'cause everyone's your friend

I'm still recovering from my day-trip to New York yesterday. Slowly filtering through all the visual information I took in, catching up on sleep, and stretching out achy joints and sore muscles. And blogging about it, while it's all still fresh in my mind.

I didn't realize until I was on the bus that it's been just over a year since my last trip to NY. A year is just about enough time to forget how insane it is to take a four hour bus ride to and from New York in one day. Add to that three or four museums, four or five subway trips and lots and lots of walking. It's pretty exhausting, and last time I made the trip I stayed in NY for two nights, spacing out the travel quite nicely. It's worth it, though. New York is still a pretty magical place for me, despite a general preference for the west coast that just won't seem to go away.

Anyway, the day began a little after 5 a.m., getting myself ready and to South Station (thanks, Neal!) by about a quarter after six, with enough time to grab breakfast and some hazelnut coffee at Au Bon Pain. I took the 7 a.m. bus; I tried Lucky Star this time over Fung Wah. I brought a book with me, a book I'm about halfway through; the last time I read it was the last time I traveled. I was so excited to have eight hours on a bus to read and brought nothing else except my MP3 player (that's like an iPod, for you younger folks), thinking for sure I'd finish it. I started reading as soon as the bus departed, but after about one section (not even a chapter!), I switched to music and dozing on and off and never switched back. But, as Rachel, another student in our small group pointed out, when else do you have four hours to do nothing except stare out a window and listen to music?

We got into NY around 11, and since we didn't have to meet the group until 11:30, Rachel and I went for a quick walk up Chrystie and east on Grand to the Doughnut Plant for some chai tea and a Valrhona chocolate raised. Yum. Our first destination after that was MoMA, primarily for the Comic Abstraction show, but since it's pretty small, we had time to check out a few other floors, notably the contemporary exhibit, Out of Time, and typography geeks that we are, an exhibit organized around the 50th anniversary of Helvetica.

It was pretty thrilling to see, and to see how many people were crammed into this particular corner of the design and architecture gallery.

There was a fair amount of information and examples in a relatively small space, which actually worked pretty well, considering how clean and simple Helvetica is and how ubiquitous and familiar. We're not used to seeing numerous examples like that on one wall.

Also in that gallery was an entire wall of Emigré publications (also a font foundry). I thought I would be the only one excited about all this typography stuff and text and image art, but the whole group seemed pretty into it. And there's a lot of text and image stuff on view right now, everwhere we went.

There were equally exciting moments in the Out of Time exhibit, including finally seeing Pipilotti Rist's film Ever Is Over All. I'd seen stills when it showed at SFMoMA and those stills (of a woman in an icey blue dress and bright red shoes) inspired the color scheme I came up with for my wedding. Also pretty great was Christiam Marclay's Graffiti Composition, from 2002, a portfolio of 150 digital photographs he took of blank music sheets he pasted up around Berlin and then went back and photographed the graffiti they collected. Not to mention finally seeing an actual video piece by Kota Ezawa, our fourth and final visiting artists in the 4 Painters Seminar series, speaking at the Museum School this week.

From MoMA we headed uptown to the Whitney, where we started at the top and worked our way down through (again, noting my favorites here) Taryn Simon's photographs, An American Index of the Hidden and Unfamiliar, Lorna Simpson, and Gordon Matta-Clark. I've seen so much of Simpson's work in documentation, but never in person. I particularly like the multiple mouths humming film installation and the screenprints on felt. Nice use of materials. Same for Matta-Clark, in that I've seen tons of documentation but never "the real thing," as they say. My eyes were starting to glaze over by that point (perhaps contrary to common belief, artists usually seem to have the shortest attention spans when it comes to looking at other art...and, uh, in general), but overall I thought it was pretty good stuff. I really liked reading Matta-Clark's statements about the early structures he cut into and apart, about how the initial act of violence eventually lends itself to a sense of order (the grid, of course) and beauty (light entering into spaces it wouldn't normally be able to, etc.).

From the Whitney we spent almost an hour getting to Chelsea, which involved quite possibly the most uncomfortable subway situation I've ever been in. Not uncomfortable in a life-threatening or crazy-person way, but of the serious violation of my personal space variety. The train (the 4 or the 6 I think) was already pretty packed and this mountain of a man gets on at the last second (I was standing next to the door, against the metal bars). I tried to move forward a bit, which gave him enough room to slide his arm behind me to grab hold of the bar. Okay, fair enough, but then he puts his other hand on a bar in front of me, essentially embracing me for two or three stops. Dude, you're totally invading my bubble!

Anyway, in Chelsea we only had time for a quick tour of Printed Matter. I think it's hilarious that they moved into a new space fairly recently (since the last time I'd been there at least) that's equally as cramped as the old space. I was standing at the counter perusing Allison Smith's book about The Muster (which I later bought) when this woman with a fluffy little dog in her messenger bag huffed and puffed at me for not sensing that she needed to get by. Ah, New York.

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