Opening "The Gates"
Although Toni was very enthusiastic about the Christo
and Jeanne-Claude Gates on our first two visits,
today's jaunt finally left me ebullant as well. Toni had
heard that the Harlem Meer (up around West 110th Street) is
one of the most beautiful spots for viewing the Gates in the park.
The sun breaking through clouds, looking out
across a huge open area covered with snow,
with the venerable Central Park residences serving as a backdrop,
the Gates stuttered across the snow, like orange frames in a silent movie,
while we excitedly discussed our responses, when suddenly
one of the long pointer-with-green-tennis ball bearing
guides came up from behind and spoke to us. Had we received
one of the small pieces of cloth being given out,
(we had asked a few guides, unsuccessfully for these)
and had we taken a picture of
Christo himself? She handed us each one of the
sought-after little golden squares of the vinyl material
that forms the cloth part of the gates, saying that when
it's over, all that will be left are are the photos, the little pieces of
material and our memories. We never caught sight of Christo,
but we did learn that all the materials will be recycled.
The guide explained that Christo wants the memories and
photos to be the only physical remains of the artwork.
I admire this, just as I admired Robert Smithson's work, like his Sprial Jetty,
made to be exerienced and understood outside the gallery and museum system
then to disappear into time and philosophical musings.
Toni and I had shared plenty of these (Toni liked that I called the Gates
"philosophy in a bottle"); plenty more discussions like this,
I am sure, will keep taking place during and well
after the disappearance of the 23 miles of columns,
their golden pennants rustling in the wind.
Then Toni took me to the Art =/ Functional Design show at the
Cooper-Hewitt. Toni was disappointed that most of the
Albers furniture pieces were taken off view due to "problems with the humidity."
Toni is a textile designer and explained that
Annie Albers is her textile design mentor and guide.
We were delightfully
surprised to discover in this show numerous examples of Richard Tuttle's
drop dead beautiful furniture designs, as well as
striking pieces by Scott Burton, Dan Flavin, Sol Lewitt and
Rachel Whitehead. I spent some time copying out some of the
thought-provoking quotations printed
on the wall as accompaniying inspiration
to the show. Sorry that we went only on the
Friday before the closing. But if you haven't been,
hurry over soon: you have until Sunday.
On the wall at the design show were the words of Richard Tuttle,
Scott Burton, Joseph Albers,
Oscar Wilde, and others.
Albers: "Thinking in situations is just as important as thinking
"I have found that all ugly things are made by
those who strive to make something beautiful,
and that all beautiful things
are made by those who strive to make something useful."
The Wilde quote brought me back to our conversation obout the
towering, time and culture defying/defining/expanding artistic accomplishment
of Frederick Law Olmstead and this current tribute
in the form of Christo and Jeanne-Claude's Gates.
What I loved about the Conceptual Art movement of the 70's connects
not only to the Gates and to the ideals behind the Minimalist design show-
but in part has to do with what I most loved about the 60's themselves. For a brief
moment, the less material, more generous, spiritual side
of recent social and artistic movements were in the ascendent.
The Gates, after a quite a bit of looking, and quite of bit of
walking, a little luck with the weather (hadn't Christo said that the orange
was meant to been seen against crystal reflections of the snow?)
and a willingness to let some of the cynicism, billiousness and jadedness of our own
relatively narrow era subside in order to allow those orange vibes to
penetrate the eyes and soul, leading, hopefully, to an opening
of The Gates. These gates are surely the same as the famed Blakian "doors
of perception", not merely the Gates so temporarily hammered into the
Central park pavement, but the ones that reside,
more or less permanently, in all of us.
Maybe a trifle corny for the year 2005, but, as Blake put it,
echoed by Aldous Huxley, and, more recently, by Jim Morrison:
"If the doors of perception were cleansed,
every thing would appear to man as it is, infinite."
Anyway, two more days for both shows.