Springtime in New York is magical. And this trip was particularly so, meeting my mom for her birthday with my big sister – just the three of us, as we used to do in the 1980’s.
Mom (otherwise known as Merike Lugus) has been inspired lately to paint freely with much less structure than she usually adheres to – creating these joyful, spirited paintings. Her recent prolific output has helped spawn our new mother-daughter Etsy shop which we’ve called Elu Gallery (elu means ‘life’ in Estonian). I’m selling my linocut prints, she’s showing acrylic paintings. Yay!
We didn’t have much of an agenda, but we knew we wanted to see lots of art. Valerie and her iphone led us to two unforgettable shows that have not left the top of my mind since I got home.
The Gutai Splendid Playground show at The Guggenheim was a revelation. As an avant-garde post-second-world-war art collective, the members of Gutai (which means ‘concreteness’) believed that the medium was part of the artistic process and that Gutai pieces are “art that has arisen from the pursuit of possibilities.”
One of those possibilities was an installation of frames filled with paper through which the artist punched and kicked. It was captured on film back then:
Wouldn’t this be a great kid’s party alternative to piñatas?
Then here is Gutai artist Atsuko Tanaka wearing her Electric Dress in the 1950’s, and its display today. I really think they should be displaying it with a face inside, to show the ‘dress’ concept more clearly, as Tanaka did, but who am I to second guess the Guggenheim people? Maybe a mannequin looked creepy.
Another exhibit was a ‘humanized’ vending machine that had a man inside choosing little art pieces to give away at the insertion of a coin. Yet another featured a massacred boar, his pelt spread out with a blood ‘painting’ made by the artist’s feet all around the animal – the whole thing was framed. I thought it was beautiful until I got closer and gagged, moving on quickly.
And then there were the paintings! Many were created with a combination of abstract expressionist techniques (dripping paint like Jackson Pollock among them) and more foot painting etc. I absolutely loved this one.
Then the Whitney was showing work by Jay DeFeo. Never heard of her? Neither had we! It turns out that she was a critically acclaimed American artist who studied at Berkeley and won fancy art fellowships for her work, though she discovered years later that because of her name, the granting agency didn’t know she was a woman.
She created these giant masterpieces that she worked on for years and years, as was the case with this piece, The Rose.
It’s hard to see here, but it’s a monstrous work of art that weighs 2,300 pounds and has hundreds of layers of impasto on it, as does the one below, which was also astonishing to see up close. Each ‘brushstroke’ was like a thick sculpture. I wish they would have let us take proper pictures.
She also did some seriously weird shit – getting obsessed with her own dental bridge:
And another whole series of drawings based on worn out pencil erasers. She found the beauty in literally everything. Very cool lady.
Then there was the art of New York City itself.
A mural on the High Line.
Magnolias in Central Park.
Pigeons hanging out.
Look at that green against the red brick! I may weep.
A Red Bud tree on the High Line.
And as if that weren’t enough, in the evenings Mom and I would be serenaded on the ukelele by my incredibly talented sister!
Not to mention the wonderful woman who let us stay at her place! My friend and brilliant professor, Aurora Wallace, who has written an incredible book called Media Capital about the history of newspapers in NYC and their architecture.
What a trip, what a city, what a couple of gals to travel with – I’m very lucky, indeed.