Tuesday, June 27, 2017

San Francisco, One More Time With Feeling

Outside of the Northeast corridor, I have visited San Francisco more than any other city. In May, I made a fifth trip to my favorite city. I ventured across the country at 19, 27, 30, 32, and 33. As I’ve written before, on this very blog, I fell in love at first sight. I can’t even recall if the trip was my idea, but if feels as though it wasn’t: a drive up the PCH from Los Angeles to San Francisco, with a night in Monterey. A drive followed by all the cliché, touristy requirements that a 19-year-old and her college boyfriend would enjoy. To a degree, I’m delighted that trip freed me from ever having do those things again.

Now, my trips to SF are loose and meandering. I stay in the Mission because it’s self-contained, has everything I need, and is accessible by BART. As always, I ate more food in a week than I do in a month. Yoga, coffee, pastry, walk, lunch, walk, coffee, dinner, walk, bar. An embarrassment of riches.

There was a slight focus on pastries. I skip croissants anywhere else in the US. Sure, that seems extreme, but I am that exacting. I ate pastries from Tartine, Craftsman and Wolves, and B. Patisserie. Each one reminded me to save myself for the best and eschew laminated pastry elsewhere.

As far as meals, I ate breakfast at Tartine Manufactory, lunch at Hong Kong Lounge II, Akiko’s Restaurant, and Boulettes Larder, and dinner at 20 Spot and Flour + Water. I had coffee at Four Barrel, Blue Bottle, The Mill, and Verve. Also, cheap eats tacos at Taqueria Los Coyotes, papusas at Panchita’s Restaurant No. 2, and sausage at Rosamunde Sausage Grill. Beers at Monk’s Kettle, Zeitgeist, and Toronado.

Perhaps the standout, beyond Tartine’s coddled eggs, duck jowl at dim sum, and Flour + Water’s pastas, was lunch at Akiko’s. I had no real reason to consume an omakase lunch on my last day in town. But, sometimes I can’t reason with my logical self. I could have chosen cheaper sushi, but I did not. Sometimes the shiny object wins. I sat at the counter and enjoyed single-piece-by-single-piece of sushi prepared for me. I did so, as best I could, while ignoring the loud and rather unapologetically wretched conversation had by three middle-aged men out for a boozy lunch. Given that the restaurant is in the financial district, I shouldn't have been surprised.

Four Barrel in the Mission
Beyond food, I went to the SFMOMA. It’s been under construction many of the times I visited. The space and size of the museum rivals the MoMA. Boxy and cavernous, beyond the featured exhibit, the galleries were sparsely attended. The “Matisse and Diebenkorn” exhibit was packed in a way I haven’t experienced since Georgia O’Keeffe at the Tate last summer. Really, zero elbow room to view the work. I move through those situations quickly. I also went to the de Young Museum again. I like city view from the tower and the “Summer of Love” exhibit wasn’t bad. Finally, I stopped in Grace Cathedral to see Keith Haring’s Last work: an altar piece.

With plenty of time to think and walk, I tried to reflect upon, once again, why I’m drawn to the city. Recently, I read Joan Didion’s new and short, South and West. California is her familiar, her childhood: “Part of it is simply what looks right to the eye, sounds right to the ear. I am at home in the West. The hills of the coastal ranges look ‘right’ to me, the particular flat expanse of the Central Valley comforts my eye. The place names have the ring of real places to me. I can pronounce the names of the rivers, and recognize the common trees and snakes. I am easy here in a way that I am not easy in other places.”[1] Having grown up on the East Coast, well acquainted with those place names and names of rivers, I have no rightful, experiential claim to the West.

But, I have always felt at home there, be it SF, Seattle, Portland, even, to a degree, Los Angeles and San Diego. Similar to Didion, I feel easy out West, in ways that I do not in the well-trod geographical regions of my life. Perhaps it’s the lack of attachment that frees me. There’s chance and opportunity in a place not weighed down by the psychological associations of childhood, adolescence, and early adulthood.

But maybe it’s something else. Maybe there’s an attitude and a life and a relief that is unique to the West. Cleary, I’m still in pursuit of something.

[1] Joan Didion, South and West: From a Notebook (New York: Knopf, 2017), 126.

Tartine Manufactory
Tartine Manufactory
Tartine Manufactory
Tartine Manufactory 
Craftsman and Wolves
Kees van der Westen, Verve

Hong Kong Lounge II
Panchita's Restaurant No. 2
Kougin Amann, b. patisserie
The Mill
Twombly, SFMOMA
Morris, SFMOMA
Calder, SMFOMA
Albers, SFMOMA
Ed Ruscha, "History, Future," 2004, Gagosian Gallery
Keith Haring, "The Life of Christ," 1990, Grace Cathedral

Monday, May 8, 2017

Memphis to Dallas Road Trip

For many years, I’ve had a goal to visit every state. It began when I was nine. I started collecting thimbles. When visiting Boston, I was in a store that sold a thimble for each state. I bought about eight from states I had never set foot in. At the register, the guy told me I had to promise to visit each state; I replied that I would. Sure, I'm the kind of person who accepts a challenge from a stranger, at the age of nine.

Since then I had been to all but five states. There was a cluster of states in the middle/south that I wasn’t sure how I was going to visit. Thus, I came up with a road trip from Memphis to Dallas, with a dip into Mississippi and Nebraska, that would allow me to visit four of my five remaining states. My mother, also on this fifty-state mission, but a few behind me, joined the bizarre road trip.

We started the trip with a flight to Memphis. I’ve been to Nashville and drove the entire state 
Clinton Library
east, through the Great Smoky Mountains to Asheville, on another road trip. I wanted to see Memphis; my mother wanted to go to Graceland. We went to Graceland, the Civil Rights Museum and the hotel where MLK was assassinated, ate some not great BBQ, found good coffee at City & State, and then drove to Little Rock. 

Memphis is a small city, “dark, dark in the daytime.” It’s tiny compared to Nashville and felt deserted. We drove a short fifteen minutes into Mississippi, so I could say I’ve been to Mississippi. I’ll revisit properly, at some point.

We spent one night in Little Rock. In the morning, I went out for coffee to an awesome spot: Mylo Coffee Co. They bake fantastic pastries in house. Then we went to the Clinton Library. My mother wanted to go and I wanted to see the building. Given the current political climate, I ended up feeling sad and dismayed that someone so accomplished and successful had run the country, and now, we are where we are. After the library, we went to a coffee shop for lunch and drove to Tulsa.

Tulsa is known for art deco buildings. It’s a gorgeous tiny city. I wanted to go to the Tulsa Art Deco Museum in the lobby of a building. To call it a museum is an exaggeration, but I took some pictures I can use in my history lectures. 

Then we drove north to Bartlesville to see Frank Lloyd Wright’s Price Tower, his only extant “skyscraper.” At nineteen floors, it’s a beautiful, odd FLLY building. My favorite part of being in his buildings is wandering around. He built tiny closets that often aren’t locked. I like to see how subsequent owners changed things to build modern bathrooms and AC systems. I like to see the light fixtures and the corners and the details. 

We took a tiny elevator to the top floor where there is a restaurant; the building is now a hotel. We had a drink at sunset on the top floor. There’s something about the energy of a FLLY structure. I feel better in them. I feel at ease. I think it’s the feeling of being inside something so intentionally built. Something that makes architectural and aesthetic sense. There’s a reason I based my first tattoo on a FLLY stained-glass window. Good design is good design. A rarity these days.

After the skyscraper, we drove twenty-minutes north to crossover into Nebraska. Again, I will make a real visit to Nebraska (no hurry), one day. We drove back to Tulsa to have dinner in a building we happened to find while walking around. The Vault Restaurant is an old bank that’s a mid-century modern heaven. Dinner wasn’t bad. I had a very Murakami-like conversation with a bartender, smoking a cigarette on the roof. It was something.

Crystal Bridges
Since Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art is closed on Tuesdays, we had to backtrack from Oklahoma to Northeast Arkansas, Bentonville, to go to the museum the next day. The Museum is free and owned by Walmart. I have mixed feelings about Walmart owning so much art (so much of it not on display), but at least the museum is free. The architecture of the museum is unique. It’s built over a river, designed by Moshe Safdie. The way the water reflects onto the art, in the outside hallways around the galleries is very cool. Having viewed so much art, at this point, it has almost become about the surroundings and the architecture of the building in which the art is presented. There’s nothing like the old factory buildings of MASS MoCA, or the Campbell’s factory of DIA: Beacon, or basically, all of Marfa.

Before the museum we had breakfast at The Hive (very good) and I went to Onyx Coffee Lab for coffee. I grabbed a macchiato, a drip coffee, and two single origins. 

After the museum we had a long, long drive down to Dallas. I’d never been to Dallas/Fort 
Velvet Taco, Dallas
Worth. I’ve been to Austin, El Paso, Marfa, and Nacogdoches. DFW is a beast. An absolute beast of a sprawling city. Immediately, we went for tacos. I always joke that I only eat tacos in Texas and California; pretty much every taco outside of those states is a waste of time (save South Philly Barbacoa). I enjoyed the tacos at Velvet Taco; my mom, not so much. But fancy, carefully curated, Texas tacos are something a northerner might not necessarily enjoy.

The Kimbell, Louis Kahn
With a whole day in DFW, we over did it on the art. We went to The Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth, the Kimbell Art Museum next door, the Nasher Sculpture Center, and the Dallas Museum of Art. I love seeing art in cities that aren’t NYC. The museums aren’t busy, during the week at least, and the art is always unexpectedly fantastic. 

Again, the architecture of the FW Modern and Kimbell made it for me. Intentional concrete buildings. One of the Kimbell buildings was designed by Louis Kahn; it’s hard not to be in awe of it. The Nasher was very cool; being inside a sculpture garden in the downtown of a city is a stellar juxtaposition. I could have stayed there all day.

After overdosing on art, we went for BBQ. Lockhart Smokehouse. Years ago, I waited in line for five hours for Franklin BBQ in Austin. Yes, it remains the best BBQ I’ve ever had. I’d say, for only waiting five minutes, Lockhart was very, very good. My mother had never done the whole, here’s a bunch of meat wrapped in butcher paper, goodluck(!), thing. It was worth doing.

The road trip ended in Dallas. I added Mississippi, Nebraska, Oklahoma and Arkansas to my list of states. All that’s left is North Dakota. I’ll end up in Minneapolis, one of the last larger cities in the US I need to explore, and drive over to North Dakota. Then, I guess, I’ll have to move on to countries.

Lorraine Motel, Memphis
Otherlands Coffee Bar, Memphis
City & State, Memphis
"I Am a Man," Lovelace, Marcellous (with BLK75), 2014, Memphis

Turrell, "The Way of Color," 2009, Crystal Bridges
FLLY, Price Tower, Bartlesville
Onyx Coffee Lab, Bentonville
Sol LeWitt, Crystal Bridges, Bentonville
Roxy Paine, "Conjoined," 2007, The Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth
Flavin in the distance, The Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth
KAWS, "CLEAN SLATE," 2014, The Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth
Martin Puryear, "Ladder for Booker T. Washington," 1996, The Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth
The Kimbell, Louis Kahn, Fort Worth
The Kimbell, Louis Kahn, Fort Worth
Nasher Sculpture Center, Richard Serra, Dallas
Dallas Museum of Art, Ellsworth Kelly
Lockhart Smokehouse, Dallas

Sunday, January 15, 2017

My Year, in Art

Keith Haring, The Broad

As I thought about the beginning of a new year, which, as Louis CK reminds us, “the turning over of one year to another is a mental construct that bears no more weight than the things that keep us apart and in competitive categories as human beings,” I realized that I saw more “good” art than I ate “good” food, in 2016.[1] My travels have become tightly focused on a mixture of food, art, and culture. Trips that were once fixated solely on eating as much food as possible have become a careful interweaving of art museums, subway rides, house tours, coffee shops, graffiti, beer bars, public sculpture, and restaurants. I plan and plan. I look up opening/closing hours. I obsess over location and safety. I plot the most efficient route. I want to see it all, wherever I go.

While finding exceptional food is still important to me, eating has had less importance and enjoyment since the election. I haven’t gone down the post-election path of Marc Maron, as much as I love his apocalyptic and dramatic tone: "As we head into a fairly guaranteed, dark unknown, I'm becoming a little more suicidal with my food choices...like fuck it, I'm just gonna eat this shit, what difference does it make? Why have I been denying myself? What's the point? Gotta enjoy it now while the joy has so much more of a profound effect in comforting me."[2] For once, I haven’t been eating to forget.

While I have eaten some good-looking food, I didn’t post a photo of food on Instagram until yesterday. Again, since the election, there is a sense that posting photos of food is unimportant. I realize it doesn’t matter if I post a photo of food, on my private Instagram account. Some of my unwillingness to post what I eat has been at the urging of New York Magazine’s Senior Art Critic, Jerry Saltz. He loathes food posts, judging these images as a reflection of our preference to “remain in [our] own bubbles…and stay immersed in the culture of celebrity and complacency.”[3] Before the election, about half of my photos were food. My approach has shifted, much in the way that my travel priorities have evolved. I have posted many more photos of art, landscapes, and facades. As such, I have been stuffing my brain with art, to forget.

Recently, I was asked to explain why I feel compelled to see art, in person. My answer came down to feeling “something.” That I could have emotions about something. That I know something so beyond me exists. That a painting, or sculpture, or installation, can overwhelm me, confirms that I’m alive. Perhaps most people don’t need confirmation from external sources to know that they are alive. Yet, I do.

I found a more eloquent explanation for my feelings about art in a book I read last week: Karl Ove Knausgård’s My Struggle: A Death in the Family. I finished Book 1 in a week. I am deep into Book 2. I know that I’m in it for the duration (six books). Among the gorgeous details of his daily life are equally dazzling revelations about writing and art. Somehow, I relate to the mindset, anxieties, and troubles of a Norwegian, married, father of four. In Book 1, he writes about viewing a book of paintings by John Constable: “I didn’t need to do any more than let my eyes skim over them before I was moved to tears. So great was the impression some of the pictures made on me. Others left me cold. That was my only parameter with art, the feelings it aroused. The feeling of inexhaustibility. The feeling of beauty. The feeling of presence. All compressed into such acute moments that sometimes they could be difficult to endure. And quite inexplicable.”[4] This experience, often unsayable, is what I seek out.

In December, I wavered over going to NYC for the day. I had bought a cheap train ticket a few months prior. I was tired, busy, and felt like I should have done something else with the day. But, I went. It was clearly the right choice. I visited six galleries and the Guggenheim. “Filling my brain up” with art, as Maron always calls it, was the temporary answer to whatever I had been feeling in my post-election depression. Whereas food may have helped me before, right now it’s art.

For some reason, I began to think about all the art I had seen in the last year. I realized that I had the best art year of my life. As I ran through the list in my head, it was longer than I had imagined. Thus, I’m documenting it below, in chronological order. Highlights, in photos, are below.

1.     Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, Chicago, IL
2.     The Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago, IL
3.     Frank Lloyd Wright Home and Studio, Oak Park, IL
4.     Frederick C. Robie House (Frank Lloyd Wright), Chicago, IL
5.     Smith College Museum of Art, Northampton, MA
6.     Hampshire College Art Gallery, Amherst, MA
7.     DIA: The Dan Flavin Art Institute, Bridgehampton, NY
8.     The Judd Foundation/Chinati Foundation, Marfa, TX
9.     The Phillips Collection, Washington, DC
10.  Philadelphia Museum of Art” Philadelphia, PA (“International Pop” and “Paint the Revolution: Mexican Modernism, 1910-1950”)
11.  James Turrell, Skyspace at Chestnut Hill Friends Meeting, Chestnut Hill, PA
12.  Anton Kern Gallery, “Richard Prince: The Douglas Blair Turnbaugh-Collection (1977-1988), Los Angeles, CA
13.  The Broad, Los Angeles, CA (Cindy Sherman: “Imitation of Life”)
14.  LACMA, Los Angeles, CA (Agnes Martin)
15.  Tate Modern, London, UK (Georgia O’Keeffe)
16.  The Hepworth-Wakefield, Wakefield, UK
17.  Yorkshire Sculpture Park, Wakefield, UK
18.  Royal Academy of Arts, London, UK (David Hockney RA: “82 Portraits and 1 Still-life”)
19.  New Orleans Museum of Art, New Orleans, LA
20.  Storm King Art Center, New Windsor, NY
21.  DIA: Beacon, Beacon, NY
22.  North Carolina Museum of Art, Raleigh, NC
23.  Ann Hamilton, “habitus,” Municipal Pier 9, Philadelphia, PA
24.  “Philadelphia, Goddamn,” Little Berlin Gallery, Philadelphia, PA
25.  The Whitney, New York, NY (Carmen Herrera: “Lines of Sight”)
26.  The New Museum, New York, NY (Pipilotti Rist: "Pixel Forest")
27.  South Dakota Art Museum, Brookings, SD
28.  NYC Galleries: Rothko “Dark Palette” (Pace Gallery), Joseph Albers “Grey Steps, Grey Scales, Grey Ladders” (David Zwirner), “Ai Weiwei 2016: Roots and Branches” (Mary Boone Gallery, Lisson Gallery, Jeffery Deitch), “Implosion 20” (Anton Kern Gallery), Bob Pruitt “The Obama Paintings” (Gavin Brown Enterprise)
29.  The Guggenheim, New York, NY (Agnes Martin)

With the exception of England, New Orleans, Raleigh, and The New Museum, I went to all of these places by myself. In some ways, over the course of the year, I was on a mission to reclaim my ability to be alone. There was no one to converse with, about what I saw. There was no one taking the perfect photo of me in front of famous paintings. It was all me, the art, and whatever I felt. And that’s what I’ve been after, especially since the election: a feeling that something matters.

Matisse, The Art Institute of Chicago
Ellsworth Kelly,  The Art Institute of Chicago

Frank Lloyd Wright Home and Studio, Oak Park, IL

Frederick C. Robie House (Frank Lloyd Wright), Chicago, IL

 DIA: The Dan Flavin Art Institute, Bridgehampton, NY
Prada Marfa, Valentine, TX
Judd, Chinati Foundation, Marfa, TX
Judd, Chinati Foundation, Marfa, TX
Judd, Chinati Foundation, Marfa, TX

Flavin, Chinati Foundation, Marfa, TX
Twombly, PMA
Richard Serra, LACMA
Ed Ruscha, Tate Modern
Yorkshire Sculpture Park, Wakefield, UK
 The Hepworth-Wakefield, Wakefield, UK
Sol LeWitt, Storm King Art Center, New Windsor, NY
Dan Flavin,  DIA: Beacon, Beacon, NY
Dan Flavin, DIA: Beacon, Beacon, NY
Frank Stella,  North Carolina Museum of Art, Raleigh, NC

North Carolina Museum of Art, Raleigh, NC

Ann Hamilton, “habitus,” Municipal Pier 9, Philadelphia, PA
Joe Boruchow, Little Berlin Gallery, Philadelphia, PA    
Aubrie Costello, Little Berlin Gallery, Philadelphia, PA    
Carmen Herrera, The Whitney   
Pipilotti Rist: “Pixel Forest,” The New Museum    
Frida Kahlo, PMA
Sol LeWitt, PMA
Art Alley, Rapid City, SD
Ai Weiwei 2016: Roots and Branches   
Ai Weiwei, Laundromat
Rothko “Dark Palette” (Pace Gallery)   

[1] Louis CK, e-mail message “From Louis CK,” December 24, 2016.
[2] Marc Maron, WTF with Marc Maron, Ep.767, December 12, 2016.
[3] Jerry Saltz, “This Post-Election Pain Is Good, At Least for Art,” Vulture, November 13, 2016, accessed November 13, 2016, http://www.vulture.com/2016/11/post-election-pain-is-good-for-art.html.
[4] Karl Ove Knausgård, My Struggle, trans. Don Bartlett (New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2009), 207.