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Where the Wild Things Came From

Wild Things Days kicked off in New York today with the unveiling of original drawings and manuscripts by the author of Where The Wild Things Are.

Wild Things Original Cover

By Dean Stattmann

When Maurice Sendak sat down in 1955 to put the final touches on his illustrated book, Where the Wild Horses Are, he completed but a framework for the story it would later become. Now, over a half-century later, with Sendak’s award-winning children’s book just days away from its international film debut, Where the Wild Things Are is about to enter the next stage of its evolution. To celebrate, The Morgan Library and Museum in New York City is hosting an exhibition of Sendak’s original illustrations and manuscripts to highlight the creative process that gave birth to the 1963 best-seller.

Beneath the lofty stained-glass and fresco-clad ceiling of The Morgan’s majestic East Room, surrounded by three-tiered antique bookshelves bearing historic titles by Charles Darwin and Mark Twain, art lovers and Wild Things fanatics alike converged this morning to browse early drafts and preliminary sketches from Maurice Sendak’s 1963 children’s book, Where the Wild Things Are in an exhibition entitled Where the Wild Things Are: Original Drawings by Maurice Sendak.

Where the Wild Things Are uses minimal prose and compelling illustrations to tell the story of Max, an imaginative young boy, who is sent to his bedroom without dinner and consequently creates a magical world filled with fantastic creatures, or Wild Things, by simply setting his imagination free.

Of the 15 artifacts put on display, three seemed to garner particular attention. The first, a drawing of Max sailing away from a ferocious sea monster, reveals Sendak’s process of developing his characters from early tracing paper sketches to the images found in the book today. Another piece, a pencil-drawn scene excluded from the final published version, shows Max, having discarded his utensils, tucking into a bowl of spaghetti, poised on all fours atop the dinner table. But perhaps the most insightful of all the items on display is a two-page excerpt from Sendak’s notebook, which reveals profound details about his artistic process.

“Not only do we see Sendak’s work, we see him giving instructions to himself,” says curator Christine Nelson. One page bears the ballpoint scribbles of a later Where The Wild Horses Are manuscript, with a note from the author, “Drop this story for time being – I’m forcing it and it won’t be forced.” On the adjacent page, after attempting the current title in verse form, Sendak simply writes, “ALL BAD.”

The exhibition, organized in cooperation with Philadelphia’s Rosenbach Museum and Library, the official home of Sendak’s artifacts, is part of Wild Things Days, a two-month-long, Philadelphia-based series of events, exhibitions and activities based around Sendak’s work. The exhibition at The Morgan is the only event to take place in New York and will remain open until the end of Wild Things Days on Nov. 1.

Image: Preliminary drawing of dust jacket for Where the Wild Things Are. Pen and ink, watercolor. Copyright Maurice Sendak, 1963. All rights reserved. Courtesy of The Morgan Library and Museum.



The TRASHman

Adrian K

By Dean Stattmann

If you’ve recently passed by Cite – the eclectic SoHo furniture store on Greene Street – you may have noticed a bright pink polka-dotted bag in the window. Rather than a special edition Lovesac, this is the work of up-and-coming Harlem-based artist Adrian Kondratowicz. Oh and it’s actually a trash bag. In 2008, with the vision of reuniting art with function, Kondratowicz created TRASH, a line of biodegradable polka-dotted trash bags. Made from a PVC liner scented to repel rodents and insects, the eye-catching eco-bags quickly got the attention of the press, giving Kondratowicz the exposure he needed to pursue more sizeable ventures. And now, on the eve of unveiling his latest project, he answers some questions about TRASH and how artists need to adapt their work for tough economic times.

What inspired TRASH?

I was originally thinking of getting some poster boards, renting out some ad space and running these posters that were pink with white polka dots and just tiling it really, really big. After finding out how expensive that was, I printed some out and started wheat pasting them, but then the thing with wheat pasting stuff illegally is that people tear it down as soon as they see it, or it just gets done over really quickly, so I needed something that was basic that would be there, but also that was not very ‘street,’ and for some reason the trash bag popped into my head and then I just imagined the whole street lined with them.

How did the project materialize?
I shopped it around all the art production companies, the non-profits and the private dealers and collectors, and everybody was very enthusiastic but nobody wanted to write me a cheque. So I wrote myself a cheque, put everything I had behind it and it worked out very well. It’s just a matter of planning and being organized. It’s like with everything else. It wasn’t really that hard to do. And also a bit of luck helps too.

How was luck involved?
Doing the right location at the right time and having the right people see it. It’s not like we promoted the thing. I have a small mailing list and the whole point of doing these things is to create awareness of some sort, whether it be for me, the project or the environment. It’s funny, like after two or three installations, everything went live on the web through the blogs and next thing you know TV stations are calling me and magazines are asking for press material and it was just like a snowball and it keeps on coming.

Photo by Dean Stattmann

What was TRASH’s biggest victory?
Just getting it done, from having sketches to ordering the bags. Before I did the installations I had a series of promotional events with maybe 20 or 30 people installing the bags at various people’s homes and then actually putting them on the street. I guess that was the most exciting. That’s always the most exciting, when someone sees your work and reacts.

What do you do to give your art that mass appeal?
The way I conceptualize my stuff is I think of a concept visually and I try to integrate specific behaviors into it and obviously the most common is how do you make it so people can actually buy it or benefit from it. Why would they need this? Why should this be in their lives? I think that’s the new definition of art.

So, what’s next for you?
My next project is called “Paint by Numbers” and it involves the public and participation. It’s a project for community regeneration and it involves enrolling people and inviting people to participate in creating a community mural that’s made out of stickers and the fun part happens with me distributing the stickers. There are a couple different ways I’m going to do that, but I don’t want to get too deep into it. But it’s going to be really fun!

Photos by Dean Stattmann



Second Lives: Remixing the Ordinary
December 5, 2008, 3:36 am
Filed under: News | Tags: , , , , , ,

MAD

Next time you toss out your plastic cutlery, you may as well be throwing away a priceless work of art. This is the theme at “Second Lives,” the inaugural exhibition of New York City’s Museum of Arts and Design.

Situated in Manhattan’s Upper West Side, towering over the hustle and bustle of Columbus Circle, the newly opened Museum of Arts and Design awaits the inevitable hordes of curious New Yorkers seeking out the new and different. At least they’ll be at the right place.

“Second Lives” is an exhibition that will take all your preconceptions of modern art and flip them upside down. Upon entering the museum’s fifth floor, visitors are confronted by a large body of silver text printed on a very white wall. Part of it reads, “the exhibition examines why artists around the globe choose the diverse materials they use in crafting their works and how these choices inform both the context and the viewer’s response.”

Next, you will either see a chair made of quarters, a mannequin constructed out of tiny puzzle pieces or a gigantic Buddha carved out of international phone books. If you haven’t noticed yet, paint and pastels aren’t welcome here.

One of the cornerstones of the exhibition is a pyramid, approximately seven feet high, made up entirely of white plastic spoons and red rubber bands. This is the work of British artist Jill Townsley, and it encompasses everything “Second Lives” aims to convey. The beauty of the piece lies not in its existence, explains a plaque on a nearby wall, but rather in its destruction. It goes on to explain that the spoons, which are typically recognized as culinary utensils, have been taken out of their original context, and are now associated with the construction of something beautiful. What’s more, when the rubber bands snap and the spoons come crashing to the ground, they will have lost their initial connotations altogether.

But not everyone is ready to accept the foreign logic of such an exhibition, and there will inevitably be those who turn up their noses to what could be perceived as a mockery of the arts. A prominent display is artist Johnny Swing’s “Quarter Lounge,” a curvaceous lounge chair made up predominantly of 25 cent pieces. The plaque quotes the artist: “I thought that sitting in something made from what normally clinks together in your pockets is altogether a bizarre new truth. If money is furniture, what then is the truth? That’s the question that lets you know something has been repurposed.” But not everyone reads the plaques.

“I’ve seen this before,” said one viewer standing in front of the chair. “I saw something just like this at an exhibition overseas years ago, a chair made out of coins. Well, anyone who calls himself Johnny Swing deserves a spanking anyway,” he scoffed as he turned on his heel and moved on to the next display. If only we were all so cultured.