Before the phenomena of binge-watching episodes of that favorite guilty pleasure program du jour on video streaming services or staring down, slack-jawed, for hours at the now ubiquitous mobile device while perusing social networks, there was another place, anathema to parents and teachers alike, where one could go to rot one’s brain and shorten one’s attention span. It was simply known as an arcade — the earliest iteration of which had pinball machines — and it was glorious.
Now, you can imagine my surprise and adoration when my lovely wife suggested a little adventure to Modern Pinball NYC on a breathtakingly beautiful Saturday afternoon. You can also imagine my surprise and self-loathing when she repeatedly topped my score. There’s no doubt: my girl’s got serious game. And I’ll likely never hear the end of it.
It was a lovely spring day in Central Park when my girlfriend remarked that she’d only begun noticing strollers around New York City after she’d had her baby and found herself pushing one as well. I looked around and realized that families had decided to take advantage of the all-too-rare perfect weather just like we had, and had come out to the park in droves. I marveled at the little kids running around, envious that they get to grow up with Central Park as their playground.
New York City gets a bad rap for being a concrete jungle, and New Yorkers get pretty defensive when celebrities pick up their kids and move away. But few are aware that there are more than 30,000 acres of public park land that is maintained by the city for the benefit of the residents, not including additional parks under federal and state jurisdiction or those that are privately owned. To put it in context, Central Park only ranks fifth on the list of largest parks maintained by the city, and there are over 1,700 spaces — including playgrounds and recreational facilities — to be enjoyed.
Every neighborhood in New York has a story, but only a neighborhood within a neighborhood has secrets. Unfortunately, the prerequisite for discovering these secrets is usually the possession of an address within its boundaries, with time and growing familiarity eventually earning the distinction of being accepted within the community as a “local”.
And that’s exactly where Local Expeditions comes into play. Billed as the “anti-tour” and offering “unique 2-3 hour excursions designed by locals for a true New York experience”, the previously mentioned prerequisites are graciously waived. We spied a new tour available on the website billed as the “Cabrini Heights/Fort Washington” tour, and we got slightly nostalgic for a previous visit during which we stayed with my cousin in Washington Heights. It was a whirlwind trip that didn’t permit us much time to explore the area and we hadn’t been back since, so we signed up.
Commendably, the business model for Local Expeditions incorporates a 5% charitable donation, as well as a generous wage for the guide, giving back to the community and supporting the wider New York economy. In the interest of full disclosure, at $40 per person, the cost of the tour is still on the higher end of the market, even factoring the 5% donation in. Most tours average $20 per person, while tours from established names like the Municipal Art Society and Untapped Cities run at $30 per person.
With income inequality becoming one of the defining challenges of our time, it’s not difficult to understand the increasing democratization of art. In a refusal to cede control to the art world hierarchy, street artists delivered their message wherever they could — public walls and subway cars became means of expression. It’s unclear when graffiti became mainstream, but there’s no question that it has. Christina Aguilera bought a Banksy original for £25,000 in 2006. The Tate Modern in London invited some artists to do outdoor pieces in 2008, and the Museum of Contemporary Arts in Los Angeles ran an “Art in the Streets” exhibition which was billed as “the first major U.S. museum survey of graffiti and street art” in 2011. A majority of street artists never leave their urban canvas, but Chris Ellis, also known as Daze, is one of the few artists who has managed to successfully transition his work into museums and galleries.
Somewhere in Tom Sachs’ overdeveloped imagination, the cold, logical utilitarianism of engineering confronted the intuitive, whimsical nature of art and something unexpected — a symbiosis — developed between them.
Tom Sachs is an artist and a sculptor, as well as a member of the loosely-defined, collaborative, four-person-collective known provocatively as Satan Ceramics. He recently stepped out on his own for a solo exhibit, appropriating the entire glass entryway of the Brooklyn Museum’s Rubin Pavilion and organically transforming it into an immersive sound system experience. He incorporated “found objects” (such as plywood, batteries, duct tape, and foam), audio components, and his hallmark text and symbols (such as the word Satan and the acronym NASA) into multiple variations on the Boombox, ranging in size and complexity. The functional art pieces shape the space of the exhibit holistically, as is his trademark style.
There are few people who can travel to Japan and not be charmed by it. I can remember my first trip there with uncharacteristic precision, but like so many others, I flirted with its culture and food long before I set foot on a plane. There is something so intoxicating about how truly unique it is, so it’s no surprise that Brooklyn Botanic Garden’s Sakura Matsuri is one of its busiest weekends of the year.
Sakura Matsuri, which literally translates into Cherry Blossom Festival, is an annual celebration that ushers in spring with the synchronous blooming of multiple cherry blossom trees. Cherry blossoms are deeply symbolic in Japanese culture, where hanami is the centuries-old practice of picnicking under a blooming sakura tree. At BBG, they commemorate this time of year with a weekend dedicated to honoring traditional and contemporary Japanese culture. Its traditional roots are illustrated with activities such as taiko drumming and martial arts performances, while its more contemporary influences can be found in cosplay- and anime-themed activities.
I hope you’ll indulge me as I take you on a short picture tour — I believe it will capture the spirit of the event better than any description I could cobble together. Let’s begin with the stars of the show:
Before the rise of DC and Marvel superhero blockbusters, with their visual effects extravaganzas, there was the original source material — the under-appreciated, often ridiculed comic books and graphic novels — from which their inspirations were drawn. In fact, prior to bellwether films such as The Dark Knight, Sin City, The Avengers and The Walking Dead, the only examples of this broad medium to garner even a modicum of respect were the iconoclastic satire of MAD Magazine and The New Yorker. And more than any other, the cartoons of The New Yorker epitomized the astonishing breadth of this art form, pushing its boundaries and demonstrating its wealth of profundities.
“I’m not interested in oversized inflatable rabbits,” I said… never.
When I heard about Intrude, Amanda Parer’s public art installation at Brookfield Place, I hopped on over as soon as I could (sorry, had to do it!). The Australian artist first debuted her work at the 2014 Vivid Festival in Sydney (where she’s originally from) and the display has since traveled the world, making its way from London to Sweden to Turkey. While the large rabbit sculptures — made of nylon, inflated and internally lit — may come off as whimsical over-the-top Easter decorations, like most good art, it actually carries greater significance.
As we’ve established in previous posts, and will likely continue to demonstrate in the future, New York City is home to a staggering number of museums and cultural institutions, and they offer a virtually limitless number of exhibits and installations to appreciate. While Chelsea has long been the heart of the city’s art scene, art publications like ArtNews and Artsy have been covering the migration of many art galleries to the Lower East Side now that the High Line and the Whitney Museum have ushered in exponential growth, and therefore, rising rents in Chelsea.