Tuesday, June 7, 2011

American Folk Art Museum: 53rd St btwn 5th and 6th Aves

Prior to today, when I thought about the American Folk Art Museum, which is right next door to the MOMA (please see my prior blogs about the MOMA at MOMA Blog and MOMA Course Blog), I had visions of hokey quilts and make-shift crafts.  Yes, I love crafting, but I assumed that the museum would have more limited appeal than other museums because of my pre-conceived notions of "folk art."  What I found was that while folk artists may not have formal training, they are more than capable of creating sophisticated and really interesting art. 

Ok, first, I'll make my pitch for the quilts exhibits.  Celebrate the Year of the Quilt with the American Folk Art Museum.  At their main location admission is $12 (their Lincoln Center location is free), and I would highly recommend going when they have a guided tour (check out their website for admission, hours, and tour information at Folk Art Museum Info).

I took one about quilts (about which I knew next to nothing) and really enjoyed it.  The guide was so enthusiastic and took such great care to help us appreciate the details, materials, effects, and history.  We started with Amish quilts from PA and the mid-west and then moved up to applique story-telling ones (see the celebratory biblical one at left -- you can't see the detail in the photo, but even the crucifixion is depicted with smiling faces!).

The museum selects their collection very carefully (they won't just accept quilts in big lots -- they "cherry pick" the best examples of quilts for their collection and display).  There were breathtakingly detailed vintage whole-cloth quilts (see the "Cornucopia and Dots Whitework Quilt" at left) as well as "heavenly" modern ones (see right, the "Light From Far-Away Space" quilt made by Setsuko Obi, a Japanese-American quilter). There were many other beautiful quilts on display, but I'll move on to other displays that I thought were compelling.

The exhibition of "Eugene Von Bruenchenhein: ‘Freelance Artist—Poet and Sculptor—Innovator—Arrow maker and Plant man—Bone artifacts constructor—Photographer and Architect—Philosopher’" was great.  As the title describes, this artist was a man of many talents.  What I found most interesting from his works were his sculptures using turkey and chicken bones as well as his skyscraper paintings on cardboard.  All of his work had an organic and architectural quality that was both base and ethereal.

I also really found the figure exhibits different.  There were more traditional portrait oil paintings, but also ballpoint pen drawings (see Consuelo "Chelo" Gonzalez Armenzcua's "In the World" at left), ink sketches, wood carvings, and found object figure sculptures.  I wouldn't say that most of these pieces were beautiful in the normal sense of fine art, but I think most would agree that there was artistry in them.

Please take a look at this museum when you are in mid-town, you may be pleasantly surprised at what you may find.

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