Sunday, October 3, 2010
Man Walking Down the Side of a Building
Jean says: This past Saturday afternoon at 1:30 PM, Valerie and I watched my friend Stephen Petronio walk down the wall of the Whitney Museum, recreating choreographer Trisha Brown's 1970 work aptly titled "Man Walking Down the Side of a Building". These pictures, shot from across 75th Street, give you a sense of the height of the Whitney - and the drama of the spectacle. The metal structure seen at the top was constructed as the launching pad for the piece. These photos provide some perspective on the situation and how it looked to those of us on the ground.
The Whitney is an imposing monolithic structure. From the street, the metal launching platform looked like a tiny erector set. Saturday's spectacular sunny, cool, crisp weather was the perfect backdrop.
In the 1970s, Trisha Brown utilized radical gymnastic choreography in a series of Equipment Pieces employing implements and devices such as the cables and harnesses. Needless to say, when Stephen appeared on the platform and launched outward, wearing a simple harness attached to cables in order to be perpendicular to the building, he looked like a cross between a high wire act and some demonic SWAT team member about to rappel into Gotham.
In engaging in ordinary movements such as walking in an extrordinary setting on the side of a New York institution, Stephen literally made traffic and pedestrians stand still. Of course, no one can make them stop talking on their cell phones, but they were at least looking skyward while they chatted.
According to the Whitney Museum's program, by creating striking and at times dangerous situations, Trisha Brown engages her audience in a form of participatory theater. No shit, Sherlock. Nothing brings a crowd of New Yorkers together better than public spectacle. Like the Romans, we love bread and circuses. The crowd was a mix. Half of them were very informed individuals who knew all about Trisha Brown and Stephen Petronio and were fully engaged in the Whitney's program, "Off the Wall Part 2 - Seven Works by Trisha Brown" and the other half were totaly uninformed gawkers, caught up in the sheer joy of the moment.
Watching Stephen's movements was a little disorienting. His nonchalant stroll challenged the traditional notions of gravity and space.
Here's Stephen and his #1 fan. Back on terra firma, he seemed very relaxed. This was, of course, only his first of two Saturday performances. He would repeat the walk at 5 PM and then leave all of this behind for awhile while he and his company start their European tour: two weeks in London followed by two weeks in Milan. Check out the minimal harness equipment he's wearing.
Craig Hensela, a member of the Stephen Petronio Company (SPC) Board, who organized SPC's highly successful art auction last year at Milk Gallery, is on the right in the photo, along with Ms. Valerie and his friend Cristobal.
Clare Flack, another SPC Board member, plays court photographer to memorialize the occasion. Stephen last performed this piece in the 1980s. Who knows when he'll reprise the role again?
Here's a shot of the crowd on 75th Street waiting for the show to start. Naturalists among our readership will notice that Valerie does not believe in the theory of protective coloration to blend in with her surroundings. I never know what she'll show up in, but I'm always confident I'll spot her in the crowd.
Speaking of hard to miss, none other than the Dumpling Diva herself, Marja Samsom, joined us for the festivities. She was rocking an ecclectic look of black and white striped chef pants, yellow messenger bag, black nylon jacket lined in yellow mesh, blue hooded sweater with vintage style figures, black T shirt, white scarf with black polka dots, and black leather lace-up booties that she bought a size too large to give her "that Olive look" -- as in Oyl, Popeye's girlfriend.
Here are a couple of closeups of the two of them at the corner of Madison Avenue and 75th Street and then further south on Madison Avenue. As you can see, they have distinctive but quite different styles.
We passed a plastic topiary, and couldn't resist taking advantage of a silly photo op. The topiary were hilariously shaped. They were set securely in boxes, surrounded by shiny black river stones. It was somehow not surprising that the stones were all glued down. How New York!
Valerie says: Following a bite to eat, we popped into Barney's, when who should we run into but Suzanne Golden (whose every item of clothing we covet)? We had a short chat, during which Suzanne told us that she will be one of the sixty artists featured in "Loot", the Museum of Arts and Design's upcoming biennial exhibition and sale, which will open on Thursday, October 21 and run through October 26. If you possibly can, you should have a look. Suzanne's bead work is like no one else's. It's daring, playful, challenging and beautifully color coordinated.
While catching up, we noticed we were all wearing combat boots. Here we are going toe to toe for the fun of it. In the center is a blue rubber ball with wobbly red spirals we found napping by a Madison Avenue boutique. Some unfortunate child's loss became our gain. Jean says: Suzanne and I were both sporting Doc Martens lace-ups, she in lipstick red and I in leopard print.
Jean says: I was unsuccessful in adjusting the color in this photo, so I'm calling it "the golden Golden shot"!
Valerie says: And then, being the Very Busy People we are, we all went off to take care of the Very Important Business that unfortunately separates us most of the time, and that makes these short interludes all the more enjoyable when they happen.
Valerie is wearing: a blue felt hat painted poison green by Francine Gintoff, who also added three black metal cartouches with gold portraits to it; handmade polymer earrings by Elke Kuhn, reminiscent of mosaic glass face beads of the Roman imperial age; a reversible vintage green Himalayan lamb vest with handpainted interior; a vintage Peplum by Yoshiki Hishinuma polyester shirt; Cavaricci black cotton pants; and camouflage combat boots with rubber 'spikes' - the label is unfortunately illegible. Here are the earrings and the shirt. If you know the maker of the earrings, let me know. (She didn't have a business card that day.) If you click on the photo, you can see lots of little holes in the shirt. That's a sign of heat-set shibori.
Jean is wearing a vintage straw hat embellished with her bakelite domino pin, Vivienne Tam nylon T-shirt, Kyodan peplum jacket, H&M cotton baggies -- all in black -- and leopard print Doc Martens boots.