29 January 2007

you pick a few and there's always more

Gallery hopping in West Chelsea used to be easy. Ten years ago, there were a handful of galleries on the far West Side in the 20s and you could reasonably visit most of them on a Saturday. Now there are several hundred galleries in the area. Instead of just going now, I usually have a handful of shows of interest and then fill in the gaps as I find them or go to the galleries where I usually find something worth seeing. Saturday, I had a couple shows on the list: Bidgood at ClampArt, Brent Green at Bellwether, Michael Petry at Sundaram Tagore.

The day started in Soho with "Boy bordello" at Leslie/Lohman. The drawings were sexy and the cardboard frames were, um, fabulous. Then "Womanizer" at Deitch Projects. You probably shouldn't miss that one. The Vaginal Davis room was rather amusing as were several other pieces. On to "Elephant cemetery" at Artists Space, curated by Christian Rattemeyer. His shows are always interesting and my favorite one at this show may have been the "New monuments for new neighborhoods" by Pedro Reyes and Terence Gower or the film by Mario Garcia Torres. The show included several slide installations and no video. Hmm.

Then Carrie Moyer's show at Canada and a group show at the Educational Alliance with Carrie as one of the artists. I preferred the pieces at the Education Alliance but Canada is one of those galleries that just makes you feel good.

On the way North, I stopped at the Polish socialist conceptualism show at Orchard. The Pawel Althamer video was a real upper; he worked with the residents of a socialist apartment block to get "2000" in window lights for New Year's. He said he just thought people needed some happiness in their lives. It was a tad corny but the faces of the participants were bright. At the B/D Grand Street station, there were musicians on both sides of the tracks, both playing Asian instruments. There had been a piece on NPR about duelling banjos and that came to mind.

On to West Chelsea. I ran into Mike Gaffney of Bobst on the way West and he recommended the African show at Sean Kelly. I started my Chelsea swing at the Santi Moix travel drawings at the Kasmin annex. They were nice and the installation was very beneficial. Sundaram Tagore is in 547 West 27th, a whole new building for me. I rediscovered Priska Juschka (I'd lost them after they left 9th Street in Williamsburg) and the Tim Doud show was quite fine. The Michael Petry show was pretty interesting though the picture in HX was deceptive. I continued on down 27th Street and found a good Joe Ovelman show at Oliver Kamm 5BE. Time was running out, it was about 6 pm but White Box was still letting people in. Their show was "Nuevo arte: colección Tequila Don Julio." It included a couple pieces by Franco Mondini Ruiz from San Antonio whose quattrocento show and pink book were delightful.

So, I had three things on the West Chelsea list and only got to one of them, and it was some of the interstices that made it such a good romp in galleryland.

On Saturday evening, I was reading the Friday Times and noticed the erasure show at Dorsky Gallery Curatorial Programs listed in the "last chance" section. I hadn't been there and decided I could fit in a visit before going to the Carrère & Hastings lecture at Woodlawn Cemetery. When I got to the Dorsky space in Long Island City, they were setting up for an afternoon panel. I really enjoyed the show: Bidlo, Yoko Ono, Christian Holstad, Robin Clark's erased dollars, Oscar Muñoz's fabulous water drawing on hot stone (the drawing disappears as he draws and he keeps repeating on the looped video), Joanne Stamerra Hendricks's "Erase sexism at MoMA" Pink Pearl, and even Rose Mary Woods and her tape from Time.

Since it was two hours until the panel, I went over to P.S. 1. I'd been there two weeks ago so it was a revisit to most of the stuff. One of the big shows was "Altered, stitched & gathered" which was good after erased at Dorsky. Favorite moments at P.S. 1: Vija Celmins's stones, Guillermo Kuitca's "Everything" map (the Oregon portion stopped just North of Sunny Valley where Tee lived and the map included Kansas City, Fort Worth, Topeka, Calgary and lots of other places of relevance in one way or another). Still an hour and a half so I went over to Fisher Landau Center for Art where I found a good James Brown show -- the whole 2nd floor. His titles are not unique so I couldn't help but think about the trouble one would have inventing uniform titles for them. Oh, I did LOOK at them but the five entitled "Mexico," done the same year, same size, same collection. One would presumably end up with "Mexico [teal and red]. 1982" as the uniform title. This is when you need universal identifiers; let's hope the Fisher Landau uses accession numbers. And it also reinforces that little adage (thanks, Linda Barnhart) that a thumbnail is part of the descriptive metadata for a work of art, to confirm that you are indeed talking about the same thing. The "erasure" panel was interesting and included a performance piece by Peter Cramer and Jack Waters. The dichotomies: permanence / impermanence; ephemeral / durability; conserve / not conserve (the play of conservation and conservative); fragility. As Lorriane O'Grady said "I don't know many performance artists who have allowed their work to disappear."

27 January 2007

gerome, raidpere ... et al.

It's been a while. Yesterday afternoon, I went to a lecture on Jean-Léon Gérôme by Marc Gotlieb at the Institute of Fine Arts. He talked about how we viewers are looking at the narrative from a space outside the picture and how the moment of highest emotion has passed. For example, the line of people are returning to Jerusalem in "Golgotha" (Musée d'Orsay) and the shadows of the crosses are underplayed in the right foreground. We probably read the background and come forward to the shadows.

After the lecture, I went up and looked at magazines before meeting Christie at the Josef Hoffmann show at the Neue Galerie. While perusing the magazines, I came across a review/notice of a recent exhibition by Mark Raidpere. I don't know why he wasn't in my consciousness but he is now. He has been doing art photography for about 10 years after working as a fashion photographer. He was the Estonian entry at the Biennale di Venezia in 2005. He mixes traumatic self-portraits, prisoners, family, social rejection, and other rather bleak themes, with a "guarded gay-identity."

"The guarded gay-identity in his oeuvre is simply the reality that he shapes into art as direct experience, into works that are not aggressive or political but instead make you feel and think at the same time." -- Maria-Kristiina Soomre

I also liked this quote [this is for my sister Carol]:
For many, nakedness is humiliating and intimidating (--). For some this satisfies their need for exposure (E. Cooper). To remain clothed means to stay in safety, to keep the anonymous shields of social agreement around yourself.
Hanno Soans and Elo-Liis Parmas: Raidpere's Self-Image

Anyway, I've been enjoying traversing the net (aka googling) on Raidpere and reading about his work. The prison theme is especially poignant because of my own guarded personal business, but also because I just put Fish: a memoir of a boy in a man's prison by T.J. Parsell in my bag as my next book. It's too close, it's too foreign. We are all guarded in some of the business of our life though ...

I just finished reading The intimate life of Abraham Lincoln by C.A. Tripp and he speaks of Lincoln as a guileless truth-speaking pragmatist.

Now, the Hoffmann show was an unqualified delight. The show reconstructs four rooms by Hoffmann with supporting documentation and objects. The rooms are beautifully set in the beaux-arts galleries of the Neue Galerie. Seeing it with Christie was especially right since we both respond vigorously to the Vienna 1900 style but have varying personal preferences. There were a couple boxes of galuchat and neither of us recognized that material. (AAT: Leather made from the skin of a ray fish and characterized by a covering of pearl-like papillae usually ground flat leaving a pattern of tiny contiguous circles which are further emphasized by dyeing.) On one of the galuchat boxes, the tiny circles were darkened for emphasis. Alas, the top was on a high shelf and I hesitated to hoist Christie up so that she could see the emphasis.

After the Hoffmann show, we went to Serafina at 79th and Madison and had a very nice arugula salad and napolitana pizza, with Montepulciano d'Abruzzo house red.

Last week was ALA Midwinter in Seattle. The conference was good and I'll eventually get my report done on http://artcataloging.net/alagen.html. Lots of good discussions at MARBI and I attended most of CC:DA this time. While I am somewhat discouraged by the "progress" on RDA, the CC:DA discussions were mostly interesting. FAST is also moving forward, not with as much revolution as I might like but it is promising. There was also the usual complement of talking with friends over food and not. I got to Seattle about mid-day on Thursday and meandered through the new Seattle Public Library building by Rem Koolhaas. It is really wonderful to walk about in but one has read of staff dissatisfaction. There was a man in a green shirt on the green-lit escalator and he positively glowed. http://www.arcspace.com/architects/koolhaas/Seattle/

08 January 2007

antagonism & victimization

"The next day, though, [Jane] Addams and [John] Dewey got into an argument. It was an argument about argument. Addams said she believed that antagonism was always unnecessary. It never arose from real, objective differences, she told Dewey, 'but from a person's mixing in his own personal reactions -- the extra emphasis he gave the truth, the enjoyment he took in doing a thing because it was unpalatable to others, or the feeling that one must show his own colors.' If Christ drove the moneychangers out of the temple, she said, so much the worse for Christianity. The Civil War, too, showed the futulity of antagonism: 'we freed the slaves by war & and [sic] had now to free them all over again individually, & pay the costs of the war & reckon with the added bitterness of the Southerner beside'." -- The Metaphysical Club by Louis Menand, p. 313.

Thoughts of Iraq and how the antagonism there just worsens life for everyone, or at least for those that aren't dead yet.

And how desire to avoid antagonism can lead to exploitation ... and, here, it gets personal, way too personal.

06 January 2007

words, numbers, cities

There were a few things on the list before the Kara Walker meets Roberta Smith lecture at 4 pm, part of the Times Arts & Leisure arts weekend.

I started out at Tracy Williams Gallery (313 West 4th) for the Simryn Gill show that Roberta Smith reviewed in the N.Y. times a few days ago. The review was mainly about the books (!!) project but the show started with some photographs of Run Island in Malaysia. It's the island that the British traded to the Dutch for Manhattan (aka New Amsterdam). The photos were good, especially one with the prow of the small boat that Gill took over to the island. The prow stops our eyes as well as propelling us toward the destination. It almost appeared solarized but the gallery person said it was just the photo and printing. Most were b&w but a couple were color. A couple photos were of nutmeg trees, one near a banyan tree. We had a bit of banyan love, she'd grown up in Florida and I remember fondly the great banyan trees at Ca D'Zan in Sarasota, Florida.

On to the book project. Gill tore words out of books and put them in little plastic bags. The ragged books, a few dozen of them, were on tables. The plastic bags of words were in archival boxes on a third table, with two to four bags in each box. There were two bags of "always," three bags of "now," a bag with one "brink" (the gallery person said there was also a singleton bag of "gingerly" but I didn't see it). Sometimes, there was one or more scraps where the primary word was hidden and the word from the verso of the scrap was visible. In the "simply" bag was "inert"; in one of the "now" bags, a "think"; one "man" in the "outside" bag. One box had two bags of "home" and one bag each of "vessel" and "apple." Another box had "quite," "quiet" and "common." Yet another had "veranda/verandah," "enough" and "slow." The words against and with each other were intriguing. I started looking at one of the ragged books and then realized that I wanted to look at the scraps before I looked at more books. After looking at the scraps, I looked through a bunch of the books and was thrilled to find the words that read through the holes. Want more (including some pictures):

On the way to Tracy Williams, I passed a corner with Les Deux Gamins and I Tre Merli on opposite corners. It was on West Fourth Street. Don't know where the One was. Among the books, there was a sequence from 21 days to Twenty-two Malaysian stories to Nine Dayak nights to Three dances of Oceania.

From there, on to the Pratt Manhattan gallery for another part of the "shrinking cities" project. Last night, john and I went to the Center for Architecture to see a couple films: first an interview with long-time Detroiter Lee Burns about the Detroit Agriculture Network ("I am farming humanity" by Annette Weisser and Ingo Vetter); the second jumped between segments set in Detroit and Saint Petersburg ("Garden stories" by Boris Gerrets).

The exhibition was pretty interesting. They had copies of the two volumes that serve as a sort of catalog but are much fuller about the various projects than what was on the walls. They also had the wonderful Atlas of shrinking cities published recently by Hatje Cantz. I was sorely tempted by the books but resisted buying them for the moment.

On to Murray Guy where the group show with Matthew Buckingham, Alejandro Cesarco, Louise Lawler, and Allen Ruppersberg. Since I'd already seen the works, I talked for a while with Murray and Guy about shows they'd seen and enjoyed. My next stop was going to be Feigen for the last day of the extended Ray Johnson show. On the way I found Willie Doherty videos at Alexander and Bonin as well as Adi Nes photos at Shainman. One of the Doherty videos ("Passage" 2006) is two men walking toward each other, passing, and then it repeats. Like his last round of videos, it's homoerotic to these eyes but Doherty is heterosexual.

The Ray Johnson show at Feigen was very interesting and they were playing "How to draw a bunny," the documentary about Johnson which starts with the discovery of his body in Sag Harbor. The movie is 90 minutes long and I would have loved to stay longer but I needed to move on toward the CUNY Grad Center for the Walker/Smith conversation. Since Detroit seemed to be one of the themes of the day, it was interesting that Ray Johnson grew up there but escaped to NYC after going to Cass Tech in downtown Detroit.

Looking at the pictures of Detroit reminded me of my visit there with Christie in 2000 or so. She was living in Ann Arbor then. We went to Detroit for the day, visiting Eastern Market, Pewabic Potter, the Iroquois building downtown, and drove around a bit. Driving around is heartbreaking because there are so many gaps in the urban fabric, houses gone. The aerial views in the shrinking cities show and catalogs are beautiful but horrible. The population of Detroit has shrunk almost as much over the last 30 years or so as the post-Katrina population of New Orleans.

On the way, I stopped at Tanya Bonakdar (one of the shows mentioned by Janice Guy) to see the show of "Slave city" by Atelier van Lieshout. Very interesting. One of the books on the gallery desk was Franchise, a 2002 catalog which has a quonset hut-like building on the cover. More round-topped buildings.

Upstairs from "Slave city" were some photos and screens by Sabine Hornig, yet more good stuff.

I guess the shrinking cities theme returned as Walker talked about the show she did at the Met entitled "Kara Walker at the Met: after the deluge." There is much about water in Walker's work and she was selecting the pieces for the Met show when Katrina struck.

The conversation overall wasn't as magnificent as I'd dreamed of. Smith isn't glib in interviewing (for which I'm probably thankful) and Walker is rather shy. The conversation was preceded by a fast trip through a bunch of Walker works and that was compelling. They also showed a bit of one of Walker's films.

new year's resolution

The best one I've seen:

Happy New Year! A good time to give up smoking, join a gym and start eating a macrobiotic diet.

(from Gay times (London), Jan. 2007, p. 12)