PHYLLIS ODESSEY

Moorish can be boorish!

SPANISH
PARADISE

GARDENS of the ALHAMBRA
May 21 – August 21
New York Botanical Garden
Curated by Penelope Hobhouse
http://www.nybg.org/alhambra
It was the debut of Lady Gaga’s ‘Born This Way’ 
It was Bob Dylan’s 70th birthday.
All good omens for the opening party
of the Alhambra show at NYBG.
Even so,
sometimes you can’t win.

The Enid A. Haupt Conservatory at the New York Botanical Garden is an elephant, an elegant elephant, but an elephant.  To work some magic in that place takes more than showmanship.  The New York Times called the show “an homage to the meditative pleasures of the Alhambra’s gardens.”  I did not find it so.
I heard the sound of water flowing from the imitation Alhambra-like fountains, walked by the citrus trees, observed the “pint” size cypress, drank the mandatory glass of wine, ate a cheese stick and walked out the door into the Jane Watson Irwin Perennial Garden.
Another couple had the same idea.  They were admiring the oriental poppy ‘Prince of Orange’.  I said to my friend, “This is so much better than being inside.”  The man  turned his head and said “Isn’t though.”

On the way home, I tried to think about where the show had gone wrong.  I took a little time, but I figured it out.  The show needed a conceptual artist.  Someone who would have taken the elements of the Alhambra gardens and transformed the conservatory into a sound piece or some kind of sensory overload.  What was missing was a powerful experience.

“In conceptual art the idea or concept is the most important aspect of the work.  When an artist uses a conceptual form of art, it means that all the planning and decisions are made beforehand the execution is a perfunctory affair. The idea becomes a machine that makes art.”  Sol LeWit
This show needed someone like Sol LeWit to bring the power of Alhambra gardens to NYBG.

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