25 September 2007

the art & architecture has been pretty exciting

There have been several good art/architecture adventures over the past few days. This evening, I went to a lecture sponsored by Docomomo and given by Albert Ledner, the architect of three National Maritime Union buildings in New York City. Though born in the Bronx, he has spent most of his career based in New Orleans. The buildings in New York are famously shaped: the headquarters now part of St Vincent's Hospital (and threatened by their development plans), the former seamen's hotel now the Maritime, and the annex building behind the hotel. Each is a tell-tale example of Jetson's modernism (and I mean that in a complimentary way). There was an article on Ledner recently in The New York Times. cf http://www.nytimes.com/2006/12/21/garden/21nola.html?partner=rssnyt&emc=rss The article notes that Mayor Nagin of New Orleans lives in Ledner's Ashtray House. The union hall that was most striking to me was the one in Norfolk, looking rather like the new Institute of Contemporary Art in Boston combined with the Villa Savoie.

On Sunday, I went to Long Island City (the part of Queens across the East River from Midtown Manhattan) for some art viewing and a walking tour of daylight factory buildings. At Dorsky Gallery was "Seeing things" curated by Trevor Richardson: not very many works but examples by some favorites (Nina Katchadourian's "Austria" and a paperback still-life by Thomas Allen) as well as the beautiful "Two books" by Abelardo Morell and still life by Zachary Zavisak. From there to the Sculpture Center: four benches in the garden by Jeppe Hein and a big rotating mirror in the main space; in the basement a work by Willoughby Sharp who is also at Mitchell Algus Gallery and other works. I love the basement spaces at the Sculpture Center. P.S. 1 also had some interesting stuff.

The walking tour by Jack Eichenbaum was quite fine. Though I'd ridden the path before, part of the tour was on the elevated number 7 train from Court House Square to 33rd Street with some time on the platform at Queensborough Plaza. The view over L.I.C. as well as toward Manhattan is splendid. We went into three buildings: one that is now quite upscale studio space, two that attempted to be vigorous retail spaces but are mostly small operations and offices. The third building, the former Gimbel's warehouse, used to be occupied by three guys who built sculptures, one of which remains. The remaining sculpture is crafted from an old schoolbus.

Saturday's gallery hopping in Soho and Chelsea was a relatively normal day of hits and misses. Orchard seemed to be closed but I guess they're under construction and the current show is in Midtown. Among the hits: David Stephenson's vaults at Julie Saul Gallery; Collier Schorr at 303 (Spencer Tunick had just signed the guestbook); Jackie Ferrara at Frederieke Taylor (I love her "furniture" and the wall works were good too); Robert Adams photos of leaves of Matthew Marks; small Ugo Rondinone "paintings" (pencil in white paint) also at Matthew Marks (the sculptures dominating the space did nothing for me but the paintings were lovely); Reuben Cox's photos of log cabins by architect Joe Webb at Bespoke, up in the attic at 547 West 27th; Aperture had photos by Bruce Cratsley and Peter Hujar among "Lisette Model and her successors."

Now if the rest of life could just be as nourishing. I'm working on getting perspective on the work bureaucracy and somehow it's seeming to work ... I think.

Oh, go see "Helvetica" if you can. It's a documentary film about, duh, Helvetica font, how the ubiquitous sans serif font talks when it's used. It's really funny at times though you might have to be a font hound to really dig it. cf http://www.helveticafilm.com/

17 September 2007

the perfect amalgam

"I am the perfect amalgam! I dated the Chinese Communist Youth leader and a West Point cadet within a year's period. I was born of a strange stability and chaos. I have seen nothing and everything. I am 26 but feel 100 years old. I am emboldened by youth, unfettered and hopeful, though I am inextricably tied to the past where I saw youth erased in a moment's time. I will be sad and hopeful. I am a conduit of narcissism who struggles on a daily basis to be an ambassador of altruism. There is no assuming logic which rules my life." Steve Scheno's "About me" from Facebook. He asked me to be his friend though I don't know him. He is also a gemini and this "about me" description of the two streams running through his life is provocative for me. The details are different but the basic dichotomy feels familiar.

scream at the librarian, look at the art

While gallery hopping on Saturday, I stopped at Printed Matter. Scream at the librarian by Joel J. Rane was on the front desk. It's issue 3 of the Another Brooklyn chapbook series published by Brooklyn Artists Alliance and includes illustrations by Raymond Pettibon and Christin Sheehan Sullivan. I wanted to add it to my Facebook iRead selections but it doesn't have an ISBN. Sigh.

The Pettibon installation at Zwirner on 19th Street was pretty interesting: drawings like you'd expect with anti-war and other wrenching text. The Kitchen street fair was happening in the street and the big gallery doors were open so there was rather a blend of gallery and street. I kept going North and the street fair was still going on several hours later.

The Sol LeWitt installation at Paula Cooper was great: a beautiful print in the office/entrance area, solid series of drawings in the small gallery, and a great box in the big space. The edges of the box were especially wonderful. The graphite of the drawings was different blacks, depending on the light.

Ann Barham had three pieces in the "Like leaves" show at Tanya Bonakdar: a framed postcard with columns (I love architecture), a DVD with jumbled words and letters changing rapidly sometimes with meaning and well juxtaposed, a model of Leptis Magna constructed of pieces of drinking straws and water bucket handles. The Leptis Magna was wonderful and played well with the postcard.

Metro Pictures was showing a few T.J. Wilcox films and had some large films from the films on the gallery walls. "A fair tale" was about the Puyallup Country Fair and how the Indian chief saved the narrator after the sky diver's parachute covered them all when he landed. You really don't need to know more, just imagine it.

During a visit to George Billis Gallery in the early spring, I noticed a wonderful Kenny Harris painting in the back area and asked George if they planned to have a Kenny Harris show and he said one just ended. I'm really sorry I missed it. Again this Saturday, there was a Kenny Harris in the back area that really caught my eye. He does beautiful reflective floors among other things.

When I got the card from Mitchell Algus about the Willoughby Sharp show, I had a strong memory of issues of Avalanche and other 1960s/1970s art. Mr Sharp was at Algus when I got there and Mitchell introduced me as someone who worked at the NYU Libraries and he said he needed a photocopy. A tad surreal, or maybe it was performance.

The front room at Mixed Greens had some photos by Adia Millett that were ok. I almost left but noticed the curtain into the back room. There were the model rooms that were the inspirations for the photos: a wonderland dark room with constructions, windows into the spaces that were photographed. Quite magical.

The Arsen Savadov paintings at Daneyal Mahmood Gallery were pretty interesting and there was a wonderful photo in the office area. The same aesthetic was evident with colors and shapes spread across the surface but the first impression was very different. The landscape in the photo was picturesque with cliffs over the Black Sea in the Crimea. The foreground was occupied by five of six largely undressed men.

On Sunday, I joined some friends (Heidi, Dan, John, Jacquelyn) for an expedition to Sailor's Haven and the Sunken Forest on Fire Island. It was very pleasant and several times over the course of the day's conversation, art from one of the Saturday shows came to mind. Tucker Nichols's large photos with stick trees were reminiscent of John's hobo logo.

02 September 2007

social networking

Interesting juxtaposition on the front page of the "Metro" section of The New York times today. One story is about a drive-in theater in Buffalo that's closing after being around for 58 years. Right next to that story is one about the increasing numbers of block parties. I guess folks want to watch movies in the privacy of their own homes but they still want to dance, sing and talk in person. I just finished reading Population: 485 by Mike Perry and he mentions once singing at the top of his lungs while cleaning, only to find a neighbor at the door. When Perry apologizes, the neighbor says he always sings pretty loud. Sometimes the privacy of our own homes is not so solo.

01 September 2007

summer of love?

As I thought about what to do this weekend, Elizabeth's expedition last week to Dia:Beacon was resonating so I may do something like that. Maybe Tottenville, way down at the southern end of Staten Island. But yesterday as I read the weekend arts section, I noted that "Summer of love" is closing soon at the Whitney and "The abstract impulse" is newly at the National Academy so off to Museum Mile this morning. First, I stopped at the bank and deposited the small check from my dad's life insurance. I think I'd partly been avoiding depositing it because it was a sure sign that he wasn't coming back, at least in that body.

The "Summer of love" show is art from the 1960s, much of it psychedelic and much accompanied by music. As I looked at the stuff and watched some of the films, I was contemplating the good spirits of that era. No, it wasn't all flowers and peace but there was hope in the air, a feeling that the world could indeed be a better place. Here we are forty years later and it feels like a downhill slide (perhaps even a rush). I've been contemplating the injustice of "poor" Senator Craig losing his seat while the hate- and warmongerers are sitting pretty. Doesn't seem fair. In "Eyetoon" by Jerry Abrams, there's a quick flash of "F*** for peace" and that contrast was common back in the groovy hippie days. No more, or not enough any more. But I am reminded of the irony of seeing one of Nan Goldin's photo installations of lovemaking at Matthew Marks Gallery in 2003, just as we were invading Iraq. Thinking about making love versus making war.

After two floors of "Summer of love," I went up to the Rudolf Stingel show which was rather a trip but without the soundtrack. The gold paintings in the mirrored floor gallery was glorious. The lobby installation was called "Profiling" and showed us gallery goers in multiple and lapse images, sometimes with a caption. My first caption was "nervous" and then "resolute." I stepped out of the gallery and back in and the caption was "captivated." Was it really registering MY return?

"The shapes of space" at the Guggenheim had some wonderful pieces, several by Roni Horn. One of the Horns was called "Untitled (Flannery)" and of course I thought of Flannery O'Connor who is a favorite of Deb Kruse. The blue glass boxes were quite enigmatic and a girl peered down into one, her nose just about touching the surface. And I had to play a pun on Flannery: flânerie. The curators did a wonderful job of juxtaposing works: Carl Andre metal ribbon circling below a Kandinsky with circles, Liam Gillick's "Trajectory platform" with shapes and red so appropriate for the Guggenheim building.

From the crowds of the Whitney and Guggenheim to the nearly empty galleries of the National Academy. Lots of good works in the abstract show: William Crovello's "Granite drawing (OK Bonito)"; beautiful Motherwell print looking almost like Chinese plums; Frankenthaler print; Pat Adams's "Des clefs" looking almost like a Kandinsky collage (yes, I'd just been enthralled by the Kandinsky's at the Guggenheim so the idea was ready to be there); Olitski's "Salome rock" in thick acrylic. Upstairs a bunch of paintings by Asher B. Durand and friends, most from the Berkshire Museum. And then in the front galleries upstairs "American impressions" including the great "Two idlers" by Robert Blum, the man and lady lazing on the porch, she in the hammock, he puffing on a cigarette.

As I left the National Academy, I decided to take the bus to 43rd Street to see if the new Walter Pfeiffer book was at the International Center for Photography bookshop yet. No, I don't have money. Yes, I really enjoy Pfeiffer's pictures, partly for the narrative, partly for the titillation. Yes, the book was there.

I finished Blessed unrest by Paul Hawken a couple days ago and picked up Population: 485 by Michael Perry. The former is about the environmental movement and is told in a mostly heartening way. The latter is about living in a small town and being a volunteer fireman. It happens that the town is New Auburn, Wisconsin where we lived in the early 1950s. I don't remember New Auburn well but enough that I keep getting pictures in my mind. And since my brother is a volunteer fireman (and Michael Perry's brothers are also), the resonance of brotherly love is significant. My brother wasn't born until after we left New Auburn and moved to Boulder, Colorado. The Perry brothers are not ones to scream and yell, not ones to be involved in every detail of each other's life but really close when together. It really resonates. My siblings and I had some blessed times this summer, partly because of the significance of the death of our father but also because, deep down, we share so much basic stuff. And, there, I don't happen to be talking about all the stuff that still hangs out at 33 South Main Street where my dad and Mom and Gram and Aunt Dora and their parents and grandparents lived.