I was unprepared for Stephen Shore. I frequent museums. When time and life and cash flow allows. I’ve done so all my adult years, and it is my pattern to be caught by surprise, and that still surprises me. This time, I’m at the Museum of Modern Art in New York. I spent the morning walking from high in upper east to deep in the Village, to the fringes of Nolita. I’ve done my city rituals. I’ve had a bagel and noted the dogs that look like their owners, I’ve peered with nostalgia into the surviving luncheonettes, admired the city’s sense of humor, resilience and creativity and the unexpected delights that lurk around corners and in the neighborhood parks.
I’ve looked into the windows and walked the aisles of my favorite places for Japanese design, quirky vintage, salvaged ceramics and deep, dark espresso. This has all been delightful, but expected. I spent a moment savoring Joey Ramone Boulevard. I paused on the street I was almost certain was the site of the cover shoot for Blonde on Blonde. I thought about a twenty year old Patti Smith in St. Mark’s Place. I also watched the ice skaters at Rockefeller Center. Because you do. By noon my feet could take no more, so I surrendered to the subway and travelled back uptown, exiting at 55th to find my way to MoMa and to lunch.
Lunch was tomato soup with black lentils in the tastefully appointed café, and thus fortified, I wandered among the expected pleasures of the galleries. Like everyone else, I stood in front of Starry Night. I sat in a room, a whole room, full of Picassos. I looked at Jasper Johns by way of Jackson Pollock and I grew weary of the beauty and the challenge and the standing and decided it was time to hit my hotel and put those tired feet up. But as I do, I decided I should seek out the special exhibit, the thing that wouldn’t be there when I returned, as I do every year or three.
So, Stephen Shore? Photography? I like photography. So, sure, Shore. And I walk slam into my childhood, walls lined with black and whites of Warhol in the factory. Warhol, playing, hobnobbing, conducting the magnificence of John Cale hanging out with Lou Reed while Edie Sedgwick leans over for a kiss and Nico watches in her impeccable cool. To a person they are gorgeous, jaded and attain a level of style and grace that we ordinary folk could only aspire to in adolescent dreams. They are wasted. On whatever drugs and drink they were doing, but more wasted in those lives lost, in this world that has turned and turned away from all of us. Almost all gone, but not Shore, who spent the seventies in a magnificent and wide ranging exploration of color and spends his seventies on Instagram,
I have to drag myself away from the factory, a factory that was producing its goods and its bads when I was in kindergarten, but as soon as I cross into the room of color, I am captured in a different way. Gas stations and motels and great empty expanses of the American west.