It really was a good time for an arts tour

By Arlene McKanic

Last weekend certainly wasn’t the happiest one for anyone, and perhaps the last thing to do was to take an arts tour.

But then again, the mayor had encouraged us to try to regain as much normalcy in the city as we could, and besides, engrossing oneself in art could be balm for the emotions.

The Queens Artlink bus leaving from the Museum of Modern Art in Manhattan was huge and comfortable — a tourer, not the shuttle bus that beetled around Queens during the ArtFrenzy last May. Only a few people boarded that afternoon, and traffic to the bridge was light.

The bus went past the oblivious carriage horses along Central Park, past the Plaza and the Pulitzer fountain and the tony Eastside stores to the Queensboro Bridge lower roadway. From there I could see the skyline and the cloud of grayishyellow smoke rising from downtown and thought, “It’s really true.”

The bus arrived in Queens, swept around the municipal parking lot at Queens Plaza and ended up at P.S. 1. My last visit to P.S. 1, during the overhyped and overcrowded Warm Up 2001, was less than thrilling, but this afternoon the place was quiet, its gravel lots empty.

Inside the building several exhibits were being shown, including “Buzz Club: News from Japan,” featuring works by more than 100 artists, commercial designers and anonymous inventors; video projects by South Korean artist Kim Sooja; and Ashkan Sahihi’s “Drug Series” with large photos showing what happens when people get high. Curious.

The next stop on the tour was the Isamu Noguchi Garden museum and Socrates Sculpture Park. The Noguchi museum was cool and peaceful, its courtyard garden full of bamboo, mugo pines and stone sculptures.

“You’re not supposed to touch that!” the smiling tour guide told me as I dipped my hand in a water sculpture.

“Oh! Sorry!”

Other sculptures were set up throughout the museum’s plain rooms and though some were shaped, most reminded me of chunks of rock that had been torn out of quarries and polished at the edges.

I then headed down the street to the Socrates Sculpture Park. The park was undergoing some kind of renovation — dozens of pine saplings were planted in a group, and there were muddy craters everywhere -— and festooned with yellow caution tape. Some of the sculptures were interesting, like the mobiles at the river’s edge that were moved by the wind and made a calming music as mallets hit metal rods.

But nearby was the ugliest thing I had seen since the Queens Plaza municipal parking lot, an installation on the lawn that looked like the sloughed skin of a dragon. I went up to it to ascertain if it was really supposed to be there or if it was a piece of industrial waste, and found out that it was, indeed, a sculpture.

The bus returned shortly and took the few passengers to The Museum of the Moving Image. The museum — which will soon exhibit “A/V Geeks,” that series of films you remember from school warning about the dangers of drugs, sex and bad hygiene — was reached after a trip along Broadway in Astoria, the only neighborhood I had seen that day where the streets were bustling. Flags were everywhere, fluttering from car antennae, in the windows of shops and the doors of brownstones, and transformed into girls’ hair ribbons.

After the museum the bus returned to P.S. 1, then returned to Manhattan and MOMA. The return trip afforded an even better view of the yellow dust cloud, and I realized that a flag had been put on the bridge. On the other side of the bridge, a barge full of debris made its way slowly down the East River.

The Queens Artlink bus, which is free, operates on Saturday and Sunday between 11:30 a.m. and 5:30 p.m. and runs every hour. The Museum of Modern Art is at 11 West 53rd Street, between Fifth and Sixth avenues.

Reach Qguide writer Arlene McKanic by e-mail at timesledger@aol.com or call 229-0300, Ext. 139.

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