Make sure your Manolo Blahniks are buffed and ready for a run people: the summer’s hottest sequel shimmies into US cinemas today (UK readers, you’re up tomorrow). Sex and the City 2 has been fluffing up frenzied interest since it started shooting scenes last year and now – at long last – our wait is over! Continuing to spin off from the award-winning HBO series (in turn based on the books by Candace Bushnell), this second Sex installment see Samantha get the girls to pack up their Louis Vuitton cases and head off on an all-expenses-paid trip to exotic Abu Dhabi (actually filmed in Morocco). Plot-lines have been hyper protected of course, but some leaks have led to Miranda (dreaming of quitting her job to become a housewife?), Big (will he and Carrie have a baby?) and Aidan (does this old flame burn a hole in Carrie’s marriage?)
The film’s main star Sarah Jessica Parker has said that this year’s Sex is more of a romp (a recoiling-from-recession antidote to the sad notes in the first film). And just as the Sex series and the films cast the city as a crucial, central “character” (with buildings, hoods, parks, eateries, clubs, shops and spas all adding to the inimitable urban atmosphere), I decided to nod to New York today. Our painting is called The City from Greenwich Village (1922) and is by the American artist John Sloan (1871 – 1951).
To get started, Sloan took classes at the Pennsylvania Academy: he began art in earnest in 1896 and moved to New York in 1904. There he felt the reverberations of the rapid population spurt and untold urbanization that unfolded in the States around 1900. From that point, city life became a central theme for a group of young realist painters then working, who quickly became known as the ‘Ashcan’ school, for their unglamorous depictions of gritty city life. Sloan’s painting, focussing on a cityscape, emblematizes the first wave of US Modernism.
Looking on, it’s clear that the ‘Modern’ American style is actually quite conservative, at least by European standards (this particularly in the case of Sloan, who found it difficult to adapt to the highly conceptual ideas behind the continental avant-garde). This work is rich with the artist’s love for the nuts and bolts of his adopted metropolis: spot the elevated tracks, the snaking train, the wedge of a building to the right, the built-up, mixed-up blocks to the left. These hulking and heaving shapes have the city take on a glowering, growling life of its own.
There’s an atmospheric intensity here that surely comes from the purpled palette. Sloan started thinking about color after he’d visited the Armory Show in 1913 (an exhibition held in NYC that united 1,600 European and American Modernist artworks). The colors move from deep and dark in parts of the foreground to a peachy glow way off in the distance. And lighting pricks the whole into life, dotting and spotting the surface with yellow.
At the time of going to press, early reviews of Sex and the City 2 weren’t so favourable: the LA Times said “the satire is sagging, the irony’s atrophied and the funny is flabby”; Us Weekly reckoned “this sequel is as cheesy as a bad designer knockoff”; and USA Today called it a “mortifying mess.” Oh dear. But d’you know what? The 2008 original also wound up with mixed, average reviews at best and I went to see that movie three times at the theater. I for one will always be up for this fiesta of friendship, fashion and fun.