A dad and his daughters, loving life in New York City

Thursday, December 7

Annie Leibovitz and Ron Mueck at the Brooklyn Museum

Two big crowd-pleasing shows are... um... pleasing big crowds at the Brooklyn Museum. Scoboco joined the throngs last Sunday—we arrived at around 11:30, and although there wasn't yet a line to get in, the galleries were pretty packed by the time we left, about 90 minutes later—and the three of us agreed that the many pleasures of the exhibits far outweigh the occasional annoyance of jostling with a family from, say, Texas. Or Tribeca.

First, the Leibovitz, which includes more than 200 photographs from 1990 to 2005, and which I enjoyed so much, on so many levels. Her celebrity portaits are, of course, exquisite, whether its because of her subjects (who are, almost by definition, entertaining to look at), her staging, her timing, or her composition. Again and again I looked at these prints and came away with the feeling that, yes, this is exactly what a photograph of this person should look like; there is no better way to do it... even if it's Leonardo DiCaprio with a swan draped around his neck! Bo and I also especially liked the shots where she pulled back to reveal the untidy world beyond the studio backdrops, adding a touch of humilty (and humanity) to her subjects, or sometimes creating odd revelations, as in President Clinton's portrait in which he's almost lost among the Oval Office trappings, as if HIS stage is bigger than any one person.

Perhaps even more compelling, however, were Leibovitz's family snapshots: of her parents, her brothers and sisters, her children and, especially, her longtime companion Susan Sontag. Recorded here are their travels together; their daily life, both playful and subdued; and an intimate chronicle of Sontag's battle with, and eventual death from, cancer, some two years ago. The love and gratitude Leibovitz felt for this woman is abundantly clear, and is honestly, beautifully expressed in both her images and her words of rememberance. A totally moving experience.

For a different way of looking at people, take Ron Mueck, who creates stunningly, creepily lifelike sculptures of men, woman and babies in various stages of fear, anxiety, discomfort, vulnerability. The only thing that's not amazingly realistic about these people are their size: Mueck's is a world of giants and lilliputians, which makes their meticulous realism (the artist hand sews each hair into the skin, for example, to create the appearance of follicles) all the more striking.

So all that was great... but, honestly? I'm pretty sure Co's favorite part of the day was hanging out by the mesmerizing water-jet fountain outside the museum (as you're leaving, it's to the right of the front doors). The Leibovitz show will be at the museum through January 21; the Mueck through February 4.

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