MoMA Library

May 27, 2010

I’m hesitant to write about this because I’m terrified of jinxing anything, but I’ve been given the opportunity to write a pretty cool piece for a magazine that’s requiring me to spend a little time in the MoMA library, researching the subject.  After making an appointment yesterday, walking past hordes of chirping, shouting school children ready to have their artistic sensibilities heightened, checking in at the desk, checking my bag in a locker, I find myself in a beautiful, peaceful, quiet space.  It’s clean and spare, and has large windows along one side that look out over the sculpture garden and across into the fishbowl like main museum, where the windows make it look as if the building has been cut in half and you can see inside like a dollhouse.  I didn’t think I would be so happy to be here, in a space like this with its light wood tables and brightness.  The plugs are handy! The internet is fast! The books I requested last night were put aside especially for me!  I think this reaction bodes well for my future endeavor of graduate school.

After meetings up at Columbia (I’m officially enrolled to be a dual degree masters candidate!) my mom and I saw some extraordinary art.  We began with the Henri Cartier-Bresson exhibit at MoMA.  Scott and I had just seen a show of his at SESC in Sao Paulo, but it was much smaller.  This was a fully blown out MoMA show, where his photographs filled room after hall.  As always, they were gorgeous.  I haven’t studied much photography, but I did take one class in college on the History of Photography.  For one assignment, we had to choose a photographer and emulate his style.  Naively–stupidly really, it was an ignorant move–I chose Cartier-Bresson.  Needless to say, I failed miserably at even coming close to his composition.  After walking through one of his shows with Scott, who’s studied photography extensively (notice his beautiful pictures in the In Pictures section of this blog), I feel a little more qualified to say that what Cartier-Bresson could capture, the way he makes your eye move around the picture, the whimsy and the freeze of magical, fleeting moments, is just extraordinary.

From there we went to the Marina Abramovic exhibit across the hall.  I had read a lot about her work before yesterday, and was intrigued to see what it was all about.  It had been written up a few times in the New York Times (here’s another article from the times and another from the Guardian, and from The Daily Beast) and I feel all of these people can be more articulately critical than I can be here. It was wild to walk through, though. I sort of like the idea of testing one’s own physical limits.  The nakedness was interesting, as was the idea that this woman, and these performers (were they actors? other artists? just people trained to do this job?) got to such a zen place where they could block out everything around them.  I think Marina Abramovic must be something of a meditation master to sit on that chair for so many hundreds of hours.

From there we went to go see Red, the Alfred Molina play now on Broadway about Mark Rothko.  It was a beautiful play, with an excellent script (I’d love to get a copy of it to read it), acted flawlessly.  It was serious about art, but funny and poignant (can you think of two blander words to describe a play? Sorry. I’ll try to think of something more descriptive.)  It’s been a long time since I’ve seen a play, and I’m so glad to have seen this one.

Picasso and Summertime

April 8, 2010

Scott and I had a great day yesterday.  After having bagels (coming back to the US during passover was not ideal for catching up on foods I missed), we went to the Philadelphia Art Museum (where Rocky ran up the steps) for the Picasso exhibit.  It’s been a long time since I went to an extensive art museum with a thorough, informative audio guide (Pinacoteca is beautiful, but a little different).  I loved learning about Cubism and the exhibit focused on Paris in the earlier 20th century and the rise of the avant-guarde.  I love thinking of the lost generation hanging out, this ‘crucible’ as they called it, for creativity.  I feel like New York in the 1970s and 1980s was the same way–like there was really a creative community, and I wonder where that’s happening now.  What happened to it?  Where does it go? 

After running a few errands we went for a run, and everything here smells like summer.  It’s sort of dreamy–the warm air, the flowers just blooming.  It’s strange enough to be back anyway, the abrupt switch in weather just makes it more surreal.  I was saying to Scott that our first few days in New York were just madness with looking at apartments and being at my parents house always feels like being in a bubble. Being in Philadelphia just feels surreal, and more like I’m back.

Um Bom Dia

January 27, 2010

Today wound up being a surprisingly great day.  I had coffee with Carina this morning, my Argentinean friend who lives close by.  She’s an amazing wealth of knowledge and has tips about Sao Paulo and traveling, cooking, nearly everything.  I was especially jealous that she just got back from Rio and Buzios and ate at Venga!, our favorite tapas restaurant on Rua Dias Ferreira.  She’s a brave soul for trying to recreate the octopus dish at home.  I wish I had the balls to tackle cooking octopus.

From there Scott and I headed to the Centro.  It felt like it had been a while since we went up there, and I had forgotten how cool the area is around the Bovespa and Sao Bento.

I met with Hans, the head of Cidades Sem Fome, now that he’s back from his vacation in the South of Brazil with his family, and we talked about the next steps of my involvement, which feels like something I have been waiting for for months now.  I’m excited about going forward, and super excited for him, as he let me know that the mayor of Recife wants him to begin building gardens in the Northeast. He has plans for the south of the country, and he also got approached by the Mozambique government, who are interested in adopting the project in Africa.  I really think his organization is incredible and I’m proud to be a part of it.

From there, Scott and I sat in a restaurant while it rained that had the coolest chair rail tiles.

You can’t see the tiles that well in the picture, but they were all different patterns in shades of black, white and grey.  From there we wandered around a bit and found ourselves at the Praca de Republica and the Edificio Italiano.  It’s one of the taller buildings in Sao Paulo and is known for its killer views of the city.  By lucky coincidence, we happened to be there while the top floor was open to the public from 3 to 4pm.

The view was staggering.  I know that I had written along with a post that featured a picture of the view from our apartment that the Sao Paulo skyline gave me anxiety.  I still get sort of anxious–there are just so many buildings, but having gotten to know this city a little better, I’m more just in awe of it.

The wavy building in the bottom picture is the Edificio Copan and was built from 1957 to 1966, designed by Oscar Niemeyer and Carlos Alberto Cerqueira Lemos. It has 1,160 apartments, over 5,000 residents and has the largest floor area of any residential building in the world.

In a spur of the moment decision we decided to jump in a cab and head to the Museu do Futebol in the Estadio Pacaembu.  I don’t know why I expected a small museum–maybe because we’ve passed Pacaembu so many times on our way to Karen’s and Elen’s and Edite’s, or just because I knew it was tucked into the stadium, but it was incredible.  Brand new and super high tech, it had amazing interactive exhibits, took you through the great players, the different World Cups, the history of the game in Brazil. You could listen to announcers talk through the most memorable games and goals of all time. There was an area with a number of fooz ball tables set up in the different common soccer formations.  I was impressed.

After running and dinner, we’re just waiting for Obama’s speech.  I’m nervous for him, and hope that it goes well. Oh, also the other thing that happened today was I found out that my blog was nominated to be one of the top 100 Ex-Pat websites for 2010.  Starting February 1, I’m going to be pulling out every stop to get the most people voting for Menina na Rio as possible.  Seriously. Get ready.

We visited MASP today, where they were showing a Walker Evans collection and a Rodin exhibit.  Both were pretty good, but the most striking thing to me was the connection between artists of the early 20th century.  Along with Rodin’s famous bronzes, there were photographs that Edward Steichen took of the artist and his work when Rodin was in his 80s.  I had just read that Steichen had bought some of Paul Child’s photographs for MoMA in Julia Child’s biography.  It’s just amazing that all of these incredibly talented people are all interlinked in history from Rodin to Hemingway to Julia Child and Alice B. Toklas.  It seems as if they all just swung through the same crowds and same delicious places in Paris.  Was it just the time?

The exhibit downstairs at MASP was also super cool, featuring edgy Brazilian artists.  It had a kind of visceral, graffiti-ish energy to it (some of it actually was graffiti, some wasn’t).

We did yesterday perfectly.  We checked out the Museum of Modern Art (not Burle Marx’s best work) and then walked through the Centro to the Bonde.  We passed downtown streets that we had never seen before–leafy city streets with the old colonial buildings resting stately on the sides.  People with office jobs grabbed lunch at the lanchonettes and coffee shops, chatted and bought things from the vendors selling sweets, belts, and cell phone covers.

At the Bonde station, we were too far back in the line to get seats, so we climbed up on the side rails and hung on to the old trolley car. We laughed as we chugged up and over the Arcos da Lapa, the streets vacant where on Saturday nights they’re throbbing with people.  In the half sunshine, Santa Teresa showed its best side.  Without the nauseating cab ride where the driver has never heard of the up-and-coming bohemia, the ride up the hill was pleasant, with great views.  We arrived in the center of Santa Teresa and immediately asked directions to Aprazivel, a restaurant that Scott and I had half-heartedly looked for every other time we had gone up there, without any success.    Straight up cobbled streets we looked wondrously at the mansions, feeling optimistic that this time we would find it.

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We were rewarded after about ten minutes with an elegant restaurant overlooking the city and Guanabara Bay.  The veranda, where we sat, was traditional, but the patio and some of the other levels had tables made of giant tree trunk cross sections.  It was relaxing and felt exotic and special, eating a carefully prepared meal among pervasive trees spreading over Rio’s hills. From there we took the Bonde back down the Centro and visited the Espaço Hélio Oiticica.  We skirted through small streets filled with cabeleireiros, chaveiros, pe-sujos–it felt like real city, like real Latin America.  It was grittier than our easy-going Leblon, a little less sunny, both Scott and I were intrigued.

The space of the Espaço Hélio Oiticica was surprising.  On a nothing street, surrounded by buildings that looked just like it, there was this amazing space on the second and third floors.  From the street there was little to see, but the upstairs offered a sensory world created by this artist who believed that art should be felt in a visceral way, and viewers were urged to walk barefoot through different mediums, touching, feeling.  It was cool and totally unexpected.

From there we had a coffee at Confeitaria Columbo, took the subway home, Scott and I went for a speedy run and then we went to Maracana for a Flamengo v. Flumense game.  The stadium, which was built in the 1950s and holds 100,00 people, was about a fifth or a quarter full. It’s the biggest rivalry in Rio and Flamengo is the most popular team in the country.  It was fun to see the fans cheering on their teams with marching bands in the bleachers, fireworks, tons of jerseys, and even inter-family and inter-relationship rivalries.  We went with a group (for safety–it was a 9.50pm game and we didn’t know what the scene would be like, if it would be possible to get cabs home afterward).  We went in with the group and didn’t get drinks beforehand.  We thought the stadium was dry, and were elated to find that they sold cervejas at the concession stand after about twenty minutes of wandering around Maracana.  We toasted–saude!!– and then Scott looked at the cans of Itaipava.  Sem Alcool.  Oops.  The game ended in a 1-1 tie, enough for Fluminense to move on to the next round of the Copa Sul-Americana and Flamengo to be disappointed.

Contemporary Rio

August 23, 2009

Andrew and Amy arrived yesterday morning, and we’ve been navigating the best parts of Rio in a group of six.  It’s been amazingly fun to show off our city, despite a lack of cooperation with the weather yesterday afternoon.  It presented its worst, most cloudy, drizzly side.    We took the ferry across the bay to visit the Museu de Arte Contemporanea de Niteroi (Niteroi is Rio’s Hoboken), which was designed by architect Oscar Niemeyer.  The collection was small and sort of awkwardly spaced in the building–which is clearly the main attraction in itself–but I very much liked the work by Alfonso Tostes.  It was organic and beautiful, fusing wood (drift, rafters, and others) with polish, and human looking joints notched in.

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From Niteroi we went to Copa to check out one of the street fairs, and spent the night at Diagonal, our favorite neighborhood Brazilian restaurant and Lapa.

Lapa, while always fun, was especially great with so many friends around.  It made for much more lively discussion drinking in the center island between the Arcos, and more fun spinning and foot shuffling at Carioca da Gema.

On our way home, our cab driver got pulled over by the police.  Everything was fine, but it was totally unclear what had happened.  He may have run a red light (something that happens all the time, every night here), and he claimed that the cops had confused him with someone else, which was sort of amusing.

Today was filled with açaí, Koni, surprisingly sunny weather, a very exciting Botafogo v. Corinthians game (3-3 tie, street fair day in Cincinnati! seriously), and lots of basking in having everyone here.

Oh, and we also discovered that there’s an American couple living on the 8th floor of our building, about our age, teaching at the American School.  Potential friends?

I got to see another side of São Paulo today.  My friend Rebecca and I took the metro (very efficient in this traffic-choked metropolis) to the Praça da Luz.  The architecture in that part of town is old and elegant, and in the case of the main train station, beautifully restored.   There’s a pretty park, and the whole feel of it is at once a little washed up and seedy, combined with old school glamour.  We went to the Museu da Língua Portuguesa, and then to the Estação Pinacoteca.  It was a wide open space (below) with galleries all around.  The special exhibit today was of a giant (truly huge, taking up more than one room) stuffed whale, made out of denim.  Next we headed to São Paulo’s little Japan and wandered in and out of Asian groceries.  It was not quite as consuming as New York or San Francisco’s Chinatowns, but it was nice to eat some Asian food and see a different scene.

Our day was capped off by a lovely visit with all of the cousins, where we were graciously treated to coffee and fantastic sweets (and a peak at Elen and Ricardo’s art collection, which beats any museum in Brazil).  I can’t wait to go back and see them again and explore the rest of this city and its neighborhoods, like Moema, which Scott and I barely saw, as we cruised through for dinner last night.

Countering With Culture

August 11, 2009

Yesterday was my work-shop day and today was far more cultural.  Yesterday ended with a lovely visit to Paulo and Edite’s, and then we went to Scott’s cousins house for dinner. It was wonderful for so many reasons–to be in a house, to have someone cooking for us, to have easy conversation with family, to learn more about Brazil and to practice our Portuguese (kind of, since their English is perfect), to get to know them better, to see Andre’s pictures with Kiss, Lula, and ACDC.  We capped off the night by going through Andre’s truly incredible collection of autographed futebol jerseys (with Shaq and Magic Johnson jerseys and a Mohammed Ali signed boxing glove thrown in).  Beginning with Pele in the late 1960s and early 1970s until now with Kaká and David Beckham, there were probably fifty or more uniforms from the Brasil National team, the different World Cups, and every Brazilian team.  It was definitely something to see, and an important dose of Brazilian futebol culture.

This morning I went for a run to orient myself a little better in this city (very helpful) and went to the Museo de Arte de Sao Paulo.  The building itself is cool– a box elevated above the busy Avenida Paulista (swooshing by in the picture.) 

The galleries were mostly in transition (which explained why they didn’t charge me admission), and from there I went to explore the Conjunto Nacional down the street, which houses one of the most prolific bookstores I have ever seen.

IMG_0118 It was like a literary funhouse, with a real cafe, not a stupid Starbucks, like in Barnes & Noble (and I’m not just saying that because this is Brazil).  There was another Livraria Cultura across the way that was filled with beautiful and unusual coffee table books, art volumes, cookbooks.  I liked these old school editions of classics.  IMG_0122The Conjunto Nacional was incredibly cool, too.  There was a giant spiral up the middle, like the Guggenheim in New York, and the packed center area had an exhibit of all of International Design Excellence Award (IDEA) winners (including the Havaiana store, as mentioned in yesterday’s post).  It was super cool.

Scott’s cousin Karen and I had lunch at Hebraica, their Jewish club–an expansive campus with every imaginable sports facility, restaurants, a library, a theater.

I’m quickly falling in love with Sao Paulo, the massiveness of it, the way the neighborhoods fit together, the juxtapositions.  Some of the streets are leafy and beautiful, and there are mysteriously glamourous houses beyond high walls, and small shops and restaurants that surprise you.  Rio is outrageously beautiful, but Sao Paulo has much more depth.

stoolI walked home past the MoMA Design Store at 81 Spring last night.  I didn’t have time to go in, but their new Featured Destination looks pretty amazing.

MoMA Feature: Destination Brazil