Friday, April 30, 2010

HENRI CARTIER-BRESSON Photography Exhibit at MoMA

On exhibit at the Museum of Modern Art until June 28 is a retrospective of the photographs of HENRI CARTIER-BRESSON (1908-2004), one of the most original, accomplished, influential and beloved photographer. The exhibition surveys Cartier-Bresson’s entire career, with a presentation of about three hundred photographs, mostly arranged thematically and supplemented with periodicals and books. In a review of the exhibition in The New Yorker, Peter Schjeldahl writes, "The hallmark of Cartier-Bresson’s genius is less in what he photographed than in where he placed himself to photograph it, incorporating peculiarly eloquent backgrounds and surroundings. His shutter-click climaxes an artful scurry for the perfect point of view. This made him a natural for photojournalism, whose subjects, their “significance” prejudged, unfold unpredictably in space and time."

Thursday, April 29, 2010

The COLGATE CLOCK: View From The World Financial Center Plaza

This is a view of the Colgate Clock in Jersey City from the World Financial Center Plaza at dusk.
The familiar octagonal Colgate clock, facing Manhattan, dates back to 1924 when it was set in motion on December 1 by Jersey City's Mayor Frank Hague. Located on the former site of Colgate-Palmolive & Company, it is a reminder of the time when factories dominated the Jersey City's waterfront. The clock's design was inspired by the shape of a bar of Octagon Soap, first manufactured by Colgate as a laundry cleanser.
The surface of the clock is 1,963.5 square feet and 50 feet in diameter. The minute hand is 25 feet, 10 inches long; the hour hand is 20 feet long. The timepiece can be adjusted and is maintained to stay within one minute of accurate time. There was a small master clock at Colgate that was checked against the US Naval Observatory in Washington, DC. The clock's mechanism is like that of a traditional wall clock with weights and wheels but is powered by twenty-eight large-volt batteries that are recharged.
After almost thirty-one years of enduring the elements, the clock was stopped at 9:30 a.m. on June 13, 1955, for repairs. A New York Times article reports that ". . . the laminated wooden hands, waterlogged on wet or humid days . . . , had Colgate mechanics bowlegged changing counterweights to keep the time just right. . . . Another fault had developed, too. The steel trusses that support the hands had rusted. The new clock hands will have an aluminum core with porcelained steel facing. They and the quarter-hour points will have fluorescent lighting when the clock get going again, instead of the old incandescents" (Meyer Berger, "About New York." New York Times 11 July 1955).
The replacement of the clock's hands took longer than expected, prompting hundreds of calls to the company by those counting on the clock to keep them on schedule. The installation finally took place on July 28 and July 29, and the dependable timepiece was operating again in a week ("New Hands on Big Clock." New York Times 30 July 1955). The dimensions to the hands were altered by counterbalances making for inconsistencies in published measurements of the timepiece.
Today's landmark clock replaces an earlier and smaller clock designed by Colgate engineer Warren Day and built by the Seth Thomas Company for the centennial of the founding of Colgate in 1906. The clock, 38 feet in diameter, was made of structural steel and its face of stainless steel slats. It was part of an assembly, installed in 1908, that was set upon the roof of an eight-story warehouse at the southeast corner of York and Hudson Streets, which was also built for the company's anniversary. Engineer William P. Field designed the 200-foot-long and 40-foot-high sign for both the clock and advertisement "COLGATE'S SOAPS-PERFUMES" in 20-foot-high letters. It was illuminated at night by 1,607 bulbs emitting 28,000 watts of light. From the Jersey City waterfront, it was visible some twenty miles away to Staten Island and the Bronx. It received acclaim as an identifying symbol of the company as well as for its practicality. When replaced by the present-day clock, it was retired to Jeffersonville, Indiana.
The Colgate's Soap and Perfumery Works, later Colgate-Palmolive Peet, was founded by William Colgate in 1806. He began as a manufacturer of starch, soap and candles with a shop on John and Dutch Streets in New York City. When he moved his company to Paulus Hook (Jersey City) in 1820 to produce starch, it was referred to as "Colgate's Folly." The company instead flourished and had a sizable complex in Jersey City by 1847. It made chemically produced soap and perfume but eventually gave up perfume production. Upon the death of William Colgate in 1857, his son Samuel reorganized the company as Colgate & Company. It took on brand products such as Cashmere Bouquet, perhaps the first milled perfumed soap, and revolutionized dental care with toothpaste sold in jars in 1873. It also packaged toothpaste in a "collapsible" tube in 1896.
Jersey City became the corporate headquarters for Colgate in 1910. It merged with the Palmolive-Peet Company, previously separate soap manufacturers, and formed the Colgate-Palmolive-Peet Company in 1928. "Palmolive" came from the name of a soap made of palm and olive oil that was manufactured by the B.J. Johnson Soap Company. It changed its name for the popular soap that floated. The Peet Brothers' (William, Robert and James) Company of Kansas merged with Palmolive in 1926.
The Colgate-Palmolive-Peet Company was listed on the New York Stock Exchange in 1930 and occupied a modern plant for its time over a six-block area of York, Greene, Hudson and Grand Streets by the 1950s.
Overlooking the Hudson River, the octagonal Colgate clock and signage perched on a company structure remained unaltered until 1983. The signage "Soaps-Perfumes" was removed and a toothpaste tube, advertising one of Colgate's best selling products, took its place. Two years later and after 141 years in Jersey City, Colgate decided to leave, citing the need for improved facilities that its original manufacturing complex could not provide. The entire complex was razed, and the clock, without the toothpaste tube, was lowered to ground level as a freestanding icon on the future Goldman Sachs property, where it stood for fifteen years. The 24-acre site became part of the redevelopment of the Jersey City waterfront at Exchange Place that began in the early 1990s.

The emblematic clock now remains on a lot, south of the Goldman Sachs Tower, that is leased to Colgate-Palmolive by the State of New Jersey awaiting its future. 

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Street Performers

Street performers are found everywhere in the city. They seek their audience, perform their art, and pass the hat for donations. These are some of the buskers who performed near the Brooklyn Bridge/City Hall subway station last April 17.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

AMERICAN IDIOT-Themed Windows at BLOOMINGDALE'S at 59th Street


Cast members from Broadway's new musical American Idiot made an appearance at the unveiling of Idiot-themed windows at Bloomingdale's at 59th Street and Third Avenue earlier this afternoon. The windows  are "styled with Nudie denim and dedicated to the hit show."  The unveiling was followed by a poster-signing by cast members including John Gallagher, Jr., Tony Vincent, Stark Sands, Michael Esper, Rebecca Naomi Jones, Mary Faber and Christina Sajous. American Idiot, inspired by the 2004 punk album of the same name, is a high-octane rock opera about war, drugs, dreams and reality that officially opened April 20 at Broadway's St. James Theatre. Michael Mayer co-wrote the book with Green Day frontman Billie Joe Armstrong, with songs by Armstrong and Green Day.

Monday, April 26, 2010


Baritone, 2009
Concrete and Foam
Baritone, 2009
Concrete and Foam

French Kiss, 2009
Concrete and Foam

French Kiss, 2009
Concrete and Foam

Juggler, 2009
Concrete and Foam

Juggler, 2009
Concrete and Foam

Juggler, 2009
Concrete and Foam

Current exhibition on the Park Avenue Malls in the landscaped medians between 52nd and 54th Streets features new sculptures by Mia Westerlund Roosen. Her work explores voluminous curves, palpable surfaces, and the sensual body, which she attributes to her continued fascination with dance.  The exhibition runs through August 28.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Broadway Marquee: PROMISES PROMISES, The Show So Nice They Named It Twice

The images of the Broadway Theatre marquee were made about two hours before the new revival of the musical PROMISES, PROMISES officially opens. Based on the 1960 Academy Award-winning Billy Wilder film The Apartment that starred Jack Lemmon and Shirley MacLaine, PROMISES, PROMISES tells the story of the Consolidated Life Insurance Company and Chuck Baxter, one of its charming young employees. In an effort to advance his career, Chuck lends executives his apartment for their extramarital romantic trysts. But things become slightly complicated when Chuck discovers Fran Kubelik, the object of his affection, is involved with one of the executives. PROMISES, PROMISES stars Sean Hayes as Chuck Baxter, Kristin Chenoweth as Fran Kubelik, Tony Goldwyn as J.D. Sheldrake, Katie Finneran as Marge MacDougall and Dick Latessa as Dr. Dreyfuss. They lead a cast of 27 that includesBrooks Ashmanskas as Mr. Dobitch, Peter Benson as Mr. Kirkeby, Seán Martin Hingston as Mr. Eichelberger, Ken Land as Jesse Vanderhof, and featuresCameron AdamsAshley AmberHelen AnkerNathan BalserWendi Bergamini,Nikki Renee Daniels, Sarah Jane Everman, Chelsea KrombachKeith KuhlMatt LoehrMayumi MiguelBrian O'BrienSarah O'GlebyAdam PerryMegan Sikora,Matt WallRyan Watkinson and Kristen Beth Williams.

Rod Tyron and Anthony Capetto's Chalk Painting, "KOI POND" At The Winter Garden

One of Battery Park City's EARTH DAY events is a display of street painters/artists ROD TYRON and ANTHONY CAPPETTO's latest creation, "KOI POND." It is a life-like, three-dimensional work of art using chalk pastels on display at the Winter Garden of the World Financial Center from April 20-23.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

History Channel's Public Art Display At Grand Central: AMERICA THE STORY OF US

A public art show presented by HISTORY and Art Lumiere, combining art and state-of-the-art lighting technology at the main concourse of Grand Central Terminal runs through April 25. The show features historic landscapes, ahead of the premiere of "AMERICA The Story of Us ," an epic 6-night event on HISTORY.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Tribeca Film DRIVE-IN

The three-day TRIBECA DRIVE-IN outdoor screenings begin each night at 6 p.m. with pre-film events and a movie at sundown (about 8:15 p.m.) This free event is held at the World Financial Center Plaza, located at Hudson River’s North Cove near 200 Vesey Street.

April 22 - “El Espiritu de la Salsa” (The Spirit of Salsa)
Pre-show events: live salsa bands, salsa pros, salsa lessons, dance contests “and percussive revelry for all ages.”
The movie, a documentary about lonely hearts who meet weekly at Spanish Harlem’s Santo Rico Dance School, features music by Tito Puente, Eddie Santiago, Héctor Lavoe and Norah Jones.
April 23 – “Big” 
Pre-show events: fortune tellers, carnival games, music, face painters and trivia contests.
The classic Tom Hanks comedy will be screened on Family Day by Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment as part of the studio’s 75th anniversary.
April 24 – “The Birth of Big Air”
Pre- and post- show events: BMX street tricks and freestyle demonstrations and Mat Hoffman, a.k.a. “The Condor” in person.
The movie, a Spike Jonze documentary about BMX pro Hoffman, wil make its world premiere at the ESPN at the Tribeca Drive-In event.


Last night, I attended the opening night performance of the Broadway multi-media musical portrait, SONDHEIM ON SONDHEIM at Studio 54 (254 West 54th Street). Conceived and directed by longtime Stephen Sondheim collaborator James Lapine, this unique production is part video documentary, and part Broadway revue ("docu-musical"). It features an eight-person cast -- Barbara Cook, Vanessa Williams, Tom Wopat, Leslie Kritzer, Norm Lewis, Euan Morton, Erin Mackey and Matthew Scott. Even though I am not a huge Sondheim fan, I enjoyed the beautiful renditions of dozens of Sondheim compositions, well-known and unfamiliar, that are interwoven with very revealing video footage in which Mr. Sondheim discusses the genesis of the songs being performed. This limited run (to June 13) coincides with the 80th birthday of the Tony Award-winning, Pulitzer Prize-honored Broadway icon, Stephen Sondheim. His birthday was March 22. Bergdorf Goodman honors Mr. Sondheim's 80th birthday in its window display (see April 20, 2010 post).
Review from the New York Times (Ben Brantley)
God has spoken on the subject of His existence. And you will be pleased to know that He seems resigned to and amused by the obeisance and sacrifices that are made in His name. Listen, O children of Broadway, to His own words, chanted by a chosen tribe of His disciples at the theater at Studio 54 (once a pagan temple to the gods of disco) as His sardonic image smiles down upon them. “You have to have something to believe in,” they sing, “Something to appropriate, emulate, overrate. Might as well be Stephen, or to use his nickname: God!” Thus does the composer of those lyrics address the question of his divinity in a little number called “God” at the top of the second act of “Sondheim on Sondheim,” a genial, multimedia commemorative scrapbook on the life, times and career of you-know-who. The song was inspired by the title of a 1994 cover story of New York magazine: “Is Stephen Sondheim God?” And the answer, for those of us for whom musicals are truly a religion, is — now as then — yes. Or to use the language of the common folk, “Well, duh.”
Mr. Sondheim turned 80 last month, and the occasion has already been honored by more tributes than are normally accorded the Yankees when they win the World Series, with more to come. This is not overkill. Mr. Sondheim bears a relationship to his vocation that is unlike that of any artist in any other field.
In the world of American musicals he is indisputably the best, brightest and most influential talent to emerge during the last half-century. Even when his shows have been commercial flops, they are studied, revered and eventually reincarnated to critical hosannas. No other songwriter to date has challenged his eminence, and it seems unlikely that anyone will in his lifetime. It is even possible, if sadly so, that he may be remembered as the last of the giants in a genre that flourished in the 20th century and wilted in the 21st.
But such brooding thoughts have little place in a discussion of “Sondheim on Sondheim,” which opened Thursday night. This is a chipper, haphazard anthology show that blends live performance of Sondheim songs with archival video footage and taped interviews with Himself. Conceived and directed by James Lapine, Mr. Sondheim’s frequent (and, to me, best) collaborator over the years, this somewhat jittery production never quite finds a sustained tone, a natural rhythm or even a logical sense of sequence.
It does, however, have a polished and likable eight-member cast (that includes Tom Wopat, Vanessa Williams and the great Barbara Cook); a savory selection of Sondheim material that never made it to Broadway as well as canonic standards; and heaping spoonfuls of insider dope about the creation of shows like “Company” and “Follies” and the changes they underwent on the road. And then there is Mr. Sondheim, who appears in appropriately larger-than-life form on artistically arranged monitors, typically concealing as much as he reveals in quick takes of self-portraiture. It is these interviews that provide the shape and, in many cases, the direct cues for the live action onstage. Occasionally this is achieved with a literal-mindedness that is too cute for comfort. Footage of Mr. Sondheim on the Mike Douglas show talking about why he likes to write about neurotics is followed by Ms. Cook and Tom Wopat singing “You Could Drive a Person Crazy” from “Company” (1970).
More often, though, the performers channel their master’s voice in direct, annotative illustrations of what he’s talking about. Three different versions of the opening number in “A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum” (from 1962, Mr. Sondheim’s first full Broadway score) are spliced into his accounts of rewriting them. There are similarly illuminating insights into the labor pains of “Follies” (1971), “Passion” (1994) and “Road Show” (2009), the musical formerly known as “Bounce” (2003).
This format has the disadvantage of often giving the performers the status of audio-visual tools. Mr. Sondheim says he’s always most comfortable when he can create for a specific character instead of an abstract type or emotion. And it’s not easy for singers to reflect that specificity in a show like this one. At its least inspired “Sondheim on Sondheim” has the smiley supper-club blandness of previous Sondheim revues, like “Putting It Together” and “Side by Side by Sondheim.” But there are also blessed if infrequent examples of singers making songs their own. Most often they involve the 82-year-old Ms. Cook, a longtime and exceptionally sensitive Sondheim interpreter. But the vulpine Ms. Williams has her moments too, slithering through the striptease of “Ah, but Underneath” (from the 1987 London production of “Follies”) and singing “Losing My Mind” (from “Follies”) in counterpoint to Ms. Cook’s profoundly wistful version of “Not a Day Goes By” (from the 1981 show “Merrily We Roll Along.”) As an ensemble the cast — stylishly filled out by Leslie Kritzer, Norm Lewis, Euan Morton, Erin Mackey and Matthew Scott — is strongest in its haunting choral delivery of two songs from “Assassins” (Mr. Sondheim and John Weidman’s dark journey through American history), the grim contemporary relevance of which requires no epigrammatic explanation. And they are well served by a crisp physical production that includes Peter Flaherty’s witty, perfectly synchronized video and projection designs and Beowulf Boritt’s moving-building-block set.
In the autobiographical “Opening Doors” number from “Merrily We Roll Along” (nimbly performed here by Ms. Kritzer, Mr. Morton and Mr. Scott) a young songwriter is told by an old Broadway pro that “there’s not a tune you can hum” in his work. That was a standard complaint about Mr. Sondheim for decades. Yet when you hear many of the numbers in this revue, you’re struck by how they’ve penetrated and stuck in your consciousness in ways deeper than merely hummable songs allow.
Of course there are also songs that have turned out to be surprisingly hummable, like “Send In the Clowns” from “A Little Night Music” (1973), which is here presented in the first act as a hilarious YouTube collage of widely (and wildly) ranging interpreters, professional and otherwise. Then in the second act Ms. Cook takes up the same song and delivers it with a simple, sweet bereftness that breaks your heart.
It’s a lovely reminder that for all his much-touted cleverness, Mr. Sondheim is great not because he’s a wizard with rhyme, rhythm and key changes. It’s because he senses and conveys the darker currents of pain and loneliness that swirl beneath even the shiniest surfaces. He sees inside us. And there is something kind of Godlike about that.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

BALLOON FLOWER (Red) by JEFF KOONS at 7 World Trade Center

BALLOON FLOWER (Red) is a beautiful mirror-polished stainless steel sculpture by internationally acclaimed artist, JEFF KOONS. The piece is installed in a small plaza outside 7 World Trade Center in Lower Manhattan. Overlooking Ground Zero, the art installation is located in a park bounded by Greenwich Street, Vesey Street and West Broadway. The Balloon Flower consists of seven elements: six large blossom- or balloon-like shapes of various sizes, and one bar that can be taken as a flower stem. They are all aglow in bright red, so that they can see themselves and the world around them reflected. It's been said that the true appeal of the Balloon Flower is that it attracts people to look at it, and then reflects them back at themselves. 
Jeff Koons was born in York, Pennsylvania on January 21, 1955. As a young man, Koons revered Salvador Dalí. Koons attended the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and the Maryland Institute College of Art, and studied painting. After college he worked as a Wall Street commodities broker, while establishing himself as an artist. He gained recognition in the 1980s, and subsequently set up a factory-like studio in a SoHo loft on the corner of Houston and Broadway in New York. This had over 30 staff, each assigned to a different aspect of producing his work—in a similar mode to both Andy Warhol's Factory and many Renaissance artists. Last year, his art piece "Hanging Heart" sold at Sotheby's auction house for $23.6 million becoming the most expensive piece by a living artist ever auctioned. It was bought by the Gagosian Gallery which also purchased another Koons sculpture entitled "Diamond (Blue)" for $11.8 million from Christie's auction house.