21 December 2009

the connections

I finally got my Christmas letter written and took it to the copy shop this morning. Now, I'm up in the library catching up on the latest issue of Artforum. It was good to see that one of the books I cataloged at Bard in November was selected by a critic as a "best of 2009." That book is Stüdyo Osep by Tayfun Serttaş (Beyoğlu, İstanbul: Aras, c2009), selected by Banu Cennetoğlu. Things Turkish always make me think of Hikmet Doğu who has written about Robert Smithson as well as being a librarian, now in Salt Lake City. She also happened to knit my winter hat which has a tail. I would love to see Turkey: the Roman and other archeological sites, the arid landscape and Mediterranean coast, the Muslim heritage as well. Someday. One of my NYU colleagues (Scot Dalton, whose wife is Turkish) said it would be possible to travel there, even into the countryside, by yourself which was encouraging.

Another of the year's best books is Art workers: radical practice in the Vietnam War era by Julia Bryan-Wilson (University of California Press), selected by Carrie Lambert-Beatty. JBW is a member of the Queer Caucus for Art and her book is to be featured in the issue now being compiled.

The music "best" was diverse and I hadn't heard of most of it. Just Shostakovich's "The nose" as done in Boston. I'd seen the announcement of its NYC presentation but missed it. You know I'm pretty sensitive about nose stuff and wished that I could have gone. My friend Sara Jane Pearman sent some Frosty the Snowman jokes that were quite insensitive AND funny! One of my recurring musical treats over the past year was the flute playing of Tara Helen O'Connor. I heard her two or three times at Miller Theater at Columbia and also at Zankel Hall.

The latest number of Mein schwules Auge came in yesterday's mail. It's a lovely and exciting mix of pictures and texts. Alas, most of the text is in German and mine isn't up to the task. But there was an article entitled "Alles für Roberto" so it all came around to more connections.

13 December 2009

Madrid, Bosch, and Sorolla

My trip to Madrid just after Thanksgiving was delightful, not just for the Palladio exhibition at the CaixaForum which was the impetus. The building for the CaixaForum is a redo by Herzog + de Meuron. The vertical garden they did with botanist Patrick Blanc on the wall of another building on the plaza just outside the museum is incredible. The paintings at the Prado were just thrilling and chances for a bit of Stendhal Syndrome. Bosch is a favorite painter and the Prado has five including the Garden of Delights and an Epiphany that I wrote about in grad school. The Thyssen Bornemisza has one or two Bosches. The Lazaro Galdiano has one. I lost track but a Bosch a day keeps boredom away. I took a bunch of pictures and I think my favorite is this one of the paint pots in Joaquín Sorolla's studio: You can see more pictures by clicking on the Flickr photostream link at the bottom of this page. I hope to get more notes written up eventually. Bill Connor was my traveling companion and his pictures are also loaded in my photostream. We got to Segovia and I really enjoyed the Roman aqueduct and the Romanesque churches. We also went to the Escorial which was delightful.

It's always fun to be reading something that matches or conflicts with your traveling. While we were there, I was reading Our magnificent bastard tongue by John McWhorter. So it was a history of the English language while trying not to screw up too much in communicating with Hispanophones. But we did pass a restaurant called Route 66 and that reminded me that I was reading Phil Patton's book on Route 66 while sitting in an Amsterdam coffee house of that name. By the way, McWhorter's book was very interesting. As the blurb on the cover says, the book "wears its erudition lightly."

27 November 2009

make that the caixaforum by herzog + de meuron

If you were thinking of following me to the Palladio show at the Prado that I mentioned a few days ago, change your plans. Go a bit further North, up the Paseo del Prado. The Palladio show is at the CaixaForum Madrid, designed by Herzog + de Meuron. On another side of the plaza between the CaixaForum and the Paseo is a vertical landscape by Patrick Blanc. The link under the museum name above has more information about the museum and the landscape.

I had seen press about the vertical landscape a few years ago but had totally forgotten that the CaixaForum was a Herzog + de Meuron building. My last European trip also included a building by the firm: the Schaulager in Basel. The show there was the Robert Gober retrospective which was pretty wonderful, as was the building.

26 November 2009

shiny richard serra


Sometimes you take a picture and it comes out unlike what you expected. This Richard Serra is one of three or four at Storm King Art Center near Newburgh, New York. I stopped on the way back from another week of backlog cataloging at the Center for Curatorial Studies at Bard College. I wanted to see the Maya Lin "Wavefield" which is out beyond Andy Goldsworthy's wall. The "Wavefield" was pretty interesting. From the front side, it looked about like pictures I'd seen, but on the back side, it's wonderfully rustic this time of year, in the dried grass stage of autumn when they've started the reseeding for next year. It was drizzly as I walked around the grounds; not quite enough to get you soaked or to force you to get the umbrella out, but drippy. The Serras were slick wet and I liked the way the surface reflected the crest of the hill into which the slabs are inserted. The reflection turned out making the piece looking like the "start" arrow of a YouTube video.

My stop at Storm King was after I'd visited the campus of SUNY New Paltz, my alma mater. In 1967-1968, my senior year, the Wooster Science Building was being built. Designed by Davis Brody, it reminded me of Le Corbusier's La Tourette. We're talking high new brutalism. I thought it was just wonderful: the concrete, the pour forms, the staircases. When Daniel Starr and I visited the campus a decade or so ago, again on a drippy day as I remember, Daniel thought it was the ugliest campus he'd ever seen. Well, I couldn't really argue; it's the state college stuff from the 1960s SUNY boom. Thanks, Nelson Rockefeller. There are now a good number of post-1960s buildings around the edges but it's still a SUNY campus. And I love the Wooster Science Building.

18 November 2009

the cabbage fairy & Getty surrogacy

Who could resist a woman whose first film was entitled "Le fée aux choux" (The cabbage fairy, 1896)? I'm reading the new Artforum which includes an article on Alice Guy Blaché by Alison McMahan, entitled "The most famous woman you've never heard of" (November issue, p. 81-82). Guy was the secretary at a camera and optics company in Paris in the 1890s. Her boss was developing the Biographe 60-mm motion-picture camera and she persuaded him to let her use it. The result was the one-minute "Cabbage fairy" in 1896, one of the first films and she is credited with developing the art of cinematic narrative. The Whitney has a new show about her work but I'm not likely to get there. BUT, on Netflix, I found "Gaumont treasures: the films of Alice Guy" and moved it to the top of my queue. Gaumont is the film company for which she worked as head of film production.

Rather than mope that I'm not likely to get to the Whitney show (I might have missed it, even if I was living downtown), I will just enjoy whatever is included on "Gaumont treasures." And while looking at the Artforum, I also noticed two shows in Boston that I might be able to get to on Thanksgiving weekend or thereabouts. I'm going to Boston in preparation for my trip to Madrid with Bill Connor. The impetus for the trip was the Palladio show which is at the Prado. One always goes to Madrid for Palladio, right? It won't hurt that one can also see the great Spanish and Flemish paintings there, the great works at the Thyssen-Bornemisza and the Reina Sofia. And I want to get back to the Lazaro Galdiano which is rather like the Gardner in that domestic way.

The Boston shows are both at 460 Harrison Street: John O'Reilly at Howard Yezerski and Liz Glynn at Anthony Greaney. The title of Glynn's show is "California surrogates for the Getty." Sounds fun, no? Glynn is the progenitor of the "Build Rome in a day" project which she did at the New Museum in April and which I helped on. The whole idea of Getty surrogates sounds pretty intriguing. The John O'Reilly show is curated by Trevor Fairbrother and says it includes works by Rembrandt and Joseph Cornell; since O'Reilly includes other works, usually in bits and pieces, it could be interesting. And Fairbrother has written a lot about Sargent so there's just layers of possibilities.

When I wrote "Build Rome in a day" above, I first typed "Roma" for Rome. I just finished reading Steven Saylor's 555-page novel Roma. The book started slowly but grew on me ... I guess. Not the best writing style so I just let the sentences flow past me. The centerpiece is the fascinum, a totem/necklace which is worn through the centuries and passed down from father or grandfather to son or daughter, crossing family lines a time or two, becoming so worn and legendary that the last wearers don't know who the god was. "Fascinum" is from the same route as fascination. The telling of the Ides of March assassination of Julius Caesar was rather coyly amusing as Caesar's nephew visits Cleopatra in Trastavere and then stumbles upon the plotting and into the hall where the assassination happens.

03 November 2009

twice fanciful

I love it when an amusing word appears before me more than once in a short time. In an email exchange with Nancy Norris today, she quoted an LC Rule Interpretation:

For books, generally restrict the making of the note about the nature, scope, or artistic form of the item to the situations covered below. For books that are belles lettres, record in a note the term for the literary form only when the title is misleading. Do not consider titles of literary works misleading simply because they are fanciful.

And then as I was eating my supper, I was reading the New York Times for October 7th (not quite a month behind there):

In defending the 1999 law, Neal K. Katyal, a deputy solicitor general, cautioned the justices against pursuing an “endless stream of fanciful hypotheticals.”

The whole article.

thinking about upstate cities

Ithaca has changed a lot since I moved from there to Providence in 1989. When I left, there were way fewer stores on Route 13 as you came into town. Several car dealers, a big grocery store, Manos Diner. There are now oodles and oodles of big box stores, a couple multi-floor hotels, just lots more buildings. Meanwhile, the Commons seems to be looking shabbier and shabbier. Even the Rosebud (diner) is gone, replaced by, what was it, a sushi place. I'm not sure I like these transitions but at least, overall, Ithaca seems to be thriving.


Arnot Art Museum

On the way home from a recent weekend trip to Ithaca to have supper with Margaret, Jim and Jo, I drove home through Elmira to stop at the Arnot Art Museum. The museum is a lovely Greek Revival building but, alas, wasn't open on Sundays. But it is surrounded by several lovely buildings: the county courthouse in a mix of Gothic and Greek, a church in castellated Gothic, and a Beaux Arts city hall. I know I should give you the fuller information but I haven't looked it up. It wasn't an especially inspiring day but the area looked pretty bleak. How can we have done such a nasty job on our cities?


Chemung County Court House, Elmira, NY

And these thoughts are coming on top of a fire in Alfred last week that destroyed one of the five buildings in the main business block. In addition to the businesses and apartments that were obliterated, it means that about 10% of our business spaces are gone. Hopefully, the gap will be filled in with a decent looking building. The wine store was one of the businesses burned out. The Collegiate Restaurant, aka The Jet, is currently closed because of smoke and fire damage but there was a professional cleaner van out front this afternoon as I walked home from the library. That's promising. Alfred without the Jet is a very different place.

21 October 2009

we'll always have Edith Wharton

Subscribing to The New Yorker always intimidates me. I can't keep up with all of the articles I want to read, to say nothing of just skimming the issues. When I went up to campus to get my daily Times, I decided to stop in at the main library to look at magazines. I've done that at the Scholes Ceramics Library but hadn't done it yet at Herrick, the main library. I was in the periodicals stacks and decided to skim the contents of the unbound issues of The New Yorker. A bit of this, a bit of that, found quite a few things to actually go to the article for a brief visit.

Imagine my delight when I came across "The age of innocence: early letters from Edith Wharton" by Rebecca Mead in the June 29 issue (p. 32-38). The letters were addressed to Anna Bahlmann, a governess employed by the Joneses from 1874 to 1915 or thereabouts. Most of Miss Jones's letters were when she was not at home, and they describe what she was reading and doing. The letters were to be sold at Christie's on June 24th and let's hope someone prepares an edition ... soon! According to what I could find on the web, the letters sold to an unnamed academic institution. Her archive at the Beinecke Library at Yale already has twenty boxes of correspondence, mostly written after her marriage, so I hope it's Yale.

This Wharton amusement (pronounced as in French) came after reading this morning the article in last Sunday's travel section: "Edith Wharton always had Paris" by Elaine Sciolino. There we trace Wharton's steps, including points of assignation with her lover Morton Fullerton. They met under the Diana at the Louvre and Sciolino notes that it still is a fairly untraveled gallery. Hmm. Next time I'm to meet my lover in Paris, I might suggest the Diana. It's way more romantic than the clock in Grand Central or the "meeting point" at some international airport, or maybe it depends on who you're meeting.

20 October 2009

city / country / Hockney

Many people have asked me how I'm doing in Alfred. Yes, it's small town to New York City's urban. In Sunday's Times, there's an article about David Hockney who has been spending much of his time over the past couple years in Yorkshire, doing landscapes. He still considers himself a Californian and has his green card but he's making hay in the country. The last four paragraphs of the article read thus:

“People have asked me,” he said, “ ‘Isn’t it boring in Bridlington, a little isolated seaside town?’ And I say: ‘Not for us. We all think it’s very exciting, because it is in my studio and it is in my house.’ ”

Mr. Hockney is now working toward a mammoth show of these landscapes for the Royal Academy in London, to open in January 2012. “They came to me,” he said. “I went to look at the rooms and thought: ‘My God, what an opportunity. We’ll do it!’ So I need this great big studio.”

Yet he also has no intention of giving up California. He still has his house in the Hollywood Hills, he said, not to mention his office and archives on Santa Monica Boulevard and his green card.

“I would say I’m on location here,” he said, laughing wryly. “That’s what we say in Hollywood.”

17 September 2009

footnote to "the course of nature": on decay

When Linda Weintraub was talking about Damien Hirst, she mentioned that she'd been studying the names of heavy metal bands. Very few names mention death though many include decay. She recited several. Jenny Tobias has been regularly posting hypothetical band names as her Facebook status, and some are really wonderful and thought-provoking. And, today, Meghan Musolff had "Peter, Paul, and Mary all day. I always thought we could be like them. Corey, Chad, and Meghan" for her status. Hmm, what's in a name and, as Weintraub said, is Damien Hirst our first heavy metal visual artist? Probably nowhere close.

16 September 2009

the course of nature


I saw a notice about a short video about Thomas Cole and his art on the Thomas Cole Historic Site's webpage. It's pretty good and it's never hard to look at Cole's paintings or at Hudson River Valley landscape views. "The course of empire" plays a sizable role in the Cole video and I've been thinking a lot about the course of empire, or rather the course of life as it plays out for me. The transition from urban life in New York City to small college town life in Alfred is mostly fine. It's been nice to have school in session because there are artist lectures and more folks around. And Monday-Friday New York Times subscriptions available for under $30 for the term. I have to go fetch the paper at the campus store and it doesn't come until mid-afternoon but I'm always a few days behind anyway. I thought I was cruising along OK without the daily paper but I have been enjoying it. I'll never be an online reader (never say never).

Linda Weintraub was today's artist talker. Her topic was artistic beauty and nature with a bend toward the environmentally correct and, yes, the natural course of nature. It was a very interesting talk and I couldn't help mulling over Cole's "Course of empire" as she talked about the life cycle of nature.

She started by saying that in her student days it was not possible to talk about art and beauty. I guess we'd been burned out by the connoisseurship school of art history and criticism. So she is actually having a lot of fun reconsidering it now. She started her lecture by talking about a Sophie Calle triptych series that deals with descriptions of beauty by people who have been blind since birth. The subjects of each of her examples talked about natural things like ocean waves. Nature is, after all, harmonious, full of truth and virtue, and therefore good. Weintraub's real interest is in how we can use the beautiful to help us preserve the planet.

Her case studies were the "poster child" and the "enfant terrible": Andy Goldsworthy and Damien Hirst. Oh, boy, you could just tell this was going to be fun.

Weintraub talked about several Goldsworthy works: how he organizes the leaves or rocks, how nature is manipulated to perfect harmony long enough for the picture to be taken, how the manipulation is sometimes acrobatic. One of my favorite Goldsworthy works is the wet leaves in the bark that burst out and blow away as they dry. This doesn't fit her guiding principle so well but I didn't challenge her.

Moving on to Hirst, Weintraub chose "Thousand years" as the test piece. It was in the "Sensation" show and involves two chambers: one with a fly and maggot hatchery, one with a cow's head and fly zapper light. Voilà, the full natural cycle from birth to adulthood to death. She continued to talk about emblems of decay and how much we generally revile such animals as vultures and plants such as fungi and bacteria, even though we probably all recognize that decay is part of the life cycle. But we don't want to look at it or smell it.

She then presented the work of several artists that follow the Goldsworthy or Hirst route. The controlling artists: Marta de Menezes who pokes pupae so that they grow up into more colorful butterflies, Eduardo Kac who inserts fluorescent green DNA into various animals so that they turn green in certain light, and Verena Kaminiarz who carves up body worms. The worms are able to regenerate so you get, for example, a two-headed worm, both heads with eyes, which must negotiate its petri dish without a single brain and focus.

The Hirstians: Gelitin whose "Hare" is a big, pink, knitted, straw-stuffed rabbit on an Austrian mountain that is serving as fodder for cows, base for mushrooms and other plants, moisture in the shade between the legs. Gelitin group members got the knitting, etc. assistance of the local townspeople and also an agreement that they wouldn't try to repair the rabbit for 25 years when it will, naturally, have been reabsorbed into the ecosystem. George Gessert does reverse hybridization by "re-wilding" over-cultivated plants. Jae Rhim Lee alters her diet so that her urine produces the exactly appropriate formula for plant growth; she makes kimchee with the resulting plants and serves folks. Life cycle, get it? Michel Blazy does work in which microbes eat up the work in the course of the display, and he lets the alteration happen as it will. Pawel Wojtasik does beautiful shots of strands of waste, fooling the eye (and brain) with glittering beauty until you discover it's feces. Gregor Schneider's "Death: be not proud" is a room he's constructed in his studio but he hasn't yet found a terminally ill person who is willing to die in his room. (This, naturally, resonates this year as we have had news about "death panels" and are thinking about health care costs and doctor-assisted death.) As I left the talk with Elizabeth Gulacsy and Tom Peterson, we talked about suicide and graceful life termination. Tom lived in a commune many years ago and a suicidal co-inhabitant was "saved" by a psychologist who asked her to get things in order before she committed suicide and the ordering gave her enough strength to go on. Well, I don't know about the "saved" and "enough strength to go on" but the thinking about life value apparently was restorative. More life cycle, I guess.

Weintraub ended with a fairly long description of "Cloaca" by Wim Delvoye. He built a beautiful spotless machine which replicates the human food stream. It must be fed and then its mouth, throat, liver, pancreas, intestines and whatnot produce, ta da, of course, some beautiful feces. This naturally invites discussion of whether machine shit is better or cleaner or more edible than human shit.

In the question and answer period, Weintraub talked about humanure, green cemeteries, and other activities that are trying to help us humans work with the ecosystem rather than accumulating waste and wasting it. She mentioned an artist who has put lists of the toxic elements in common medicines and foods on the back door of bathroom stalls at the Whitney. Are we just toxic corpses who should be delivered to toxic waste dumps?

Since the Thomas Cole paintings had been drifting around in my mind through Weintraub's talk, I asked her if she thought 18th- and 19th-century works such as "Course of empire" and ruins were precedent for some of the Hirstians. She replied that she thought we were now out of frontier and that made it very different. I guess it's appropriate that we sometimes describe the ruined structures in a neoclassical park as follies.

By the time this is all done swirling in my brain, I'll probably be ready to bury. No impervious box, please.


(N.B. The pictures are step 1 and step 5 from "The course of empire": "The savage state" and "Desolation", pictures from the Wikipedia article on the painting series.)

13 September 2009

dance and clay

Marcela Giesche, Amsterdam-based dancer, is a guest artist at Alfred University and she presented her work on Friday and Saturday night. The Saturday evening concert began with a work on the stairs leading to C.D. Smith Auditorium by the student dancers. It involved their doing movements that were apparently being instructed via iPod: a few steps down, a couple back up, a few paces to the left, lean over the rail. It was interesting as they got tangled with audience members waiting for the doors to open. The program acknowledged John Gill for his advice about the clay. It wasn't until she was a ways into the clay part that I realized that Giesche was being contextual in using clay to mark her residency here at Alfred, home of the New York State College of Ceramics.

"Wanderers and Wonderers" started out with Giesche "hidden" under leaves of newspaper, along with a light layer of newspaper spread about the whole dance floor. They asked us to leave the auditorium, if we were able, during the intermission. We returned to the single layer of newspaper covering the floor and the mound of Giesche in the upper center of the floor. In the first half of the piece, Giesche moved about, mostly horizontal, and pushed the newspaper around, ending with her sweeping the rest to the edges. For the second half of the piece, she, nearly naked, covered her body with clay slip and "drew" on the floor as she moved about it with her slipp(er)y body. She ended by brushing some of the drying slip back into the basin from which it came. Going full circle, I guess. Parts of it were very lovely, including the shadows. Her partner, Bruno Caverna, was not able to leave Norway to join her and I wondered how the piece would have been different as a two-person work rather than solo.

The program notes said "How much of our identity is constructed by the opinions and beliefs of others? What does it take to strip these layers away and find ourselves floating in the unknown again? The body becomes our only reference point, timelessly recovering itself through the senses -- in a state of perpetual wonder --" I wasn't sure that any of this really played out in the work for me but it was interesting to see the use of clay for an Alfred dance.

30 August 2009

reading whatever you want and like

Six years ago, my bookclub read the new translation in verse of Dante's Inferno by Robert Pinsky. At about the same time, the Mary Ryan Gallery held an exhibition of Michael Mazur's illustrations for the Inferno. The installation was spectacular with the etchings on the wall and the text on slanted reading shelves in front of the illustrations. Mazur died on August 18th at age 73. In his obituary published today, the last couple paragraphs were especially interesting to me:

"Although deadly serious as an artist, Mr. Mazur had a sly wit. In 1984 he wrote an article for the Op-Ed page of The New York Times proposing a W.P.A.-style project under which artists could decorate nuclear warheads, just as Renaissance artists embellished armor and weapons.

'It is not hard to imagine the vivid colors, bas reliefs, even graffiti, that would make spectacles of beauty of those dull cones,' he wrote. In time, he suggested, the warheads would find their way into private collections and museums, thereby ending the possibility that they might be deployed."

Always the pacifist and trying to be always the optimist.

In the Arts & Leisure section today, there's an article about upcoming shows of Sandow Birk's "Personal meditations" on the Koran at galleries in California. They look very interesting. In 2006, Birk was working on a film, using puppets, that used Dante's Inferno as its inspiration. That was just about the time of the attacks on the Danish cartoons that included what were seen as disrespectful representations of Muhammad. The Inferno bits disappeared from that film but Birk's project on the Koran has reached the point that it can be shared with all of us. If it promotes understanding of religious and cultural difference, that will be great.

Also in today's Times was an article about English teachers who are assigning students to read what they'd like to read rather than particular books. You can read the article for the full story but your reading is related to your age and predilection, intellectual and physical. I haven't re-read To kill a mockingbird since it was assigned many years ago but I'm sure I would react to it differently now. One of the other books they mention in the article is Moby-Dick which I don't think I read until a few years ago, another bookclub selection. I really enjoyed it and even read another Melville novel (Redburn) not long after. Reading them recently, as an openly gay man rather than a repressed teen or twenties year old, was wonderful. I could react to the bits of potential homosexual or homosocial as an adult. I don't think I would have gotten nearly as much out of them as a kid. Same with the Inferno. It's just too bad that there's so much to read. Well, no, it's great that there's so much to read. If the teachers letting the kids select their reading encourages them to read and find joy and knowledge there, it will be far more important than the loss of collective memory. Teachers can certainly compensate for the varied readings and the students may even find each other's discussions of their reading more illuminating and inspiring than discussion of common reading. We can hope, can't we?

24 August 2009

Barbara Kruger, book designer

So here I am, merrily adding books to LibraryThing, and I notice that the cover design for my copy of Medieval humanism and other studies by R.W. Southern (Harper & Row, 1970) is credited to Barbara Kruger.
Checking her biography, I note that she did indeed do magazine design and illustration after graduating from Parsons. The cover has the zodiac and the labors of the month and similar blockprint-like images in a circle against clouds and stars.

I've seen articles recently on Andy Warhol's early contributions to illustration, e.g., his album covers. I find it interesting to think about how the artist's "fine" arts are visible or not in the commercial work. Kruger's (or her editor's) use of moral images plays rather well into her polemical collages.

(Sorry about the image. It's "borrowed" from LibraryThing.)

09 August 2009

LibraryThing paradigm shift

I haven't talked here about LibraryThing in a while and my LT universe shifted a couple days ago. One of the features on your profile is a comparison of your library to those of others. There's a weighted, raw, or recent choice on the comparison. Since I started significantly entering my books, the nearest libraries in the weighted category have been libraries with strong gay collections. Now that I'm with my books here in Alfred, I've been cataloging a shelf or two of books almost every day. My nearest library just shifted to one that is strong in architecture and I've still got many shelves of architecture books to enter.

When I was in Chicago for the American Library Association conference in early July, I went to the Stonewall Book Awards brunch and one of the speakers was Marie Kuda who had long ago contributed a Chicago profile to a Queer Caucus for Art newsletter issue when we were about to meet there. I talked to her briefly after the brunch and she emailed me with thoughts about Tee Corinne, my co-editor. She also said my LibraryThing profile picture with clipped hair was not as much fun as my liberated hair (description thanks to Dan Eshom).

contemplative

Sunday morning. The Times and pancakes. Thinking about Woodstock, mostly because of Jan Pareles's memoir of that magic "moment of muddy grace." I didn't go to the festival though my sister and her husband got close. They were a couple of the people that parked miles away but didn't keep going when it was clear that the mud and craziness were pretty overwhelming.

The Woodstock article continued on page 22 and the continuation was face-to-face with a profile of Milton Rogovin, optometrist turned photographer after his business was decimated for not testifying before the House Un-American Activities Committee. An interesting conjunction of peace, love, and justice. The words trip so easily out of the brain, and trip too on the thoughts of how the world could be better.

This weekend has been New York Green Fest 2009 here in Alfred. I didn't go, partly because the registration was $85 (not that I haven't spent $85 less wisely) and there seemed to be no session registration fee. My brother Doug, who has been involved with the planning, said I probably could just attend (aka sneak in). But I decided to do my own little green fest and picked up a bunch of cans, bottles, and trash from one of the sites on Pine Hill where people clearly go for partying. Most of the cans and bottles had been squished and broken so the can/bottle refunding opportunity was slight. But then I wasn't doing it for the money.

Maybe it's the misty air that's bringing on the contemplation too. No problem. I like thinking and musing.

28 July 2009

honey in the landscape

So here it is: Honey House at Bard College. The lovely cube building that I passed as I meandered from the Center for Curatorial Studies over toward the student union. There's something about the geometric balance of the building that really attracts me. If I could have one of these for my library, out on the back forty of my brother's property up on the hill, why I'd be in seventh heaven. A nice little hermitage, hopefully with a pond view someday. I'd like to know who designed it. When I googled likely words, I found a link to a slide database at Syracuse University but the link was dead so I'm checking with Barbara Opar to see if there's some ghost of the files that identified their architecture images.

Honey is one of those resonant words for me. My dad raised bees off and on, so there's memory there. My brother and I are both trying to figure out how you live close to a sibling.

All that culture at CCS drew to a close as Ann and I drove to the house she shares with Moira Kelly in Amenia, near the Connecticut border, about 40 minutes from Bard. The house is very comfortable and feels remote even though the grocery store is within walking distance. On Saturday, Moira and I went to her quarry and found some wonderful miniature landscapes in the treads of the abandoned steam shovel:

So I didn't make it to Storm King or New Paltz because we spent time at the quarry looking at miniature landscapes and libraries of rocks ... but we did stop at Wassaic Project. It's an abandoned seven-story flour mill that opened recently as an art space. The art on display could almost as easily have been shown in white-walled galleries and one longed for something that responded to the building. The renovators did a fine job filling in the gaps between the old lumber with new. And the progression through the building is fun; you don't feel like you're going up seven flights of stairs and there's plenty of mill equipment to look at as you meander.

23 July 2009

the week at bard

I cannot believe my week at Bard College is drawing to a close. I've been doing backlog cataloging at the Center for Curatorial Studies where Ann Butler, formerly archivist in the Fales Library at NYU, is now the librarian. The CCS collection is wonderful: great books in the backlog, Millennium has proved pretty easy to get a handle on, the setting is lovely (mid Hudson River Valley), great burritos at the truck just a mile or so down the road. If this itinerant cataloging can keep going, I'll be delighted.

I also cannot believe that it's been almost a month since my last posting here. That "hommage à Martín" was written just before I left the city to take the last of my stuff up to Alfred. It's now been almost a month and it's been busy. After a few days in Alfred, my family went on a camping trip for the week of July 4th. We were in a couple cabins, a campsite, and RV at Fillmore Glen State Park in the eastern Finger Lakes. The gorge was beautiful, thick with greenery, loving the wet spring and summer we've had so far. After Saturday through Wednesday there, I left for Chicago and the annual conference of the American Library Association. I love Chicago and being at ALA is generally a treat. Daniel, Scott and I stayed at the Palmer House which has a wonderful old-style lobby. We were on the 13th floor and the halls were lined with celebrity photos.

Then back in Alfred for a few days before leaving for Bard. I have been pleasantly surprised by the comfort that I've found in Alfred even though the bulk of my stuff is in a storage unit a short drive away. Since the house is full of six generations of stuff, there wasn't a lot of room to move in wholesale. I have begun to get my study in order and to blend in some of my dishes and similar things. Fortunately, the upstairs kitchen isn't too full and I can move some of the things I don't need up there. Perhaps we'll have trade-out every once in a while, or maybe I'll have summer and winter dishes. I never did that with my wardrobe but ....

Tomorrow night, I'll stay at Ann's because there's no room at the inn. I've been staying at the Grand Dutchess B&B in Red Hook. On Saturday, I hope to get to Storm King Art Center to see Maya Lin's new wave field and to New Paltz to see the Hudson River landscape paintings that are on view. The latter are from the collection of the New-York Historical Society so may be familiar. It will be good to see them in context, however. I had supper with a woman who works at New Paltz State and she says there's a very interesting side show that has panoramas from then and now. Those repeat photography images can be very compelling.

After lunch today, I went to the student union to find some coffee and some postcards. As I walked back to CCS, I passed a cube building of concrete blocks that was idyllic. Loved the geometry and simplicity. I'll have to take a picture tomorrow to add to the dream pavilions folder.

28 June 2009

hommage à martín

I love the way NYC works. It has been written about. For example, there was an article a few years ago about how you know the newsstand and deli people but not the details of their life. You're both familiar, in both senses.

This morning, I told Martín at Silver Spurs that I was moving from NYC tomorrow. He looked like he wanted to hug me and he did wish me well. We don't usually say much beyond "the usual?" and "more coffee?" but when I went to the cash register, the guy there said "I hear this is your last Sunday with us" and shook my hand and wished me well. It's that friendly anonymity that is so satisfactory.

In the fall of 1997 when I had my nose reconstruction, I'd been going to the same newsstand for a couple years, buying the Times, and saying "Have a nice day" (trite, perhaps, but well meant). As the bandages lessened in size, the woman at the newsstand said "better?" and I nodded and said thanks. She didn't have much English but it didn't matter.

Leaving Silver Spurs this morning, the usual Sunday morning routine, I was overcome by the feeling of loss. Not bad loss, but sentimental for that friendly anonymity. I'll find my way in Alfred but I'll live there, at least in the short term, as an urban person: friendly but not needing to know every detail of your life. Generally, I'd just as soon talk about art, architecture, queer stuff, politics, sustainability, even religion.

27 June 2009

Yinka shown a rainbow

Though I could have stayed home consolidating the remains for Monday's drive to Alfred, I had to see the Yinka Shonibare show at the Brooklyn Museum. It opened on Friday, like, yesterday. It is wonderful but mostly not too surprising for me since I know his work pretty well. There are a couple videos on the first floor. I didn't give the first one its due and the gallery between the videos has a wonderful sculpture of 14 figures around a table with a map of the world. If you read the Times coverage, you know it's a map of the world and it's like they're dividing up the space. The video in the back gallery is wonderful: "Odile and Odette" or a black ballerina and a white one dancing in mirror image. Upstairs for the rest of the show: mostly the great figure sculptures but also the Victorian Dandy series and "The Victorian philanthropist's parlour." The parlour was new to me and I preferred the Studio Museum installation of the Fragonard lady in a swing.

After leaving the main exhibition galleries, I thought I'd stop in for a visit to the Moorish Room which I dearly love. Well, gosh, there was a Shonibare kid in the room, jumping rope. And in the Civil War dressing room, a child playing with a puppet. In the library from Saratoga Springs, a Shonibare boy was playing with marbles under the table. Love the intervention.

As I left the museum, I was overcome with thoughts of how it will not be as easy from Alfred to visit a show at the Brooklyn Museum so I'll just have to get my finances (moving is expensive!) in order and get down here "all the time."

Janet Linde lives across Eastern Parkway and we'd made plans to meet for coffee after I was done at the museum and she was done with duty at the food coop. We were sitting in the garden at Cheryl's when it started raining enough for the tree umbrella to not keep us dryish. We went inside to finish. Then as we left the restaurant, it was rainbow light and indeed there was a rainbow.

Over to the subway. When I was walking back to the apartment from the Christopher Street exit, there was another rainbow and a lot of Pride business in Washington Square. Even the goddess had on her Pride rainbow!

the day the movers came

Before the movers came (a few days earlier):

After the movers took most of the stuff away:

Now, all I have to do is finish consolidating the stuff that I'll take in a carload of precious things. Then, it's off to Alfred on Monday.

14 June 2009

do not cut bait, fairies in the garden



A couple weeks ago, a woman stopped to talk to me as I stood in front of Trader Joe's on Atlantic Avenue in Brooklyn. I was waiting for Diana Mitrano, the woman was amused by my site-specific installation t-shirt that I got at the Whitney some years ago. She (Maitreya Levanchild) was to be in a performance of "What we can see from here" on the 69th Street Pier in Bay Ridge on June 14th. Today. The day started gloomy but brightened considerably. The performance was pleasant, colorful, appropriate.


I've been reading The language of landscape by Anne Whiston Spirn and it keeps reverberating. After the performance, I continued walking through the waterfront parks of Bay Ridge and came upon the rose garden. My third rose garden in a week! It is the season. Yesterday, Mac and I went to Jackson Heights for the annual Garden Tour. The gardens were mostly on the inside of blocks, surrounded by apartment buildings, mostly built in the decade before the Great Depression. We saw four of them and the gardens were quite different: one was quite overgrown and very pleasant on a summer afternoon, another quite formal with a baldaquino supported by Doric columns, another a simple center lawn with great trees (only one Dutch elm left). And of course there were some roses.

I had only just gotten back from Boston and the Summer Educational Institute for Visual Resources and Image Management on Friday night. When I was in Boston, Bill Connor and I went to lunch on Thursday with Darin Murphy (School of the MFA) and Rachel Resnik (MassArt). On the way through the Fens to Thaitation, we stopped in the ... ta da ... Rose Garden! It was extraordinarily beautiful. The scent of the garden today in Brooklyn was stronger however; it must have been the breeze off the bay, blowing the rosy scent right at me. The Fens Rose Garden takes us back to the Spirn book wherein she talked about how one Boston neighborhood was asked for favorite places as they were planning their community garden. Yup, the Fens Rose Garden was at the top of everybody's list and became the inspiration for a public space within the neighborhood garden.


SEI went pretty well. I presented thrice on Tuesday and Wednesday, along with several others. I thought the flow was quite fine. On Thursday, Bill and I went to see the "Titian, Tintoretto, Veronese" show at the Museum of Fine Arts. It was extraordinary. The room of "Mythological Nudes" was dumb-striking, jaw-dropping, almost too overdressed but lovely. The Tintoretto "Baptism" was amazing and was installed next to a Baptism by Veronese, just one of the good comparisons in the exhibition. The comparisons were perhaps obvious but the installation really worked. After the Venice show, Fens walk, and lunch, Bill and I went home to make vegetarian chili for supper. It came out very nicely. Bill was the haut chef, I the sous.

Before catching a late afternoon bus on Friday, I went to see the Shepard Fairey show at the Institute of Contemporary Art. I really enjoyed the images and the words included therein. I was also very taken by the "Acting out: social experiments in video" show which included the wonderful Javier Téllez video of six blind people touching an elephant in McCarren Pool which I'd seen at the Whitney Biennial, along with four other interesting videos. After the ICA, I walked over to the gallery district on Harrison Avenue to see the Joe Fig show at Carroll and Sons.

So it all comes back to plants, e.g., figs. Part of the interest in all of these rose gardens has been that I have been thinking a good deal about what I'm going to do with the yard in Alfred. And if I were to win the lottery right now, I'd want to appropriate Ross Bleckner's studio building as created in miniature form by Joe Fig.

24 May 2009

rest on the flight to Alfred

Though I could (or probably should) have stayed home and packed some more books, I wanted to see the newly reopened American Wing at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Roberto Ferrari had blogged about the reopening a few days ago and that made me even more curious. He mentioned that it was good to be able to walk around the sculpture in the round but I must admit I think I preferred the Victorian patches of ivy. He also liked the touch screen information panels in the period rooms. Again, I guess I'm a fuddy duddy and prefer the old-fashioned text panels.

Meandering up through the various period rooms, I did stop to look at the wonderful Paris wallpaper that I'd love to find so I could make a frieze of buildings, inspired by it, around my library up in Alfred. Better check out the wallpaper catalogs.

I also went up to the roof garden to see the Roxy Paine installation. It's pretty stupendous, lots of snarled branches with reflections and views through the real vines:

A trip to the Met isn't complete without stopping in to see my favorite ivory of Mary and Joseph resting on the flight to Egypt, described on the label as one of the finest bits of Romanesque ivory carving.

14 May 2009

Lisa Ross at Daneyal Mahmood Gallery


This evening, I went to Daneyal Mahmood Gallery to hear Lisa Ross in conversation with Nan Goldin. It was an incredible artist talk. The gallery was crowded and many of us were sitting on the floor, perhaps appropriately ascetic. The YouTube video embedded here is from Daylight Multimedia and includes still pictures set to Uyghur music and Lisa Ross talking about prayer and spirituality. There are also some evocative pictures on the gallery website. When I looked at the list of her exhibitions, I realized that I had seen her work before, two years ago at Nelson Hancock Gallery in Dumbo.

The video at Daneyal Mahmood has a very different feel from the YouTube video from Daylight. The video on view at the gallery is very quiet. The gallery text indicated that you could only hear the natural sounds of the holy site in the desert. With quite a few people in the gallery, you couldn't even hear that and the silent flapping of the flags was mesmerizing.

Seeing the Uyghur scenery was especially evocative since I cataloged some ARTstor images from the Silk Routes recently. Lisa Ross first went to Xinjiang to see the ancient cities but found them disappointingly touristic. Wandering off, she discovered these holy sites.

10 May 2009

LibraryThing beats worldcat.org?

As I was sorting books to put in boxes today, I came across the library copy of Cruising: Architektur, Psychoanalyse and Queer Cultures by Helge Mooshammer (Böhlau, 2005) which I have checked out. I couldn't remember if I'd put in the bibliography for the Queer Caucus for Art Newsletter or not. I thought I'd google it to see whether it showed up that way. I was surprised to see that the LibraryThing work record showed up as the first hit. The second hit is from the author's webpage and the OCLC WorldCat record doesn't show up until the third entry on the second page, not far above the listing from the new books list at Berkeley. While I'm quite a fan of LibraryThing, as you know, I'm sort of disappointed that the WorldCat entry doesn't show up first. After all, if someone wants access to the book, they'd have more luck with the public collections in OCLC than with the mostly private libraries in LibraryThing.

09 May 2009

Carrie Moyer at CANADA and more


There's much to like in Carrie Moyer's current show of new paintings at CANADA gallery at 55 Chrystie on the Lower East Side (just North of Canal Street). Before I read the press release, I scribbled down a few of my favorite things:
- pigment: thick and thin, sometimes a glaze or inhabited with glitter, sometimes almost like a stain painting by Helen Frankenthaler or Morris Louis, other times so thickly applied that it has cracked
- color
- sometimes just raw canvas among the colors
- red string lines, mostly free form among the more precise edges of color areas, is this the influence of her partner Sheila Pepe?
- shapes that evoke: breasts but "First instance" reads to me like a thrusting male member
- a bit of Miró, a Target, puppets and calligraphy

And then I read the press release which talked about "Arcana" (the show's title) referring to the Tarot deck. I don't know much about Tarot so I'll have to take their word for it. There's also a list of what we might see and what it means. No mention of male parts so it must be me. The picture above is appropriated from the CANADA website; not "First instance" (and not identified by title on the website) but fairly representative.

My next stop was going to be Leslie/Lohman to see the Marco Silombria show so I started meandering North and West. I stopped at Jane Kim/Thrust Projects and found the Momoyo Torimitsu show. The gallery is full of small resin sculptures imitating melted chocolate Easter bunnies, supposedly critiquing consumerism. I don't really get it, or it doesn't move me.

Next. I vaguely remembered that Storefront's current show was on an interesting topic so I aimed there, forgetting that it was too far North for Leslie/Lohman.

The show now at Storefront for Art and Architecture is "49 cities" put together by WORK Architecture Company (WORKac): plans and statistics about 49 plans for better cities, whether that be denser or sparser, higher or over water, green or aerial. Included were the Royal Salt Works at Arc-et-Senans, a Roman town, a colonial Latin American town, some of the megastructures of the 1960s and 1970s, Levittown, garden cities, Broadacre City, Radiant City. The catalog is wonderful and reproduces most of the stuff in the exhibition. I find it an amusing coincidence that Storefront's show of photos from early last year was called "49 state capitols." The gallery guy said the 49s were just coincidental.

As I left the gallery, someone called my name and there was Jim Bergesen leading a group of young women galleryhoppers from Connecticut. We talked a bit about the joys and sorrows of galleryhopping amid the shoppers and lunch takers. And then I realized I was too far North for Leslie/Lohman so went to the grocery store and home. There's a lecture by Nina Katchadourian at Hunter College tonight: more evidence of the value of Facebook where I saw a notice for the artist talk.

02 May 2009

how popular are you? ask LC and ARTstor


It used to be that a gross count of Google hits would tell you whether one thing was more popular than another. LC sometimes used it in determining which term to use for a new subject heading. It's rather like one ARL library or super-bookstore saying they're better because they have more volumes. I've always preferred a bookstore that seemed to have a collection development policy. Now, Samuel G. Freedman has shown that we can move to smarter counts on the Internet. Well, we always could do that but I was amused by his counting in "Before there was King David, there was King Saul" in today's New York times. The article is about the new television series "Kings": King David and Saul in modern dress, with modernized names and places. What amused me was that he determined that David was way more popular than Saul by comparing hits in the LC catalog and ARTstor. For the record, the LC count was 43 Sauls and 297 Davids; the ARTstor count was 59 Sauls and "several thousand of David."

The whole article may be found online as "In ‘Kings,’ Television Tackles the Conflicted Saul" (title varies in print edition, as above). The picture is taken from the Saul entry in Wikipedia; it's called "David and Saul" (1885) by Julius Kronberg.

01 May 2009

anger, pacifism, cowardice

The book I'm reading now is Mama's boy, preacher's son by Kevin Jennings, the founder and first executive director of the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network. He grew up poor, mostly in the South, moving around a lot and getting called faggot by his classmates. While my status as preacher's son seemed to protect me from the taunts, I certainly grew up thinking I was different. Maybe we all do. One aside of Kevin's particularly resonated with me:

"(This happy ending aside, Mom and Dad's spankings, and my brother's bullying, would leave their scars in the form of a clear lesson: when people get angry, they hit you. I developed a lifelong, nearly paralyzing fear of angry people, so much so that I would do anything to avoid getting others angry -- anything, no matter how damaging it was to me.)" (p. 52-53)

Even though Kevin also learns that sometimes you get results when you fight back, it can be paralyzing for me as it was for Kevin. I know that my fear of anger has played into the development of my pacifism. I hope it's a more mature way of dealing with conflict.

This also reminds me of a wonderful quote from Colm Tóibín's The master, a novel based on the life of Henry James:

"He was not cut out to be a soldier, he thought, but neither were most of the young men of his class and acquaintance who went to fight. It was not wisdom which kept him away, he believed, but something closer to cowardice, and as he walked the cobbled streets of his new town, he almost thanked God for it."

26 April 2009

pretty gray redux


cf http://shermaniablog.blogspot.com/2009/04/pretty-gray.html

finally plugged the darn thing in

Well, maybe there will be more pictures here in the future. I bought a digital camera earlier this year, partly because Ilaria Papini was doing a blog series about the evolution of new homes. For me, it's more devolution. The heaps in New York City are getting sorted but not quickly packed. One of these days, I might start my devolution series but first:


I'm staring into the Mercedes planter at Bergamot Station in Santa Monica. The picture was taken by Sharon Chickanzeff when we were galleryhopping and whatnotting on the day before I flew the redeye special home after College Art Association in Los Angeles. That was way back in February but it took me a couple months to get up the courage to connect the camera to the computer. People kept saying that a new computer, especially a Macintosh, would be smart enough to identify the camera and help me with the upload. They were right.

21 April 2009

Judy Hoffberg and the early days

There was a memorial tribute to Judith Hoffberg yesterday morning at the Membership Meeting at the Annual Conference of the Art Libraries Society of North America (ARLIS/NA). Judy was the founder of ARLIS/NA, inspired by ARLIS which had just been organized in the U.K. and Ireland. There had been a workshop on art librarianship in 1969, organized by Florence DaLuiso at SUNY Buffalo. Judy had been there along with the "first" generation of ARLIS/NA folks. There was a follow-up meeting during ALA in 1972. Though that first generation wasn't much older than I am, I don't consider myself part of that group. Though I was at College Art in New York City in 1973 when the first official annual conference of ARLIS/NA was held, I didn't know about it; I was at CAA applying for my first job. I had also applied for a job with Florence DaLuiso. Barbara Reed got that job and I got the one at the Frick Fine Arts Library at the University of Pittsburgh. Karen Muller and I applied for each other's first job and she got the one at Yale. Actually, we're not sure if I applied for her job at Yale or another art library one that was open at about the same time. Barbara (my age) and Karen (a couple years younger) were in my ARLIS/NA generation, the second one, if you will.

Judy was an inspiration to all of us but I can only speak for myself. She not only helped me get started in ARLIS/NA but also was a great person to talk about art with. She and I ran into each other several times over the years while we both were galleryhopping in New York City. She lived in Southern California but traveled a lot in pursuit of art, particularly her beloved mail and correspondence art, rubber stamps, and artist's books.

I had become a member of ARLIS/NA by the fall of 1973 and my first conference was the one in Detroit in 1974. In those days, we didn't get much travel support and I stayed at the YMCA across the plaza from the Conrad Hilton conference hotel. That is another story (of suppressed sexuality and all that).

Over the next couple years, I continued to read the ARLIS/NA newsletter and go to the conferences. Those were the days of the development of AACR2 and a much more closed Library of Congress. Nancy John was the representative from ARLIS/NA to the Cataloging Code Revision Committee (the predecessor of CC:DA).

After a meeting at the 1975 Washington conference, I was talking to Carol Mandel, Chris Huemer, and Nancy John, wondering if we needed a cataloging discussion group devoted to classification. They said "go for it" or whatever we said then. In those days, we actually had three Cataloging Problems Discussion Groups. Fair warning to those that think we have too many cataloging meetings. The groups were devoted to description, subjects, and classification (I think) and soon merged into one. Cataloging issues ARE interrelated. We tried to do a mail round robin but it usually got snagged in someone's mail inbox. We also did a notebook every year that had photocopies of any correspondence that folks had had with LC or other agencies. It served as a sort of predecessor of electronic lists, certainly not as timely but did allow you to share your responses with others.

A couple years later, I was asked to run for Treasurer and I won the election, against Janis Ekdahl who had just published her book on American sculpture. I teased her that she had done well to publish and I'd just gotten a bookkeeping job. Still, I'm very glad that I was treasurer when it was bookkeeping rather than development and major finance.

My term started at the Los Angeles conference in 1977 when I again stayed at the bargain hotel, a few blocks from the then Hilton at Seventh and Figueroa (now the Wilshire Grand). It was rather a fleabag and some other ARLISer that started out there moved to the Hilton. John Murchie was starting his term as Chairman and Nancy John was Vice Chairman. Though I was hardly the leading Young Turk, I was part of this group who served as officers when we began to mature and wanted to get past the Judy-centric society. I don't mean to downplay Judy's critical role in the founding of ARLIS/NA but, equally, I recognize that any group, like any person, has to find itself.

Without Judy to run the office, receive the mail, plan the conference, and all the other things that go into running an organization, it fell to us board members. Nancy took on the conference planning portion and I took on the membership records for the period of fall 1977 and spring 1978. Nancy and I teased each other that we had seen headquarters because she stopped at our house in Pittsburgh on her way from her National Gallery job to her new home in Chicago. My role meant that I was receiving and processing a couple dozen memberships every day, in an era when the mailing list was being maintained by typing the names on sheets of Avery labels and trying to keep them pretty much alphabetical. There were many trips to the bank to deposit membership checks.

The finances were so precarious in those days because our mission and membership were expanding quickly but most of our income came from memberships which mostly came in the months one side or the other of January 1st. That year, we asked members to lend us money, to be repaid as new memberships came in. Membership was expanding quickly then and the loans were easily repaid early in 1978. Mary Williamson of Toronto even said that she had made money because the Canadian exchange rate was beneficial then, and getting better.

Soon after that, we got a contract with Charlie Mundt as executive secretary. He represented some association management firm, the name of which I cannot remember. That relationship didn't last very long and we were back to an individual by 1980 when Pam Parry was selected in New Orleans. She was a strong and wise executive director for many years, very different years from the first few when Judy needed to be a mother, a mother who reluctantly had to let the kids go.

Just one Charlie Mundt story. At a reception at the Toronto conference in 1979, the snacks were skimpy and there was grumbling in the house that we weren't getting our money's worth. Charlie often seemed rather a bad fit for ARLIS/NA but he got a hearty round of laughter when he reminded us that the reception was a fundraiser.

Going into the 1979 conference, there was a decision that the terms for the secretary and treasurer should be staggered. Nancy or whoever told me that Karen Harvey, the secretary, had agreed to draw straws for who "got" to hold office for another year. I said that sounded fine and then found out that Karen had actually said "let Sherman do it." So my term as treasurer lasted three years. That's OK; I wouldn't trade that time for anything.

I was inspired to share this history by the memorial tribute to Judy yesterday morning. I was very fond of Judy and am very grateful for her leadership and for the love of art that she passed on to anyone who came nearby.

15 April 2009

pretty gray

Sara Jane Pearman and I went down to Akron today to see the Coop Himmelb(l)au extension to the Akron Art Museum. I've been watching those Vienna-based architects for many years. When I was in Vienna a few years ago, I figured out where the rooftop on Falkestrasse was located. You can barely see it from the street when you're standing in front of Otto Wagner's Post Office Savings Bank. But you can go into the bank building and see the lovely little Wagner museum.

When I was Los Angeles in February this year for College Art, I made a point of checking out the location of Coop Himmelb(l)au's new High School #9 which juts out over the freeway on the North side of downtown, near the new cathedral by Moneo and Gehry's Disney Concert Hall. My host Steve Ong said there was much controversy about the budget of the high school when other schools were going wanting. The school is good-looking though. Good architecture can, of course, have value beyond its cost.

The weather here in Ohio has been gray and drippy and the Akron building is mainly built of metal (non-shiny enameled steel?) and raw concrete, inside and out. We're not talking lots of contrast here: pretty but gray, quite gray. The shapes of the materials reflect and contrast with each other. The entry is low and there are nice stairs up to the main special exhibition galleries. The older building is a nice brick building of the small post office or public library school of turn-of-the-century beaux arts; the new building crows out over the top. The visual parallels between the wide eaves of the older building and the Roof Cloud are also nice.

The Coop Himmelb(l)au site includes a number of rather spectacular pictures. With a less sophisticated camera, one cannot get some of the drama and panorama but when you're there in person, you are much more aware of the close context of the surrounding buildings and streets (especially if it's raining and you don't really want to walk around so much as you might on a sunny April day). Now if I just screw my courage to the sticking point and connect the cable between my new camera and my computer, maybe I can download the modest pictures I did take and do them up on wikicatalog as suggested by Heisdi Djúpivogur, aka Heidi Raatz.

Oh, I guess I should admit that a couple reasons that I've always been interested in the work of this firm is their (jokey?) name with the parenthesis on the L (bau, you know, auf Deutsch) and that one of the architects is Wolf Prix.

13 April 2009

Poor Jack Wrangler

Jack Wrangler's obituary was in last Thursday's New York Times. He was a gay porn icon when I was first becoming aware of the genre. He met Margaret Whiting and started living with her in 1977 and married her in 1994. Jeffrey Schwarz, a close friend and producer of the documentary "Wrangler: anatomy of an icon," described the marriage as not being about sexual orientation but about mutual affection and respect. Wrangler, born John Robert Stillman, didn't acted in porn after the early 1980s. He wrote cabaret shows, with Whiting performing, and did other producing gigs. As I was reading along and feeling sympathy for the poor fellow who didn't escape his porn reputation, I got to the part about his being born just three weeks after I was. Life is fleeting so get on with it.

When I went to check his LC/NAF record to see if the death date was recorded, I found that the updater had used the L.A. Times and had only mentioned the porn part of his career. Poor Jack Wrangler, still no credit for his later producing work. But Bette Davis might counsel that any reputation is better than none.

670 __ |a Los Angeles times WWW site, Apr. 8, 2009 |b (in obituary dated Apr. 9, 2009: Jack Wrangler; b. John Stillman in Beverly Hills; d. Tueday [Apr. 7, 2009], New York City, at 62; 1970s-era porn star)

08 April 2009

"Build Rome in a Day"

Yesterday's viewing of Elodie Pong's "The end of empire" was especially resonant because I'd volunteered for Liz Glynn's "Build Rome in a Day" project the day before at the New Museum. I had worked during the republican period between 10:30 pm and 2 am on Tuesday morning. It was a bit chaotic but fairly low scale and low tech. My Temple of Vesta was pretty unimpressive. When I went back to check on Tuesday mid-day, the scale of buildings had increased, the noise level was higher and building materials more substantial, the workers looked more professional ... it just seemed more, well, imperial. I didn't go back again late in the afternoon to see the fall of the empire but the difference between the republican and empire seemed "realistic" or, at least, plausible. I even passed one of the other republican era volunteers on the street as I walked to the Kitchen last night. She was on her way to see the end of the empire.

07 April 2009

"More talks about buildings"

Triple Canopy put on an interesting and eclectic program tonight at The Kitchen on West 19th Street. Before the program, I went upstairs to the gallery. The Jamal Cyrus show was OK but the Elodie Pong videos were really splendid. One was called "After the Empire" which starred actors playing Batman and Robin, Marilyn Monroe, Elvis Presley, Karl Marx, an older woman who waits for her supposed father who is already dead, sometimes alone and sometimes interacting. The Marilyn and Marx interaction is especially poignant. The other large-screen video "Even a stopped clock is right twice a day" shows birds with captions about globalization and consumerism. Pretty simple but powerful.

On to the Triple Canopy show which started with a film of the Houston Petrochemical Corridor, seen from the air. Not a pretty landscape. As it was winding past in visual space, one of the members of Triple Canopy read a prose-poem-joke about urbanism. Next up was Emily Richardson's "Cobra Mist" which surveys Orford Ness, a nature reserve and defunct nuclear testing site on the Suffolk coast in England. Pretty but a tad vacuous. Then Lucy Raven presented her video-in-progress on Daybreak, a development being built by the Kennecott mining folks in the Utah Valley and built on waste. Raven did a fine job of mixing her commentary and the voice of the PR person from Daybreak. The economic downturn is affecting the development and Kennecott is actually now expanding their mining activities rather than moving forward so quickly with their new traditionalist development with the sweet business sections and every need taken care of. Raven ended her presentation with a reading of the monthly slogans on the 2009 Daybreak calendar. For example, your life will be marvelous in this lovely colonial house.

Back to film: Melanie Smith's black-and-white aerial investigation of Mexico City entitled "Spiral city." After it had run once and a bit, a trio of musicians -- Zs -- set up and started playing their "composed and improvised music" which turned out to be pretty stupid and very loud and way too long.

The next presentation by architects Thomas Moran and Rustam Mehta about their plans for a high-speed rail transportation hub in the Mojave Desert was very heartening. The hub is being planned by the VPL Authority (that's for Vegas-Phoenix-Los Angeles) which also did the water corridor that allows the sprawl of Phoenix and Las Vegas. The rail line however would ease air traffic. They said that fully 7% of LAX's traffic is short flights. Their graphs showed the environmental and economic costs of various modes of transportation with rail travel being considerably better than other modes, in amounts of government subsidy, air pollution, even time since the trains would go city center to city center.

Next up was architectural critic Joseph Clarke (no relation, as far as I know) who discussed megachurch architecture in comparison to that of corporations and other organizations. This was pretty much a "straight" architectural history paper and full of interesting comparisons. Though big Christian churches have been around for most of the last two millenia, Clarke credited Charles Spurgeon who led a prayer service at the Crystal Palace in 1851 with the start of the big evangelical service. He made comparisons between the postwar developments of Charles Schuller's drive-in church and SOM corporate complexes with suburban development. The postwar megachurch has evolved through cell groups which started with the Yoide Full Gospel Church in Korea which now has 800 thousand members. The folks at Yoide divided Seoul up into cells which met in people's homes and as the groups grew beyond the domestic capacity, cells divided. Clarke compared this to the corporate office landscaping which is more open and collaborative. He ended with comparing Saddleback Church's complex with The Googleplex. Since I'd visited the Crystal Cathedral last summer in conjunction with ALA in Anaheim, I was especially interested in his example of that complex with its early Neutra church with the mix of drive-in and church and later Crystal Cathedral by Philip Johnson.

The evening ended with some rap by Nine 11 Thesaurus, a Brownsville-based group which is working with other community groups.

While the title of the program "More talks about buildings" drew me to the announcement of the program, the use of "authority" and "thesaurus" in segment titles was amusing. It was more about urbanism than buildings but left me with some hope and lots to think about.

02 April 2009

nose jobs and turkey vultures

You're feeling a little overwhelmed. You know you have to sort out the detritus before you can really get on with your life but it's early April, the sun is shining. Spring fever sets in ... hard!

I went out to get the paper and check to see if my state tax refund had been deposited as the website had indicated it would be. No April Fool's joke there. But with book in hand, I thought a little reading on the waterfront would be just fine. Since I usually just walk West on Christopher Street to the waterfront, I decided to shift a bit South and ended up getting to the Hudson at about Carmine Street and kept walking South. I did stop and get a coffee at the food court at the Winter Garden and then sat for a while and wrote in my journal. Realizing I wasn't too far from the Skyscraper Museum, I stopped in there to see the current show on Hong Kong skyscrapers. I don't really like the space; it's over-decorated, not that you asked me. The small shop is quite nice but I resisted buying the Jane Jacobs biography or anything else.

Over to Broadway for the walk North. When I got almost up to Canal, I shifted over to Church Street to visit apexart which always is showing something interesting. Imagine my surprise and deep emotions at finding that their current show was "I am art: an expression of the visual & performing arts of plastic surgery" curated by Anthony Berlet, M.D. Having gone through a "staged nasal reconstruction with forehead flap and cartilege grafting following Mohs resection of skin cancer," I was overwhelmed. There were also more cosmetic nose jobs and fixes of clept palates. Before and after pictures. The videos are not for the squeamish. I'm glad I was anesthetized during my procedure. Is it art? Soon after my operation, I was at an opening at the Whitney Museum branch in Stamford, Connecticut with several others from the Whitney in Manhattan where I was then moonlighting. We were looking at one of the pieces when I hear "beautiful work" to my left. The observer, a retired dermatologist, was indeed looking at my nose reconstruction, not at the art work on the wall.

After leaving apexart, I could hardly keep it together as I walked home. My main thought to myself, however, was: get over it, you could be dead. Quit worrying about all you have to do and go do something.

A little further up Greene Street, the door for Location One was open so I went in. What a contrast: Laurie Anderson's "From the air: two installations." There are two darkened chambers. One has a white circle on the floor with a speaker above. The texts are barely audible but soothing in a Laurie Anderson sort of way. The other chamber had a projection of "From the air" about Anderson and her dog. She talks about getting away from her downtown space for periods of quiet and walks with her dog. She describes a visit to northern California where they are staying in a hermitage where monks bring food every few days but otherwise they're pretty much alone. Anderson has heard that rat terriers are capable of learning 500 words and she wanted to experiment. As she walked down to the ocean from the hermitage, the dog would scurry about looking for hazards. Turkey vultures appear one day and, all of a sudden, the dog realizes that it is prey and must now look up as well as around. Anderson makes an analogy with 9/11 and the fact that things will never be the same again. As expected, pretty powerful stuff.

That sure filled the brain and soul with lots to think about. As I continued up Greene Street, I passed someone sitting on a stoop talking on a cell phone and realized it was my art hero, Nina Katchadourian. Whiz by, whistling inside, stopped at the grocery store and came home for something to eat. A bit of nourishment for the body to go with the soul's food.

24 March 2009

stories of art and war

I finished reading Stories of art by James Elkins and started Doves of war: four women of Spain by Paul Preston while I was in Toronto for the VRA conference. Jacquelyn Coutré had recommended Stories of art as one of her favorites among Elkins's books. We both enjoyed his Pictures and tears as well.

In Stories of art, Elkins discusses the writing of art history: as narrative, by theme, including non-western. When I was in Toronto, I was struck by the Art Gallery of Ontario's efforts to shake the rigidly chronological or western telling of the art/culture story. For example, they included a couple vitrines of Chinese snuff bottles in a passage way between earlier and later mostly European decorative arts. In a gallery of Baroque paintings, there was a Kara Walker video installation. Still, I most enjoyed the galleries in the contemporary wing featuring individual artists. The Robert Smithson gallery included several other works including Tim Lee's "Upside down torture chamber" which featured a young man tied up, reading Smithson's collected writings upside down. The cover picture on the book features the reflection of Smithson walking on the Spiral Jetty; what's upside down becomes right side up. Martha Rosler's wonderful pictures of the Bowery with words meaning drunk were also on display in the Smithson gallery. The Gerhard Richter gallery was just Richter but a real treat with a small piano with painted underlid.

Priscilla Scott-Ellis, known as Pip, is the first woman featured in Doves of war. A member of the English elite, she went to Spain to do nursing during the Civil War. She worked hard between moments of relaxation with friends and acquaintances, carried on a mostly unrequited affair with a prince, etc. etc. Oh, she was working on the Franco side. Reading this has led to me reflecting considerably on how your view of a political or cultural situation is dependent on your natural inclinations, your experiences, how you were raised, and probably a bit of randomness. From our historical position now, we rather naturally think that all things Franco were nasty and fascist. Just like most people were ready to totally condemn the terrorists that flew into the World Trade Center, Pentagon, and the field in Pennsylvania. Excuse me but your terrorist may be my freedom fighter. We have killed more Iraqis since 2003 than the folks that died in the WTC bombing. I'm not trying to justify the 9/11 attacks as anything but horrible but they were part of the general war and violence we humans can't seem to shake. This morning, I noted Slavoj Zizek's Violence and thought it looked like it might be worth reading. He scares me a bit, perhaps too heavy or philosophical. And of course I also wish that I could figure out where the hacek is so that I could do his name with the diacritics.

22 March 2009

worldcat.org rocks

Well, that was pretty wonderful. I just got back from VRA in Toronto and was reading last week's New York Times book review. The review of Our magnificent bastard tongue: the untold history of English by John McWhorter (Gotham Books) caught my eye. I went to worldcat.org so that I could tag it in del.icio.us with "wannaread" (aka wannabuy but don't want to pack). I searched "our magnificent bastard tongue" and got the bib record for the book AND the citation for the review!

07 March 2009

felt wallpaper waters walk man push cart

Though I should have spent the day sorting and packing, I went up to the Cooper-Hewitt for the ARLIS/NY tour of the "Fashioning Felt" and "Wall Stories: Children's Wallpaper and Books" along with Tulou (affordable housing in China) and Shahzia Sikander selections from the collection. The felt show is marvelous and the curator Susan Brown gave us a fine tour. Among my favorite objects were the Andrea Zittel dresses. Susan explained that Zittel wanted to get totally green and put the fabric together without machinery. The dresses are interesting to look at too. Kathryn Walker did some wonderful rosettes as a molding in the first gallery from the information desk. I had seen the Tulou show before and I really love the model of the circular complex with a square block inside. I also very much enjoy shows in which an artist is turned "loose" in the collections of a museum, selecting things which moved or inspired her or him. Some other memorable artist selections were Kara Walker at the Met a couple years ago, Paul Cadmus at the National Academy before that, and John Biggers at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston even earlier. The Biggers retrospective at MFAH included a room of paintings and other art that inspired Biggers as he grew up in Houston. The Sikander selections are in the small gallery to the right of the information desk and the show also includes a large folio she did expressly for this show. The folio is probably about four feet high and each page is about 3 feet across. It's big and rather like a Persian manuscript with modernist interventions, such as Icarus masquerading as an American eagle.

From the Cooper-Hewitt for a quick round of "American Waters" at the National Academy. And then on to the Met where I again visited the Edward Weston and Raqib Shaw shows, looked at the wonderful Kehinde Wiley recumbent Christ, and then did a rather quick round of the late Bonnards. It's not that it wasn't wonderful but it was quite crowded and I'd rather look at a few good Bonnards (and some of the drawings especially were lovely) than gorge myself.

I got my ticket for "Man Push Cart" at MoMA and then went over to Fifth Avenue for a bit of gallery hopping. Forum Gallery had a show of paintings by Alex Melamid of hip-hop artists. The show was done in conjunction with the Museum of Contemporary Art, Detroit, and the catalog had an essay by Francine Prose. The paintings are really lovely and the Detroit and Prose connection was wonderfully serendipitous. Prose is a favorite author and I've read her Goldengrove and Sicilian Odyssey is the past few months. John Maier got me a t-shirt from the MOCAD which he visited a couple years ago. I'd love to see the museum which is currently in a renovated garage (rather like the Temporary Contemporary in L.A. in its early days).

Downstairs for some Elliott Erwitt photos of New York City at Edwynn Houk and a nice little group show at McKee Gallery. McKee has the estates of Philip Guston and Harvey Quaytman so there were a few of each. There were also two works by Kit Rank, with whom I wasn't familiar. I really liked "Monkey's Milk Bar."

And then "Man Push Cart." If you haven't seen it, I recommend it. I wonder how someone who hasn't lived in NYC would react. It's very much the hard life of the push cart vendors, currently mostly from Pakistan and Afghanistan. The movie was released in 2005 and much of the impetus for making it was the horrible and suspicious treatment of brown peoples after 9/11, particularly those suspected of being Muslim. The main actor was at the screening and chatted with us in the lobby after the film. He said the movie had played well outside NYC and showed a different view of the city, not the elegance of Prada or the mad chase scenes but the real life hard hard life of the immigrant who may have been a rock star or doctor but now sells coffee and bagels, getting up at 2 a.m. in all kinds of weather.

Today's weather was not hard to take. It was supposed to get up to 69 degrees today which is pretty toasty for NYC in early March. I was in Los Angeles for College Art Association last week so I'd had my share of warm weather. I really enjoy going to College Art and listening to papers about things I haven't known about ... or things I'm quite familiar with. I stayed with Steve Ong most of the time; he lives in a lovely hillside house in Silver Lake. His late partner Ed Amstrong used to work with me at Bobst Library. I also spent one night at The Hacienda, as Sharon Chickanzeff calls her childhood home where her 96-year old mother still lives. The house is lovely and set in La Habra Heights which is quite a bit higher than other territory in the southeastern part of L.A. The Hammer Museum had a lovely show of portraits and I also enjoyed seeing the Broad Museum and Getty Villa. And eating quite a lot of Mexican food never is a problem.

23 February 2009

what's with the wisecracks?

I don't think I'd ever seen the verb wisecracks split into cracks wise ... until recently. I read it sometime in the last week or two in the Times and didn't think much of it. Then, in today's paper, there was another occurrence, in the continuation of the article on the Oscars. Just so you've got some context: "... in which the M.C., usually a comedian, cracks wise to keep generally unremarkable acceptance speeches consisting of shout-outs to families and agents from driving audiences away."

But don't worry about the death of the conflated word. This headline appeared on page A12: Rename Law? No Wisecrack Is Left Behind.

13 February 2009

just two shows and a million things to think about

"A relationship left for dead on the Lower East Side" at Cuchifritos Gallery/Project Space builds from a photo album found "a few years back" on a curb on the Lower East Side. The album shows two men at home, on the beach, goofing off, staring into the camera, being people. The album was given to independent curator Bill Previdi by his friend Patrick Cunningham. Previdi looked at the album and then set it aside. When revisiting it, it occurred to him that the two men in the album were never in the same picture and it led to the show at Cuchifritos in which ten artists make works that build off the album: some directly such as a painting by Cunningham of one of the photos but mostly indirectly in dealing with "its surrounding themes such as duality, isolation, love, longing and desire." There's an appropriate opening on Valentine's Day.

I have an album with similar leaves (pasteboard with plastic oversheets and a sticky surface to hold the pictures in place). My album has pictures from the late 1960s and early 1970s so there are pictures of Dorothy and me, alone and together. The album style is quite particular so looking at the album in the show evokes images and times from that era of my life. The gay couple, naturally, evoked other times in my life.

Overall, the album was rather more compelling than the derivative works though it was probably the idea that was most riveting.

I went to Cuchifritos after witnessing Robert Stacy's signature and lunch with Robert at Cafe Colonial on East Houston Street at Elizabeth. Cuchifritos is located in the Essex Street Market and we walked home along Delancey Street with talk of memories of when that neighborhood was not yet hip.

After being home for a while, the bright clear day called me out for a walk. I thought I'd go over past 113 West 13th Street where Edith Gregor Halpert had her Downtown Gallery. I'm reading The girl with the gallery about Halpert and her advocacy for modern American art. I started out by walking over to the Hudson River (a favorite walk) and then started toward 13th Street. I decided to stop at White Columns on the way over and got very distracted.

White Columns has a show entitled "40 years/40 projects" tracing their history as an alternative art space. What a trip. I know that I visited White Columns once when it was on Spring Street but probably not way back when it was at 21 Greene Street (and had the name 21 Greene Street Gallery). I can't remember what show that was. In the current show, there were pictures and names that still resonate. There was a picture of Willoughby Sharp who died late last year. Harmony Hammond, a friend and colleague from the Queer Caucus for Art, was the coordinator of "The lesbian show." I sat and listened to all 17+ minutes of William Wegman's "World history." He put together a tape (now on disc, playing on a Discman) of several people describing what they remembered from World History class in junior high school. There was one voice in the left ear and a different one in the right, most of the time, and occasionally just one voice in one ear. Some had very vague memories and some went way back to early man. No creation stories though. Some mentioned great figures and tried to be multi-cultural. Others talked about Nixon and how John Adams and John Quincy Adams were the only father-son pair of presidents. History has changed that, of course. Some tried to recreate the historical sequence from Cro Magnon man on; others were more scattershot. The sequence was always a bit more linear but maybe that's how it was in junior high school history. I tried to imagine how I would have answered Wegman's question.

Other pieces in the "40 years" show that I rather liked were Tom Burr's "The Rambles" which were two small topographic models of the space within Central Park known for gay cruising. Like much of Burr's works, the subtlety is compelling. Another project traced the contemporary artists who appeared in the gay porn magazine Honcho in the mid-1990s. The conjunction of art and porn is always a ticklish one, in a variety of ways.

Sometimes you see oodles of galleries and find some compelling work ... or not. Other times, you only visit a couple galleries and have oodles to think about.