Category Archives: Culture

Change for a Twenty

Secretary of the Treasury, Jacob Lew, announced today that Harriet Tubman would officially replace President Andrew Jackson on the $20 bill. As I wrote in my post, On the Money, back on February 22, 2016, it is about time that a woman graces a unit of currency.  Originally, the $10 bill was the one slated for redesign, but that would have led to the removal of Alexander Hamilton, the first Secretary of the Treasury. President Jackson  was the one that had to go.  He had an adversarial relationship with the banking sector, which made it ironic that he was on any unit of currency and his legacy is tied to his forceable removal of Native Americans from Georgia, leading to the deaths of thousands.  An online poll conducted by an organization called Womenon20’s received more nominations for Harriet Tubman than anyone else.  She is an apt choice because she is a true American hero, who risked her life to save others fleeing slavery through her underground railway. It was time for Andrew Jackson to go, Alexander Hamilton to stay, and Harriet Tubman to arrive. 

Historic Harlem Hospital

There is a beautiful, modern glass building with an enormous mural on its facade at Harlem Hospital on Malcolm X Boulevard at 135th Street in Manhattan. I was curious to learn the story behind the mural because it seems historic, yet very modern. I discovered that the original mural was painted in 1936 as part of President Roosevelt’s Works Progress Administration’s Federal Arts Program, which provided jobs to unemployed artists during the Great Depression to spur the economy. This particular project was one of the first awarded to African-American artists. There were several artists who participated in this project, but Vertis Hayes painted the one that appears on the facade. These murals were originally painted on interior walls of the older buildings in the hospital complex and many had fallen into disrepair, while others were covered over with sheetrock. When the Hospital decided to construct a new building connecting the older wings, it hired art restorers to repair the murals. Once repaired, they took digital photographs of them and Mr. Hayes’ mural, depicting African-American life, was  printed directly onto the glass and then installed on the facade. At night, they are lit from behind, giving the building a beautiful glow. This new wing is aptly named the Mural Pavillion.

What is Art?

My sister snapped this picture of me at an Apple Store as I was choosing a new phone case. She said that it looked like I was contemplating an art installation. I tend to agree.  Regular everyday objects are often found in art. Consider Fountain by Marcel Duchamp, which is a urinal, or New Hoover Convertibles by Jeff Koons, which is a group of Hoover vacuum cleaners, or Campbell Soup Cans by Andy Warhol for examples.

Art: Unfinished

Pablo Picasso, Woman in a Red Armchair, 1931

Willem De Kooning, Woman I, 1950-1952

Gustav Klimt, Posthumous Portrait of Ria Munk III, 1917-1918

Piet Mondrian, New York City 2, 1941

Jean-Michel Basquiat, Piscine Versus the Best Hotels (or Various Loin), 1982

Andy Warhol, Do It Yourself (Violin), 1962

 The Metropolitan Museum of Art leased the Whitney Museum’s former location on Madison Avenue and East 75th Street to use as an annex for it’s modern and contemporary art collections.  Dubbed the Met Breuer– the last part of the name is an homage to the modernist architect Marcel Breuer who designed the building — it opened last month with it’s debut exhibition entitled Unfinished: Thoughts LeftVisible. The show includes works by a wide array of artists — not just modern and contemporary artists — from the Renaissance period to the present. The curator deemed all of the works unfinished in one way or another. For example, the Klimt piece above was never completed because the artist died before finishing it and the Mondrian is incomplete because the artist was using it as a study for a future piece, utilizing electrical tape to map out his grid before embarking on a painted version.  Other pieces seem finished to me, which begs the question: when is a work actually complete? .

Chicago on Broadway

I don’t know what took me so long to see Chicago, the musical, but I finally saw it last night. Written by  composer John Kander and lyricist Fred Ebb, and choreographed by famed Broadway dance impresario Bob Fosse, it originally debuted on Broadway in 1975.  This revival hit the theater in 1996 and is currently the second longest-running Broadway show in history, behind Phantom of the Opera.  The foot-stomping music such as Cell Block Tango and All that Jazz, combined with the scandalous storyline, and the provocative choreography make this show a fun, guilty pleasure. 

Hola Cuba

IMG_0205

IMG_0203An American president has not visited Cuba since Calvin Coolidge did back in 1928 — that is until now.  President Obama, his family, approximately 30 congressmen, and several American business executives arrived in Cuba, yesterday, hoping to officially end a fifty-five year freeze in relations between the United States and Cuba.  It is about time.  The Cold War ended long ago, but Cuba has been stubbornly adhering to a failed political system. 

 I had the pleasure of visiting Cuba for two weeks last summer and it was an eye-opening experience.  The country is populated by friendly, yet very poor people, who are living amongst crumbling buildings, poor infrastructure, and impoverished conditions.  While changes are coming to Cuba, they are coming very slowly.  It is up to Congress to end the embargo on Cuba, but it is up to Raul Castro to end human rights abuses and to allow his people a role in their own governance.  

Night at the Museum

You can experience a Night at the Museum for free every Friday night at the Museum of Modern Art.  Thanks to a sponsorship arrangement with retailer Uniqlo, attendees have free entry to the museum on Friday nights between 4 PM and 8 PM.  I visit MOMA from time to time, but was not aware of Free Fridays until I was there this evening.  I guess that I haven’t been on a Friday night since this program began.  It was a great way to spend a few hours on a Friday evening with a good friend.

I love having access to great works of art and am enlightened and inspired every time I visit a museum. Here are a few of the pieces that I enjoyed on this particular visit:

 

Andy Warhol Campbell’s Soup Cans 1962

Ellsworth Kelly Colors for a Large Wall 1951

Piet Mondrian Broadway Boogie Woogie 1943

Picasso Girl Before a Mirror 1932

Picasso Three Musicians 1921

Van Gogh Starry Night 1889

 

Hamilton: A Tale of Two Men

Alexander Hamilton was a brilliant man who helped shape American politics in the early days of the United States of America.  He was appointed as the first Secretary of the Treasury by President George Washington and created monetary policy that prevented America from going into bankruptcy.  He was a complex man, who was a prolific writer and a great orator. He is best remembered for his death in a duel by Aaron Burr and for appearing on the $10 bill.  That is, until now.

Lin-Manuel Miranda is also a brilliant man.  He came up with the genius idea of turning a biography of an 18th century political figure into a rap musical. This show has received huge critical acclaim and has been playing to sold out audiences since it debuted off Broadway last February.  Miranda wrote the script, the music and the lyrics, and stars as the title character in the production, as well.  Most Broadway musicals have been written by partnerships in which one person writes the lyrics and the other writes the music (i.e. Rogers and Hammerstein, Lerner and Lowe, Kander and Ebb).  I cannot think of anyone who has done all that Miranda has done.  

I highly recommend Hamilton  I’ve already dowloaded the music and can’t stop listening to it. Run, don’t walk, to see this clever, fabulous musical.

The Year of the Fire Monkey

Confetti Strewn in the Streets

Today marks the beginning of the Lunar New Year and, in anticipation of this celebration, I went down to Chinatown to see how people were preparing for it. The streets were filled with shoppers buying food and decorations for their family celebrations. Party Poppers were exploding everywhere sending up plumes of confetti, leaving the streets looking festive and colorful. The Chinese Zodiac works on a twelve year rotation and this year is the year of the fire monkey. The new year is based upon the lunar calendar, so the date changes annually. This year it begins on February 8th and ends on January 27, 2017.  I hope that all who celebrate have a wonderful new year! 

The Loss of a Legend

The world has lost a musical legend. David Bowie, active on the music scene for more than four decades, sadly succumbed to cancer.  He was a trailblazer who created different personae such as Ziggy Stardust, The Thin White Duke and others and performed as these alter egos.  He dressed in flamboyant costumes, with hairstyles and makeup to match. However, Bowie wasn’t just a great performer;  he had true talent. He wrote and performed his own music and acted, as well. His theatricality served to enhance his performances.  He was a renaissance man who incorporated his interests in art, literature and theater into his music.  He inspired other singers with his ever changing looks and his flamboyance such as Boy George, Elton John, Madonna, and Lady Gaga. His music has stood the test of time and will likely continue to do so for years to come. Rest in Peace Mr. Bowie.  You will be missed.