Posts Tagged ‘Brooklyn Museum’

I’m always interested in new stories about street art and street artists. This one from the NY Times tells how street artist Swoon (otherwise known as Caledonia Curry) has been picked up by art museums.

Melena Ryzik writes, “With a glowing paper cutout pinned over her heart, the artist known as Swoon led a procession through the Brooklyn Museum early one summer night to her installation ‘Submerged Motherlands,’ a site-specific jumble that includes two cantilevered rafts, seemingly cobbled out of junk; a tree, of fabric and wire, that reaches to the rotunda; and nooks of stenciled portraits.

“A sellout crowd was there for a film premiere and multimedia concert, documenting and inspired by Swoon’s travel on the rafts. As the audience sat spellbound, Swoon, her red curls bobbing, flitted around, snapping photos, taking it all in.

“ ‘There’s that feeling that you get when you see something that you don’t understand the origin of: wonderment,’ she said. ‘It brings about a kind of innocence, and I love that. I love to witness it. I love to be a part of making those moments happen.’

“Since she began illegally pasting images around the city 15 years ago, Swoon has inspired a lot of wonderment. Born Caledonia Curry, she started her career as a street artist, but quickly leapfrogged to the attention of gallerists and museum curators, which let her expand to installation and performance art, often with an activist, progressive bent. Her intricate paper-cut portraits and cityscapes, often affixed to walls in hardscrabble places, are meant to disintegrate in place, a refrain to the life around them. Meanwhile, her socially minded work has focused on building cultural hubs for far-flung artistically welcoming communities. …

“ ‘When you look at the work of a lot of her peers, hers stands apart,’ said Sarah Suzuki, an associate curator at the Museum of Modern Art, which bought several Swoon pieces for its permanent collection in 2005. …

“In New Orleans, Swoon helped create a shantytown where each house is a musical instrument. In Braddock, Pa., a dwindling postindustrial landscape, she worked on an arts center in an abandoned church.”

The rest of the NY Times story is here. And you can read more about Caledonia Curry at her website and at wikipedia.

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If you saw a sign in a museum saying that the suggested entry fee for students was $8, would you ask if you could pay $2? Would you even ask what the sign meant?

Museums may be taking too much for granted about what people know.

All summer, after classes, Chanel Baldwin hung out in the lobby of the Brooklyn Museum for the air-conditioning. She didn’t understand that the $8 “suggested” student admission was merely suggested. So she got to know intimately the only painting that was in the lobby, and she thought about what was meant by the details surrounding the black man on the horse in “Napoleon Leading the Army Over the Alps,” by Kehinde Wiley.

One day when her cousin was cooling in the lobby with Chanel, NY Times reporter Anand Giridharadas showed up, explaining that they could go through the entrance gate without paying. “No donation today, thank you,” Giridharadas said to the cousins’ astonishment.

“The gates parted,” writes the reporter. “We received green tags to prove our bona fides. … The first room set [Chanel] alight and held her rapt until she had to leave. There was no label too tedious to read, no piece undeserving of her scrutiny. …

“ ‘Look at the detail on it,’ she said of a Fred Wilson mirror, gasping.

“A piece called ‘Avarice,’ by Fernando Mastrangelo, gripped Ms. Baldwin. It appeared from afar like a classic Aztec sun stone. But she got up close. Traced her fingers over it. Went to one side, looked at it; went to the other side, considered it that way. She noticed that the piece was made of corn, and then detected a toothpaste tube, soda bottles and cowboy hats lurking on the surface, all crackling with meaning.

“Watching her,” says Giridharadas, “I realized how the inadvertent exclusion from these rooms must have trained her eyes. … New York is run on the kinds of understandings that kept the cousins in the lobby, with so many places formally open to anyone but protected in their exclusivity by invisible psychic gates.

“Ms. Baldwin suggested a more honest approach, since people tend to think you have to pay: ‘They should just put a sign out telling us that it’s somewhat free.’ ” More here.

Suzanne’s Mom admits that she might not have known the secret code either. But then, she always had the $8.

Photo: Karsten Moran for The New York Times
Chanel Baldwin exploring the Brooklyn Museum after learning that “suggested” when admission fees are “suggested,” that could mean free.

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