Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Museo Del Barrio: 104th St and Fifth Avenue

Last night I finally motivated to go to the Museo Del Barrio (the museum is free Wednesday evenings from 6-9p and every third Saturday), and boy was I glad that I did.  I will admit that I was a little intimidated walking from the subway to the museum (perhaps it was all in my head), and I was glad that I was going during the day (and made a mental note to leave before dark).  I turned my rings around on my hand, held my head and gaze straight ahead, and walked with purpose and determination.  No one bothered me, but I was very conscious of all the people loitering in the streets and in the parks by the projects.

The museum and the staff are very welcoming.  I had made a last minute decision to attend, and not only did I get to join a gallery talk led by a NY artist, Adam Pendleton, of the museum's Luis Camnitzer exhibition, but I (along with about a hundred other visitors) got to experience their weekly Wednesday night live performances.  It was a unique experience that I would highly recommend to those who are open to trying new and different activities.

I don't think I would have appreciated all of Camnitzer's art nearly as much without joining the tour.  Pendleton had prepared quotes from Camnitzer and tour participants had a chance to first tour the exhibition on our own, forming our own opinions, and then discuss various pieces with Pendleton, fellow visitors, and Deborah Cullen, Director of Curatorial Programs.  For me, it elevated the somewhat stiff, commercial, typographically plain works.  Through discussion, I was able to appreciate how Camnitzer uses language to underscore issues of power and commodification (see "Signature by the Slice" at left), exploring the relationship between images, objects, and texts.  We discussed the futility of trying to communicate exactly when each individual brings their own perspective and experiences to any communication.  I particularly loved the "Windows/Ventanas" piece that consisted of a "window bricked-in with concrete and books."  This piece says so much... books are a window to the world, yet they are limited, perhaps forming a prison.... (see above right)  Truly innovative.

The modest permanent collection at the museum is also worth a walk through.  I was drawn to the untitled piece by Karlos Carcamo who provocatively placed a red bandana and a blue bandana in flag frame holders, the way an American flag would be.  It was an interesting commentary on the allegiances that gangs exact from members.

The "Action Actual," in-house performance art was introduced with a welcoming DJ in the lobby (this week was DJ Pampa) and drink specials in El CafĂ©.  There were performances of all types including interactive creation with Susana Cook, a political short film by Cuban soldier/artist Adonis Flores walking through Havana in daisy-covered fatigues (see left), "reverse archeology" by Beatrice Glow, fortune telling entitled "Praxis" by husband and wife team Delia Bajo and Brainard Carey, and the list goes on and on.  If you get a chance to attend one of these special Wednesday evening free performance events, you'll be in for a novel, fun experience.

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