I grew up in Malaysia then moved to the United States as a young adult. Justin trailed along while his father’s highly transient career took him all over the country in his youth. So when it came time to make our own home, we fell into the normal trappings–we bought a house in a nice neighborhood in a state where it was sunny 299 days per year. But we found ourselves making regular trips to New York City that grew longer and more frequent, and soon we realized maybe it was more of a home to us than our house was. For us, home has never been about geography. It’s always been a feeling. A longing when you leave, and a pull to return.
If character is a collection of distinct qualities, Austin has character in spades. And one of the qualities we particularly loved in our recent visit to this vibrant Texas city was its embarrassing wealth of art. While there were incredible museums and parks, we are firm believers that some of the most important art can be found in public spaces. The pieces are often in unexpected locations: back alleys and vacant lots, across the walls of abandoned and neglected buildings or commissioned by neighborhood businesses. It’s the kind of art that viscerally reflects the rich histories and diversity of cultures of the communities in which they are located.
Did you go camping when you were a kid? I did. Do you have fond memories of sleeping in a tent and fishing in a lake? I don’t. Camping taught me one valuable lesson: that I hate camping. Part of it probably has to do with the fact that camping in Malaysia often involves thick jungle, humid air, mosquitoes, leeches, and ghost stories. And sorry, but Asian ghosts are TERRIFYING.
Not so long ago, I sat across from a colleague at work–for the purposes of this post, let’s call him “Scott”. Scott owned an apartment in Astoria. And I used to tease Scott about his choice of residency mercilessly. This was mostly because Scott had a mouth on him, and making fun of his neighborhood was one of the few things, besides trashing his beloved Yankees, that would get a rise out of him. And I won’t lie, I enjoyed getting a rise out of him quite a bit.
“We’d do Happy Hour up there where you live, Scott”, I’d say, “but my passport has expired”.
Things move quickly in New York City. What’s here today may very well be gone tomorrow. You’ll wake up one morning and find this fickle city has reinvented itself overnight. Your favorite bar is now a Pier 1 Imports. That bodega, where you buy your egg and cheese on a roll every morning before work, now serves tall, grande, and venti something-something-somethings. Oh, and that legendary theater where you saw that incredible set by Black Keys? Yeah, that’s gone. I have it on good authority it’s gonna be another high-rise luxury condo project. And so goes, for better or worse, the perpetual metamorphosis of this great metropolis.
Coney Island is a destination whose season bookends the New York City summer. While there are the requisite roller coaster rides and bumper cars, it’s so much more than an amusement park. It’s home to the New York Aquarium and the Coney Island Circus Sideshow. There’s the beach and the boardwalk. Fireworks on Friday night. And let’s not forget legendary annual events like the Mermaid Parade and the Coney Island Film Festival. Countless memories are made here.
Summer in New York City is more of a feeling than a season. Even though temperatures fluctuate wildly, everyone wants to be outside. That makes it a great time for one of our favorite activities: hunting down street art. We’ve decided to do a small series of posts on it here on the blog, which we kicked off last week with our post on the Bushwick Collective.
If you’re a fan of street art, then you’re in luck. There’s no shortage of it here in New York City, and all you have to do is keep your eyes open. (Judging by how regularly people bump into me on a sidewalk, this doesn’t seem to be as regular a practice as you might think.) Thanks to its temporary nature, graffiti is both a literal and figurative fresh coat of paint — blanketing the city with different images, styles and personalities on a regular basis.
When you arrive at 2nd Avenue and 1st Street in the East Village of New York City, you’re met with a massive yellow figure climbing out of the wall, dressed in a turned-around cap and a track jacket,wielding a boombox. It’s a tribute to the hip hop culture that heavily influenced the artists, Brazilian twins known artistically as OSGEMEOS. The mural features one of their signature yellow characters which is meant to be racially neutral (in contrast with having to identify with one of the six preset emoji skin tones offered by WhatsApp), and it’s just one of the thoughtful concepts you’ll find at the duo’s exhibition, Silence of the Music, at the Lehmann Maupin Gallery in Chelsea.
Gustavo and Otavio Pandolfo are consistently included in group exhibitions featuring street artists, which is how they made their start the 1980s. Like most other street artists, accessibility was a priority. But it served a greater need in their home of Sao Paulo where economic disparity, violence, and drug use were common societal ills. At Silence of the Music, it’s difficult not to find hope and cheer in the pure explosion of color contained within the rooms.
New York City has mood swings. Really, really bad ones. One moment it can be sweet, seductive, nearly—dare I say it!—tranquil and the next it can be capricious, defiant, and impossibly, impenetrably aloof. The unfortunate fact of the matter is that you have a better statistical chance of winning the Powerball Jackpot (1 in: 292,201,338 in case you were wondering) than predicting which mood you’ll encounter on any given day. This can make planning an infuriating exercise in futility.
Such was the case during one of our recent excursions. We set out late on a Sunday morning with an established agenda: a whimsical visit to a nearby gallery, followed by a properly gluttonous brunch. So easy! And yet the City, from the get-go, simply wasn’t having any of it and wasted no time gesticulating a spirited rendition of it’s signature, passive-aggressive response: thumbs in ears, fingers splayed, eyes glaring, blowing a raspberry.
To start, not one but two buses jumped the schedule. Then, once we descended the steps into the subterranean depths of the station to switch to a train, we immediately noted the ubiquitous MTA Service Advisories, with their prosaic, Helvetica-esqe typeface, haphazardly posted along the platform declaring numerous “service disruptions”. Finally, when we reached our destination—significantly later than anticipated, mind you—the door to the gallery was locked.
Peering through the glass into the dimly lit space, with only the faintest light penetrating the threshold and illuminating sparkling flecks of wafting dust particles, there was the reception desk, with its seat pushed in, empty. We read the stenciled hours of operation on the glass: Wed-Sun, 12-7pm. Then, we revisited their website on our smartphones. Same hours posted there. It was Sunday. It was past noon. What gives? Only after L. (clever woman that she is) called the gallery’s number, was it revealed on their voicemail that they had abruptly changed the days and hours of operation: Sunday—Closed.
We skipped ahead to brunch where the massive number of calories soon extinguished the fire of exasperation in the pits of our bellies. We emerged somewhat pacified, but as we made our way through the East Village down into SoHo, we discovered the following masterpieces along the way: