Sunday, October 26, 2008

new york museum night.

look at that grumpy face up there. it couldn't possibly be the face of a young misanthrope about to launch himself into the big city night for some museum browsing, could it?

discovering that friday evenings are free at both the moma and the american folk art museum (the latter has been on our list of places to go on this trip on account of their collection of henry darger's works), we hopped a subway and went into the big bustling city. i am usually not much for big bustling crowds, but it was actually exciting to feel so out on the town after our recent stays in more rural climes. i feel like an even bigger bumpkin that usual and i like that. feelings of wonder can be elusive as one gets older.

we actually arrived at the folk art museum early (a feat i don't think i have ever previously achieved in new york) so we decided to look at some stuff at the moma.

hey, look who got happy fast. we actually didn't go into the moma. it was far too teeming with humanity and felt insurmountable. but there was an outdoor exhibition (well, the second half of an exhibition) about experiments in architecture that we wandered through. there was some neat stuff but we both agreed that we liked this 'house for new orleans' project the best.

i wish i knew more about the designers. i didn't take home any brochures in an attempt to save a tree but couldn't find much in the way of specifics on the moma website (everyone i spoke to there seemed really disinterested, too). what i do remember is that the entire structure is laser cut out of interlocking pieces that can be assembled with only a rubber mallet. these houses are designed to be 'shotgun dwellings' that could be installed quickly in the wake of disaster. unlike the other homes in the installation, this one took place and history into account. i think that is what resonated with aitor and myself. we're a sentimental pair. and the crushing of oldness by newness is acutely evident in new york. they call it evolution but it makes me sad.

from there we were ready for the american folk art museum, next door. it is full of the kind of stuff that aitor and i both get excited about (in respective areas of interest) - quilts, shaker boxes, tooth-shaped trade signs, scrimshaw. but the crowning jewel (to our minds) of their collection is the largest assmbly of the works of a mr. henry darger in the world.

i can leave most of darger's biography to further research on your part. the short story is that he was a man who lived in chicago (and elsewhere in illinois) until the 1970's. he painted compulsively as a way to enrich the huge fantasy world he spent a lifetime creating for himself to spend time in. to this end, he also wrote a 15,000+ page manuscript (that nobody has ever read in its entirely, though two people have tried) called the story of the vivian girls, in what is known as the realms of the unreal, of the glandeco-angelinian war storm caused by the child slave rebellion. darger also kept a weather journal (comparing weather forecasts to actuality) for exactly a decade and wrote a 5,000+ page autobiography.

during our visit, we were fortunate enough to get to talk to the show's curator, brooke anderson, who offered us a bunch of the details and information above (which i hope i didn't confuse). she is also actively looking for a phd student to write their dissertation on darger, as much is still unknown about him and his work. again, nobody has read any of his tomes in their entirety to date.

after surveying their website, i also found this exhibition at their satellite location. hmmm, looks like hallowe'en afternoon is becoming quite full, indeed.


leah b said...

whoah! if you two find yourselves in chicago again - and, i think you probably will - check out 'intuiti - centre for intuitive and outsider art:

they've attempted to recreat henry darger's room and have a study and reference room on him and his art. also, they seem to have pretty amazing exhibits on all the time.

also, oh goodness, i'll so go check out some quilts with you in the afternoon!

sweetie pie press said...

aitor and i were hoping you would museum with us before your big show. it might calm your mind.

and as for that chicago museum, we were looking for it when we found the american folk art museum's collection listed online. we should go there. we should go everywhere! want to come?

Anonymous said...

Glad to hear you made it to both places. I should have warned you that MoMA is a madhouse on Friday free nights. Yes, their staff can be very indifferent at times. Hope to meet before you leave town.
Tom Chao