Take Me (I’m Yours) at the Jewish Museum

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Chances are, if you’re heading to the Jewish Museum in the next few months it’s to see John Singer Sargent’s Mrs. Carl Meyer and Her ChildrenThis is a wonderful exhibit but another really great reason to visit the Jewish Museum before February 5th is Take Me (I’m Yours)

Plastic bags offered to visitors at the Jewish Museum

Plastic bags offered to visitors at the Jewish Museum

Most of the time, when you visit a museum, you look, observe, but never touch or take-away something. Take Me (I’m Yours) offers a different approach. At this exhibit, visitors are encouraged to take, touch, and transform the art they see. Forty-two international and inter-generational artists, are represented here, many of whom created new and site-specific works for the exhibition. This presentation builds upon an exhibition of the same name that took place in 1995 at the Serpentine Gallery in London. Conceived by the curator Hans Ulrich Obrist and the artist Christian Boltanski, it included works by twelve artists, several of whom are participating again here, according to the Jewish Museum.


Felix Gonzalez-Torres, Untitleed (USA Today), red, silver and blue cellophane wrapped candies

One artist who perfectly exemplifies the message of this exhibit is Felix Gonzalez-Torres. You may have seen his work at the recently closed Unfinished exhibit at the Met Breuer. “Untitled” (USA Today) is comprised of candies individually wrapped in red, silver, and blue cellophane. Viewers are invited to take a piece of candy. Gonzalez-Torres, who lost his partner to AIDS, created this installation, and similar ones with other objects, to symbolize the fragility of life.

With most of the exhibits in the show, the visitor is encouraged to take something, rather than create. Watchword (2012), by Rivane Neuenschwander, invites visitors to take a tag, either to safety-pin onto their own clothing or to pin to a felt-covered board. In both cases the words  — borrowed from the language of protest: take, back, justice — form a poetic, global map of resistance.

Take-away items from Take Me (I'm Yours), Jewish Museum

Take-away items from Take Me (I’m Yours), Jewish Museum

Take Me (I’m Yours) is engaging, fun and thought-provoking. What’s not completely clear, is why this exhibit is at the Jewish Museum.  The museum explains it as follows: “Sharing pervades Jewish life, beginning in the home and extending out to the community. Here the exhibition is the home, and the works are what we share with you, our visitors.” A bit of a stretch but don’t let that stop you from experiencing it.

Open This End: Contemporary Art from the Collection of Blake Byrne

Open This End

Open This End, at theMiriam and Ira D. Wallach Art Gallery at Columbia University, features contemporary art from the collection of Blake Byrne, one of the top 200 art collectors according to Art News.  The title comes from a 1962 Warhol painting featured in the show which also includes  painting, sculpture, drawing, collage, photography, video, installation and mixed media of more than 30 artists from the 1960s to the present. Among the artists are: Ed Ruscha,  Cindy Sherman, Louise Lawler, Sherrie Levine, Rita McBride,  Gerhard Richter, Martin Kippenberger,  Marlene Dumas and Paul McCarthy. Despite the number of works featured, the setting is so intimate that you can engage with each work on a very personal basis.

My two favorite pieces in the exhibition were a large mixed media canvas by Mark Bradford and a trompe l’oeil painting by Sigmar Polke.  While very distinct artists, both pieces were similar in that they gave you a different experience when viewing up close and at a distance. Bradford’s layering is very rich but one experiences more dynamism when you stand several feet back.   Polke’s colorful, seemingly abstract piece, is very pleasing when standing right in front of it. But only when across the room do you see his intention to reveal champagne glasses on a tray. It was a lovely illusion.

Open This End is being exhibited in celebration of Byrne’s 80th birthday and is appearing at the schools that he and his family have attended.  A goal of the exhibition, according to the exhibit notes,  “is to inspire others to share their art collections for educational purposes and start an ongoing dialogue about art collecting, philanthropy and ethics.” A symposium on this topic, featuring Blake Bryne, will take place on March 6 at Columbia University’s Uris Hall. The exhibit is on view through March 12

Art Making In The Park

Often times when visiting a museum you will catch a professional, or a student, with a sketch pad, capturing a favorite work of art. You can also sometimes see people  painting in corners of the city. Just the other day, I passed an elderly gentleman sitting in front of an easel on York avenue, painting the cafe on the corner.

Janet Ruttenberg

Janet Ruttenberg

Janet Ruttenberg, 83, is on a different level, making art in Central Park nearly every day for the past 15 years. She uses Sheep Meadow as her inspiration and creates park “portraits” that can be as large as 15 feet wide. She works in oils, watercolors, and on the day I was at the park, pastels.

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Unfortunately, you can’t see any of Ms. Ruttenberg’s finished works. She says she isn’t interested in selling any of her work and she’s had only one exhibit. It was last fall at the Museum of the City of New York. I asked her if she would be exhibiting again, and she demurely said, “no, not again.” You can read more about the artist in a profile the New York Times did when the MCNY exhibit opened. Or you can wander over to the northern end of Sheep Meadow and catch her creating art in the park.