When people come to New York, top of the sight seeing is on Museum Mile in Manhattan. Because of time and ease. it is common to forget to check the outer boroughs. New Yorkers are particularly bad at this. We forget PS1 in Long Island City, The Museum of Moving Images in Astoria, The Coney Island Museum, the Bronx Museum or the great Brooklyn Museum.
Located next to the Brooklyn Botanical Garden and a block away from Prospect Park, the Brooklyn Museum changed a lot in the past five years. They have been working hard (and succeeding) to bring the neighborhood in the doors.
A week or so ago I watched the Robert Redford movie “The Hot Rock” and spotted the Brooklyn Museum in all its 70’s glory. So when a friend was in from Portland, I figured this was the perfect time to visit. While I knew there was a Norman Rockwell show on, I was totally surprised by the exhibition “Norman Rockwell: Behind the Camera”. I know Norman Rockwell as the harbinger of all things Americana, but that completely limits his artistic reach. To be honest, this show reminded me the Diane Arbus: Revelations Exhibition that I saw at the Walker Museum in Minneapolis in 2006.
This exhibition shows Rockwell’s process, specifically his early embrace of photography, in the late thirties. His paintings are so well known that to see the source photographs feels like you are seeing a tribute, not his sketch-book. Rockwell was so specific in each placement that he used books to prop feet so that the leather bent and shined the way it would in action. He used ropes, props and sometimes people to create windy effects. Clearly he saw the whole piece from the start. “Before a model even attempts to pose for me,” he said, “I tell him the story I want my picture to tell because I want him to understand what I am trying to do, what I am trying to convey. Then I get into the pose myself and show him how I think it should be done.”
This exhibition is a great reminder for artists on how to developing their process. The exhibition runs until April 10. 2011. When you visit, make sure you stop into Island’s for some good Jamaican Curry.
By Robert Marb