12 September 2013

2013 NYC by Train 7 - The Teshia Tour

Teshia met us about 1pm at our hotel. We chatted about all that was happening in her life, and then headed for MoMA-PS1 in Brooklyn. She has become quite the NYC expert and tour guide...thank goodness.

The hotel is in Midtown Manhattan, so we headed south or downtown to find a subway entrance. We walked past the NYC Public Library on 5th Ave with its stately marble lions guarding the Beaux Arts building doors. It looked more like a museum than any library we had seen. Wish we had time to go in and browse. Next trip.

Behind the library, we passed through Bryant Park, a lush oasis snuggled in a canyon of high-rise buildings.  The lovely park includes a grassy lawn for sunbathing, a plaza with fountain, park benches, and a charming carousel. Several dining choices and tables were available to catch a snack. There are outdoor game areas set up for chess, backgammon, ping pong, and Petanque (French version of bocce ball). It was a warm day, but shade from numerous trees made it quite comfortable.

We paused for a minute while Teshia helped us download and explain the NY Subway System app. We were glad she was with us to dissipate the mystery of this underground transportation labyrinth. We found the closest station. To pay, the best plan was for each to buy a Metro Card. Each entry to the subway is $2.50. For that price you could transfer any number of times until you exited the subway system. We each bought $10 worth of fares.

As we waited for our train, we listened to a fiddle player doing Yiddish Klezmer style music. We hopped on the #7 subway at Bryant Park, traversed under the East River, and exited at Court Square. The stations and subway cars were much more clean and welcoming than we expected (from watching TV shows). Clientele were students, business and everyday folks, not intimating at all.

The exit on the Brooklyn side was above ground on a raised platform. We had a nice view of the area. Many buildings were graffitied with exceptional spray paintings up several stories high. More works of art than works of vandalism. A block or two walk, past an old fashioned art deco diner and we had arrived at MoMA-PS1 (Museum of Modern Art - Public School #1), where Teshia is interning for the summer.

The public school building itself was erected around 1892 in the Romanesque Revivalist style. It was the first school in this Long Island City neighborhood of NYC and closed in 1963 due to low attendance. It then became a warehouse.

In 1971, the Institute for Art and Urban Resources was founded there as part of an effort to use abandoned and underutilized spaces in NYC. PS1 transitioned through several phases before a renovation in 2000. At that time it became formally affiliated with MoMA and is an exhibition site rather than a collecting institution.

Much of the original space was preserved, including its classroom-sized exhibition rooms and galleries. It devotes its energy and resources to experimental art, emerging artists, and dialogue regarding new ideas, trends, and genres. They also schedule music and performance art events. Per its website, it is a true artistic laboratory.

I hope I have all this right. If not, I'm sure Teshia will let us know and we can fix it. Anyway, you will get the idea. -- We started our tour by entering the lobby and gift shop. There were fish-eyed peep holes bored through the wall, which gave you had a tiny view to the outside world. Not sure the reasoning ... probably no reason, just fun.
Next we passed through a courtyard containing a huge wood art piece. It was erected with re-purposed wood from a skateboard factory and held down with big bundles filled with water. You could see where the skateboards had been cut out from the plywood boards. There were other water features and places for kids (all ages) to play and relax.

To one side was located The Colony, a "commune" of artists living on the property trying experimental ways of living and doing art simultaneously. And a very cool 90-degree community garden space.

Community engagement is a big feature of this 125,000 square foot facility. All the space is open to the public for browsing and interaction, even the basement with its gold painted original furnace system and waterworks. Remnants of a bygone era, steam-punkish, and very cool. (Sorry, no photos allowed here.) 

Warm Up was this year's summer music series event and Teshia was very involved with "curating" these weekly happenings as part of her internship. These are held in the courtyard with the "stage" on the wide steps leading up to the school entrance.

Currently, inside were environmental works, including a basement room filled with water, goldfish, flora. It felt and smelled like a tropical oasis, but visually was rough and raw. In other rooms, sound and light became art objects. In another, old pipes, dust-filled furnace filters, and rusty tools were displayed as art. So much more. Each classroom a different artist, a different idea, a different feel. Some nicely unique and some oddly weird.

Next we peeked into the gourmet-ish "cafeteria," out of place modern compared to the rest of the site. Then a quick back room tour of the offices, meeting rooms and library, and then off to lunch. 

We waited for about 20 minutes for a bus, but time flew as we chatted and surveyed the area. We studied more art/graffiti on the old warehouse buildings. Very inventive and clever ideas. Political statements. Art from the heart. We finally hopped on the bus to the Greenpoint stop and our snack spot in the Williamsburg neighborhood of Brooklyn.

PS1 is also where the NY Art Book Fair is held each September. For more info on PS1, see www.momaps1.org and en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Moma_PS1

PS - Forgot to tell you about The Hole at P.S.1, Fifth Solar Chthonic (definition: concerning, belonging to, or inhabiting the underworld) Wall Temple art piece by Alan Saret. As we walked from the subway station to PS1 our niece pointed out a small hole in the brick work on the third floor outside wall. It is on the eastern end of the north wing of PS1. She commented that we should remember it.

Then, near the end of our tour (on the third floor), she pointed out the same hole from the inside of the building. Sunlight streams down from the small orifice to the floor. At different times of day and season, the sunlight pierces in at differing angles and strengths, and makes various sun spot shapes on the floor below it. The sun becomes the medium that makes an evolving natural art piece. This is the kind of interesting stuff that goes on at MoMA-PS1.

For more info, read www.momaps1.org/exhibitions/view/171. This may make the holes through the wall in the lobby mentioned above more significant...mimicking this original.

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