Your Art Weekend:Brooklyn Museum – Sugarlift

Your Art Weekend:
Brooklyn Museum

Posted by Bartlomiej Piela /

 

Header Image: Coney Island Visions of an American Dreamland, 1861-2008 Installation. Photo by Jonathan Dorado. Courtesy of the Brooklyn Museum.

 

by Aimee Rubensteen

“If Paris is France, then Coney Island, between June and September, is the world.”

The Brooklyn Museum’s current exhibition, Coney Island: Visions of an American Dreamland, 1861-2008, on view through March 13th, milks this phrase coined by George C. Tilyou in 1886. However, filling the Museum with the entire “world” is no easy feat. Displaying 140 objects, including paintings, drawings, photographs, prints, posters, artifacts, carousel animals, ephemera, and film clips, Coney Island spans 150 years, and feels as crowded as the seaside in its heyday on a Sunny afternoon.

 

Coney Island Visions of an American Dreamland, 1861-2008 Installation. Photo by Jonathan Dorado. Courtesy of the Brooklyn Museum.

 

Before entering the Coney Island exhibition on the 5th floor, viewers are enveloped by a site-specific installation. Stephen Powers: Coney Island is Still a Dreamland (to a Seagull) transforms the Iris and B. Gerald Cantor Gallery into a boardwalk-like spectacle. Huge and brightly-painted signs, climbing the walls from floor to ceiling, are bold and fill the viewer with an appreciation for hand-painted work in the digital age. Unlike graffiti artists who must work in secrecy, those in exhibition bask in its institutional approval. Powers (a.k.a. ESPO in his graffiti work) and his ICY SIGNS team can be seen “in action” (and somewhat ready to chat) on Thursdays, 6:30-8:30 PM, and Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays, 2:00-4:00 PM. Placing this exhibition of signage directly next to the entrance to the Coney Island exhibition is a subtle reminder that amusement parks are not just constructed for amusement, but also for commercial success. Make no mistake – the “World’s Greatest Playground” lasts only as long as the public keeps purchasing admission tickets (and hot dogs and ice cream).

 

Photo by Aimee Rubensteen.

 

Photo by Aimee Rubensteen.

 

Now back to the main attraction: Coney Island focuses on the way the locale has made a real imprint on American culture both in America and around the globe. This is readily apparent in the way artists have repeatedly, albeit in different styles, captured the beach, boardwalk and amusement park for decades. Impressionist paintings of “the people’s beach” and the black and white photographs are records of locals and tourists leisurely enjoying the weekend getaway. In addition to the numerous representations of Coney Island, the art created for Coney Island is on view as well.

The integration of carousel horses and weathered banners in the galleries, bring tangibility to the fantasyland. At first, seeing the Steeplechase Funny Face painted-metal sign and sideshow banner, Jeanie, Half Living Girl (1940), hung in the same fashion as Frank Stella’s painting, Coney Island (1958), seems awkward; even though the Brooklyn Museum repeatedly connects high and low art in their temporary exhibitions. That Coney Island mixes high and low art in a museum setting is a testament to the way integrated social classes mixed at the locale in its heyday.

 

Coney Island: Visions of an American Dreamland, 1861-2008 Installation. Photo by Jonathan Dorado. Courtesy of the Brooklyn Museum.

 

Coney Island: Visions of an American Dreamland bites into a caramel apple that is rightly too big to chew. To be sure, this exhibition is not a fun house. The one accent wall of ketchup-red and mustard-yellow stripes packs a curatorial punch to the otherwise neutral and navy walls in the galleries. Otherwise, the exhibition is without gimmicks; it is a survey of materials that taps into the viewers’ memories. The museum didactics aptly address the nostalgia that Coney Island provides to artists and to its visitors to this day. Don’t miss the contemporary paintings by Daze (Chris Ellis) in the abundance of paintings and film in the last galleries. Daze directly grapples with the changing nature of Coney Island as it is experienced today. In Kiddlyland Spirits (1995), Daze explains that “young people are undergoing states of perpetual change, as is Coney Island itself.” This is poignant: Since the nineteenth century, Coney Island - as an amusement park and as an idea - has stood the test of time as an American mainstay.

 

Coney Island: Visions of an American Dreamland, 1861-2008 Installation. Photo by Jonathan Dorado. Courtesy of the Brooklyn Museum.

 

Coney Island: Visions of an American Dreamland, 1861–2008 is on view through March 13, 2016. Brooklyn Museum is located at 200 Eastern Parkway, Brooklyn, NY.

 

 

WHAT TO DO AFTER //

Stay balmy, and head over to Glady’s, a colorful Caribbean venue for cocktails and curry on Franklin Avenue. The palm trees, hanging plants and dim lighting will help you pretend you are relaxing on a beach, especially after dreaming of the warm summer nights on Coney Island. Try the Dark N’ Slushie (Gosling’s Black Rum, Ginger, Lime). For $6, the crisp ginger and cool rum will flow easily down the wide straw for a sweet end to a festive field trip.

Glady’s is located at 788 Franklin Avenue Brooklyn, NY.

 

 

 


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