MHC Seminar 1, Professor Casey Henry

Author: tzipporachwat

Steam Project – Tzippora Chwat


New York City is a metropolis of culture, especially music. New York City is home to many concert venues, each of which has its own history and character. While being in New York has affected these venues, these venues have also affected New York. Some venues have been cultural meccas for historical cultural scenes (like CBGB and the punk scene), some have been centers for social change (like Max’s Kansas City and sexuality or The Town Hall and gender roles), and some have been mirrors for the changing economics of the areas they inhabit (like Carnegie Hall or Webster Hall). My project analyzes how various concert venues in New York City became more than just buildings for musicians to play in and their effects on New York City’s history and culture.




Works Cited:

The Intersection of Art and Commerce

Perhaps not surprisingly, art and commerce have been intertwined for a long time. Kanye West and Virgil Abloh are both self-proclaimed modern examples of artists and businessmen, but are actually celebrities using their fame (or infamy) to popularize their brands or friends’ brands.

One of the earliest and best artists to combine art and commerce was Irving Penn. Irving Penn was an American photographer known for his fashion photography done for Vogue. Penn used his fashion photography and came up with beautiful magazine covers that highlighted the art of fashion, as shown below.

However, he was also very established in the photography community for his Modernist still lifes of everyday objects, portraits of creative magnates, and photograph of peoples from around the world. He was undoubtedly a great artist.

Still, Penn also used his art for advertising, beyond Vogue.  He did a lot of freelance advertising for companies like Clinique, Chanel, and L’oreal. My favorite of his ads was actually for L’oreal and I believe that it truly highlights Penn’s phenomenal synthesis of art and advertising. It is clearly art, but it is also selling a product, lipstick.

The Met actually did an exhibit showcasing Penn’s work this past summer. It included all types of photographs by him, showing his extreme versatility. For more works by Penn, check out!?perPage=20&offset=180.

Rodin, Michaelangelo, and Mapplethorpe

Rodin and Michelangelo were both fantastic sculptors who had different styles.

Rodin’s sculptures are all very focussed on the human body. The sculptures often feature very prominent and detailed muscles. He also creates sculptures of the human body contorting in magnificent positions.  For example, one of the sculptures featured in the Rodin exhibit was an extremely detailed hand. In this sculpture Rodin focusses on the form of the hand and how all of its muscles work to form an interesting position.  Another example of Rodin’s focus on shapes formed by the body is “Fallen Caryatid Carrying an Urn”. While this sculpture does not focus on each muscle like the hand does, it does show how the human body can move to form intricate and interesting shapes.    Another prime example of Rodin’s love of the human form is in his sculpture of the entire body of a man. The sculptures show his large shoulder, abdominal, thigh and arm muscles. 


Mapplethorpe’s photographs of the male body are similar to Rodin’s sculptures. Like Rodin, he highlights every detail of the muscles and the shapes they can take, often not even including the models’ faces. Such is the case in this photo,  . Mapplethorpe does not include his subject’s face, but rather shows every line and detail formed by the model flexing his muscles. Like the Rodin, there is an emphasis on the shoulder, abdominal, and thigh muscles.

Contrastingly, Michelangelo’s sculptures focussed more on the details of the human face and hair. For example, in his sculpture of a young angel, Michelangelo puts the most detail into the angel’s curly hair.  He also puts so much work into making the angel’s face conventionally beautiful. In some of his works not displayed at the Met, Michelangelo synthesizes his attention to the faces and an attention to bodies, just like in Michelangelo’s David, displayed at the Galleria dell’Accademia in Florence. In this sculpture, Michelangelo gives immense attention to the beauty of the face and hair, but also includes a lot of details in the muscles. Additionally, the statue is massive (17 ft tall) and completely detailed and beautiful throughout.

Mean Streets and “Shakey Dog”

Both Martin Scorsese’s  Mean Streets and Ghostface Killah’s “Shakey Dog” provide images of the lives of members involved in organize crime. They have some similarities and some differences. Mean Streets gives a broad view of mafia life, while “Shakey Dog” describes a more specific incident, an armed robbery by the gang.

Both the mafia in Mean Streets and the gang in “Shakey Dog” exhibit extreme loyalty to each other. In Mean Streets, Charlie is very loyal to his family, collecting money for his uncle, and even his girlfriend’s family, protecting her cousin and his friend Johnny. In “Shakey Dog”, Ghostface Killah describes the teamwork of the robbery and how him and Frank worked together.

Another similarity between the mafia and the gang are their usages of violence to get what they want. In Mean Streets, many of Charlie’s collections turn violent, sometimes containing gunshots. In “Shakey Dog” there is also a lot of violence and gunshots, especially done by Frank, who “put two holes in the doorman’s Sassoon” and “show the skinny dude.”

The movie and song diverge in their characterizations of the mafia members and gang members. Scorsese provides a fuller image of the mafia members, showing how they are violent and flawed, but also have consciences, especially Charlie. Charlie is very conflicted about his lifestyle because he is religious and wants to atone for his sins, but does not want to change his actions. He tries to make up for his sins a little bit by protecting Johnny, but is still restless. On the otherhand, Ghostface Killah does not make any attempt to redeem the violent robbers in the eyes of the listeners. He even seems proud of their ruthlessness. This may be due to the nature of a movie, versus the nature a song, since a movie is significantly longer than a song. It may also be due to the artists’ purposes. Scorsese intends to give a holistic view of the mafia, showing the good and bad parts of it; Ghostface Killah, intends to show one incident and maybe even intimidate others so they know to watch out for him and his friends.

Bobby Womack and the Studio Museum

Bobby Womack’s “Across from 110th Street” and Andy Robert’s painting at the Studio Museum both portray the physical space in Harlem without sugarcoating it. In the chorus of his song, Bobby Womack describes a series of sketchy occurrences going on on the streets like a pimp trying to recruit a “weak” woman and a drug dealer trying to sell his drugs to an addict. He then says “Harlem is the capital of every ghetto town”, globalizing the environment of Harlem to other cities too. In his painting “Check II Check” (below), Andy Roberts depicts a streetscape of a deli on Malcom X, not very far from the Study Museum.  His painting 

the street is very colorful, and busy like the streets I walked through to get to the museum. Just from the pictures, you can tell the street is loud and hustling and bustling, probably full of both good things and bad things. As we were walking to the museum, Lesly, who lives in Harlem, told me stories of things that had happened to her and her family on the streets we were walking through. Some of the stories were scary, while some were comical. Lesly’s first hand accounts, the song, and the painting all come together to form a multi-faceted depiction of the streets of Harlem. They are filled with good things, bad things, random things, sketchy thing, and everything in between, giving it a distinct personality, which may be similar to other cities, but “the capital” of them.

Frank O’Hara depicts New York City as a metropolis filled with good memories, while J.G. Ballard depicts an overcrowded dystopian city. Even though I agreed with aspects of both works, my New York City falls somewhere in between.

Like O’Hara, I enjoy the simple pleasures of New York City – the sunsets, the wide array of people going about their daily lives, the lights, etc. But the feelings of claustrophobia and overcrowding in Ballard’s story, resonated with me too, bringing back horrifying memories of pushing my way through Times Square through throngs of tourists who seemingly don’t understand that sidewalks are for walking.

I truly have a love-hate relationship with New York City.

On the one hand, I love the anonymity it provides. It lets me go wherever I want to do whatever I want with only a slim chance of running into somebody I know. While at home in Long Island, I would rather not go to the mall alone, so I don’t look like I have no friends. In NYC, I am comfortable enough to go the MoMa on my own when I have a craving for art, or wander around Chelsea and the Highline (which happens to be my favorite place in the city) without a specific purpose in mind. I could even walk around crying and nobody would think twice about me.

On the other hand, it is almost scary and isolating to be so unknown in the city. Nobody would think twice about me crying in the street! I understand how easy it is for Ward to just go with the flow of “a shuffling mob” but it is also frightening to be so surrounded by strangers just going along with their hustle and bustle. For all I know, as I sit and let the subway carry me from place to place, the person next to me is the perfect friend or partner for me, but I will never know because social propriety dictates that we should sit in silence instead. In “Personal Poem” O’Hara writes that “I wonder if one person out of 8,000,000 is thinking of me” then “and go back to work happy at the thought of possibly so” but as I read that line, I shudder, thinking about how the answer is more like “probably not”.

That probably makes me sound like a cynic, which I am not completely. I know their are both pros and cons to the anonymity of city life, just like there are pros and cons of small town life (aka being so known drives me crazy too). A song, “Union Square” by Chumped perfectly summarizes my mixed feelings toward New York City. (  The lead singer, Anika, sings “And the Subway smells like shit, but it’s lovely isn’t it, in the sense that it will take you anywhere”. She then describes the contradictory feelings of being with other people, but alone in New York City with “Yeah, we’re all in this together, but what does it all mean? Not a damn thing”. She then concludes “We are not alone, At least until our stop arrives.” Chumped encapsulates the jumbled feelings of being alone and part of the crowd of the city.