Saturday, April 16, 2011

Whitney Museum: Madison Ave and 75th St

On this rainy Saturday, I spent a lovely afternoon visiting the Whitney Museum with a good friend.  We got to catch up, get a little culture, and then enjoy a great comforting lunch (Can you get more warm and inviting than grilled cheese sandwiches?  Don't dismiss this as mundane, executive chef Chris Bradley (formerly of Gramercy Tavern) has added sophistication by swapping the American for Gouda and adding extra topping options) at the museum restaurant, "Untitled." 

If you get to the museum before it opens, you will have to either wait outside (which may be okay on a sunny day but is definitely not on a rainy one) or HINT: go to the Untitled restaurant inside.  You don't have to pay for museum admission to dine there and the coffee from Stumptown Coffee and the pies from Four & Twenty Blackbirds Pies are fantastic. Besides, unlike most of the other museums near "Museum Mile," the Whitney is an unattractive dull grey building--so if you can avoid staring at that, why wouldn't you?

The Whitney Museum collection is modern American.  In the current exhibitions, there is a lot of art that has strong political messages and social commentary.  If this is not your normal bailiwick, I would highly recommend taking advantage of the free-with-admission audio guides.  The audio guides help make the more avant garde art accessible and understandable.  My friend and I both conceded that without the guides we would have missed some of the nuances and deeper meanings. 

I was particularly moved by the Glenn Ligon art inspired by children's coloring book drawings.  In this series Ligon was able to separate taught conceptions related to race and sexual identity from the innocent freedoms taken by children (see the Malcolm X silkscreen at right). 

I also came to appreciate the various pieces by Ed Ruscha, whose backgrounds with unrelated words was deftly explained in the audio guides.  For instance, I'm not sure I would not have figured out on my own that the "Lion in Oil" piece consisted of words forming a palindrome floating on a mountain formed by a Rorschach blot-like reverse image (see left).  The multi-level cleverness of pieces like this were interesting and fun to learn about.

If modern American art from the likes of Robert Mapplethorpe, Georgia O'Keefe, Willem de Kooning, and Andy Warhol get you going, the Whitney may be just the museum for you.  For the latest info on hours and admission, visit Whitney Visitor Info. Adult admission is $18; Student and Senior admission is $12. 

Please excuse the blurry pictures from the museum published exhibition calendar; photography is not permitted in the galleries.

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