Category Archives: Matterful Art

Matterful Art: Marina Abramovic is Present, Indeed

Start on the sixth floor at MOMA, and enter the fascinating, disturbing and compulsive world of Marina Abramovic.  Decide what to look at first:  her “Freedom” series where she screams until she loses her voice, speaks until she can’t find the words or dances until she collapses of exhaustion; the props used during her most famous “Rhythm” piece where she turned her body into a passive object that would be invaded by 72 different props for six hours; or the photos of her stabbing between her fingers repeatedly with knives.

Notice the nudes standing between the doorway and stare for a while before you decide to go the other way because you have too many bags to squeeze through such a tight space.

Enter the room where she meets Ulay, her collaborator and lover for the next 12 years, and realize you share their mutual birthday.  Think maybe you should amp up your adventurous side, but not quite to the level of Rest Energy below.

Stare at their series of 22 staring matches they did around the world in the least likely of places, from an empty museum in the middle of the night to a dirt pit in a war-torn country.  They went on in this immobile way for hours on end.  A commentator says:  “They’re doing their utmost to do nothing.”

Read about their Great Wall Walk, which was supposed to lead to marriage but instead led to separation.

Continue through the next few rooms where you realize her later solo work was just as bold and possibly even darker, with images of war and blood throughout.  The years did not mellow her.  There’s a naked, heavily breathing woman splayed on a table weighed down by a skeleton.

You’ve seen her age from her 20s to her late 50s.

On the second floor, you share a room with her at 64, live and engaged in ongoing staring matches with random strangers.  A beefy guy gets up after going head-to-head with her for some time, walks away and breathes heavily before he says to his friend, “That was intense.”  You can check out more peaceful, emotional, pensive, dulled and focused contenders here.

You leave MOMA thinking “present” is the most active verb around.

Posted by: Mariela


I spent $258 at the movies last year.

Actually, I probably spent more.

You see,  in early 2009 I decided to start saving all the tickets stubs from the movies I went to see.  I have a notoriously bad memory, so I wanted to keep track of the films I saw, in the hopes that at year end, I would be able to reflect on these films and come up with the list everyone does.  The Top 5 Film List.  I am a woman with a limit budget, though.  I have to choose my films wisely.  Every now and then I’ll go crazy and splurge for the random film just because a bunch of friends are going and I want a night out, but for the most part I only see films that have somehow persuaded me to open my wallet and give up my precious cash.  Here is a list of the films I choose to do that with this year.  What does this list say about me as a person, as a film-goer? Let’s look at the list and see.
Click to jump to the list

Matterful Art: Arnold Newman ‘One World/One People’ and Angelo Mantas ‘Epitaph/Roadside Memorials in America’

Ever since I opted-out of employment as a public school teacher to work at home while caring for my daughter, I’ve become increasingly aware of and very interested in the realms of private and public space, how people exist and interact in these often conflicting arenas, and how the lines separating the two blur.

Naturally, my curiosity was sparked when I learned that there would be an exhibit on roadside memorials at the Leepa-Rattner Museum of Art  in Tarpon Springs, Florida. I was pleased to find that there was also a small exhibit of some of Arnold Newman’s photographs in a neighboring gallery.

I felt I was imposing while looking at Mantas’ photograph of this memorial.


Here, Newman takes us into the home of Golda Meir, Israel’s first female Prime Minister.


At first, I found it odd that an icon such as Newman would be paired with a photography teacher (albeit a talented one) from Chicago, but as I walked through each exhibit I realized that their work was somehow connected. Newman, the pioneer of environmental portraiture, became known for taking pictures of public figures in private places while Angelo Mantas photographs private memorials that are displayed in public places.

No stranger to publicity, Woody Allen posed for Newman where he does much of his writing, in bed.

woody in bed

Mantas’ juxtaposition of the cross and the car clearly shows a melding of private and public worlds.

Picture 4

I was somewhat bothered when looking at the roadside memorials, especially those that were adorned with personal mementos or private messages. I felt like I was encroaching on the privacy of the dead. However, I was drawn to many of Newman’s photos and found myself wanting to know more about the people in them. I guess I’m more comfortable peering into a public figure’s life because they have invited me to do so.

Posted by: Jen Mae

Matterful Art: Francis Bacon, The Pictures Generation and Supermodels at the Met

The Met houses over two million works of art so I guess it’s no surprise that a visit there can lead to wide ranging exhibits and experiences.  But, yesterday took the very varied cake with a trip through Francis Bacon, the Pictures Generation and Models as Muses.

Bacon:  grotesque, isolated, tortured.

Bacon mostly focuses on solo, warped depictions of men.  Many of his paintings remind me of the “Welcome to the Jungle” video (Axl in an electric chair anyone?). One particularly disturbing room showcased his Man in Blue Series of business men in dark corners and lonely hotel rooms waiting for nothing good.  Bacon counts T.S. Eliot as a major influence and even titled one work, “A Piece of Wasteland” after the poet’s famous work:

 “After the torchlight red on sweaty faces/After the frosty silence in the gardens/After the agony in stony places/The shouting and the crying/Prison and place and reverberation/Of thunder of spring over distant mountains/He who was living is now dead/We who were living are now dying/With a little patience.”  

Yep, I see the connection.


Head IV

Study for a Portrait

Study for a Portrait


A Piece of Wasteland

A Piece of Wasteland

The Pictures Generation: mass and multi-media, consumerism, pop culture.

I learned that The Pictures Generation was a loose collective of artists working in New York in the 70s and 80s.  They focused on relatable, everyday images and how they shape our world and influence our thinking.  Many of the names are familiar:  Cindy Sherman, Robert Longo, Richard Prince and Louise Lawler, among others.  The exhibit was big, bright, loud and spacious — a sharp contrast from the claustrophobic feel to the Bacon one — and drew lots of smiles and nods from groups of friends.

The American Soldier (Robert Longo)

The American Soldier (Robert Longo)

Untitled (You Are Not Yourself) (Barbara Kruger)

Untitled (You Are Not Yourself) (Barbara Kruger)

Untitled (David Salle)

Untitled (David Salle)

In a tremendous moment of serendipity, we flipped through the exhibit catalogue and the page opened right to Peter Saville’s legendary cover for Joy Division’s “Unknown Pleasures.”  I’m not sure how it fit in, but it was a welcome surprise.


The Model as Muse: celebratory, exuberant, decadent.

This was the equivalent of hopping on one of those slow-moving, Spaceship Earth trolleys at Epcot Center.  Starting with the 40s and ending in the 90s, the exhibit is a trip down model memory lane showing off the famous faces that graced repeated magazine covers, owned runways, romanced rock stars and more.  It also explores the reciprocal relationships between model, photographer and designer.  Most interesting to me was how flat and bland most of the fashions looked on the mannequins. After the first couple of rooms, I stuck to devouring the magazines on display, reading the models’ backstories and soaking in the music, which included Nirvana and George Michael (of course!).

Posted by: Mariela

Matterful Art: Hernan Bas at the Brooklyn Museum

Our friend Helen suggested we check out Miami artist Hernan Bas’ exhibit while we were visiting the Brooklyn Museum for First Saturdays. I love when someone gives me another reason to think my hometown is cool and Bas is certainly one.

He’s a punk rock romantic:


A wistful fairy:


And a heartbroken lover:


In probably his boldest move, he dared to killed the mermaid in a video installation come open-casket funeral offering called Ocean’s Symphony.  It forced us to ask ourselves:  what’s life without mermaids?  No Darryl Hannah and Tom Hanks in Splash, no Jeffrey Eugenides’ Middlesex.  No “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock,” “A Whole New World,” or a young and carefree Winona Ryder singing “If You Want to Be Happy for the Rest of Your Life” with Cher.  Not even the Coney Island parade that packs our subways with sparkles and dust.

Life without mermaids would be boring indeed.  Bring them back, Bas.  Bring them back.

Posted by: Mariela

Links of the Day

recommended art viewing for you new yorkers:

jenny holzer at the whitney

the always provocative thomas hirschhorn at gladstone

an oldie but goody, ellsworth kelly at matthew marks

and lastly the mother of museums welcomes the dead and crazy german, martin kippenberger at MoMA (i saw this exhibit in L.A. and enjoyed it!)

Posted by: mariola

Barack Obama as Dr. Manhattan!

One of my favorite things about riding the subway is the random art you come across. Sometimes it’s just random scribbles or tags, sometimes it’s faces rearranged to look like monsters, and sometimes you find true pieces of art.

This is what I spotted earlier today.

I witnessed this bit of awesomeness while leaving the W4 subway station in NYC. This may be the best thing I’ve ever seen done to a subway ad.

Posted by Wendy