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.

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