Thursday, July 23, 2009
Don’t believe me? Here’s the cocktail table (complete with a napping bartender) in front of Slater Bradley’s brilliant 2005 Unchartered Settlements, a c-print mounted on aluminum. Cheers!
Don’t get me wrong, if you went to the museum’s Web site you’d be sure that they brag about only two things: their sculpture collection and their Faberge collection. (OK, I’m about to write the longest parenthetical statement ever. I admit I just recently saw an amazing Faberge exhibit in San Francisco. So my critique may be a little too harsh. But the NOMA Faberge collection is boring and displayed horribly. Really you shouldn’t brag about this. Particularly when the rest of the museum is so good.) But when you walk into NOMA, you realize that this is a museum that values photography like few others.
When you enter the doors of NOMA, you find yoursef in a beautiful grand hall, the walls of which lined with one of the best contemporary photography collections I’ve ever seen. This museum puts it’s amazing photography collection first. And these are huge, lush prints that capture your attention immediately. They’re also signature works by some of the world's greatest contemporary photographers.
Here are some pictures of some of my favorite pictures from the New Orleans Museum of Art:
Unite Lola, a 2008 Giclee print on paper from Dan Tague. It’s strange how attractive money is when it’s big.
I’m in love with Nic Nicosia’s Untitled (Sam) from 1986, a silver dye bleach photograph. It’s dramatic and playful, sinister and funny, all at the same time.
Then there’s Ysumasa Morimura’s Daughter of Art History, Princess B. If this looks surprisingly painterly, it because it’s a color photograph that is treated with a transparent medium which adds a feel of brush strokes.
Cindy Sherman never ceases to amaze me. Her early works, the film stills, are brilliant. But this photo may be even better. As always, it’s a self portrait—only Cindy never looks like herself. This huge photograph is historical and current all at the same time. Don’t look too closely, because as usual, Cindy’s innocent photographs are just a little disturbing. This photo is a dye coupler print from 1990 called Untitled (MP 225).
Here’s a backyard barbecue I’d like to attend. It’s Tina Barney's 1989 chromogenic color print titled Tim, Phil, and I. Don’t you just love summer?
P.S. A temporary exhibit at NOMA called The Art of Caring (no photographs allowed, damn it), was a photographic tour de force, with hundred of photographs by some of the best photographers ever. But that's a story for another post.
Wednesday, July 22, 2009
Travel to the farthest reaches of Bourbon Street, where the gay bars bloom and the rainbow reigns supreme and you’ll find this festive balcony with the classic French-Quarter icon resplendently rendered in mirror. Color me gay.
Tuesday, July 21, 2009
Monday, July 20, 2009
But New Orleans put my dedication to public transportation to the test. I asked at the front desk of my hotel for transportation directions to the museum. Even with computer support, the desk clerk couldn’t give me the directions. Instead he suggested I go to Canal Street, look for people who looked like they were waiting for the bus, and ask them for directions. Long story short, it took about an hour just to figure out which bus I should ride. And after about an hour waiting for a return bus, I finally called a cab.
But all the trouble was worth the trip. The New Orleans Museum of Art (NOMA) in City Park is a surprising museum with some great collections. The museum is known for its sculpture garden (which was closed by the time I got there). Although it’s obvious the museum is dedicated to sculpture as there were plenty of intriguing sculptural works surrounding and inside the museum. Here are a few examples.
Visitors to the museum are greeted by Wave, a 1988 breeze-powered, magical sculpture created by Lin Emery.
James Drake’s welded steel Winged Figure (1989) felt like something from Terry Gilliam’s brilliant movie, Brazil. I like the movie and I like this sculpture.
When you’re in the swamps of Louisiana, shouldn’t you find alligators climbing ladders on the walls of museums? Artist Elizabeth Shannon seems to think so with her 1989 work Camille II crafted from bronze and cypress wood.
I also liked Ernest Trova's Falling Man A.W.F. #01461 created in 1970 and crafted from nickel-plated bronze.
Stay tuned for a few more posts from NOMA.
Saturday, July 18, 2009
The museum was opened in 1983 by the proprietor of Arnaud’s, Archie A. Casbarian. It celebrates Germaine Wells who reigned over 22 Mardi Gras balls from 1937 to 1968. Germaine was the wife of Count Arnaud, who founded the original restaurant in 1918.
From the old, dusty costumes to the cracked and flaking faces, this place delivers a true New Orleans scare. I say skip the touristy voodoo shops and head to the Germaine Wells Mardi Gras Museum. Here’s a video stroll through the museum.
But there were still plenty of opportunities to enjoy the food. So here are a few mini reviews of New Orleans eateries:
Arnaud’s. This is old-time French Quarter dining—I actually think they’re pissed that no one wants to wear a jacket to dinner anymore (and don’t even think of showing up in a t-shirt and shorts). The ambience and tradition are great but the old-school food was just OK. I'm not sure I'd recommend this place. Although the creepy costume museum upstairs is worth the price of dinner.
Café Du Monde. This is the home of the world’s most famous beignets (fried dough with powdered sugar). And in addition to coffee and milk, that’s about the only thing on the menu. Café Du Monde is old, filled with tradition, and fried-dough delicious. Mmmmm, fried dough.
Mila. This restaurant was recommended by the staff at the W. We were looking for a restaurant that served modern Creole cuisine. I had the “young French chicken” (I love saying that) and it was delicious. I also loved the crab-stuffed, deep fried squash blossom that the chef sent to our table to welcome us to the restaurant.
Herbsaint. This was my favorite restaurant of the trip. Everything (the beet salad, the baked black-eyed peas served with an oven roasted chicken, the upside down blueberry dessert) was delicious. There were plenty of other dishes I’d like to try so hopefully I’ll get the chance to return.
Chacon. The same chef that created Herbsaint also created Chacon, a more casual eatery the leans toward a less formal menu. I ordered the signature dish, Louisiana Chacon. Imagine a crab cake only instead of crab, it’s filled with pulled pork. It was served over an amazing warm salad of cabbage seasoned with onions and more. It was delicious.
Mother’s. This is another New Orleans tradition. It’s been around forever and it looks like it. It’s a little grimy but wildly popular due to the food. I had the Famous Ferdi Special Po’Boy, the restaurant’s signature sandwich. It included “the world’s best baked ham,” roast beef, debris, and gravy. Yes, I said debris, which happens to be the bits of beef that fall into the juices in the bottom of the pan as the beef roasts. Mmmmm, debris. I also had a side of red beans and rice. It was a dang good meal for only a little over ten dollars.
An opening note: I probably shouldn't complain too much about the chilly temperatures in the convention center. New Orleans in July is downright steamy hot, with an emphasis on the steamy. So much so that I regularly stepped out of an air-conditioned building only to have my glasses fog—something that only happens during Utah winters. The humid heat was a new experience for me, but there was something about it I liked. It was almost literary. I expected to see dapper southern gentlemen enjoying iced tea in French Quarter cafes, fanning themselves with their hats as they contemplated the latest news. But most of all, it was a constant reminder that I was visiting someplace new—and why not enjoy that.
A second opening note: The New Orleanians like their booze. You can get a drink just about anywhere (stay tuned for more) and you can take that drink just about anywhere. That’s right. Go ahead. Wander the streets of New Orleans with a cocktail in hand. The locals won’t mind. It's a little shocking to witness when you're from Utah where we just recently got rid of our restrictive private club laws.
And a final opening night: I love the W Hotel in the French Quarter. There are two Ws in New Orleans but my pick is the one in the French Quarter. It’s small and quaint (which means it feels right at home in the French Quarter) but with the modern attitude that made “Whatever, Whenever” such a hotel hit. And somehow we scored a rate of just $125 a night making it one of the best travel deals I’ve ever enjoyed. I hope to return to the W French Quarter.