Last October before New York got battered by a hefty storm (we didn’t plan it that way, just lucky) my fiancee and I visited America for our very first time, spending a number of days in the big apple city itself. Although it was her birthday do, it was my choice of destination, partly because of all the galleries and museums bursting at the seams with great art, and partly because it’s the handiest bit of America to get to from old Blighty (Britain).
These days you can spend a whole trans-Atlantic flight fiddling with onscreen video games and films – prodding away at the back of someone else’s seat, so the time flies by. We flew over Canada and checked in at Nigel Kennedy airport. I jest, it was Nigel Havers airport.
Our base was the quirky old Harmony Hospitality House in Harlem – and very alliterative it was too. It was charmingly run by Cynthia Nibbelink and her husband, who described themselves as educators, artists and social activists, and were involved in a city garden project in their street. We ate our complementary muffins and listened to the loud chirpiness of ‘opinion’ radio, the nation being gripped by Presidential-debate fever. One commentator explained to another pundit “You’ve just flip-flopped!”
The room was small, a bit rough and ready, comfy enough, quirky and on the back of the house, looking out on to many other backs with their famous NY fire ladders. If I’d had a string vest and a clarinet, I’d have gone out there for a stereotypical tootle. We often shopped at local uber deli “Best Yet” on Frederick Douglas Boulevard. They have a massive choice of everything – if you want something in 3 different flavours, they got 9! The fruit and veg was kept fresh by little shower jets. We bought some Puffin cereal and retired in a haze of jet lag.
Andrea Way @ the Pierogi
We met up with an artist called Andrea Way who was down from San Francisco arranging an exhibition at Brooklyn’s Pierogi Gallery. I know her through my art-blog Elbowroom, which she serendipitously discovered and liked. She’s a proper all-day-every-day artist, and she does great work. I had a document wallet bulging with doodles to show her (my work is very portable) and she tried to get Joe of the gallery interested: “He’s a musician, he does doodles on sort of crappy paper, the titles are really witty…” Actually he resisted because usually artist’s book well in advance to see him, and I resisted because I needed 10 cherry picked pieces and a more articulate background to weave around them – caught on the spot. Anyway, I was mainly there to see A and her work, which I’d only seen on the web. You can see how much I was absorbed by it in the pic!
The Pierogi is a very special gallery, and I can see why Andrea though it would suit my work. They keep a collection of works on paper called the Flat Files, which now contains portfolios representing over 700 artists. Painting, drawing, print and photography are all included, and you can pull a file out and peruse the artists’ work with white gloves – or indeed online without gloves. I was also drawn to the black and white ink drawings by the Mexican Hugo Crosthwaite on show at the same place. Here’s one of his enthralling Carnivorall series.
After this lesser known nook of artful interest, the rest of the trip was taken up with the more obvious tourist trek through MOMA, Central Park, Guggenheim, Metropolitan, lift up the Empire State Building, and boat around the Statue of Liberty. We HAD to do these things! I guess that’s more than enough to save for New York Torque part 2…