November 9, 2017 (Thursday)

by Yule Heibel on November 8, 2018

This morning we pack up here and drive back to B. Winteresque temperatures have arrived, and I turned off the heat at home before we left. As we don’t have an app-controlled thermostat, I won’t be able to turn the heat on remotely – which means the house will be cold as a witch’s tit when we get home. Oh well.

Yesterday I went to Brooklyn. I almost also tacked on a visit to Columbia University’s Lenfest Center for the Arts in Harlem at the end, but it was already past 3p.m. and I (wisely) opted not to. So I missed the Frank Lloyd Wright Broadacres exhibition.

In return, though, I was acquainted more fully in Brooklyn with the work of Robert Longo, which I’d only ever seen in small reproductions before.

Good lord, he makes powerful art.

It’s all just a tiny bit SJW-esque, of course (which fits well with Brooklyn; more on that later), and I wonder if that aspect will endure. The art’s political aspect will be referenced for posterity, but not necessarily its topical flavor. The power of the art will endure, in particular Longo’s idea of stopping or slowing down time in the era of image saturation. Longo works on a huge scale (he’s competing with Abstract Expressionism), and it’s all done in charcoal. Charcoal! So it looks like black and white photography. But it’s as rich and deeply complex as any painting done in oil.

His triptych of the rubber boat loaded with refugees on an imagined Mediterranean seascape is stunning. His references to the great canvases of the late nineteenth century are compelling; in the case of the triptych, it’s Géricault’s Raft of the Medusa. While it adds to Longo’s work if you know about Géricault, it’s also the case that you don’t need to. It stands on its own. All of Longo’s work on display was just “wow!” – really arresting.

You can take all of this other, talent-less misshapen crap which passes for art, and shove it. Real art actually still takes real skill, and Longo proves that in spades. Knowledge, too, of prior art: models, role models. The current politics is kind of an add-on. It will change over time. The underlying artistic quest, however, doesn’t.

Also at the museum: Judy Chicago’s great, impressive Dinner Party in permanent installation, plus all the paraphernalia of its making. Say what you will about the possible datedness of its agenda, but it’s still a powerful achievement.

The museum is another one of those huge Beaux-Arts buildings, this time with a modern ground floor addition that obviates the need to climb (and shovel free of ice and snow in winter?) the impressive stone steps leading to the old entrance.

As for Brooklyn: I walked and walked all over, including the not-so-nice bits near Atlantic Avenue as well as the tree-lined bits of Park Slope. While Atlantic Avenue and its side streets toward Bedford-Stuyvesant were on the “mean” side (and not very inviting or attractive), I found Park Slope to be suffocating for its homogeneous social justice vibe. Not that I’d ever want to walk around wearing a MAGA hat (I’m not a Trump supporter), but I found the one-sided, blind kind of pro-Hillary Clinton vibe (detected via leaflets in cafe windows, e.g.) to be insufferable, too. I realized that if I lived there, I’d be isolated. Up against smug young and wanna-be with-it older establishment liberals of a certain class, who can’t see past the ends of their noses.

I came back to the room at about 4p.m. after picking up my boots at the cobbler’s, and answered B.’s email, trying to articulate also what I find so different about New York’s neighborhoods. I like Lower Manhattan, frankly. Brooklyn’s tonier bits strike me as a slightly more suburban version of the Upper East and Upper West sides, sprinkled with Fifth Avenue and Madison Avenue ladies, not (yet?) as rich as the ones in Manhattan, but somehow the same.

As for Brooklyn’s less tony bits (okay, its rather ugly, down-at-heel bits), these are like a worse version of the crappy bits of our Chelsea. Each ‘hood is different. In Brooklyn I could definitely imagine running into Linda Sarsour, too, as well as an army of (white, liberal) people who don’t get what’s wrong with her.

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