Thursday, October 26, 2006

Wednesday at the Morgan

Yesterday I went to see "Bob Dylan's American Journey, 1956-1966" at The Morgan Library and Museum. JPMorgan and Bob Dylan --- the times they are a'changin'.

Given the publicity for the exhibit and the expansive new atrium lobby of the museum, the actual exhibit is in a surprisingly small space, one room that is no more than a 40 by 90 foot space. The experience for me was like being in a Bob Dylan funhouse, absent the distorting mirrors, false doors and a rolling floor. Sounds of Dylan's voice and songs come from every direction. There are listening booths all around, one each for Blonde on Blonde, The Times They are a Changin', Highway 61 Revisited, Freewheeling, Bringing It All Back Home, Another Side of Bob Dylan, and Bob Dylan(first album). There's an open "Don't Look Back" cubicle, with some portions of the film always running. There's a television monitor at the front that invites you to choose between various Dylan interviews and out takes. Lots going on for a small space.

There are displays related to Hibbing, Greenwich Village and upstate New York. There are areas devoted to primary influences like Woody Guthrie, Joan Baez and Dave Van Ronk. There are concert posters, ticket stubs, newspaper clippings and album covers(which Dylan signed as if content with the message already there as in signing Highway 61 album by writing "how does it feel to be on your own like a rolling stone" or a Times are a'changin' album cover by writing "the times they are a changin' ").

The Morgan is also into the exhibit more broadly. The gift shop has running Dylan music that is not the usual best hits, but good tunes that you know but don't usually hear. And the cafe in the atrium has a Bob Dylan Blue Plate Special on the menu(cheeseburger, cajun fries, cole slaw, apple pie) along with the stylish salads, sandwiches, and drinks.

Given the impressive architecture of the museum inside and out, I was at first a little underwhelmed by the Dylan exhibit. It does not threaten the Morgan Library. But I liked it, and everyone else there, from pierced face note takers to sweater vested cane users, seemed to as well.

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