Alvin Ailey’s Caught

A spot light funnels a musty yellow light onto the center of the stage where a man, with ivory pants, stares at his hands. He never looks at the audience as he slings an arm, shoots a leg, raises a toe. It’s hypnosis with every step, surrendering your thoughts to the artist’s whim.  Caught between two of his movements, you bounce back and forth from the real world to dream land in cerebral play.

Intense flashing sears the auditorium and you are left with a glimpse every couple seconds, eternity in a world where a touch connects you to everything. In the absence of light, he takes the chance to jump up so that in the light he is flying. Oozing with strength, he leaps a hundred times in the course of five minutes. The illusion has the ladies in back swooning over his walking “like Jesus” in the air. The darkness dulcifies the light. You sweat from the sweet anxiety of not knowing whether he’ll be able to keep the act up and the pride of knowing humans are capable of such a delicious feat over the constraining human body.

This isn’t even the first piece or last piece or main piece. This is just a piece betwixt the other Ailey gems, the avocado to a veggie sandwich.

Bushwick-Bushwhack

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Giant beaters churn the yolk of Bushwick into cement, a useful material.  A painted tiger guards the factory from his nearby ivory tower.  The hieroglyphics of a King’s grave, burnt into the brick wall, wait for Howard Carter and the Rosetta Stone.

Inscribed in the sidewalk next to the Jefferson Street subway stop is the following decree: “Don’t litter. It makes finding drugs on the street so much harder.”

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In the surrounding area, the decaying walls are newsprint where artists practice old, learned technique and new style. It’s an exploration of everything that could go wrong, making you understand the beauty of everything going right. Here, paint smacks the eyes, a sharp, hard, consistent punch.

In Bushwick, local authorities require shops and factories to maintain unmarked walls (cleaned on the businesses’s dime).  However, the neighborhood appreciates the lettering and applies for “gimme graffiti” permits from the city.  20 years ago nobody hoped to still be in this area in 20 years.

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The red stop sign sports a green, crotchet, Seussian thneed with 2 leaf-wings.  You really do need to stop and smell the flowers.

Our 30 or so group of camera wearers and bottled water drinkers play tourist in what is not Times Square.  The ice cream truck toots past in 5 minute intervals. The minstrel music mixed with jarring animations sends us in a confused Pavlovian frenzy for money for ice cream and for the nearest Miyazaki showing.

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The sun reflects off shards of glass and drained spray cans.  Latex gloves and fresh paint impregnate the dry air.  A stencil of a girl lays abandoned.  She patiently waits for the moon.

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Here is some (useful/not useful) info:

If you are interested in a wonderful (and did I mention FREE?) public art walking tour in Bushwick, Brooklyn, New York, Tours By Foot offers this amazing journey (a tale recounted above).

The above pictures were taken by a friend and by myself on iPhones (hence the 8-megapixels quality) and then edited by me.

Almond Blossoms

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Van Gogh, the crazy guy who cut off his ear* and made pretty paintings. How easily we collapse people into their most dominating or talked about qualities. Yes, it’s somewhat natural given it’s an efficient way to remember someone, especially an important figure of history. But you lose a wealth of information in trivializing someone’s existence.

Vincent Van Gogh was a boy. He loved a cup of hot tea and taking walks in the countryside to explore those whose telos was exploration. He suffered manic depression but possessed awareness of his mind-body disease. He fell in love with a pretty girl who for a while loved him back. He studied hard at the finest academies in Holland and France. And he aspired to be a greater painter, as many boys do.

In the spring of 1980, a dark stretch where time ceased being linear, he received news that his sister in law birthed a son. And his brother, Theo, wanted to name the baby “Vincent.” Van Gogh couldn’t allow this to happen. How could he will an innocent boy to take after him, suffer from depression and anxiety and share his messed up nature? He pleaded in a letter with Theo to change his mind, to not tempt the fates with another Vincent.

After reading the letter, he decided to take a walk outside. During his stroll, “he saw an almond tree – its pink-and-white flowers the first blooms of spring. One particular old branch caught his eyes: a gnarled, knotted, half-dead limb that twisted its way toward the sky. From the wounded relic, a shower of blossoms exploded” (Smith and Naifeh).

He went back home and began to paint: the result of which would be “Almond Blossoms”. Mixing and remixing an otherworldly blue, he painted around every tormented branch and brave blossom, filling every jagged void, every deformed crevice, with a rapture of brushstrokes in a color he called “bleu celeste” –heavenly blue. He didn’t bother with a base for his canvas but let the image erupt. The bounty of it spread across the entire picture, to every edge and beyond – a promise in paint that even the oldest, humblest, most crooked, barren, and diseased branch could still produce the most glorious flowering in the orchard.

Amongst all the sadness that eclipsed his life, painting bore a hole, a wormhole that vacationed him from darkness to knowledge and beauty.

*Note, contrary to popular belief, Van Gogh didn’t actually cut off his ear: he cut off his left earlobe.

Wood Line

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What is art?  I know I won’t answer the question fully, but part of youth is asking and attempting to answer so here it goes.  I don’t ascribe to the belief that art is what is pleasing to the eye or something that must be beyond the creativity and ability of a 5 year old.  I’m of the Scott McCloud school where art is an apple with a core full of “thought” and “significance” seeds that plant ideas in people through the flesh, some medium/structure.  Good art forces you to have ideas and think but also has some inherent meaning intended by the author (which may or may not line up with your initial understanding).

Getting to Andy Goldsworthy, his wood line is a homage to nature’s relationship with man.  Instead of a typical jarring trail that cuts into a hill that clearly defines man from nature, wood line is an organic path that compliments the trees surrounding and encourages the Presidio goer to adventurer further.  It’s very easy to mistake the line as a natural extension of the woodlands, not a man-made entity.

Looking up, the eucalyptus towering over the grounded line display the trees’ authority as well as protect the line from the elements.  It’s a mutually beneficial relationship.  And the juxtaposition of the ruler-straight trees and slithering line creates visual dissonance and a wonderful texture in an otherwise ordinary area.

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The interactive design built into the work caters to all audiences.  Nobody I saw could help smiling as they ran up, jumped off, fell off, photographed instagrammed, lindy hopped or plopped on the wood.  There, a tempo exists as your feet or eyes follow the sinuous line.  And I think that ties into Goldworthy’s note that “a lot of my work is like picking potatoes; you have to get into the rhythm of it.”

From Google, I learned more about the construction of such a design.  Goldworthy commonly uses surrounding bodies in his pieces and, for this, used eucalyptus branches that were being removed and discarded from other parts of the park.  He utilized unwanted materials and remained with his philosophy of building, all while not disturbing the standing grove where the line sits today.

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According to a press release, “like many of the Goldworthy’s site-specific works, the materials will decompose and return to the earth over time.”  The cyclic and ephemeral nature of his work facilitates harmony between humans and nature.  And for the first time, Presidio goers see the trees in their full tree-being.

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Guesthouses in the Khumbu

I can’t actually remember how tired or perhaps relieved I felt once reaching a guest house after a long day: my memories only include the action of going up the steps, checking the room/toilet, and being assured it’s 200 ruppies or *wink* and “free if your friend come to”. Then, sitting on the flowery carpeted benches and buddled in retro fitted blankets, I gaze a the photographs of Buddist deities, notable peaks, and cursorily photoshopped parrot on a rabbit on a monkey on elephant complete with apricot balancing on tip of elephant’s trunk. The myriad of photographs and awarded certificates showcase children and grandchildren and great grandchildren of the owners. Looking closer, I notice everything is dated 2016 and onwards: I get the feeling that I’m stuck in a 60s scifi tv show.

Orginally written March 15, 2012