Monday, January 18, 2010

New York City - Day 11 - Robert Frank Photography show at the Met Musee' Art & Man Ray show at Jewish Musee'

Friday, December 11, 2009

Early this morning I spent about 25 minutes discussing art and photography with an art teacher from Melbourn, Austraila. She was leading a tour of students. She has been to NYC many times. I have met many "Sheilas" since landing here. ( Sheila, Australian slang for "woman", is derived from the Irish girls' name Síle.)

Winter has finally arrived! It is cold in the low 30's with a strong wind creating a knife cutting wind chill. Not good for Susan. Because of the weather and because Susan is quite exhausted from traipsing and around yesterday she has decided it wise to take a day off to re-coop her energy and ensconce herself at the hotel.

I took two subway trains, getting off at Lexington Avenue and 96nd street to go to the Jewish Museum to see the Man Ray show.

On the walk over, around 56 E. 93rd street, I struck up a conversation with a high end furniture dealer - gallery owner, Carlton Hobbs. The area is very upscale, similar to the Gold Coast in Chicago. There seemed to be quite a few tiny French bistros. I saw a Rolls and a Bently parked on Madison Avenue. I got a very nice photograph of buildings reflected in the trunk lid of the Bently which included the distinctive medallion of the Bently B with wings.

I wandered the area finally ending up having breakfast at Sarabeth's at Madison and 92nd street.I had Lox and scrabbled egges with a croissant along with hot chocolate for $22 before the tip. Sitting at the next table was a loving couple holding hands. They had two small bottles of J. Roge champagne, hot chocolate, french toast, quiche, and OJ. The bill before tip was $78. For breakfast!

The Man Ray show was very good as will as through. For me it was an insight into his time and activities with the dadaists and the surrealists and that fertile period in Paris between the wars. Ah yes, and then there was Kiki! Etc......

They really didn't include enough of his photography in the depth I would have preferred. Instead featured was an enormous amount of his paintings, which I personally don't think highly of. Too much thinking and not good execution. But lots of dada, which I love, and some surrealism. Also letters to some of the luminary's of the time including Duchamp and the one to Tristan Tzara from NYC in which famously he writes: "NYC is all Dada so there is nothing to be accomplished by bringing it to NYC." Further on he concludes with "I am doing nothing of interest now to anyone or to myself. Most Cordially, Man Ray." I found reading these documents of great interest. There was one knock out mobil hanging from the ceiling, probably the first, made from wooden clothes hangers with an old suit case on the floor. It had a spot light on it casting great shows on the white wall behind it. It was quite complex.

I also visited an exhibition about contemporary interpertation of Jewish religion and life. A bit of a stretch for me since I don't know everything Jewish. Never the less it was a great challange.

The museum building itself is something special, an old four or five story mansion right on the north east corner of 5th Avenue and 92nd.

The museum has an incredible gift shop feature Judica arts and crafts. A fantastic collection of modern menorahs to die for. I snuck a few shots, one of which features the statue of liberty for each candle holder. In brass. How I wished Susan was with me.

I had gotten to the area early, so walked about a bit as I sought out Sarabeth's, this one at Madison and 92nd street. As I wandered about I discovered numerous small intimate French bistros along the way. One was down a few steps into an English basement. I spoke to the owner who assured me that if I intended to have dinner there that I must make reservations. -- from Chicago, a bit before coming to NYC, I would guess!

I finally got to the Robert Frank exhibit at the Met around 4pm. On Fridays it is open till 9pm. I didn't hang out there that long!

I had my Eagle River bag with me with that old Domke bag pad for the shoulder strap that actually was a US postal carriers pad. Domke know about them and made them available for their bags. No one uses these now of course. LOL

I was looking at photo books that had been published before the Americans. He approached me when I entered the next room and confronted me with, “Who ARE you?” I responded with the same question.

He told me he was the Fantastic Fernaz. I didn't recognize this "promotional nickname." My excuse was that I've been in NYC for two weeks and suffering museum fatigue. LOL!

Finally, he told me his real name. I sure as hell knew who Ben Fernadez is because of his images of M L King.

I was aware of him at that time in the '60's and remember very clearly many of his Dr. King images. They are very fine! The caliber another photog wishes they had been there to capture as well. The only trouble was he was a late comer to the game, only documenting the last year and half of King’s life. That was a different time of activities- less on the street.

In an email I sent him morning I related the following story. Beginning in about 1962 or 63 I documented many of King's appearances on the south side (where the image I showed him that I had on my cell phone was taken) and west side. I remember a huge rally at Soldier Field downtown that featured the great gospel singer Mahalia Jackson. I have a monumental image (not size, but in style) of her listening to Dr. King. That image does accomplish what I had mentioned to him during our conversation; that of combining strong visual / graphic structure and arrangement in a photo documentary environment to communicate even stronger the moment being captured.

An interesting side light. During that period it was common to loan or borrow equipment from your competitors, even while out in field. John White, who was one of the early black photo journalists in Chicago and I would often run into each other often at these King events. He did not own a 28mm angle lens. I owned an incredibly sharp Schneider Curtagon. At the 47th street rally and at Soldier Field we were next to one another often and he would shoot virtually the same shot I did with my lens! The image described above is blown up to at least 30" x 40" and is on permanent display at a Black museum in Chicago in Washington Park.

Sadly John died of a heart attack in the 70's, I think, and society lost a vital image maker. I attended his funeral.

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