2017 Photographs: Mooning in NYC (not a typo)

January 8th, 2018

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Early in Lin-Manuel Miranda’s stage musical, Hamilton, the Schuyler Sisters — Angelica, Eliza … and Peggy — sing a rousing song of praise for Manhattan:

“[H]ow lucky we are to be alive right now! History is happening in Manhattan and we just happen to be in the greatest city in the world!”

Daring anyone to deny that theirs is the greatest city, over the course of their song one or two or all three of the sisters issue a challenge. It is in the form of a simple direction, repeated a total of 16 times:

“Look around!”

Today that remains good advice if you want to experience New York City in all of its fullness. But if you visit, keep in mind something the converging pedestrians below forgot:

Looking around also means looking up.

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New York City, 157 W. 35th St., September 23, 2017 at 11:45:33 AM

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2017 Photographs: Marsden Hartley at the Met Breuer

January 6th, 2018

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“Marsden Harley’s Maine” exhibition at Met Breuer, June 15, 2017 at 2:19:22 PM

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2017 Photographs: When a Self-Portrait Appropriates Rauschenberg’s “Erased de Kooning Drawing”

January 6th, 2018

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The 2017 Robert Rauschenberg restrospective at the Museum of Modern Art (Robert Rauschenberg: Among Friends) included a notorious early work entitled Erased de Kooning Drawing (1953). As explained in information supplied on the museum wall, Rauschenberg’s idea was to test “whether a drawing could be created out of erasing.”

Here are my initial photos of the piece and related wall text.

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Rauschenberg, Erased de Kooning Drawing, MOMA, June 15, 2017, 3:37:08 PM

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As I waited to get a closer, one-on-one encounter with the picture itself, I began to see why capturing a clean shot of the erasing — a clean shot at nothing — was impossible. The frame’s glazing reflected objects elsewhere in the room, such as a display case in the middle of the gallery, a red EXIT sign on the opposite wall, and visitors as they came and went. Viewers who halted directly in front of the drawing were met with reflections of themselves. They became part of the artwork. This phenomenon, while probably not in Rauschenberg’s plan for this particular piece, is satisfyingly consistent with the participatory element of his artistic practice.*

So I like to think Rauschenberg would have welcomed me occupying his picture, briefly, as a ghost-like silhouette:

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Rauschenberg, Erased de Kooning Drawing, MOMA, June 15, 2017 at 3:38:30 PM

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* For example, Rauschenberg’s 1951 White Paintings and their subsequent incarnations were meant to be receptive surfaces registering light and shadow effects generated within their surrounding space — including shadows of viewers. Numerous times the artist included mirrors and other reflective materials in his Combines, Spreads, and other series, to the same end.

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2017 Photographs: An Early Spring Evening in Glover Park

January 4th, 2018

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An alley in Glover Park, Washington DC, April 6, 2017, 8:17 PM.

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2017 Photographs: Manhattan Downsized in the Distance

January 3rd, 2018

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From the inside of a southbound Amtrak train in northern New Jersey, on April 12, 2017, at 6:10:26 PM (and yes, I still miss seeing the Twin Towers).

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The Persistence of Edward Hopper’s Vision

January 2nd, 2018

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The best of Edward Hopper’s art never seems dated. While details in each of his paintings and works on paper may disclose when and where it was created, the essence of what Hopper captured — a psychological and emotional truth — is timeless and everywhere. It’s as if Hopper searched for persons and places and then used only poses, tableaux or scenes he knew were bound to recur. Whatever the source of his insight, his perspicacity in this regard is is why his work continues to speak to us today.

Hopper’s insight extended not just to men and women, but to the physical environment as well.  The American man-made structures he was attracted to — especially those of the mutating city — remain in form and mood pretty much the same today.

If you seek evidence of this, there’s an easy source at hand.

Call up Google Maps. In the search box enter the name of an American city of your choice. Zoom in to reveal enough of the city’s oldest urban street grid to allow you to invoke the Street View function found in the lower right corner of your screen. Drag and drop the yellow little man icon down upon a street corner. Proceed to “walk” through the neighborhood with a Hopper-inspired intent and gaze.

In the homely example below, I chose to visit Pittsburgh and explore a transitioning residential block. I halted when I came upon a lonely house.

The same as I imagine Hopper did, though in a difference place and time.

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Abandoned House at Webster Ave. and Perry St., Pittsburgh, PA, Jan. 2016 (source: Google Street View)

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Edward Hopper, The Lonely House, 1923, etching, 8 x 10 inches

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2017 Photographs: The Cloud

January 2nd, 2018

They say the state of ultimate joy in life is to be on Cloud 9. That makes little sense to me. Here’s a cloud I photographed while standing in Glover Park on May 31, 2017, at 2:02:17 PM. In terms of bliss-inducing, I rank this one as a Cloud 10. And it’s the one I want to be on.

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The sky above Glover Park, Washington DC, facing East, on May 31, 2017, at 2:02:17 PM.

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A companion 58-second video showing more of the blissful blue and puffy-clouded celestial dome above Glover Park the same afternoon is accessible here.

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2017 Photographs: At the Phillips Collection

January 1st, 2018

Over the days ahead I want to post a handful of photographs from 2017 I’m especially happy with.

This first one was taken on the afternoon of January 6, 2017, at the Phillips Collection in Washington, DC, during the exhibition, “People on the Move: Beauty and Struggle in Jacob Lawrence’s Migration Series

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The central painting on the wall, in front of which a trio of kids have stopped to look and discuss, is Panel no. 58 out of a total of 60 panels in the complete Migration Series. Lawrence’s caption to it is: “In the North the African American had more educational opportunities.”

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Jacob Lawrence, Migration Series, Panel no. 58, 1940-41. Casein tempera on hardboard, 12 x 18 in. The Museum of Modern Art, New York, Gift of Mrs. David M. Levy

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Flowers of the Year 2017

December 31st, 2017

I can’t think of better material to post on this final — and brutally sub-freezing — day of 2017 than a bunch of photos of flowers and other flora found in the Glover Park neighborhood of Washington, DC. The presentation will begin with Spring, of course.

APRIL

Here’s a bit of nature I found while hiking a trail in Glover-Archbold Park. It came from a majestic tree commonly known as the tulip tree or tulip poplar for its tulip-shaped flowers painted in a brilliant orange, green and yellow. In fully mature trees these spring flowers remain high up in the tree’s canopy, out of sight to those of us below. So I was surprised, one day in April, when I came across this specimen resting on the forest floor. I wondered whether it was a storm that brought it down from on high. But then I noticed the twig that not long ago had connected it to the tall tree above. This stalk was cut cleanly, on an angle. Who would do such a thing? The best answer: a squirrel.

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April 29, 2017, Glover Park, DC

April 29, 2017, Glover Park DC

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MAY

May 21, 2917, Glover Park DC, sedum in bloom

May 21, 2017, Glover Park DC, an unmowed front yard with wildflowers and grasses. In the lower right you’ll find the left-behind shell (exuvia) of a cicada.

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JUNE

June 5, 2017, Glover Park DC

June 5, 2017, Glover Park DC

June 5, 2017, Glover Park DC, one lily wants to roam free

JULY

July 9, 2017, Glover Park DC, puzzle pieces of sycamore tree bark

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AUGUST

August 4, 2017, Glover Park DC

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August 4, 2017, Glover Park DC, drooping hydrangea

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August 25, 2017, Glover Park DC, liriope‘s late-summer flowers

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DECEMBER

December 24, 2017, Glover Park DC, fallen leaves from a Japanese Red Maple on moss-covered pavers