For many of these new things, I feel like I’m in a rush. But this morning when I woke up groggy from last night’s karaoke fest, I had a glorious realisation: For the first time in many months, I had nothing to do and nowhere to be.
It meant that when I scooted up to the Whitney Museum of American Art this afternoon, I could take my sweet ass time.
I’ve not been to the museum before and the trip to 75th Street allowed me to have a peek at Madison Avenue, where I rarely go.
The museum is brimming with masterpieces – and for $20 a ticket, I’d expect nothing less. Perhaps it’s the steep cost, or perhaps it’s because the Whitney is one of the lesser known big museums, but for some reason there were none of the Sunday crowds I expected.
Until October 6, it’s housing a beautiful exhibit of Edward Hopper’s drawings. One floor is filled with his sketches and the recognisable masterpieces they helped create. Not only did I discover that his sketching skills are the greatest I have seen, but I also realised just how much of a perfectionist he was; while other artists in the museum started canvasses before having a vision of the final piece, Hopper would labour over details – particularly hands – in sketch after sketch.
It was breathtaking to see these works and their processes up close. Hopper’s work has such a silence about it and the expectation that something momentous is about to happen – while also knowing that it probably won’t, and that the single figure will remain alone.
Another floor was devoted to Jay DeFeo, whose work varied from monster canvases to charcoal drawings and jewellery. She made the latter to make money after she was caught shoplifting paint early in her career – and it’s no wonder she had to nick the stuff. Her canvases were inches thick with oil paint, creating a 3D, extreme effect I’ve not seen before.
But it’s not all about the special exhibitions, as the museum also has a really impressive collection of its own. I discovered some new favourites among them: Elie Nadelman, who created Brancusi-esque sculptures (some from papier mache!), drawings and figurines of curvy ladies, and Alexander Calder, who made hilarious sculptures from wires.
I spent a good few hours wandering the various exhibits and loved it. The only problem was that I have never experienced such intrusive staff at a museum. The place was teeming with them – every doorway, every nook, every cranny. While a couple gave a smile or a friendly chat, most had hawk eyes and scolded you for standing within three feet of a painting/looking at your phone/breathing. I found them really distracting.
When I left the museum, my musing of Hopper didn’t end there. While at the exhibit, I found out that he lived at 3 Washington Square North, where he painted many of the works I had seen. It’s a house overlooking Washington Square Park and really not far from my flat – so I decided to pop by on the way home.
What a relaxing day.