30 November 2008

opie and douglas, tooker and more

It was quite a weekend for art viewing. Friday found me going up to the Guggenheim for the Catherine Opie retrospective, and then walking up to the Schomburg Center on Malcolm X Boulevard at 135th. I've seen a decent amount of Opie's photographs in real life and in reproduction but the images from the "Freeway" series were the most surprising. I guess I've never seen one live because the size really surprised me. They're only about 2 x 7 inches, and they seem even more "vintage" in real life. In Aaron Krach's review in The advocate (Dec. 2, 2008), he describes them as melancholy and strong as her self-portraits. Melancholy, that wonderful emotion.

As I walked North, I stopped at the National Academy for the George Tooker and Ralph A. Blakelock shows. There is a beautiful Tooker of "The groping hand." Like a detail of a Flemish painting, with an abstract background. Blakelock's life trajectory is interesting as he doesn't do a classic art historical move to or away from abstraction, perhaps it was the last decades of his life when he had a series of breakdowns. The "Solos: Tulou: affordable housing for China" at the Cooper-Hewitt included a wonderful model of a circular building with an almost full-size construction of an apartment. Efficient but even small by NYC standards.

The reason for going up to the Schomburg was the Aaron Douglas show. He was part of the Harlem Renaissance crowd. There is a wonderful portrait of Zora Neale Hurston by Douglas and a fine photographic portrait of Douglas by Carl Van Vechten.

Saturday was galleryhopping in West Chelsea after seeing "Milk." In addition to finding Nina Katchadourian's "The Marfa Jingles" at Sara Meltzer Gallery, I stopped in at Mary Ryan Gallery to find a small gallery with linoblock prints by British modernists. The prints are wonderfully inspired by the same modernism that the Italian futurists found in contemporary culture. These British prints, particularly those by Sybil Andrews, display an angular vitality that is very compelling. There's also a big show at the Met of these British modernists. The Mary Ryan selection is a much better meal, size-wise.

At Claire Oliver Fine Art, I was strongly struck by the two paintings by Vitus Shell, rather like Kehinde Wiley but representing black women in domestic settings rather than Wiley's athletes.

Also at Sara Meltzer was a show by Francesca Gabbiani (love the name). The show is entitled "Be my mirror" and my favorites were the line drawings, fancy frames with blank centers, rather like elaborate bookplates.

Today (Sunday), I decided to go up to the Met to see the British modernists and the "Art and love in Renaissance Italy" show. I've already mentioned that the smaller diet of the British printmakers at Mary Ryan Gallery was more satisfying. The Italian show was quite disappointing. I decided the problem was that the works were selected for subject matter rather than aesthetics. Lots of them were just not very interesting. That isn't to say that I didn't find some interesting works. There were a couple birthing trays with naked boys romping on the verso. And the Alessandro Allori portrait has a wonderful "Michelangelo's 'The dream of modern life'" on the verso. It was a verso show for me, I guess. Draw any conclusions you wish.

Now, the Philippe de Montebello show was wonderful. It includes lots and lots of works which came into the Met's collections over his tenure as director (the last three decades). Lots of good friends, including the Thomas Anshutz lady in red dress, an incredibly beautiful 12th-century Spanish ivory scepter shaft segment. There were also many wonderful juxtapositions. One of my favorites was the Flemish boxwood Virgin and Child in a case with a pre-Columbian gold figurine. As I was admiring the contrast, a couple came up and decided the contrast was just too extreme. I thought of my sister Roberta, the seamstress, while looking at the quilt with cubes next to the Jasper Johns flag. And there was an incredible Agostino Carracci red-chalk drawing of a woman and the fabulous Parmigianino "Mercury." Just one more piece: the Fenton landscape photograph, just like a Rembrandt, though the label pointed to other precedents, photographic ones.

Gauguin's portfolio from Pont-Aven reminded me that I have to check in with Caroline Boyle-Turner to arrange a visit to her school in Pont-Aven now that I will have more time for traveling.

Sybil Andrews, Skaters, 1953, Linocut, 8 x 15 inches, edition of 60 (from Mary Ryan Gallery website)

29 November 2008

Thirty years after Harvey Milk

Here it is, thirty years after Harvey Milk was assassinated and the Californians approved Proposal 8 to their constitution which makes same-sex marriage illegal. I went to see the new movie "Milk," directed by Gus Van Sant and starring Sean Penn. There's a significant section about Prop 6, the Briggs Amendment, which would have made it illegal to be a gay teacher or even to support gay teachers. The circle will, indeed, be unbroken, that is, the circle of prejudice. On the other hand, there was also a lot in the movie about hope and change. Maybe Obama's administration will turn things around.

After the movie, I went over to 26th Street and visited some galleries. At Sara Meltzer, I found Nina Katchadourian's CD entitled "The Marfa jingles." A stranger to Marfa and West Texas, Nina decided that she would invite people to suggest the theme for jingles. Nina would write a jingle and they played on the Marfa NPR station. I haven't listened yet but the combination of Marfa and Nina Katchadourian should be refreshing.

26 November 2008

it goes around, it's going around

Yesterday, I cataloged a book entitled University problems in the metropolis and had used the subject heading "Urban universities and colleges." Today's email reading brought this paragraph from SACOLIST from the LC Policy and Standards Division (PSD just doesn't trip off the tongue yet, like CPSO does).

Urban animals; Urban aquaculture; Urban entomology; etc.
Catalogers should note that, per the instructions provided in these scope notes, headings of the type Urban [ ... ] are not divided geographically to the level of individual cities. For works on a topic in relation to a specific city, the more general heading is assigned, i.e. the heading not qualified by the word Urban. For example, a work about hospitals in various cities in New York state may be assigned the heading Urban hospitals--New York (State), but a work about hospitals in New York City is assigned the heading Hospitals--New York (State)--New York [not Urban hospitals--New York (State)--New York].

So whether you do your cataloging in New York City or Alfred, you are: Catalogers--New York (State) ... [not Urban catalogers--New York (State) ...]

25 November 2008

once an albigensian ....

Tonight, I listened to Nathaniel Kahn, Carol Krinsky, and Robert McCarter talk about Albi and Louis Kahn at the Center for Architecture. Nathaniel Kahn spoke about the what and how: what you want to do and how to do it. One of his stories had to do with no restraints on life plans (encouraging as I face retirement and having more say in how the day is arranged). Carol spoke about the gothic as practiced in southern France where heresy flourished in the 12th-14th centuries. It reminded me, and I hadn't thought of this in a long time, how in college we were confronted with a demographic questionnaire that had a blank for religion. Being in a medieval history class, I entered "Albigensian" which turned into "Other" in my college profile.

Carol set the stage for the religious struggles as well as the architectural sources for Kahn. It being Kahn, light was of course important. She drew a parallel with the Albigensians who rejected the hierarchy of the Roman Church, seeking the light in the believer, and then mentioned that it was rather like the Quakers. As a Quaker wannabe, that also resonated. Always looking for the light.

(view of Albi, from "Sacred Destinations" site)

19 November 2008

Keith Olbermann on Prop 8

small world

When I went to Rit Premnath's studio on Monday evening for the launch of Shifter 12, I was amused to find Josh Tonsfeldt's across the hall. I saw Tonsfeldt's show, a video installation, on Saturday. cf Saturday's galleryhopping

hammer lover other

Barbara Hammer showed her documentary film "Lover Other" at Tisch this evening and then talked with us for a while afterwards. The film is a dual biography of Claude Cahun and Marcel Moore who made art together and resisted the Nazi occupation on Jersey from 1940-1945. The film was beautiful and compelling, with a fine vocal soundtrack by Pamela Z.

In the talk back, Hammer was asked about what she's working on. She is developing a new film with a younger filmmaker entitled "Generations" for the granting agency and "Bolex Dykes" more informally. She and her collaborator are using Bolex 16 mm cameras and shooting footage at Coney Island. As she said "the end of film, the end of Coney Island." She has a contract with the Feminist Press of CUNY to write her memoirs, which she hopes will be done by the spring of 2010 when MoMA plans a retrospective of her films. She spoke of the memoir and retrospective as a record of her life and career, in a touching and encouraging way, not sentimental.

With retirement in the brain and emotions, I have also been ruminating about such things. I hope to renovate my artcataloging.net site over the next year. At the same time, I have been asked by Rit Premnath if I want to participate in his curatorial project "On Certainty." His interest is based on his having read the paper on anonymous artist relationships on artcataloging.net. The paper is mostly the words of Liz O'Keefe but is a collaboration of the Cataloging Advisory Committee of ARLIS/NA with input from the Data Standards Committee of the Visual Resources Association.

We catalogers deal with certainty, and authority, as we go about our cataloging business. It is pleasing to think of it as part of a curatorial project.

16 November 2008


Since LibraryThing is social computing, one of the interesting things to watch is the connection between libraries. One feature that I'd been enjoying watching as I cataloged my books was the listing of books I shared with one other person. Strangely, in LibraryThing, it's called "You and None Other." Why isn't it called "You and One Other"? Anyway, it seemed to disappear ... until I rediscovered it under the "Memes" tab in "Statistics." I'd maybe heard the word but I probably couldn't use it effectively (and correctly) in a sentence. Going to Wikipedia, I found that it "consists of any idea or behavior that can pass from one person to another by learning or imitation." Also, that the article was perhaps too long and should be broken into more articles. I'm not sure I'd agree that one-on-one shared books represent learned ideas or behaviors, or that we're imitating each other. It is also interesting to me that one could mispronounce it "me-me." And taking this seguing way too far, my favorite drag queen name at the moment is Mimi Imfurst. With any luck, January 20th will bring the full and complete end of the Mimi Imfurst Society.

15 November 2008

ars gratiae artis

After a slow start (it is Saturday, after all), I went over to Fort Greene Park for the centennial of the Prison Ship Martyrs Monument. The re-enactors had already re-enacted whatever, and the variety show wasn't starting for a while ... so off to the Lower East Side for a bit of gallery hopping. The Friday paper had had some interesting articles about the various gallery neighborhoods.

Reena Spaulings Fine Art: Nora Schulz. Didn't do too much for me but I wanted to see the show since Rit Pramneth (more anon) had mentioned it. The metal tubes at the window were rather pretty.

Miguel Abreu Gallery: Sam Lewitt. Lewitt's "Ars gratiae artis" was one of the works illustrated in the Times. It was the MGM banner minus the roaring lion, and reminded me of Kris Martin's "Laocoon" without the snakes.

The Joe Bradley show "Schmagoo" at Canada was pretty interesting. There was a group in the gallery that looked like art students and professor. I thought of Bill Connor and his plays on words.

Lisa Hamilton's paintings at Thrust Projects were very nice. The gallerist was on the phone in the office but I went and looked since she often has good stuff hanging in there too. And, yes, the paintings in the office were good. The phone conversation was about an opening where the gallerist wanted to interview whoever she was talking to and said it would be "f-ing Thrust TV."

On to White Box: my first visit to their new location on Broome Street. As usual, their show was political, entitled "Sedition" and included a Martha Rosler living room collage. More thoughts of Bill since we had gone off to Worcester for a Rosler show one time I visited him in Boston.

Josh Tonsfeldt's video installation at Simon Preston Gallery was entitled "Physician's horse vanishes" because Tonsfeldt had looked for the gallery's address on Google and came up with a Times article from 1906. The article was entitled "Physician's horse vanishes." The video showed feet kicking up a dust storm; as I stood there, the air started seeming dusty and there was the vague smell of dust. The power of suggestion.

The Ad Reinhardt show at Woodward Gallery may have been the biggest surprise of the afternoon. I was familiar with the black-on-black paintings and there was a beautiful print in an alcove at the back of the gallery But I didn't know the lovely little stick figure drawings of the mid 1940s. The show also included a large collection of correspondence -- postcards, clippings, letters -- from Reinhardt to Olga Scheirr, mid 1950s. His handwriting is beautiful and the stories on the correspondence were mesmerizing.

Nicelle Beauchene Gallery: video installation "watching the wolfman dance the foxtrot" by Sari Carel, included koi, monkey, small hoofed animals, giraffe, with gong and bird sounds. Quite lovely. Sharon Chickanzeff built a koi pond at her mother's house in L.A.; one could watch the video pretty restfully too ... though presumably the real thing is better?

Nicole Cherubini's vases at Smith-Stewart were ok and reminded me a bit of Betty Woodman's work though not as deconstructed.

On the way home along 2nd Street between 1st and 2nd avenues, there were three people looking into the Marble Cemetery. Two of them were taking pictures. The third was a denizen of the night (usually): long leather coat, pants with words all over them, no shirt, bleached hair, actually rather hot. As I got closer to him, I heard him speaking. He started walking toward me on 2nd Street and, as he got to me, said "I can't believe I'm talking to the squirrels. I'm going to the store to get them some peanuts."

Home for a bit and then I went to Mud Cafe on East 9th Street to meet Rit Premnath and Kajsa Dahlberg, two of the editors of Shifter, an online magazine. Ken Soehner had suggested to Rit that he and I might have some interesting discussions about art and classification, the theme of the current issue. The cover photo shows an opening of the New York Public Library book catalog. When I saw it online a couple days ago, I swooned. Such nostalgia. Rit and Kajsa -- non-librarians, met in the Whitney Independent Study Program -- have some of the same nostalgia. We talked about reading: what we're reading, what we were just reading, how we read. Kajsa is reading the Bible, among other things. The release party for Shifter 12 is on Monday night in South Brooklyn. I think I'll go.

When I was home between gallery hopping and going to see Rit and Kajsa, I was looking at mail which included a sale catalog of history imprints from the University of Virginia Press. One of the titles is Negotiated authorities: essays in colonial politics and constitutional history by Jack P. Greene. Good title; I'm a sucker for "authorities."

13 November 2008

Gómez, Gómez Gómez

At NYU, we love the authority record generator in OCLC, just like we loved the RLIN generator. It is such a fine start on building the authority record. Like all algorithms, it only works when the heading follows expectable patterns. The heading I wanted to generate an authority record for was "Gómez, Juan Vicente (Gómez Gómez)" and the generator helpfully gave me a 400:

Gómez, Gómez Gómez

Yep, it's right, according to the algorithm: turn the $q into forenames. Nope, I didn't hit save right away.

Maxine Fine at Gallery 128 and more

The opening for the Maxine Fine retrospective was last night at Gallery Onetwentyeight (128 Rivington St., Lower East Side). Flavia Rando is the curator and I've worked with her in the Queer Caucus for Art. The works are really good and well installed. There is a (silently) screaming head in a couple pieces and that loud quiet is compelling. Most of the folks at the opening were older lesbians (well, I didn't ask but ...) and Flavia described Fine's work as "pioneer." It was wonderfully retrospective: looking back.

As I walked to Gallery Onetwentyeight, I realized that I was in place for a visit to Bluestockingsbookstore since they might have had a copy of Marxism in a postcommunist society by Stefan Sullivan. Sullivan is the author of one of the essays in a book I was cataloging yesterday: Heartlands: sketches of rural America by Andreas Horvath. His take on growing up in a small midwestern college town and being different was very interesting and I thought I'd like to get his book (I've already perused the library's copy a little bit). Rather than drifting into Bluestockings for a bit of shelf reading, I happened on a book talk by E. Benjamin Skinner on his new book A crime so notorious: face-to-face with modern-day slavery. He talked about debt bondage, among other things, which was rather serendipitous with the book I just finished: Payback: debt and the shadow side of wealth by Margaret Atwood.

This has been quite a week for lectures: An-My Lê on Michael Heizer as part of the Dia Artists on Artists series (I love her work and she said some very interesting things but she's not a dynamic speaker); Peter Penoyer and Anne Walker on Warren & Wetmore (architects of Grand Central Terminal and other grand buildings) in the Victorian Society series at the Swedenborgian New Church; then last night it was Ben Skinner on his book; tonight is John Maciuika talking about "From Berlin 'Royal Castle' to 'Humboldt Forum': Radical Surgery Toward a Conservative Vision?" at Baruch College. After John's lecture, we are having a tour of the Vertical Campus building by Kohn Pedersen Fox. I'm quite a KPF fan so that should be fun.

I'm really glad that one can have expectations and that they sometimes get met and sometimes you are surprised. And sometimes it's the accidental that takes the cake. I was really looking forward to hearing An-My Lê but her speaking style is hesitating and I'd rather look at her art (I think that's fine). I went to see the Elizabeth Peyton show at the New Museum over the weekend and was much more thrilled by the Mary Heilman show on a different floor. Though I went to the Maxine Fine opening as a gesture of support for Flavia, the works were beautiful and really spoke to me. And then I plopped in on an interesting book talk at Bluestockings on the way home from the Maxine Fine opening.

09 November 2008

Halloween is over, time for Christmas

A couple of riffs on Christmas legend, read today:

"Nobody sees Santa Claus, but that is no sign that there is no Santa Claus. The most real things in the world are those that neither children nor men can see. Did you ever see fairies dancing on the lawn? Of course not, but that's no proof that they are not there. Nobody can conceive or imagine all the wonders there are unseen and unseeable in the world." (from the famous "Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus" letter, published in The New York Sun in September 1897, and used in a Macy's advert today in The New York Times)

"There's nothing whatsoever to the other legend about Saint Nicholas -- that he comes down the chimney every December 25 with a sackful of stuff he's nicked from the pawnshop. It is however true that the nineteenth-century colloquial expression 'Old Nick' -- meaning the Devil -- is directly connected with Saint Nicholas. There are other clues. Note the red suit in the case of each; note the hairiness, and the association with burning and soot. We get the slang term 'to nick,' meaning 'to steal,' from ... [author's ellipsis] But I digress, pausing simply to add that Saint Nicholas, as well as being the patron saint of young children, those sticky-fingered elfin creatures with scant sense of other people's property rights, is also the patron saint of thieves. Saint Nicholas is always found in the vicinity of a big heap of loot, and when asked where he got it he'll tell an implausible yarn involving some non-human labourers hammering away in a place he euphemistically calls his 'workshop.' A likely story, say I." (Margaret Atwood, Payback: debt and the shadow side of wealth, p. 55-56)

So far, Atwood's Payback has been very interesting, made more so by the financial turmoil. I'm really enjoying her discussion of words that we use to talk about debt, especially those that play on religion. Example: redeeming your debts and Christ the Redeemer; forgive us our debts/trespasses; pawn (the chess piece and the pawnbroker). I really wish I could share the "Debt and sin" chapter that I'm in the midst of with my Dad who died last year. His great unfinished work was a book on the Ten Commandments. I think he might have enjoyed reading it but it might have made him mad. It's not necessarily pro- or anti-dogma. He always said, when we were growing up, not to be a "dog in the manger" from which I segued to not being dogmatic. Shared letters, shared meanings, contrasting meanings.

08 November 2008

the obsession with LibraryThing

It probably shouldn't have taken me so long to figure out this obsession with cataloging my books on LibraryThing. Duh. It's a chance to touch and think about the books that I brought to the city when I moved from Texas and those added since 1995. There is almost no book that doesn't have some pleasant vibration associated with it. There have been a couple "don't even remember" moments however. Now, Ottonian book illumination by Henry Mayr-Harting is sitting on my lap, ready to be looked at. So, excuse me; I've got reading to do.

01 November 2008