Lower East Side Tenement Museum

Upon arriving at Orchard Street, I was a tad bit confused as to where the entrance of the Lower East Side Tenement Museum of Art was. After walking back and forth twice from what I thought was the museum’s book store, I realized that this very “book store” was the entrance itself. After finally having entered the museum, I was confused yet again as to where I needed to go to get my ticket. The space that I was standing in could not have been the entire museum. It was full of books that people were buying and there were no other entrances or exits within that room. I went to the counter and there I was told that the actual museum was inside actual tenement buildings located just outside of that bookstore. After I heard this, I could not wait to begin the tour. I signed up for the “Sweatshop Workers” tour and waited as patiently as I could.  

After waiting for about 30 minutes, my tour guide finally came in to the bookstore to gather her group. There were only 8 of us in the group, and I was a bit scared at first because I was the youngest member and also surprisingly the only New Yorker. However, my tour guide(whose exotic name I unfortunately do not remember) made sure that everyone felt extremely comfortable and welcomed. Through her, I learned quite a bunch about not just the history of the museum and the lifestyles of Jewish immigrants when they arrived on the Lower East SIde, but also many styles and techniques about how to give a great tour. As a tour guide who is in the process of creating my own unique way of giving a tour that my audience will remember and find interesting, I couldn’t have chosen a better tour to be a part of. 

What made my tour guide’s approach extremely welcoming was the fact that she incorproated her audience into almost every part of the tour. Although she did give us a lot of information, she would constantly ask us what we would do if we were in the immigrants’ shoes. She gave us a tour of two different families’ homes- the Rogarshevsky’s and the Levine’s. The Levine’s were a family of five that had their own clothing factory at home. They lived before the Rogarshevsky’s did and their apartment was extremely small. They had one small bedroom, a small kitchen and a parlor, which was separated from the kitchen by a window. My tour guide told us that the windows in the apartments were called “tuberculosis windows” because Jews were often associated with tuberculosis at the time. In just one small room, hundreds of articles of clothing were produced. When photojournalists like Jacob Riis exposed the lifestyles of such families to the upper and middle class of America, the government enforced new working rules to prevent unsanitary conditions and diseases. The mother of the family had the hardest role. She had to work in an extremely small kitchen, sharing it with the ironman. There were no bathrooms at this time, and people usually showered once a week at public bathing houses. In comparison, the Rogarshevksy’s lived  slightly better lifestyles than the Levine’s. During their time period, there were now bathrooms, and the furniture inside their house was much more modern. The rooms were a bit bigger, and the mother had much more space to herself. 

I was shocked by everything that I saw and learned, especially at the size of the apartments. There’s nothing like walking through and into the houses of immigrants from decades ago. In fact, I believe it’s the best way to learn about them. I felt as if I was in their shoes as my tour guide described every little detail of their lives to me. Seeing both families’ homes was an incredible experience and I recommend the museum to everyone out there, especially my fellow New Yorkers. Having such an opportunity within our city is like a blessing. We should all go out and see how past Americans have lived and how our nation has progressed over time. 

-Anjani Ladhar, Teen Guide Council 

Connecting Cultures… Connecting US.

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When Madeleine and I went to the Brooklyn Museum of Art, I really didn’t know what to expect. To be Frank, a guy right next door, (Haha! Did you see what I did there?) this was my first time in Brooklyn, but it is now one of those experiences that is difficult to forget and I’d love to share this experience with you, fellow RMA followers!

Madeleine and I were instantly greeted by a HUGE Egyptian eye on a wall almost saying “Come here, look into my eye and you’ll know what this is all about it,” which turned out to be true. The eye reeled us in and compelled us to read what was imprinted on the wall. It was Connecting Cultures: A World in Brooklyn exhibit. I was already captivated by the exhibit from what I read on the wall. The exhibit is actually a new perspective on presenting art. Many museums organize art works based on their time periods or their country of origin. This exhibit aimed to diminish these distinctions among art by bringing art from different cultures and time periods together. So it’s like a time machine, something that connects time and place!

This reminded me of the Rubin Museum of Art. The Rubin Museum of Art also challenges the status quo of how museums typically present information. The Rubin is unique in that it focuses on Himalayan art. However, it doesn’t present Himalayan art through timelines or different regions. It makes connections between different cultures and time periods just like Connecting Cultures in the Brooklyn Museum. Himalayan art is composed of several cultures, religions, and perspectives and the Rubin effectively creates the perfect exhibitions that bring these elements together, leaving a lasting impression on museum-goers. I still remember the Hero, Villain, Yeti: Tibet in Comics exhibition, an exhibit relating contemporary cultural notions to historical time periods. It made a profound connection between deities and comic book characters such as Superman and the Green Lama! Not only that, the Rubin was able to connect me to Tibetan art in terms of something I love: comic books!  

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This type of unconventional methods of museum exhibits is refreshing to me! One of my favorite aspects of the Connecting Cultures exhibition was the mirrors on the right side. Mirrors are everyday objects that people tend to overlook despite looking into them several times a day. However, looking at the unique frames of each mirror, the intricate designs, and the variety of sizes, I noticed they were still all the same. I mean… they all had the same reflection of a girl with bulging eyes and aghast expressions! What I mean is mirrors represent who we are. The way we look into a mirror reflects our own personalities. For instance, there’s a difference between the way a superficial person looks in a mirror and the way a confident person looks in a mirror. A quote from the exhibit that represents this clearly is “Whether the objects that surround our lives manifest our wealth, express our religious devotion, or memorialize us after death, those things we make… are an essential part of how humanity expresses itself.

I highly recommend you to visit this long-term installation at the Brooklyn Museum of Art! It gives you a new perspective on art and makes the world seem closer. Maybe you’ll come out of the exhibit feeling that people all around the world and people from the past are no different than YOU!

As you venture off to other museums or other parts of NYC, keep in mind that there’s a connection between us all because after all, we’re just human!

~Moomoo

What do the Hudson River School and the Wheel of Samsara have in common?

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A lot, actually!   

On Saturday, I visited the New York Historical Society to see their exhibition entitled ‘Nature and the American Vision: The Hudson River School’.  The Hudson River School of art was a art movement in the mid 19th century (1800s) in America that highlighted themes of Romanticism through landscape paintings.  The artist Thomas Cole is often seen as the informal creator of the Hudson River School; he was one of the first American painters to paint the scenic landscapes on either side of the Hudson River in upstate New York.  In 1833, Cole began work on his famous series, The Course of EmpireThe Course of Empire traces a civilization and city from its very beginnings (‘Savage state’) to its destruction (Destruction) and the aftermath (Desolation).   This series of five paintings are painted hugely across 39 1/2 x 63 ½ inch canvases.  The paintings are massive, imposing, and even frightening.  In the Rubin museum, another large piece hangs on the gallery walls - the Tibetan Buddhist Wheel of Samsara.  Thomas Cole’s Course of Empire and the Tibetan Wheel of Samsara are very similar in many fundamental ways and differ in others. 

(Continued after the jump) 

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(Source: rmateens)

Doris Duke’s Shangri La

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^These are photos of parts of the Shangri La showing detail and symmetry.

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^There is the buddha representing symmetry and peace and below is a detailed painting of Tara also showing some symmetry and many stories.

I visited the exhibition Doris Duke’s Shangri La at the Museum of Art and Design with Simran and Moomoo last week. Photographs were not allowed to be taken so the photos are from online. Doris Duke is a women who inherited a great fortune of money from her father who past away while she was young. Doris Duke created the Shangri La, which is a very exquisite and well-crafted place filled with beautiful islamic art and architecture. It’s located right next to a beautiful beach in Hawaii. She created this place so that she could have somewhere peaceful to go. It’s filled with all of her favorite gems from all over the middle east, Asia, India and many different countries. Most of the art inside the Shangri La was islamic art. I feel that art inside created a very zen, peaceful and symmetric environment. I chose this exhibition because I felt it had a strong connection to the Rubin Museum. All the complex small details in the architecture and wall paintings reminded me of all the hidden stories and aspects of some paintings in the Rubin. Many of the Rubin’s paintings have various components and stories that are difficult to understand. You can find small stories happening inside big stories, it never ends with Himalayan and Indian art. Also how symmetric the rooms and the artifacts are  in the Shangri La reminded me of how a lot of Himalayan and Indian art from the Rubin Museum is. Many deities are symmetric, especially the Buddha. The Buddha is also very peaceful, which connects to how zen and peaceful the Shangri La is. The Shangri La and the Rubin Museum share very similar art from same countries and the art creates a similar atmosphere and peaceful feel. 

-Ginger



The elevator doors opened up to the fifth floor as Moomoo, Ginger, and I stepped out together onto the floor of the unknown exhibit. No sooner had we gotten off the elevator, I froze midway as I was cornered by the bright colors that stood before me. In all directions, bright hues of red, green, and blue, invited me to take a closer look at their owners. I walked around the exhibit, at first, simply taking in the large photographs of the unknown wonder. It was both familiar and foreign at the same time. I remembered reading “DORIS DUKE: THE RICHEST GIRL IN THE WORLD” article in Harper’s Bazaar, but nothing had prepared me for the “Doris Duke’s Shangri La: Architecture, Landscape, and Islamic Art” Exhibit that stood before me. I felt as if the photographs of Shangri La, (home of the daughter of the 1900s renowned tobacco tycoon, James Buchanan Duke) were no longer simple photographs but rather portals to another universe. As I gazed longingly into the photos of the different rooms, I slowly imagined my way through the many walls of the house.

As I made my way through the rest of the exhibit, I couldn’t help but feel a strong pull back to each of the photographs as if they were claiming my presence. I finally realized why I felt so strongly connected to the house: I imagined it as a mandala. When I first learned about the mandala, I remember it being described as an ornately decorated square mansion, through which one travels to reach the ultimate treasure that lies in the center of the mandala: one’s most perfected self. Even after much extensive research, this is the definition that I hold onto most dearly.

The Shangri La house reminded me of the mandala so strongly because it represented a challenge. Just like the mandala’s walls, it was ornately decorated and adorned but with the most priceless of artworks, artifacts, and gems. However, unlike the mandala in which the center is easily found, the Shangri La house posed the challenge of identifying the center. After much thought I realized, the center was not a physical location in the house but rather the whole piece itself, for it gave off a very peaceful, serene vibe, which in turn put the viewer in a peaceful like trance. Shangri La is so beautifully decorated that, there is no one part of the house that can be picked out as the center, but rather the whole house represented the most perfected version of myself: a calm and content person.

-Simran 

Beautiful Accidents

Hey all you aesthetes,

I’m here to recommend the exhibition at the Whitney Museum of American Art called Wade Guyton OS. I originally went with the intention of experiencing Yayoi Kusama’s Fireflies on the Water, the the only available tickets weren’t until the next day. Disappointed, I decided to get a general admission ticket with the optimistic intentions of viewing something incredible. So i hopped on the elevator and pressed the first button I saw. I walked out of the elevator into the Wade Guyton exhibition and felt as though I was transported into another world of canvases with fires, uneven lines, ‘X’ marks, and metal sculptors. 

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Most of the pieces were images printed onto linen using an inkjet printer, paintings, and photographs. My favorite pieces were those he used a printer for. They emphasized this generation’s dependence on technology, but the unevenness of the pieces showed how little we should trust these same technologies. Guyton managed to represent our daily frustrations through these purposeful accidents in an uplifting way that reminded human beings that not even the computer is perfect. The pieces were arranged in a way that you know, just by looking at them, that they were made in the same small time period. I viewed those paintings as beautiful optical illusions, and just like me stumbling upon this exhibition, these pieces are best described as beautiful accidents.

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There was this one part of the exhibition where it was just two dirty, burned looking couches. I later discovered that not only could you sit on these couches, but these couches were actually inside Guyton’s studio. For some reason I found this to be the most serene and interactive part of the exhibition, spiritually and emotionally connecting me further to the art and the artist. I reminded me of the Shrine Room at the Rubin Museum of Art where you have a moment of self reflecting in the presence of all the beautiful art. At Wade Guyton OS, the couches give to a moment to reflect on the art through another point of view, Wade Guyton’s.

I hope this has inspired you to go out and have an art experience of your own!

This has been a public service announcement, courtesy of your local TGC member,   

                                                                   Maria

The Buddha