Mmeuseumm Lets Visitors Look at the Big through the Small

Mmuseumm

Artist Maira Kalman sweeps in front of Mmuseumm. Image: via Instagram.

An elevator inside a museum is not an unusual thing. But a museum inside an an elevator, that makes a person look twice. The Mmuseumm, one of New York City’s smallest cultural institutions, is exactly that, a 36-square-foot space that was once a freight elevator, facing off a narrow, graffiti-ed alleyway in the area of Tribeca.

Packed into that small space on clean white shelves with sterile lighting are 16 collections that “explore themes of daily human existence, social issues, and current events.” The collections range from a set of incubating chicken eggs expected to hatch any day to a set of 3D-printed masks based on DNA collected from tossed-aside gum and cigarette butts.

The Mmuseumm refers to itself as a “modern natural history museum,” and its goal is to catalog the artifacts of humanity today, rather than the past. One of the collects is prison handicrafts. Another is handmade anti-riot-police gear from protests around the world.

This year, they’ve also opened their first annex, Mmuseumm 2, a 20-square-foot closet of space filled with more neat white shelves and the artifacts of Sara Berman, grandmother to one of the Mmuseumm’s co-founder’s. The pristine, neatly arrayed clothing and shoes in shades of white are meant to contrast vividly with the alley outside the Mm2’s door, juxtaposing a pursuit of perfection against the entropy of life.

If the Mmuseumm continues to expand, it will be in that manner, as tiny disconnected spaces, because the cramped quarters are party of the message. Alex Kalman, Josh Safdie and Ben Safdie, the Mmuseumm’s founders, say that the mission is “to allow people to look at the big through the small.”

For more information, visit Mmuseumm.

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‘Cuddles’ Disturbs and Lingers

cuddles play

Joseph Wilde’s Cuddles is deeply disturbing. Image: via Ovalhouse

A two-role play with a single, simple set, Joseph Wilde’s debut play Cuddles is an uncluttered and concise monster story. You have two sisters, Eve and Tabby. One is a 13-year-old vampire. The other is her captor. One loves Harry Potter and fairy tales. The other deals with the real world and wishes she didn’t have to.

Directed by Rebecca Atkinson-Lord and starring Carla Langley and Rendah Heywood, the original cast and crew from the play’s London tour in 2013, Cuddles runs at 59E59 theaters in New York City from June 3-28th.

If you’re a devotee of stories like Let the Right One In or The Girl With All the Gifts, this is a vampire tale of that lineage. The kind of story where monster and sympathy and agency all lie in unexpected directions, along a map that is revealed only in suspenseful and tantalizing increments.

Carla’s Eve is entrancing. “Endearing and terrifying in equal measure,” says one reviewer, and she was nominated in the 2013 Offies for Best Female Performance in the role. She has a pure naivete that in no way allows you to forget what she is, and visibly learns the limits of her childhood on stage in a manner that will break your heart.

Renda Heywood as Tabby is piercingly cruel in the way she cares for her sister, and delivers her lines and monologues with all the precision of a surgeon’s knife. She has all of the dark quips that help keep this play from turning too grim, even while being the darker character.

The 80-minute tale is meant to disturb and linger, and it absolutely does. You will likely leave it looking over your shoulder. That’s how you know it’s good.

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‘Revolution of the Eye’ On View at the Jewish Museum

revolution of the eye

Part of “Revolution of the Eye” at the Jewish Museum. Image: via Instagram.

The latest exhibit at the Jewish Museum, “Revolution of the Eye: Modern Art and the Birth of American Television,” is the first museum exhibition to look at how avant-garde art influenced TV from the 1940s to the 1970s. Many of the thought leaders during this time were young and Jewish, and their aesthetic had a big impact on what TV looked like during that time, especially when it came to taking artistic risks and trying new things.

The Jewish Museum’s leadership, which includes board members David Topper, Audrey Wilf, and David L. Resnick, seeks to show how Jewish artists borrowed from and influenced each other in interior design, pop culture, and TV. Highlighted artists include Saul Bass, Alexander Calder, Marcel Duchamp, Roy Lichtenstein, and Andy Warhol.

“Revolution of the Eye” explores how much of mid-century TV was shaped by the artistic movements of the time, especially European avant-garde and pop art. By the 1960s, art and media were borrowing from each other on a regular basis, such as in 1968, when Andy Warhol filmed an ad for the restaurant chain Schrafft’s that led the company’s president to comment, “We haven’t got just a commercial. We’ve acquired a work of art.” And who could forget the ABC series Batman, which premiered in 1966 and brought comic book artist Roy Lichtenstein’s heavy lines, bold colors, and campy attitude to the tube?

Located on New York City’s Museum Mile, the Jewish Museum hosts a collection of 30,000 works of art, Judaica, antiques, folk art, ceremonial objects, and broadcast media that explore the Jewish experience. They host a wide variety of education programs, including lectures, performances, and hands-on art programs.

The “Revolution of the Eye” exhibit is curated by Dr. Maurice Berger, who serves as Research Professor and Chief Curator for the museum. Exhibit organization is provided by the Jewish Museum and the Center for Art, Design, and Visual Culture at the University of Maryland. It will run from May 1 to September 27.

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Obliteration Room comes to David Zwirner

Obliteration Room

Yayoi Kusama’s “The Obliteration Room.” Image: Andrea via Flickr CC.

With a name like “The Obliteration Room,” the keystone installation of Yayoi Kusama’s exhibition at David Zwirner sounds grim. The mind imagines perhaps black walls, gray graffiti and mushroom clouds. But nothing could be further from the truth. What you see from the outside is quite cheerful, a small replica of a mid-century prefab American house, complete with flag and plastic lawn furniture. The impact, however, is inside.

The very first visitors to the interior of the Obliteration Room would have found it stark, an all-white space designed as a dwelling, with furniture and dishes and ornaments, all in the same shade of bright white. But those first visitors were also the first to transform that space. On entrance, each viewer is given a sheet of stickers, a dozen or so colored circles in vivid colors and varied sizes. And they’re told to put them anywhere they choose.

After 1300 visitors on the exhibit’s first Saturday, nothing in the room was left stark white. Colorful dots adorned everything. The walls, the ceilings, the floors. The empty picture frames. The door. All of the furniture. The laptop on the desk, the statue on the bookshelf, the plates on the table. The sofas and chairs, the lamps, the cabinets. The room was a blur of color so intense that it was hard to focus on the original shapes. One could even say their outlines had been… obliterated.

Dots, usually placed by her own hand rather than the public whim, are a common theme of Kusama’s work and have been since childhood, according to the artist. Her other works in the exhibit include a set of huge sculptures of polka-dotted pumpkins and a number of vast abstract canvases of quilt-like patterns textured with, you guessed it, more dots.

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Underground Auditions

Music Under New York Anyone who has ridden a New York subway has seen them, buskers playing in twos and threes or simply solo on any of the world’s repertoire of instruments, case open or hat on the ground to catch tossed coins and the rare bills. They cater their selections to the mood of the crowd, they chat and flirt, but mostly, they play, because those tips are their whole salary for the service they provide.

But the spots along the subway lines aren’t first-come first serve. Just anyone can’t turn up with a drum or a viola and sing for their supper. These buskers are members of the Music Under New York program, part of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, and each one of them has won their position in a month’s long annual contest. There are about two dozen winners per year. Not a winner? Tough luck. It is illegal for anyone else to perform in the subway system, or even within a certain distance of the street entrances.

Final auditions for this year’s lot took place on May 19th, with 70 performers out of an original 300 vying for the few spots. Each was given approximately five minutes to impress a jury of musicians and transit authorities. Contestants were from around the world and from all walks of life, from the recently discharged U.S. Air Force sergeant singing Maroon 5 songs to a an Italian Unitarian Minister with a law degree in an accordion band.

Many call New York the center of the world, the “new Rome.” For this handful of artists, victory in these auditions will place them squarely on the pulse of the city, with the kind of exposure that can never be bought, only won.

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‘Fun Home’ Comes Alive on the Broadway Stage

Fun Home on Broadway

Members of the cast of Fun Home. Image: via Broadway.com.

Casual movie analysts will already know the name Alison Bechdel from the Bechdel test, her famous rubric. It’s a deliberately low bar by which to measure women’s involvement in films, with only three criteria. 1. The work must have two women in it. 2. They must speak to one another. 3. They must speak together about something that is not a man. That’s all there is to it. The lowness of these standards makes its own point; fewer than 20% of all movies to reach theaters pass.

Ironic, then, that the musical Fun Home, based on Bechdel’s graphic memoir of the same name, only just barely manages to ease over that bar, and only in a single scene.

fun homeTo be fair, Fun Home is as much about Bechdel’s father as it is about her. It is a story about her early life, and the balance of secrets and reveals in her own family. It is not a gentle story. To touch on the shapes of it, her father, a teacher and manic home-renovator, was a gay man who could not come to terms with himself. He and his family suffered for it, and his wife hid the secrets of his affairs. Then came a series of events, one not necessarily causing the next but inextricably linked. Bechdel came out as a lesbian to her parents, her mother asked for a divorce, and ultimately, her father committed suicide.

Bechdel’s memoir comic told all of this in a very layered way, sliding forward and back in time, in and out of thoughts, sometimes all in a single panel. It is full of kindness and humor, and above all full of the feelings of the author who lived through this story.

The Broadway adaptation, with music by Jeanine Tesori and script and lyrics by Lisa Kron, plays very closely to the graphic novel’s details and still manages to be its own story, a related but original craftwork. Early performances were sold out, to the credit of director Sam Gold, and it is nominated for Tony Awards in twelve categories including Best Musical.

For more information about the musical adaptation of Fun Home, visit www.broadway.com.

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Kolonihavehus is a Night-Light for a Giant’s Home

kolonihavehus

“Kolonihavehus” is a sculpture created by artist Tom Fruin.

Tom Fruin’s sculputre Kolonihavehus is a night-light for a giant’s home. Currently on show in the Brooklyn Bridge Park, the shed-sized steel and plexiglass house is a feast of color, glowing brilliantly at night from lights both inside and out, nearly as gorgeous in the day with sunlight radiating though its quilt-patch patterns. It has a little of the feel of a church to look at it, painting everything nearby it with colored light.

Fruin works in found materials. He scavenged the plexi for Kolonihavehus from shops all over Copenhagen, from dumpsters and basements and abandoned shops. Named for the little worker’s sheds common in Denmark’s allottment gardens, refuge from the cities’ crowds, it evokes peace.

Fruin works in Brooklyn, but this installation reached New York only last September, after touring half a dozen cities in Europe and Scandinavia since its completion in 2010. It is the first work in his Icon serious, which has won international recognition.

Kolonihavehus isn’t Fruin’s only stained-glass piece in New York City. Watertower, Watertower 2 and Watertower 3 all shine above the streets of the city, three similar cylinders of steel and tilted glass. They are part of the Icon series too, but Kolonihavehus is the one at street level, approachable, and human-scaled. Its door is always open. Panels can be swung open or shut. The work can be touched, changed, affected.

It was brought to New York as part of the DUMBO art project last autumn. It can be found between the Brooklyn Bridge and Jane’s Carousel, and its exhibition there currently has no end date. Pick a day to see it when the light will be bright and clear, and bring your camera.

Image: via Brooklyn Bridge Park.

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