Tag Archives: modern art

A Brooklyn afternoon: cherry blossoms and Keith Haring graffitis

Last week I took the train to Prospect Park in Brooklyn to view the cherry blossoms at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden, hoping to recapture a hint of my life experience in Japan. Sure enough, the Cherry Esplanade delivered its promise: bunches of pink cherry blossoms on the myriad of branches forming arches over the garden alleys; a rain of pastel petals whirling in the wind, dotting the field of grass.

Coincidentally I met my friend Carolyn from Ma Vie en Franglais there. We continued our tour of the garden together, wondering at the bright colors along the way. Don’t get me wrong, I hate gardening with a passion (I couldn’t even name the flowers pictured below) but if I need to relax, nothing’s better than a walk in a park.

Carolyn and I then made our way to the Brooklyn Museum to view the Keith Haring exhibition. One of the best-known American artists of the 20th century, Keith Haring was deeply inspired by graffiti. The exhibition focuses on the beginning of his career from 1978 to 1982, when his energetic street-art was ubiquitous throughout New York City.

A fixture of New York’s downtown culture, Haring befriended artists such as Jean-Michel Basquiat. New York was quite a different city at the time: gritty, with a somewhat dangerous and creatively bustling energy. The amazing soundtrack of the exhibition stays true to the period with bands like The B-52’s, Blondie, Talking Heads and The Clash; you can listen to the iTunes list on the exhibition’s page.

The highlight of the exhibition was this impressively long mural. Carolyn wondered if Haring had painted it according to a plan or if he had improvised little by little given how detailed it is.

Apart from the background music, I really loved Haring’s sense of humor and his way of mocking the consumer society. I was also impressed to see how detailed his work could be. Finally, this quote from Keith Haring struck me as wonderfully true on art: “I am interested in making art to be experienced and explored by as many individuals as possible with as many different individual ideas about the given piece with no final meaning attached. The viewer creates the reality, the meaning, the conception of the piece. I am merely a middleman trying to bring together ideas.

I hope you enjoyed this little tour in Brooklyn! Now tell me, how did you spend your own weekend?

You can read Carolyn’s great post about our afternoon right here on her blog Ma Vie en Franglais.


Filed under Art, New York

NY diary: art at the MOMA and dining at L’Atelier de Joël Robuchon

Before leaving me all alone in New York, Papa and Maman Ritournelle had a day full of the best in art and fine dining the city has to offer. As you may recall from this post, we had planned to visit the MOMA earlier in their trip but ended up eating at the museum’s amazing restaurant instead. On the last day of their stay, we finally viewed the masterpieces hosted in the modern building, focusing on the painting and sculpture collection.

The way the works are displayed at the MOMA is perfectible in my opinion as it lacks logic: masterpieces are displayed next to works with little to no interest, from a different time period or basically without any connection. In short, the display lacks a certain harmony that would allow visitors to enjoy the works fully. That said, the MOMA is a place one must visit in New York anyway for its best art pieces which are for some of historical importance.

The MOMA holds an extensive collection of works by Picasso. I found the painting Girl before a mirror particularly striking. It shows Marie-Thérèse Walter, Picasso’s 23-year-old mistress, as a woman in the prime of her life and femininity. While the left side of her face is natural, the right side is interestingly very made up, like a mask for society and public matters. The reflection in the mirror gives us another side of reality: the character is in turmoil, the body distorted and the face darkened with a red tear.  Sadly, it is as if Picasso could foresee Marie-Thérèse’s fate as she took her own life 4 years after his death.

Monet’s Water lilies brought me back to my visit of Giverny last summer. Gazing at the reflection of the sky among the water lilies in the grand Japanese-style pond, it had made perfect sense to me why Monet had painted works of art bordering on abstraction like this one. The painter took 12 years to finish this huge canvas.

Another form of abstraction by American artist Jackson Pollock. He would paint his famous drip paintings with the canvas laying flat on the floor. “On the floor I am more at ease,” he said. “I feel nearer, more a part of the painting since this way I can walk around it, work from the four sides and literally be in the painting.” When you stand in front of this work of art in the museum, you feel in the painting as well, especially since there is no focal point where the eye can truly rest.

If you love fashion, you will no doubt recognize this painting as the inspiration for Yves Saint Laurent to create his Mondrian dresses.

Talking about Saint Laurent, I discovered painter James Ensor at the exhibition of the designer’s art collection before it was auctioned away. Masks Confronting Death must have been inspired by the concept of the carnival during which people wear masks to hide their social identity and celebrate life in a grotesque way.

If this painting reminds you of another one (The Scream), that’s totally normal: they were both created by the same painter, Edvard Munch. In The Storm, the wind and darkness echo the feelings of the main character. A lone pale figure is seen clutching her head in despair; her white robe gives her an otherworldly presence and highlights the intensity of her inner turmoil. The house in the background is entirely lit with warm yellow lights, emphasizing how the group of people is excluded from the place of comfort.

And let’s end our visit with Francis Bacon’s Triptych, shall we? Hmmm, I admit some of these paintings were a bit gloomy. Time to cheer up with some fine dining!

Papa and Maman Ritournelle wanted to end their stay with a bang (and a splurge). Maman had the brilliant idea of heading to L’Atelier de Joël Robuchon located in the Four Seasons Hotel and we found ourselves in yet another French restaurant for the night.

Needless to say we were a bit intimidated by the understated luxury of the place and the owner’s reputation. However we were very happily surprised by how welcoming the staff was; a waiter walked us through the menu with savvy recommendations and punctuated the whole dinner with amusing anecdotes, creating a warm atmosphere.

Sautéed Amadai in Yuzu Broth and Lotus Root

Have you ever seen a fish so pretty? This I ate for my main course, and the delicate flower presentation made me think of Japan. Spot on: our waiter explained that Joël Robuchon had created his restaurants as a fusion between the French, Japanese and Spanish cuisines.  

Ta-da! The desserts! Let me introduce you to La Bulle (Maman), Le Mikado (moi) and Le Soufflé (Papa). Dining at L’Atelier was a wonderful experience which I highly recommend for special occasions. The refined menu is worthy of the chef’s reputation and the service excellent.

My parents could not leave New York without bidding adieu to their lady friend from Vuitton. This brings us to the end of the NY diary series which I hope you have enjoyed!

Avant de me laisser toute seule ici à New York, Papa et Maman Ritournelle ont eu une journée remplie avec la crème de la crème de la ville en art et gastronomie. Si vous vous rappelez ce billet, nous avions prévu de visiter le MOMA quelques jours plus tôt mais avions fini par déjeuner dans le très bon restaurant du musée. Finalement, nous avons admiré les chefs-d’œuvre dans ce bâtiment moderne en nous concentrant sur les collections de peinture et sculpture. La présentation des œuvres au MOMA laisse à désirer à mon avis car elle est sans logique : les chefs-d’œuvre côtoient des peintures sans grand intérêt, d’une époque différente ou tout simplement sans aucun rapport. Si le musée a délibérément souhaité ce mélange, celui-ci manque d’harmonie. Cependant, le MOMA est bien sûr un endroit à visiter absolument à New York pour les plus belle œuvres qu’il abrite.

Le MOMA est riche d’une collection impressionnante d’œuvres de Picasso. Jeune Fille Devant un Miroir m’a particulièrement touchée. La peinture met en scène Marie-Thérèse Walter, alors la jeune maîtresse du peintre. Le côté gauche de son visage est au naturel alors que le côté droit est très maquillé, presque comme un masque qu’elle aurait mis pour se montrer en société. Le reflet du miroir donne un tout autre aspect de la réalité : le corps difforme et le visage assombri barré d’une larme rouge. C’est comme si Picasso voyait le tourment intérieur de la jeune fille et prévoyait sa fin tragique.

Les nénuphars de Monet m’ont ramené à ma visite de Giverny. Lorsqu’on contemple le reflet du ciel dans la grande mare d’inspiration japonaise, on comprend pourquoi le maître a peint des œuvres au bord de l’abstraction. Monet a pris 12 ans pour travailler cette immense toile. Voici une autre forme d’abstraction par l’artiste américain Jackson Pollock ; il peignait ses fameuses toiles en les plaçant à plat sur le sol. « Sur le sol je suis plus à l’aise », disait-il. « Je me sens plus proche, plus une partie de la peinture puisque de cette façon je peux marcher autour, travailler des quatre côtés et être littéralement dans la peinture. » Quand vous vous tenez face à cette œuvre, c’est effectivement la sensation que vous ressentez, d’autant plus qu’il n’y a pas de point particulier sur lequel l’œil peut se reposer.

Le MOMA expose l’une des œuvres de Mondrian qui a inspiré à Yves Saint Laurent ses fameuses robes.  D’ailleurs, j’ai découvert le peintre James Ensor lors de l’exposition de la collection du couturier avant sa mise aux enchères. Masques confrontant la Mort a sans doute été inspiré par le carnaval lors duquel les gens portent des masques pour célébrer la vie de façon grotesque.

Si cette peinture vous rappelle Le Cri, c’est normal : elles ont toutes les deux été peintes par Edvard Munch. Dans La Tempête, le vent et l’atmosphère lugubre font écho aux sentiments du personnage central tenant sa tête dans un geste de désespoir. Sa robe blanche lui donne une un accent dramatique et hors de ce monde. L’intérieur de la maison à l’arrière-plan rayonne d’une lumière chaleureuse, excluant le groupe de personnes d’un possible réconfort. Et finissons maintenant notre visite par le Triptyque de Francis Bacon. Hmmm, j’avoue que certaines peintures n’étaient pas bien drôles. Ce pourquoi il est temps de se changer les idées !

Papa et Maman Ritournelle voulaient terminer leur séjour par un excellent repas et Maman a eu la brillante idée de se rendre à L’Atelier de Joël Robuchon dans l’hôtel Four Seasons. Nous étions au départ un peu intimidés par le luxe discret et la réputation du propriétaire mais le personnel nous a tout de suite mis à l’aise par son accueil. Un serveur nous a guidé dans le choix des plats et a ponctué le dîner d’anecdotes savoureuses. Le menu est inspiré de la cuisine française, japonaise et espagnole et les mets étaient très soignés dans leur présentation. Diner à l’Atelier est une expérience que je vous recommande fortement pour les occasions spéciales : la qualité est à la hauteur de la réputation de Robuchon et le service excellent.

Mes parents ne pouvaient pas quitter New York sans dire au revoir à leur amie l’autruche de Vuitton. Ce qui nous amène à la fin de la série NY diary !


Filed under Art, Food, New York