement boxes left, then I’m moving on to closets and file cabinets.

Wish me luck on finally finishing?

More on the Weekly Photo Challenge: Surprise

Art Museum Eyes, A Jackson Pollock in the Wild? — and the Weekly Photo Challenge: Dense

A walk in Central Park, and one look out across the little lake and into the trees. The branches were dense, with a tracery of white among the dark.  Something started to look familiar.  Here’s a progression…

Central Park, first sight: Trees across the water

Central Park, first glance: Trees across the water

How do you know you may have been spending too much time in art museums? —  Everything looks like a painting. Zooming in…

Central Park: Trees across the water

Central Park: Trees across the water.

And a little closer, it’s getting more abstract…

Life imitating art?

Life Imitating Art?

One more time, adjusting the color balance a bit.

I’m sure it’s just a case of “art museum eyes” on my part, but here’s the painting I thought those trees were channeling. The dense pattern of branches, dark and light, makes a nice allusion to the meandering surface lines in the painting. Or, is it just my art museum eyes tricking me again?

Pollack at MoMA - One Numbber 31

Pollock at MoMA – One Number 31  (photo from MoMA)

How about it, have you seen life imitating art lately?

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