Is there any better time of year to visit New York than the spring? I had a short window of time before the end-of-semester push and wanted to take a short trip to New York see a bunch of art exhibitions – the Cindy Sherman retrospective at MoMA, Magnum Contact Sheets at the International Center of Photography, and Naked Before the Camera at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
And maybe eat a lot of food. Maybe.
So, a quick four hours on the Greyhound last Saturday morning, and I found myself in the city with two days to myself. I quickly settled in at the apartment I was staying at (how awesome is Airbnb? $72/night-in-the-East-Village awesome), and headed out. First: lunch. I expected to do some hedonistic eating that evening and on Easter, so I kept it simple with the “Wrapsody” from Angelica’s Kitchen on 12th Street. The restaurant was chill and the wrap, made with roasted beets, arugula, and hummus, was just what I was looking for. Afterwards, I took a quick jaunt through the Union Sq Greenmarket, then made my way up to 53rd Street. A quick stop at Le Pain Quotidien (PLEASE COME TO BOSTON), and then, MoMA!
I’ve never been to MoMA before as I’m not big on modern art, and truth be told, I ended up spending more time in the outdoor sculpture garden than any of the exhibitions. The Cindy Sherman was good to see, but very few pieces stood out to me and I found her later work garish at best. I walked through the museum a bit more and then spent about half an hour warming my lizard-like blood in the garden. Totally gorgeous.
After MoMA, I walked down to Bryant Park, which was about as lovely as I’ve ever seen it. I was tempted to sit and do some people-watching, but I wanted to get to the ICP with plenty of time before it closed. The museum was smaller than I anticipated, but the size created a cozy atmosphere in which to view the exhibitions. I really enjoyed “Perspectives 2012: Anna Shteynshleyger, Greg Girard, Chien-Chi Chang.” The ICP press release describes the show as work by artists “who explore what happens when tight-knit cultural communities are transplanted to unfamiliar geographic locales.” I found Chien-Chi Chang’s images the most engaging since the photographer presented his work as diptychs and used color in an unexpected way.
I passed through the Weegee show as I’m not one to spend my time looking at dead bodies and gore, and went straight to the Magnum Contact Sheets exhibition. Being a film photographer, I have a deep, abiding love of contact sheets. One of my favorite parts of working with film is seeing the contact sheets for the first time, if what I tried to capture is there in the negative. It is genuinely exciting for me. I love looking at other photographer’s contact sheets because I can see a their thought process and technical process. It’s comforting to be reminded that there’s rarely a perfect roll of film shot, and that every photographer struggles with lighting and composition. I must have spent close to an hour in the exhibition, looking at the contact sheets displayed as well as the books on display.
After walking around the area a bit more, I spent a relaxing evening back in the East Village. I had dinner with a friend from college at Hotel Tortuga, a little whole-in-the-wall serving Mexican food. I think my rice was cold but all concerns were forgotten when I tried to portabello mole. Oh my dear lord it was good – a thick, chocolate-infused sauce filled with mushrooms, served over chilaquiles. Beyond tasty. Later, I tried to walk that off with a trip to the Strand, found a signed copy of Woolgathering by Patti Smith, and decided to park myself at a mac and cheese shop, drink beer, and read. It was a perfect end to my first day in the city.
On to Easter!
I started my day gluttonously at Northern Spy Food Co. I can’t remember how I originally heard of this restaurant, but I recognized the name while perusing brunch options, so I gave it a go. Sooo happy I did – I started off with a blood orange seltzer and a pistachio-glazed donut, and then had the sausage, egg, and cheese sandwich. Total gluttony, as I said. I highly recommend the restaurant for any meal, but try to go at an off-hour since the dining room is small and fills quickly.
Next . . .
The Metropolitan Museum of Art. I am so happy I chose to spend my Sunday morning and early afternoon here. The crowds were light and I had plenty of time to check out multiple exhibitions. “Naked Behind the Camera” was small but had some really interesting pieces, including one by Paul Outerbridge Jr. from the 1930s that looked exactly like modern-day advertising. I went back to that piece multiple times while in the exhibition.
The more I go to this museum, the more I like it. The work is obviously phenomenal but the building itself is also a joy to explore.
The extraordinarily beautiful weather was calling my name by early afternoon, so I left the museum and walked through Central Park. People were out in droves, picnicing, playing games, exploring the park. It was, in a word, divine, as was the whole weekend. I can’t wait to go back again soon.