Posts filed under ‘The Bronx Museum of the Arts’

10 Things to Do During Lunch Break While on Jury Duty in the Bronx

Executive Towers at 165th Street and the Grand Concourse.

Executive Towers at 165th Street & the Grand Concourse. Notable curved balconies and the only circular driveway on the boulevard. It was the last luxury building built on the Concourse in 1963.

The spring before last I was called for jury duty and spent those gorgeous hour and half lunch breaks chatting on my phone in the park across the street from the Courthouse.  What a waste!  If only I’d known then what I know now about that area and The Grand Concourse. I could have taken a short stroll in any one direction to find something of interest.

So here are 10 Things To Do During Your Lunch Break While On Jury Duty at the Bronx County Courthouse:
(To maximize your time “sightseeing” I suggest bringing your lunch. That way, you don’t have to spend precious time waiting for and paying for lunch).

1. Stroll around the Courthouse itself. {built 1931-1935} The statues that flank each staircase are related to the images on the frieze, around the top edge of the courthouse.

Bronx Time Capsule Marker at the Bronx County Building

Bronx Time Capsule Marker at the Bronx County Building

2.  Time Capsule – buried on the courthouse grounds in 1989 — imagine what the Bronx will look like in 2089 when it is opened up.  Fernando Ferrer contributed his cigarette lighter in an effort to stop smoking. I wonder if he misses it/replaced it. What would you put in the Bronx Time Capsule?

3.  Walk in Joyce Kilmer Park:  bring your sneakers and get your heartbeat up by taking an energizing power stroll around the park.  I saw a couple of women doing this in business dress and their sneaks.  As you’re walking, memorize Kilmer’s famous poem:

“Trees”
I think that I shall never see
A poem lovely as a tree.
A tree whose hungry mouth is prest
Against the earth’s sweet flowing breast;
A tree that looks at God all day,
And lifts her leafy arms to pray;
A tree that may in summer wear
A nest of robins in her hair;
Upon whose bosom snow has lain;
Who intimately lives with rain.
Poems are made by fools like me,
But only God can make a tree.

4. The Tree Museum:  brilliant creation by artist Katie Holten who has tagged over 100 trees along the Grand Concourse — each with an accompanying audiocast by Bronxites who live(d) along or near the Concourse speaking their thoughts of the grand boulevard.  Trees in the museum can be identified by a marker on the sidewalk bearing a phone # to call to hear the audiocast. Maps available at the Bronx Museum of the Arts.  The Tree Museum was scheduled to “close” October 12th, but will remain open until January 3rd, 2010.

5. Bronx Museum of the Arts (165th and the GC) It is a great space — modern and open and the zig zag facade follows that of many of the art deco buildings along the Concourse. Check out the current exhibit in honor of the 100th Anniversary of the Grand Concourse.

6. Andrew Freedman Home (166th and the GC) — the grand palace of the Grand Concourse, the only building on the boulevard with a lawn, built in 1925 as a retirement home for poor rich folks.

7. Yankee Stadium(s) — you can relax and sit on the benches here at Babe Ruth Plaza, taking in the new stadium and reminiscing on the old, catch yourself between two stadiums. I am no baseball fan but the enormous banners and photos of the players do give you the feeling of walking in a canyon.

8.  Find the Statue of Liberty — on 161st between the Courthouse and Jerome Avenue is a small Statue of Liberty, see if you can spot it. Hint: look on the rooftops.

"Fish House" built in 1936 by Horace Ginsburg. The ultimate example of art deco -- rounded corners, angled windows and the fish mosaic.

"Fish House" the ultimate example of art deco -- rounded corners, angled windows and the fish mosaic.

9.  The Grand Concourse — This year marks the 100th anniversary of the Grand Concourse. It was modeled after the Champs-Élysées in Paris for all its art deco and art moderne buildings —  the mosaics, the rounded curves, the zig zag facades — the most found on any boulevard in the country. “Fish House” at no. 1150, is the ultimate example — including angled windows, designed to maximize sunlight streaming into the interior.

10.  Bronx Walk of Fame — Follow it from the courthouse going downtown, to where it ends at Hostos Community College on 149th Street. A lot of greats here. My childhood favorites Rita Moreno (“HEY YOU GUYS!”) and Sonia Manzano (aka Maria on Sesame Street) are here. For me, Rita Moreno was famous for Electric Company waaay before Westside Story.

Rita Moreno's marker on the Bronx Walk of Fame.

Rita Moreno's marker on the Bronx Walk of Fame.

Bonuses for those jury duty days ending at 2 o’clock:
11Ben Shahn murals at the Bronx Main Post Office (149th & GC) — lobby filled with large murals painted by artist Ben Shahn and his wife Bernarda Bryson Shahn, during the Roosevelt administration. The panels depict the American worker of the 1930s and include one of Walt Whitman speaking to a crowd of people.  In 1933, Diego Rivera asked Shahn to be an assistant on his infamous mural at Rockefeller Center and Bernarda Bryson was a reporter from Ohio who’d come to New York to interview Rivera.

Ben Shahn mural at Bronx Main Post Office.

Ben Shahn mural at The Bronx Main Post Office.

12.  Longwood Art Gallery at Hostos (149th & GC) — directly opposite the Bronx Main Post Office, check out whatever is on exhibit there, it is a bright airy gallery space.

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October 9, 2009 at 11:39 am 2 comments

Street Life Street Art Opening Day In A Word…Muy Caliente

Street Fair on Opening Day of "Street Art Street Life" at the Bronx Museum

The weather on Sunday was sizzlin’ and steamy for the Bronx Museum of the Arts opening day fair of “Street Art Street Life.” It felt more like July than September. A lot of us were swarming around the Delicioso Coco Helado pushcart.  I slurped on a coconut icee (yummm) which helped…for about five minutes.

Offerings from local artists.

Exhibition Catalogue available by co-publisher Aperture

Exhibition catalogue on display.

The sidewalk in front of the museum was lined with local artisans and graffiti artists tempting us with paintings, drawings, pottery, jewelry and one of a kind hand printed garments and totes.

Chiz brought her farm animal prints.

Chiz brought her farm animal prints to the Grand Concourse.

I was happy to see, and meet, Bronx painter Chiz.  I love her sock monkeys! If I ever wanted to write a children’s book, I’d love to have her illustrate.

Bronx Museum staff, Holly Block Executive Director and Sergio Bessa, Director of Education

Bronx Museum staff, Holly Block Executive Director and Sergio Bessa, Director of Education

Holly Block, Museum Executive Director and Sergio Bessa, Director of Education stepped into the sidewalk “photo booth” for a portrait.

DJ Laylo spins on the ones and twos.

DJ Laylo spins on the ones and twos takin' us waaayyy back...

Tucked away in probably the coolest spot on the sidewalk, DJ Laylo was blending some serious old school beats and keeping the vibe super cool.

Rokafella, Hip Hop dancer Extraordinaire!

b-girl, Rokafella, Hip Hop dancer Extraordinaire!

One Hand Handstand by Hip Hop dancer from Geo and Friends

One Hand Handstand by Hip Hop dancer from Geo and Friends

Inside the museum, Hip Hop dance performances were every hour to the beats of DJ Scientific behind the tables.  We caught b-girl Rokafella and Geo and Friends.  (Rokafella, an artistic director and dance instructor, organized all the dance performances.) Their head spins, shoulder spins, locks and handstands kept the Museum rockin’.

Bronx Museum Lobby

Bronx Museum Lobby "Street Art Street Life" Opening Day

The exhibition itself was not what I thought it would be, a survey of street arts in the Bronx and the Hip Hop movement.  “Street Art Street Life” is a broader look at street life post World War II to present day with selected moments of life on the streets of cities and towns well beyond the Bronx — of India and Austria and Berlin for example.   Guest curator Lydia Yee has selected work from a range of 39 artists and photographers including Vito Acconci, Amy Arbus, Jamel Shabazz, Lee Friedlander, Yoko Ono, Adrian Piper and Joseph Beuys. We went through the gallery quickly. I know I need to go back and spend more time. I look forward to it.

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September 16, 2008 at 3:03 am 1 comment

Kickin’ It at the Andrew Freedman Home

A couple of Fridays ago, I was lolling on the lawn at the Andrew Freedman Home on the Grand Concourse. The sun was up, the heat was feeling good on my skin. It was a perfect summer Friday in the city. And I was listening to DJ Chris Annibell of Afrokinetic spin tunes at The Bronx Museum of the Arts First Fridays! event.

Couple enjoying First Fridays! at the Andrew Freedman Home

Couple enjoying First Fridays! at the Andrew Freedman Home

Folks arrived with blankets, fold-up seats and snacks (the more prepared ones) and others found places on benches by the flower beds.

Musicians from Michael Markus & Magbana Drum and Dance NYC

Musicians from Michael Markus & Magbana Drum and Dance NYC

Then Michael Markus and Magbana Drum and Dance brought the sounds and rhythms of the djembe, the kalimba and the shakere.

Dancer with Michael Markus and Magbana Drum and Dance NYC

Dancer with Michael Markus and Magbana Drum and Dance NYC

Their featured dancer was a principal with a troupe in Guinea and she was kicking high until the sun set.

Outdoor Film Screening at Bronx Museum First Fridays!

Outdoor Film Screening at Bronx Museum First Fridays!

Against the back of the Andrew Freedman Home, we watched the films “The Little Girl Who Sold the Sun” and “Mambety” presented by the The African Film Festival. I have not sat outdoors at night to watch a film in a very long time. And it was great. That night The Andrew Freedman Home was glowing. I stayed on the lawn for as long as I could bear the mosquitos nibbling all around my bare ankles.

August 16, 2008 at 9:07 pm 4 comments

Art Behind the Pleated Facade

The Bronx Museum of the Arts

The Bronx Museum of the Arts

Two architecture students from Poland were telling the woman at the front desk that they almost didn’t get to see The Bronx Museum of the Arts during their New York visit — the museum was not listed in any of their guidebooks. They discovered the museum on the internet, and standing in the lobby, they were stunned at the architecture. It’s good they did not miss it because there is a lot to see here.

The Bronx Museum of the Arts

The Bronx Museum of the Arts

The Bronx Museum’s exterior is striking. And inside, four exhibitions are currently on view. I too was shocked. Really, I had expected a converted apartment building or a greying nondescript building, a bit of a rag tag structure.

Intersection of the Grand Concourse and 161st Street

Intersection of the Grand Concourse and 161st Street

Approaching the museum from the Grand Concourse builds momentum. The Grand Concourse itself feels grand. I felt that the minute I turned off of 161st Street. Walking along towards the Bronx Museum doesn’t feel unlike being on Park Avenue walking toward, say, the Asia Society. I think the Grand Concourse may be wider than Park Avenue (the GC is an eight lane thoroughfare) and the apartment buildings are lower so it appears more open with more sunlight.

Approaching The Bronx Museum of the Arts

Approaching The Bronx Museum of the Arts

The exterior of the Bronx Museum is pleated like an accordion. From top to bottom. Blocks away, it gleams white but it is silver, made of brushed matte steel.

The Bronx Museum windows

The Bronx Museum windows

In the depths of the pleats are glass windows, narrow ones, that too, run from sidewalk to rooftop. The museum was designed by a Miami based architecture firm, Arquitectonica and opened in 2006. The museum used to be housed in the corner building, a former synagogue, and before that, it was in the rotunda of the Bronx County Courthouse down the street.

The Bronx Museum of the Arts 2nd floor space

The Bronx Museum of the Arts 2nd floor space

The second level is available for special events and public gatherings. The terrace has three human scale sculptures by John Ahearn and Rigoberto Torres. The work is inspired by actual Bronx residents. The leaves and branches of a very large and very old apple tree rise over the terrace checkerboard wall.

Sculptures on Terrace of the Bronx Museum

Sculptures on Terrace of the Bronx Museum

The third level is home to the museum’s education department, classrooms and media lab. The museum, I learned, is still expanding. The rest of the permanent collection is in storage awaiting proper exhibition space. The museum will expand further back, one block over to include additional galleries and a Children’s Art Garden. They will, however, build around the apple tree. (See the finished Bronx Museum Project: Arquitectonica –> Projects–> Cultural / Institutional –> Bronx Museum of the Arts)

Ok now for the art. Three of the four shows close on Monday, August 4th. Only How Soon is Now is open until August 18th. So get there soon. A word of caution, the museum notes that the work exhibited in the front gallery may be unsuitable for younger viewers due to its subject matter and visual imagery.

The lobby is a spacious two story gallery space. You step in and the viewing begins. Activism is Never Over, a fabulous wall mural painted by Lady Pink, the best known female graffiti writer, Doña, Muck and Toofly. The mural honors the women on the front lines of women’s history. Respect is given to an incredible range of woman from Yuri Kochiyama to Uta Hagen to Shirley Chisholm to Martina Navratilova, amidst lotus flowers and even a painting of Gloria Steinem with a Playboy bunny over her shoulder.

The mural is part of the exhibition Making It Together: Women’s Collaborative Art and Community featuring women artists from the 1970s who challenged the art world’s leading venues by exposing the near absence of art by women. These artists formed coalitions and collectives, fostered inclusiveness, creating databases of women artists and presented their work in woman infused spaces. I totally remember the The Guerilla Girls posters, the woman’s head hidden within the gorilla mask while holding a peeled banana. A lot of artist’s names were new to me and a few were new to me in their roles as activists: Faith Ringgold and her daughters Michele and Barbara Wallace. Judy Chicago. Ah yes, The Dinner Party. Probably my first exposure to “feminist art”. I remember my high school humanities class trip into downtown Chicago to see her “V-a_g-i_n-a Plates”. The anatomical likeness completely eluded me, I think I remarked, “They’re very colorful.” Only years later did I realize, “Oh. That’s why I needed the permission slip from my parents.”

A counterpart to the Making It Together exhibit is Highlights of the Permanent Collection: Women Artists featuring photographs by artists such as Carrie Mae Weems, Ana Mendieta and Adrian Piper. This exhibition felt too small to me. I was happy to see these artists right here in the Bronx, but hopefully the museum has more of their pieces packed away in their collection.

The Bronx Museum’s Teen Council curated a small exhibition of photographs by Jamel Shabazz who captured much of the hip hop scene, as well as everyday life and people on New York City streets in the 1970s and 80s. They also interviewed him for the museum’s DVD series of artists interviews. You can sit at one of the iMacs and watch the entire interview.

The featured exhibition How Soon Is Now? is the work of 36 emerging artists selected from a pool of 600 applicants to the museum’s Artist in the Marketplace (AIM) program. There is a lot of work here and a lot of different media. I was surprised at the number of works requiring headsets. I do not pretend to understand everything that I see when looking at contemporary art. I have to feel something and to respond to some human element in a work and even better if it makes me laugh. I hate leaving a gallery or museum feeling the weight of the world from what I’ve seen.

That given, one of the most memorable pieces is Living Room from artist Jeanne Verdoux who uses line drawings and shadow. Tacked to the wall is a folded sheet of white ruled paper, maybe ledger paper, that becomes both screen and stage for an animated line drawing of a woman, in her bra and panties, who rises from a chair and turns on a lamp. It’s an absolutely quotidian task, but I could not stop watching it. The only audio is the sound of the lamp clicking on. The projector and dvd player are set up on a black folding chair a few of feet from the wall. It is all very clever and very simple.

Another piece of note is Michelle Frick‘s Avian Intensive Care Unit. A big pile of clear tubes, sacs, pouches, glass vials, the outer wrappings and packaging from various medical equipment, is surrounded by small white birds hooked up to IVs through their beaks. Or are they IVs morphing into birds? The accompanying sound of chirping birds and a thumping heartbeat fills the space. It is both a fragile and disgusting display.

I appreciated the seating accompanying those works with video. That way I could sit through the entire piece Still from Sing Along by artist Ra di Martino. A man and woman sit facing each other while listening to Percy Sledge belt out When a Man Loves a Woman. The two do not know each other. They say nothing the entire length of the song, but their facial expression and body movements do. It’s nearly impossible not to sing along to that song.

I remember the colors of Cosme Herrera‘s Frost, a painting on wood with images of trees routed into the surface, figures in various interactions with the trees: dragging trunks or tearing the bark.

Brendan Carroll‘s piece Black Coffee–No Sugar is a series of 98 Polaroids of Jersey City, with a typewritten anecdote, in italics, across the bottom of each photo. The photos evoke a small, rural deserted town of yesteryear and the anecdotes appear random in no sequential order and not from the same voice. But looking at all the photos made me want to hold on to my Polaroid One Step even longer and ferret out a few packs of film–before there are none left.

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July 30, 2008 at 3:11 am Leave a comment


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