New York Day 4: Day Off! Central Park & The Whitney (including Andy Warhol)!!

Day 4 – Day Off- with an early morning run round Central Park followed by a visit to The Whitney Gallery on the Hudson River with a special retrospective exhibition of  Andy Warhol.

Central Park in the early morning creates a great sense of the deeper context of New York. Here you become aware of how the Manahatta landscape was before the arrival of the Dutch in the early 1600s. There are the original dirt tracks, original rock escarpments and even original trees and native fauna (eagles, squirrels, blue jays). And all this is surrounded by this vast metropolis, which includes the building once lived in by John Lennon and Yoko Ono:


Once you get to the top, North End of Central Park you come to a high hill called The Eminence which was the last place held by the British forces before they were routed by the American revolutionaries. From here you have a wonderful view over the lake at the top end of Central Park which is completely frozen over.



And once you get to the very top of Central Park you are actually in Harlem. Today, Sunday, we visited a Gospel Mass in Harlem (more of that to come) but we got out of the subway at Malcom X/ Lennox Boulevard. This Boulevard actually extends all the way down to the top end of Central Park- which is where I arrived at the half-way point of my morning run:


In the afternoon I went to The Whitney Gallery of American Art “Downtown” on the Hudson River. Here is a view of the city from the roof top cafe in The Whitney:


The Whitney itself was housing an amazing retrospective of Andy Warhol’s work. This is the first in 30 years. I have always been a little dubious about Warhol but I was lucky enough to catch a tour which has really changed my mind about Warhol altogether. I used to think that he and Pop Art was some kind of sleazy, consumerist version of the art that was driving American commercialism and that was at the same time driving New Yorkers crazy. I could not have been further from the truth. One sentence in a billboard in the gallery struck me. It said:

Andy Warhol produced thousands of commercial illustrations, paintings, drawings, collages, prints, photographs, sculptures, book, magazines, films, videos, TV shows & multimedia installations, radically redefining each medium while also calling into question the symbols that reflected many of the aspirations and anxieties of life in New York at the end of World War II.

We have been studying the reactions to New York in artists like Howard Benton and writers like Scott-Fitzgerald, Salinger and Baldwin. Warhol, I see now, confirms and supports their critiques of this world in New York. He is very much on their wavelength. There was also this quote by Warhol himself which reveals something of his depth:

warhol quote

And then on top of all this I was amazed to learn that Warhol was, despite his Pop veneer, despite the conflicts with tradition caused by his being Gay, despite all this he was deeply religious and in his last works he was drawn deeply into existential questions by recasting some of the great religious images such as Leonardo’s Last Supper. I can definitely recommend a visit to this gallery, both for its “free” Warhol exhibition, but also its incredible collection of significant American modern art. Here is a smattering of some of the works I loved to see (Click on the images to see them enlarged and to read the texts:

We were in Greenwich Village two days ago and Eric there was telling us about the Stonewall Riots for Gay Rights that were happening there in the 60s; Warhol was himself deeply involved in this movement:

And here is some of the work that reveals his deep existential questioning and his connections with his own religious traditions- kept publicly very quiet until the end of his life:

While in the Whitney, I picked up the one book I have bought so far (self-restraint!): The Philosophy of Andy Warhol by Warhol himself…. or rather by a close friend who decided to get Warhol to express himself on everything to do with the meaning of life: it is a great read and reminds me in some ways of the poetry of Frank O’Hara in its easy, natural rambling from one event/ point of view to another.

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