Artist Commits to Drawing Every Restaurant in New York City

A restaurant storefront located in New York City. There's a neon sign out front that reads, "breakfast, lunch, dinner."

Photo credit: Shutterstock

So far, John Donohue has over 100 drawings on his website, Each one is a simple line illustration, done in twenty minutes or so, of restaurants in New York City. The end-goal of the project (which he calls “intentionally hyperbolic”) is to draw, well, all the restaurants in New York City.

It is mathematically possible to visit all of them in under a year by spending 20 minutes at a stop,” he says on his site. “Luckily, it takes me almost exactly 20 minutes to draw the façade of each place, working strictly from life, in ink (without a pencil or erasing anything). So in a perfect world, I’ll be done in twelve months.

“Of course, that doesn’t take into account openings and closings, travel between each one, sleep, work, outside responsibilities, and the coloring I do, so I expect if I’d like to, I could keep at this for the rest of my life. We’ll see how it goes.”

Donohue, who has also been an editor and cartoonist at The New Yorker, an anthologist, and a cooking blogger, began drawing restaurants in January 2017. Since then, the project has largely taken off in the form of commissions. Visitors attracted to his site by word-of-mouth nominate their favorite eateries, past or present. Donohue sketches each from life, if he can, in a gesture-sketch sort of sense.

“I think of the pictures as in some ways Google Earth shots—this is in a moment in time,” he said in an interview with AMNY. His illustrations are quick impressions, evocative in their light detailing, but instantly recognizable to anyone who knows the restaurant in question.

A show featuring his work at the bookstore powerHouse on 8th was just extended to September, featuring both originals and signed prints for sale. It’s certainly worth taking a look at given his growing popularity in the New York art scene.

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MFA Exhibits Offer Opportunities to Share and Explore

A college-aged woman taking photos at an art exhibit.

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Whether it’s striving to elicit a specific emotional reaction, make a statement about society at large, or simply showcase diverse approaches and new media, MFA exhibitions give graduating students the opportunity to share the results of their hard work and to be recognized for their artistic contributions and experiments.

Because these students are creating in a setting where selling or professionally displaying their art isn’t a priority, there can be a tendency for their work to suffer by virtue of existing in an echo chamber. Several recent MFA shows belie that stereotype, however.

PNCA (Pacific Northwest College of Art)

Located in Portland, Oregon, PNCA is home to a graduating class of multimedia artists whose most recent work requires viewers to exert some real mental energy.

Savanna Youngquist’s Being Half and Whole, for example, may seem calm on the surface. Paper folded to look like envelopes addressed to “The Visitor” describe the exhibit as an expression of the artist’s relationship with her boyfriend and her twin sister. But the underlying theme is more complicated, with pillows placed on the gallery’s walls along with two mirrors reflecting phrases at each other: “We don’t hug” on one, and “Because hugging you would be like hugging myself” on the other.

Jenna Reineking has created a similarly serene-on-the-surface-but-troubling-underneath offering called Reconstructing Deconstructed Constructs. Two deceptively plain brown platforms are covered with various objects, including a dustpan and broom covered with mothball-like film. There’s not much to it at first—but there’s an underlying sense of disturbance.

School of the Museum of Fine Arts (Tufts University)

This year, 39 students graduated from Tufts University’s School of the Museum of Fine Arts. Their work—film, video, painting, performance, sculpture, photography, installation, drawing, and more—was recently showcased in an exhibition at the Cyclorama at the Boston Center for the Arts.

Riley Allen’s ACityIsACityIsACity is made up of a series of videos showing what urban environments would look like if some things were removed and others added. This results in a series of shots of places like New York and Chicago strangely bereft of the people and cultures we normally think of as defining these cities. The removal of this energy makes viewers stop and think about what really defines a city.

Rather than focusing on one medium, Isabel Beavers’s Arctic Lab installation uses video, animation, drawing, painting, sculpture, and sound. She draws on her experiences collecting ecological data to present a melancholy piece about the effects of climate change and our cultural responses to it.

Meanwhile, Douglas Breault’s digital print Flowers Don’t Ask to Be Picked uses sculpture and mixed media to draw parallels between the imagination presented on the internet and our concepts of heaven.

University of California, Berkeley Department of Art Practice

Berkeley MFA graduates this past year came together with the Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive (BAMPFA) to celebrate their work. While each of the six graduates’ work is unique, they all look at social norms and their effects on us, including class, race, gender, sexuality, and education.

Takming Chuang’s sculptures, built using his own body, focus on ideas of the physical impermanence. Classmate Lucas DeGiulio uses flora, sticks, branches and even garbage, collected during nature walks, to create sculptures, collages, and assemblages that speak to the human connection with nature. And Behnaz Khaleghi uses a façade of scatological humor and phallic structures to talk about men’s anxieties around female power.

It can be easy to dismiss young artists and their earliest works, particularly when they come out of insular MFA programs. But as these examples show, MFA exhibitions can showcase extremely complicated and important narratives—not to mention the real talents of an up-and-coming set of artists.

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Highland Park’s First Art Installation Consists of Giant Flowers

Highland Park as shown on a map.

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Highland Park (located in Brooklyn near Queens) is a renovated reservoir park on a high hill in the thick of the city with views that include East New York, the Rockaways, and the ocean. It has a playground and a lake, beautiful stairways, and a thriving new forest in the basins on the former Ridgewood reservoir. Its gardens and micro farm are maintained by a local high school, and ice skaters use the lake in the winter.

This year, as NYC Parks celebrates 50 years of Art in the Parks, Highland Park will have its first-ever art exhibition.

“The Giant Flowers” is the installation chosen for Highland Park. It consists of five windsock-style flower sculptures on white painted poles, hand-sewn by local resident artist Daniele Frazier.

“‘The Giant Flowers’ brings eye-catching colors and welcome whimsy to this beloved open space. Art brings people together, and it is our mission to make sure it is accessible to all of New York City’s vibrant communities,” said NYC Parks Commissioner Mitchell J. Silver.

Frazier is a multi-talented artist, working in drawing, sculpture, textiles, with accolades also in musical performance and acting.

Her flowers are simple, and evoke not only spring and summer but also kite-flying, waving flags, parade floats, and balloons. They can’t be seen without smiling, especially on a day when the breeze makes their stems snap out straight, petals blown to their fullest shapes.

The Art in the Parks program will continue to roll-out all through 2017, celebrating its 50 year track record of making New York City into an open-air gallery larger than some countries. To date, Art in the Parks has produced and placed over 2,000 public art installations by over 1,300 artists, both the famed and the unknown, into over 200 of New York City’s 1,700 parks.

“The Giant Flowers” will remain in Highland Park until June 2018.

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Fans of Alexander Calder Can Now See His Sculptures in Motion at the Whitney

A giant red sculpture called "Red Flamingo" created by Alexander Calder.

“Red Flamingo” by Alexander Calder.
Photo credit: Busara / Shutterstock

Collectors of Alexander Calder‘s sculptural art have a conundrum—his pieces were made to move, but displaying them that way risks damaging the delicate mobiles. A single piece may have hundreds of delicate wire links and joints.

But they are meant to be seen in motion, and the Whitney Museum of American Art intends to display them so in their upcoming exhibition, “Calder: Hypermobility.”

Alexander S.C. Rower, grandson of Calder and president of the Calder Foundation, is working with the Manhattan museum to train crew members in the delicate touch that least risks the sculptures. This approach amounts to prodding them lightly in the right place with a foam-padded down, thus setting the delicate mobiles into either languid spinning or jerky, parabolic motions.

“They’re all quite graceful,” said Mr. Lomblad, a handler at the Whitney. “But some of them, I think on purpose, have these moments when they’re not graceful. I know that couldn’t be by accident.”

“They each have their own sort of potential energy, so if you can harness what it’s already doing to make it more active, you can spread out that energy.”

The handlers have each developed favorites, particular works which they know best.

The exhibition has made the Whitney art handlers, normally an invisible presence before galleries open and late at night, into performers, attending the art to keep it in motion for an audience. And something fun has happened, wherein the audience has begun to form attachments to the human element in the exhibition. A handler wielding their little dowel with panache might even garner a round of applause.

“Calder: Hypermobility,” and its handler crew will be running through October 23rd, 2017. The Whitney Museum of American Art is in Manhattan, on Gansevoort Street. Tickets are $18 for students, $25 for adults.

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Love to Draw? Check out The Sketchbook Project

A sketchbook with random drawings in it.

Photo courtesy of brina_head at Flickr Creative Commons.

Hidden in an unassuming building on a Brooklyn street serrated with empty lots and construction projects is a secret gem. High white shelves line an airy, quiet room with “welcome” written across the wall. Each shelf is jam-packed with varicolored spines and bound loose pages. This is The Sketchbook Project.

Housed in the small Brooklyn Art Library, the Sketchbook Project is a unique collection of works. Sketchbooks from over 36,000 artists, both celebrated and yet-to-be-known are gathered here. Volunteers have meticulously uncatalogued the collection by artist, country of origin, medium, subject matter, and art style.

Founded by Steven Peterman and Shane Zucker, The Sketchbook Project came from Atlanta, Georgia in 2006 and found its home in New York in 2009. Online, over 70,000 artists share their work and inspiration with one another via the Project. The Brooklyn Art Library is merely the storefront version of that greater collective. It’s open to the public on weekends, Friday through Sunday, and by appointment otherwise.

On the website, a link that reads “Participate” encourages visitors to become involved. For a fee, interested parties receive a blank sketchbook and drawing supplies. For a little more, one can have their completed sketchbook scanned and added to the collective whole online. It’s free to submit a book to the physical library, whether it will be the one in Brooklyn or part of their traveling exhibition, which visits schools and libraries along the East Coast.

2017’s exhibition is already full, but the themes for 2018 have been announced:

  • Underwater
  • This is not what it seems
  • Textures
  • Lines and graphics
  • Long stories with short endings
  • A comic book ending
  • No worries
  • Tacos
  • Connections
  • People I wish I knew

These are only suggestions, of course. Each artist is encouraged to draw whatever inspires them. Those who want to participate in 2018’s June exhibitions must sign up before January 5th and postmark their sketchbook before April.

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Meet the Young Artists Whose Work is Being Featured at the Met

A photo of the entrance to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, located in New York, NY.

Photo credit: EQRoy / Shutterstock

This is the tenth consecutive year of P.S. Art: Celebrating the Creative Spirit of NYC Kids, a project to feature young artists from schools across New York City on display at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Over 1,000 artworks were submitted from all five boroughs. A jury of art notables and Met staff narrowed that down to 103 works by 105 artists, aged 4-18.

The Met has long been committed to sparking youth interest in the arts. Every year, the museum provides free visits to more than 75,000 students and over 2,300 teachers and school staff.

“The Met is a place that sparks creativity and encourages deep connections. Through P.S. Art, we can see just how much art impacts the lives of these gifted students,” said Daniel H. Weiss, President and interim Chief Executive Officer of The Met. “It is so rewarding to see this exhibition return for its tenth year.”

P.S. Art 2017 began on June 13th with an opening night featuring the young artists on site to talk about their own works. Wearing identifying lanyards, they circulated among and talked shop with landmark artists from New York and beyond. Two particularly popular features were “Lady Liberty,” by Aysha Fatima and “Self as Alexander,” by Delia Cadman.

First-grader Aysha Fatima’s “Lady Liberty” is being described in the Huffington Post as “Picasso-Like.” The Brooklyn student was thrilled to tell people all about her crayon-resist process. And 18-year-old Cadman, of Manhattan’s Fiorello H. Laguardia High School of Music and Art and Performing Arts, showed uncanny classical skill in her sculptural self-portrait.

“One of the most powerful parts of the show is the moment when the young people realize their ever first show is happening at the Met,” said Sandra Jackson-Dumont, one of the Met’s Chairmen of Education in an interview with the Huffington Post.

Jackson-Dumont hopes to accept a higher percentage of submissions in the future. This kind of exposure, early and eagerly given, inspires the next generation of art and innovation.

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Photography in the Spotlight

A close-up photo of a man with a high-definition camera.

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When we think of big donations to art museums, we often think of large canvases or dusty vases gifted by aging millionaires. However, photography is a burgeoning art form of its own, as many recent donations and gallery updates can attest.

Painting Meets Smoke Rings

 Earlier this year, thanks to generous donations from the likes of Silicon Valley businessman Thom Weisel and Italian clothing designer Max Mara, the de Young Museum in San Francisco hosted the exhibit “Frank Stella: A Retrospective.” Stella, known for his influential experiments with color and pictorial space, is also an avid user of technology in his work. His Black Series paintings might be what first made him famous in the art world, but his fascination with cigar smoking and the shape of smoke rings led to an innovative series of untitled smoke ring photographs in the late 1980s. These photos, along with his earlier paintings and more recent work with 3-D printing and other digital tools were all on display at the de Young from last November through February of this year.

The Politics of Seeing

In nearby Oakland, some of the most famous photographs of modern times are still available for view in an exhibit called “Dorothea Lange: The Politics of Seeing.” Lange, known for her iconic images from the Great Depression, captured the particular time and spirit of the American people in 25,000 negatives and 6,000 prints, which were donated to the Oakland Museum of California after her death. They’re particularly poignant to see today, when many of the social issues of the 1930s and 40s continue to plague American society. The key to the exhibit is its encouragement of viewers to interact directly with it. As Lange herself said, “The good photograph is not the object. The consequences of the photograph are the object.”

Victoria and Albert Make Room 

London’s Victoria and Albert Museum recently released the first designs for its new photography center, which will open in fall of 2018. The new space will become home to the museum’s photograph collection, including equipment and archival materials from as early as the 1820s. The gallery will be named for the California-based photographer Bern Schwartz, who was a successful portrait photographer during the 1970s. His subjects included Prince Charles, Henry Moore, and the former Victoria and Albert Museum director Roy Strong. In addition to the already-planned gallery, the museum is hoping to raise an additional £7m to include an educational facility with a library, studio, and darkroom.

The Hollywood Hobbyist

Bruce Berman, CEO of Village Roadshow Pictures, is probably best known as the producer of films like “The Matrix” and “Mad Max: Fury Road.” But he’s also an avid photograph collector who recently donated huge portions of his collection to the Joslyn Art Museum and the J. Paul Getty Museum, respectively. These are just the latest two museums to receive donations from him; previous recipients include the de Young Museum, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, and the Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego. Berman’s collection focuses on 20th century American and Mexican scenes as snapped by photographers like Russell Lee, John Vachon, Mike Smith, David Husom, Manuel Álvarez Bravo, and Graciela Iturbide. “As an avid photographer in my teenage years, my appreciation for photographs has evolved into collecting snapshots of urban life,” said Berman. “It gives me great pride to share these wonderful works.”

With donors and exhibits such as these, museum visitors all over the world are able to experience photography just as much as more traditional paintings and cultural artifacts.

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