Thursday, March 29, 2012

Art Around NYC: Various

If you walk the streets of NYC with your eyes open, you will be rewarded with some really amazing artwork.  Don't make the mistake of just keeping your head down shuffling from home or subway to work and back.  Look up and take a look around.

If you live or work in midtown east, you may be familiar with the Lever House.  This commercial building often has art exhibits on display in the lobby for public enjoyment.  Richard Marshall, the curator the for the building's art collection, does an amazing job bringing fabulous art to New Yorkers and NYC visitors.  Located at 54th Street and Park Avenue, the current exhibit called "Land Mind" by Paula Hayes is a man-sized tulip-shaped aquarium housing exotic fish (Bangaii cardinal fish, purple-faced fire fish, shrimp, snails, clown fish, a starfish and various coral) (see above).  It is spectacular and definitely worth a look if you are in the neighborhood. In the past, they have had a great building-sized collection of Hello Kitty sculptures.  I love walking by this place.

Currently, there is also a fun exhibit in the Anthropologie store at Rockefeller Center.  "War Against Gravity" (see left) by Gordon Harrison Hull, is a fantastical motorbike/tricycle that looks like a vehicle that Mork from Ork would drive (yes, that's old school).  They also have a rotating exhibit so if you can spare a little time from your shopping adventures, poke your head into this side room on the main floor and be dazzled.

Not that long ago, there was also one of the magnificent giant balloon dogs by Jeff Koons in an office lobby in midtown east.  I was afraid to take a picture, as Mr. Koons is so litigation happy (did you read about how he tried to sue a S.F. gallery for making balloon dog bookends?--as if he can now claim that he owns all balloon dogs).  

Anyway, I just wanted to tell people about the real art available for the public to see for free around NYC.  Enjoy!

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Chelsea Market: 9th and 10th Aves between 15th and 16th Streets

I suppose the Chelsea Market is not a "unique" shopping/dining mall (unless one over-uses the word "unique" the way people are negligently apt to do now). 

However, it is a great place to do some eclectic shopping:  There is a dairy, a separate artisanal cheese shop called Lucy's Whey, gorgeous chocolates at Jacques Torres, and distinctive clothes at Anthropologie, just to name a few.  Then there is great food, including a super gluten-free-friendly place called Friedman's Lunch, a fantastic flavorful Thai place, and what I consider the best gelateria in NYC -- L'Arte del Gelato. 

Finally, it is great to spend an afternoon taking in temporary art installations (see the "Dog Show" photography exhibit by Lucille Fornasieri Gold at right and currently on view through March 31, 2012), and (best of all) you can pass hours just watching New Yorkers in their element.

The market was originally the National Biscuit Company in the late 1800s.  Yes, this was the original home of the Oreo!  In 1913 this main building was built on landfill - the timbers, chain and anchor of a two-masted schooner were found during excavation in later restorations.  If you look closely around the mall, you will see evidence of the history and archeology.

If you are in the neighborhood, take a step in and you are bound to be surprised to be face to face with history and perhaps find things that you never knew you needed (ok, wanted).  It is very accessible, friendly, and quirky in the best way. 

You might also see a celebrity or two (Food Network films Iron Chef here), and Genevieve Gorder of HGTV also frequents the shops here.


Thursday, March 15, 2012

Belvedere Castle: Central Park around 79th Street

Sorry it has been a while since my last post.  I have been going through some personal projects and had decided to not go crazy by adding this blog to my "must do" list.

However, I think/hope I am back on an even keel now, and I wanted to tell folks about the great walking tours provided by the Central Park Conservancy.  They have guided tours and hands on activities offered almost every day (check out their calendar at Central Park Tours).  I imagine as the weather becomes more and more mild, the tours will be more and more popular.

Today's tour began at Belvedere Castle (see left), which is a 3/4th-sized replica of a fort in Normandy, France.  It was built as a folly, simply to attract attention and be a whimsical addition to the park.  It never housed any grand personage.  And it has really only served as a weather station and an office for the Central Park Conservancy.

From the top of the castle, which is the highest point in Central Park, you can see equipment for the weather station in the Rambles to the south, the Delacorte Theater (where the summer time Shakespeare in the Park performances are held) to the north, the Great Lawn (where summer concerts are held -- the latest one being that of The Black Eyed Peas), and the man-made Turtle Pond (filled with NYC drinking water and home to 5 species of turtles) to the east (see right).

The guided tour lasts about an hour, and includes a leisurely walk between various points of interest.  I won't be a spoiler and go through all of the stops, here, but I want to just mention some of them in order to illustrate the care with which the tour was designed.  The Greywacke Arch (see above left), which is one of over 30 uniquely designed tunnels/bridges in the park, opens up to views of the back of The Metropolitan Museum (constructed to make reference to the great Egyptian pyramids). 

The statue of Polish King Jagiello (one of over 50 statues dotting the park, see above right) that was presented in NY during the Worlds Fair of 1939 and found its permanent home in Central Park when it could not be returned to Poland due to the Nazi invasion following the fair.  Then, of course, there is the great Egyptian obelisk (the oldest monument in the Park) from 1600 BC; take the time to walk all the way around the obelisk to get better views of the hieroglyphics, as the wear patterns vary greatly due to how the obelisk spent hundreds of years on its side after wars and earthquakes.

Throughout the tour, the guide answered questions from the over 20 visitors on the tour.  He was very informative about the history of the park, its construction, and restoration projects led by Parks Commissioner Robert Moses.  He also shared the philosophies of the 19th century designers Frederick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux who wanted the park to be a natural refuge from the City.  Insights about the variations from the original designs (there was only supposed to be one statue in the entire park--the Angel of the Waters Rising from Bethesda Terrace, also called Bethesda Fountain), the needs of the growing City, and the resurrection of the park from its graffiti-ridden and violent history of the 70s, were all woven into a very interesting hour.

I would highly recommend these free guided tours of the park.  They are casual, friendly, and enriching.  Rather than just walking through, as I have done innumerable times in the past, this time, the great vistas (see above left a view of the Great Lawn with the NYC skyline of buildings to the south) came to life.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Sony Wonder Technology Lab: 55th St & Madison Ave

There is a saying that "you get what you pay for" but when it comes to the Sony Wonder Technology Lab in Manhattan, that is definitely not the case.  This FREE technology and entertainment museum (Tues-Sat 9:30am - 5:30 pm) is fantastic.

I happened by this museum when I ducked into the public Sony Plaza just to get out of the rain.  I saw a small group of people clustered around an elevator and decided to see what they were waiting for since I didn't have to be anywhere soon.  When I saw it was the museum I had heard about from a friend in the past, I checked to see if I could get a free stand-by ticket (you can reserve advanced tickets (online or at 212-833-8100) and it is recommended during more busy times of year) and I scored immediately. The next group was being taken up in 1 minute and there was no line.  What luck!

Upon entry, they distribute an electronic "ID" that you use to activate any station you are interested in interacting with.  You get your picture taken, design your "voice image" and fill out a few other characteristics that help make the experience personal (these are all recorded on your personalized certificate print out at the end).  My "logo," which I created by manipulating my picture on their easy-to-use touch screen, is shown at the bottom right in the picture above alongside the images of fellow visitors.

Then you start winding down the 4 flights of the museum and can read innumerable displays and interact with over a dozen exhibits.  It is fun and educational (and not in the way that they say that phrase in school or most other museums--these are really fun!).  I learned about how digital signals travel, programmed a robot (see above right), tried digital animation, took a turn in a dance motion capture (fancy term for the Wii-like dancing game), designed a racing game, made a little movie clip including sound effects and music, and so much more! 

My favorite activity was the computer graphics dancing program.  In film making, they usually put sensors on major joints of the actors and let the cameras that are digitally "connected" or "reading" the actors movements, create animated characters that move the way the actors do (see photo at left that shows the angles used to translate the movements).  The little girl pictured at right is my animated character mimicking my dance moves to Willow Smith's "Whip My Hair."

If you are ever in the midtown east area, you MUST visit the Sony Wonder Technology Lab.  It is truly a gem in the City for young and old.