Posts Tagged ‘Art & Entertainment’

The Hammer Museum: ‘What Manner of Person Art Thou’ and other exhibits

Last weekend, Evan, my friend Laura and I went to the Hammer museum to see “What Manner of Person Art Thou” and the other exhibits. Though the Hammer is a small museum, it has some really wonderful works and frequently changing exhibits.

We started with the Francesca Gabbiani-curated collection of images that have to do with witchcraft, sorcery and the darker side of life. In a room filled with mostly old etching and prints, though also including some more modern ones, we were really delighted by the bizarre elements we found in many of the pieces, especially the extremely strange Pieter van der Heyden works from the 1500s.

There was also a neat portrait exhibit called “Other People,” which had a wide range of mostly contemporary portraiture. My favorite piece was a collection of baseball card style photos of baseball photographers. Of course, they were all in baseball poses and had baseball props, but were all in their normal clothes.

The real reason we went to the museum, though, was to see Erin Cosgrove’s animated film, “What Manner of Person Art Thou.” It was shown in a very small room, with just two couches and some chairs in the back. We didn’t quite know what to expect, but the film was quite funny, though a bit long. It followed two men from a religious sect, whose families had died, trying to find any other descendants to bring back to their community. They’re sorely disappointed by what they find out in the world, from pro-anorexia groups to dating shows. With each relative they meet, their journey becomes more absurd and more horrifying.

The film is only playing until tomorrow, but it’s worth checking out, as are the other exhibits.

Finishing the National Portrait Gallery

Sunday, Evan and I finally made it back to the National Portrait Gallery to see the rest of the exhibits, including the Vanity Fair special exhibit.

The museum is consistently great — even on my third trip, I felt I was still learning things and being introduced to new people. And I was still interested in reading more. I think my favorite room was the large room with glass dividers on the first floor — it just had some really interesting people as well as really innovative portraits.

The Vanity Fair exhibit, however, put me off a bit. While I was interested in seeing the then-to-now photos, I wasn’t interested in being crammed into a small room with hundreds of other visitors, all moving at a snail’s pace, obscuring the photos and bumping into me repeatedly. I just couldn’t enjoy myself when so physically uncomfortable. I noticed that as we were leaving, the room was getting close to empty, though — I should have just waited, though we went in when it was our time slot.

There were plenty of iconic photos, many of which I’d seen before — it is Vanity Fair — and plenty more photos that weren’t really all that impressive. A lot of the older photos seemed to not have fared well over time or had very low contrast. The exhibit was also especially crowded for the first half of our tour, making it hard to get close to and enjoy the older photos. It also didn’t help that these were all much smaller than the more contemporary photos, too.

I really wish I could have just walked through without the crowds and enjoyed the exhibit on my own terms.

Monster Maker at MoMA

One of the most delightful exhibits we saw at MoMA, part of the Design and the Elastic Mind special exhibit, was an interactive monster maker that would turn your silhouette into a monster by adding fins, scales, eyeballs and other protrusions on the screen in front of you. It also grunted, roared and made other sound effects. I held my arms out like an alligator mouth, and teeth showed up on them. And if you made shadow puppets, eyeballs would often show up — see the guy on the left in the photo.

Monster Machine at MoMA

Photo from my phone of a kid playing with the monster maker.

Museum Hopping: Tate Modern, National Gallery, Portrait Gallery

The Crack at the Tate Modern

While my parents were here, I got to go to a lot of museums. More than I’d been to since I’ve been here. The first one we hit was the Tate Modern, which was incredible.

The first must-see was Shibboleth (pictured), also known as the giant crack in the floor that spans the whole building. The size and scope of the project is quite impressive, and seeing people interact with the piece was really nice. We went and put our feet up to the edge, straddled it, crossed it, looked down it and walked most of its length. It was especially cute to see the little kids examining it, and waddling along with one foot on either side of the split.

The rest of the museum housed an impressive collection of paintings and sculptures as well as other forms of art. We didn’t go in the special exhibits, since we got there a bit late in the afternoon, but I would gladly go back for those and see everything else all over again, too.

On a different day, we went to both the National Gallery and the National Portrait Gallery in Trafalgar Square. The National Gallery, though it houses an impressive collection, got a bit boring after a while, since most of the art is old and religious. Things picked up once we hit the Constables and other 19th century pieces, but they only comprised about three rooms of the gallery.

More surprising, though, was how interesting the National Portrait Gallery was. I’d read good things about the place but I didn’t quite believe them. Portraits tend to bore me, but how they were presented, and how quickly they passed through the centuries in the gallery was great. It starts with the Tudors on the top floor, and you work your way through the galleries — which are all numbered to keep you going chronologically, which was a big help — and make your way to today. The portrait captions were also really interesting, mostly displaying facts about the sitter and often bringing some new info to light, especially for me, since I’m not quite up on my British history.

Once again, we didn’t have time for the special exhibit — a Vanity Fair portrait exhibit — but I’d be interested in going back to see it.

On the upside, not making it to any special exhibits made these museums entirely free. Amazing.