S(3) was great and easily held its own against the contemporary work across the hall. I’m always amazed at how dark prints from this era look but always astounded by the detail, the tonality, and the local contrast. They feel like all of the range is in the bottom quarter tones, little is blown out, and there are specular highlights to keep them from getting too flat.
What surprised me the most was Steichen’s work. I’ve seen Stieglitz and Strand countless times so there’s a bit of fatigue there. Steichen’s early work is sumptuous – he really, of the three, had forged his own printing style and pushed the limits of what could be done.
One corner of the Steichen room has a half-dozen or so autochromes. This was one of the earliest color processes which uses colored potato starch to act as color filters. Color images this old always feel special, as if they shouldn’t exist and in the act of seeing them you are discovering them for the world.
From the S(3) show on the second floor, across the building, and down to a gallery below grade you’ll find Guitar Heroes.
The exhibit looks at three luthiers in NYC; John D’Angelico, James D’Aquisto, and John Monteleone, but provides historical context going to back northern Italy in the 1500’s. I tend to gravitate toward simple and unadorned in guitars so my favorite was a James D’Aquisto New Yorker made for Paul Simon.
Guitar Heroes, as an exhibit, relies on the visual over the aural. It’s beautiful but that’s not enough. You wish there was a way to give a sense of how one guitar sounds versus another or even feels. The Met has a gone a long way to fill this gap with a free iTunes app, an extensive web site, and the option to rent an audio tour but a guitar exhibit without a shared sense of the music… something’s missing.
One other new item on display at the Met is the Roman Mosiac from Lod, Israel. It was discovered in 1996 during a highway construction project, it dates back to A.D. 300, and it will be at the Met only through early April. It’s a real treat – fun, playful, vibrant – and as unique for what it does not portray (people) and as for what it does (animals like the giraffe and rhinoceros.)