Two great exhibits currently happening at the Metropolitan Museum of Art are Hipsters, Hustlers, and Handball Players: Leon Levinstein's New York Photographs, 1950-1980 and Doug + Mike Starn on the Roof: Big Bambu. I happened to be uptown last week, so I dropped in and had a peek.
Leon Levinstein (1910-1988) was born in Buckhannon, West Virginia and moved to New York City in 1946 to work as a graphic designer and art director. He studied photography with Alexey Brodovitch (former Art Director of Harper's Bazaar) and by 1950, started spending his nights and weekends snapping picks of all the colorful characters and freaks that used to make up this fine metropolis. On view at Hipsters, Hustlers, and Handball Players are over forty of Levinstein's undated, candid, honest, black-and-white shots featuring a variety of business men in suits, nuclear protesters, people walking in the city streets, sitting on stoops, hanging out in Washington Square Park, and lying in the sand at Coney Island. While photographers documenting urban life certainly aren't novel, Levinstein had a knack for targeting interesting subjects and shooting them at innovative angles, oftentimes close-up, obscuring their faces and identities, yet never minimizing their personalities. An image from behind captures a groovy hipster dude in tight pants primping in a window reflection (Street Scene: Young Man Fixing Hair in Window, New York City, 1970s) while a tightly-cropped shot from above shows a topless, tattooed smoker sunbathing in Washington Square Park (Washington Square Park, 1967). Another photo (Street Scenes: Woman in Shorts Leaning into Window of Parked Car, New York City, 1970s) steals the scene of what is presumably a streetwalker wearing hair-curlers and running shorts too short to cover up her panties, poking her head into the passenger side window of a beat-up Chevy Impala.
We are fortunate that Levinstein's curious eye examined and eloquently documented this former era of New York City - when oddballs, creativity, and inspiration littered the streets instead of boring, cookie-cutter, box buildings and uniformly dressed masses. Learn more at metmuseum.org. Through October 17th.
Up on the always lovely rooftop garden is Big Bambu: You Can't, You Don't, and You Won't Stop by New Jersey-born twins Mike and Doug Starn, a growing sculpture composed of 5,000 interlocking 30 and 40-feet-long bamboo poles secured together with 50 miles of nylon rope. The massive bamboo structure which initially measured 100-feet-long x 50-feet-wide x 30-feet-high on the installation's opening day (April 27th) will continue to be constructed throughout the exhibit's run by the artist brothers and a team of rock climbers and will grow to 50-feet-high. As the museum's website states, "Set against Central Park and its urban backdrop, Big Bambu suggests the complexity and energy of an ever-changing living organism." It's a fun, organic, evolving piece that you can walk under and through and, for lucky visitors who are able to nab tickets, go on short guided tours along interior pathways that are elevated 20 to 40 feet above the roof! Learn how to get tour tickets and read more about the project and the Starn brothers at metmuseum.org. See my pics of Big Bambu below. Through October 31st.