31 January 2009

NACO stop frustrated so it's off to the galleries

Sam Duncan of the Amon Carter asked me about the Park Place Gallery which is the theme of a recent show at the Blanton Museum of Art in Austin, Texas. I don't think I'd heard of it but it is where John Gibson and Paula Cooper started before they opened their own eponymous galleries in Soho and later Chelsea. Park Place Gallery started out on Park Place near the City Hall of NYC. According to BobCat (the opac that NYU shares with several other schools), the catalog was supposed to be on the shelf at Gimbel Library at Parsons the New School for Design. I left home before 11 and found that Gimbel doesn't open until noon on Saturdays.

Off to the galleries: Daneyal Mahmood Gallery's "Darkrooms -- homme made" was the only Chelsea gallery on the list for this weekend. I got to Tenth Avenue at 20th Street so decided to stop in at Jack Shainman Gallery. They've got a show of soundsuits and other sculptures by Nick Cave. I had seen a show of the soundsuits a couple years ago. The first gallery as you enter was a parade of sculptures with lawn jockeys holding up other objects on bent metal: model ships, braided rug as emblem, porcelain birds in a tree, flowers wreathed about in a tree, porcelain birds in a bush (with seated jockey). One of the jockeys was painted whiteface. The metal frames are more visible than the frames of the soundsuits but evoke them. There were also a couple wallpieces with Aunt Jemimas and a male counterpart: one on a box with the caption "Holy, holy, holy" and the other a cross. Another one of the wallpieces was a bootblack with the caption "Boo!" The back gallery had about a dozen soundsuits. I really like the way that Cave plays with humor, race, gender stereotypes. He had a show up in Alfred at the Schein-Joseph International Museum of Ceramic Art last fall but I missed it. I think it was on during one of my visits but I just didn't get up to the museum. The fellow at Shainman said that the Alfred show was five soundsuits.

Next stop was the Hiroshi Sugimoto show at Gagosian on 21st Street. The first room was six of the subtle sea images on one wall of the white and light room. There were guides to help you into the second room which was as dark as the first was light. Again, six images but the inner gallery was only illuminated by the spotlights on the images. The entrances were a U-turn light trap and after you'd been in the inner sanctum for a while, your eyes adjusted. On one hand, the subtlety is powerful and turns one meditative; on the other, it was perhaps insignificant. From the busyness of the Cave to the minimal Sugimoto, quite a jump.

On to Paula Cooper with "Every revolution is a roll of the dice," curated by Bob Nickas. I was really drawn by the title but the show didn't do much for me. I did like the Louise Lawler wall piece: Once there was a little boy and everything turned out alright. THE END.

On the way from 21st up to 25th for Mahmood, I stopped at Printed Matter and found some things I really liked but resisted. I will have to go back to work full time if I don't get my book buying under control. Near the cash register was Fifteen pornography companies by Louisa Van Leer, done Ed Ruscha style (credited thereto). Really fine and only $16. I tagged it "wannaread" in my del.icio.us tags though it's really more "wannabuy." Back in the alphabetical section was S(h)elf portrait by Leandro Katz. I tagged that "books_as_art" and "artists_book." And then in the back room was a lovely little catalog from the Casey Kaplan Gallery entitled Not so subtle subtitle. More play on library words, and the show started on my birthday last year. Gosh, sometimes I wish I DID have collection-development responsibilities for a library. I could be the one they pick on for overspending his budget.

OK, now the 511 West 25th Street building, home of several favorite galleries. I checked the posters on the outside of the building and figured I might as well just take the elevator to the top and walk down.

"A winter's bounty" at Alan Klotz Gallery included this wonderful Brett Weston "White Sands, New Mexico" from 1946 (my birth year, so more birthday stuff). I love the way the landscape and sky are ambiguous and reflective of each other.

Deborah Bell is on the same floor and she was showing "Figure studies." As I circled the room, I happened on the woman dressed as Queen Victoria. I knew I'd seen it but couldn't think who the photographer was. Peter Hujar. Further along was a piece and my mind said "John O'Reilly" but it was by a Dutch photographer named Gerard Petrus Fieret (1924-2009). Very nice, with two images of the artist naked. The second Fieret piece was of a woman's upper body and that reminded me that one may see things in art that weren't intended. The self-portrait set off my gaydar and looked like O'Reilly who is unabashedly homoerotic, mixing naked male bodies with bits of old masters and stage sets. At the Queer Caucus show in Atlanta, I bought a picture of a young man that looks a lot like David Wojnarowicz as a young man. The photographer of that picture was a woman. Now she was in the queer show but her queer aesthetics might not match mine.

I did stop at a few other galleries before getting to "Darkrooms -- homme made" curated by Avi Feldman at Daneyal Mahmood on the third floor. The first piece as you enter is a video monitor with films by Amir Fattal addressing issues of gay male sexuality. Pretty direct. No back room approach to the show here. Some of the pieces were pretty interesting but as often happens when galleryhopping, the one on the list isn't necessarily the lasting experience of the day. Nick Cave and the Brett Weston will probably stick with me. I did like the Dean Sameshima photos at Mahmood too though.

Leaving Chelsea, I went back to the Gimbel Library to check on the Reimagining spaces catalog. It wasn't on the shelf, it wasn't on the new book truck, it wasn't on the overflow and shelving shelves. I looked at the staff display of the record and it was handled by a Bobst staff member on January 29th so I suspect it's still in processing rather than on the shelf. I'll just have to go back to Gimbel in a few days and read some more magazines and see if the catalog has appeared. No problem, I've got time.

29 January 2009


Laurie Anderson just said "you should lurk" in one of her low low voices. I've been worried about lurking around about a couple artists whose work I really enjoy. And of course Facebook seems a bit lurky sometimes.

carnegie hall tonight

We don't often get drama mixed with our music at Carnegie Hall. At tonight's "Making Music: Peter Eötvös" concert, we got some drama. Before the second piece started, a cellphone sounded and someone said "I don't believe it." Another chirped and the same voice groaned. Someone else said "shut up." That's kind of low drama. Then in the middle of the last section of the third piece, a woman clomped down the side aisle to the front row. As she started clomping, I thought it was part of the percussion but then she came into view. Since the piece was based on Samuel Beckett's radio play Embers, it was vaguely possible that it was part of the work. As the applause started, the woman stood up, put on her coat, and started taking bows. The musicians were professionally oblivious of her shenanigans. I went out into the lobby for intermission and when I returned to my seat, the woman was in a heated argument with several of the ushers and house managers. They finally led her out, and speculation and disbelief reigned up in the balcony of Zankel Hall. The second half of the concert went on without interruption ... except for the trains.

Oh, the concert. It was very interesting. I was not familiar with Eötvös's music but I really liked some of it. And Tara Helen O'Connor played flute and piccolo in a couple pieces; I've heard her four or five times this season and I really like her playing. This wasn't my favorite but it was good. "Shadows" is a wonderful play of reflection, as the title suggests. The instruments talked to each other: snare drums to tympani, solo flute and clarinet to the ensemble. Eötvös conducted three of the six works and played piano in another. My favorite work was probably the second: "Encore," a string quartet. Neo-romantic, it wasn't especially challenging but it was beautifully played. The last piece "Snatches of a Conversation" included text spoken/sung by Barbara Hannigan and solo double-bell trumpet by Brandon Ridenour.

"Derwischtanz" was pretty wonderful pictorially as well as musically. Three clarinetists stood in circles of light and turned as they played. The sound changed as they turned. As they left the stage, I noticed that the three women, all dressed in black, had three different necklines: circle, square, triangle. Bauhaus perhaps. Each also carried her clarinet in a different way from the others. I didn't determine if the shapes and the positions were related.

The text of "Snatches" reminded me a bit of Laurie Anderson but Eötvös uses the text as color more than to tell a story as Laurie Anderson would. When Elaine and I were talking in Boulder about her and her husband's trips to Central America, Elaine said "huipiles" and that reminded me of a narrative piece that Anderson does about being in Mexico. I wanted to share it with Elaine and was lucky enough to find "The Ugly One with the Jewels" at Bart's used CD/record shop on the Pearl Street Mall. I'm not absolutely sure that that's the CD with the "huipile" song but it's good. It's now on the stereo so I'll know in a while.

22 January 2009

world's collide: but not books by color

The Visual Resources Collection at the University of Colorado has recordings of artist lectures and various artist interviews. As Elaine was giving me the tour, I noted that she had a lecture by and interview with Nina Katchadourian, done on 30 March 2004. In the artist lecture, Nina talks about the book projects and then "Carpark" done in San Diego in 1994 with Mark Tribe, Steven Matheson, and thousands of others.

The big joke in classification and cataloging is arranging the books by color. Well, that and how many catalogers does it take to screw in a light bulb? It's interesting to me that Nina has played with arranging books by title and cars by color.

New Vista High School, aka Baseline Junior High School

How could I have failed to mention that I also walked past Baseline Junior High School on my "reliving my youth" expedition yesterday? Perhaps it's that I have passed the school a number of times since it is on path from Elaine's to the CU campus or elsewhere. I was amazed to see the shape of the gymnasium but can't find a picture to add. Yes, I do hope to get a digital camera so that I can add to the glut of pictures in this e-world.

The school building was probably built in the early-mid 1950s. The gym roof is a wide and shallow round vault. Perhaps my love of roundtops and vaults is not based at all on my Palladiophilia but rather on my junior high school experience. I don't really think so but it was very amusing to see the shape from my youth that is now rather a theme in my architectural ramblings.

Baseline is now the New Vista High School. I didn't try to get into the building to see if the interiors resonated. I can picture the classrooms and particularly remember when we were told by the languages teacher that we should take Spanish in 9th grade because it wasn't a dead language like Latin. Spanish is the language of the future, she said. I did take Spanish in 9th grade, as advised, and didn't get Latin until a catch-up accelerated term in grad school. We moved, however, from Boulder after my 9th grade and North Loup-Scotia Schools (in central Nebraska) only had a German teacher so I switched. But that teacher was very enthusiastic and we even read Romulus der Grosse by Friedrich Dürrenmatt.

21 January 2009

moins ça change

My family lived in Boulder, Colorado from 1955 to 1961, after living in northern Wisconsin and before we moved to central Nebraska. This week, fifty odd years later, I'm visiting Boulder before ALA Midwinter in Denver. I walked several miles in Boulder today, passing the homes we lived in and the schools where I went to 4th to 9th grades. It was quite a day. As expected, everything looked a little small but, wow, what an expedition.

I'm staying with Elaine Paul, the art history visual resources curator at the University of Colorado, who couldn't be a more gracious and wonderful host. She lives in a house that was built about 1960, a low-pitched roof ranch house with a wonderful mid-century feel and a great sidelight window which is perfect for Annabella (dog) to look out of as she luxuriates on the big dog pillow. I've also visited with James Ascher (cataloger) and Lia Pileggi and her kids (Lia's the assistant VR curator at CU).

My pedestrian expedition today was anything but pedestrian. I started out from Elaine's on 35th Street near Baseline and walked over to the Chautauqua campus at 11th Street on the South side of Baseline. It is quite a bit higher than Baseline and the buildings are those wonderful camp meeting buildings one would expect of a Chautauqua. Back down 12th Street which was my Denver Post paper route when we lived here. Some of the houses seemed, at least generally, familiar: the type of porch I might have aimed a paper at. Midway between Chautauqua and the collegetown area is the Boulder History Museum, set in the Harbeck-Bergheim House which was built in 1899. It's a good solid stone house, not too fancy with historical exhibits and a dandy little bookshop.

After the museum, I checked to see if I could find the record store that had been mentioned on College Avenue. I didn't see it. When I asked if they had CDs at the Colorado Book Store, she said "like you mean pre-recorded." It used to be that "vinyl" seemed ancient but now who'd do anything but download music? More anon. I did find a record store downtown.

Back to 12th Street and down to University. When I got to Marine Street, I turned West since we had lived in the basement for a few months at 601 Marine Street while they got the parsonage next to the church ready. I remember the house as white clapboard with a pleasant peach arbor in the backyard. It looked really small, plaster, no peach arbor but some evidence of fancier backyard at some point in the past. My younger sisters used to take their baths in the laundry tub. We were rather camping out in the basement, the house being owned by one of the older couples in the church where my dad preached. I also remember my mom cooking what she called polenta there but now I'd probably call it corn meal mush (rather like Cream of Wheat but corn).

Continuing on, I walked on 6th Street to Arapahoe, past the house (I think) that retired Pastor Hurley and his wife lived in and where my grandmother stayed when she visited us after my little brother was born. Next door is a wonderful but boarded up classical revival house. When Elaine got home and I was describing my expedition, she told me about some women artists who did their inaugural ambush performance at the long-deserted house. The group is called The Bridge Club and their performance entitled "Pillows & Pantyhose" is described on their blog in an post from December 2004.

The Boulder house we lived in longest was at 1648 9th Street, next to the Seventh-Day Baptist Church. The house is now painted a creamy color. The church is now a social services agency. The big blue spruce tree in front of the church is gone and replaced by a deciduous tree. The back yard of the house now has a couple infill houses. Highland Elementary School (my 5th and 6th grade school) is kitty corner from the church and is now condos. The school grounds where Billy and I played cars is now mostly filled with additional condos and townhouses. Other than scale, it seemed pretty familiar.

I continued down 9th Street to Pearl, the main street in downtown Boulder with several blocks turned into a pedestrian mall. I stopped at Trident Book Store, found a Patty Limerick book for a good price, had a good cup of coffee (actually two since the refill was free) and read some more of Other Colors by Orhan Pamuk. After a bit of refresher, it was more Pearl Street window shopping and dawdling. I turned at 13th to go get a schedule for the Boulder-Denver bus and the post office. Back to Pearl and I even resisted stopping at one of the used bookshops but found an Alan Bennett book from some years ago for a dollar at another used book store.

A little further along, I turned up 20th Street to find Whittier Elementary School (my 4th grade) which is now billed as an international elementary school. It's a lovely building, very school architecture. I sat at the picnic table in the side yard and wrote postcards to my siblings.

I hadn't been able to remember the exact address of the first house we lived in in Boulder. We'd only lived there a year when the house next to the church came on the market and the church bought it. When Elaine and I were looking at the map to find Whittier Elementary School, I blurted out "1918 Bluff Street." Weird how memories can come up from the deep. Anyway, I went on from Whittier School to Bluff Street to look at 1918. Oh, it's a cute little house. The picket fence and yard were familiar but I don't think I remember a second floor (half a second floor, really) or that it was T-shaped. Perhaps we only lived in the back half of the first floor. The picket fence had a sign that indicated the owners had applied for a solar exception review. I'm sure my brother will be pleased to hear that. I sat on the retaining wall of the house across the street for quite a while, looking at the house. Of the houses we lived in, this was certainly the most attractive to me now. A nice little clapboard cottage, with some diamond shingles in the front peak of the roof.

On to 19th Street and I passed the house that I think the Halls lived in. In 1955-1956, we didn't have a television but they did. It was pretty exciting to go visit and get to see the TV. Back to Pearl and a stop for some lunch: nice spaghetti ($5.95 for all you could eat, and homemade spaghetti at that!). Satisfied, I continued on my way back to Elaine's, stopping at the Boulder Map Gallery. The fellow there had also first experienced Boulder in the mid-1950s so we talked a bit about the good old days. He had some nice postcards and wonderful little painted globe marbles which I couldn't resist.

Phew, tired feet, happy feet.

Sherman tractors

As a pacifist and longtime collector of Shermaniana, it has always been a bit troublesome when folks mention General Sherman or Sherman Tanks when I say anything about Shermaniana. You can imagine how thrilled I was when Reverend Lowery said in his benediction at the inauguration that we should beat our tanks into tractors.

19 January 2009

Sunday with the NY Times

My plane left from LaGuardia at 9 a.m. so I was out of the house at about 6 to take the subway and M60 bus. It was snowing beautifully in the City which meant that our plane took off somewhat late but we got to Denver only a little late. I bought a New York Times on the way to the subway and probably had the most glorious reading of the paper in a long time. Captive to the cabin, I just read and read the paper, without any of the distractions of normal life.

The quotation of the day, taken here totally out of context, was "You need subjects, and they're hard to get." For us catalogers, the word "subjects" is laden with meaning. One is very glad that getting new subject headings (in LCSH land) is not so hard as it used to be.

The magazine has a portfolio of photos by Nadav Kander of people who have been selected for various posts by Obama. Great photos too of Washington sites. As we taxied out to the runway, the top of a construction scaffolding over on Riker's Island looked rather like the Lincoln Memorial. I'm sure it was the suggestibility of all of the Obama and Washington stuff I was reading but it was a nice illusion (delusion).

In the review of Jeff Madick's The case for big government by Matt Bai, he mentioned that Obama is the first Northern Democrat elected president since JFK. Bai also quotes Reagan and Clinton about the end of big government but then describes the current financial and automobile industry troubles and one realizes how the lack of solid government regulation is so much a part of the collapse of those two bubbles. How anybody could have thought that big bonuses and big cars were sustainable models is beyond me (or Bai).

And now I'm in Boulder, the day promises sunshine and warmth (supposed to get up to 60 today). Elaine and I will probably go for a drive in the mountains ... in their older Mercedes diesel sedan.


In the post on Saturday about galleryhopping, I forgot to mention the installation "Non-Euclidian Zones" by Cameron Fuller at Bespoke Gallery. The installation created a new sense of space in the small space on the 6th floor of 547 West 27th Street. Black lines of tape reshaped the main gallery space and a small door with a Sol Lewitt welcome mat led to the smaller space at the back of the gallery. Bespoke makes fine use of its little garret, yet more proof that accomplishments are not necessarily directly related to space resources. A good gallery program can come from a modest space.

17 January 2009

"Things Fall Apart" so put 'em back together

Julie mentioned a panel discussion at Winkleman Gallery with Paul Chan and members of The Front this afternoon. While I regret she didn't make it, it was really compelling and uplifting. Paul Chan developed a production of "Waiting for Godot" in cooperation with Classical Theatre of Harlem and Creative Time. It was based on his reaction to having been in New Orleans in the fall of 2006 to give an artist's lecture at Tulane. He felt that the landscape of New Orleans was much like the backdrop to every production of "Godot" that he'd seen. When Anne Pasternak of Creative Time approached him about doing a project, he suggested "Godot." Her initial reaction was negative but she soon came back with approval. Part of his agreement was that he could teach while he was in New Orleans, and that his courses had to be cross-listed in all of the colleges. He approached the schools and asked them what they wanted him to teach. He taught two one-evening-a-week seminars: contemporary art at the University of New Orleans and a practicum at Xavier which only had a BFA program and students needed to know about putting together a portfolio for MFA programs.

Out of the courses grew a core of people who became The Front, a collective of fourteen artists. Two of the members who are married were able to buy a building and the group renovated the space. Each of the artists can show their own work but also has accepted responsibility for curating shows of other artists. There is a lot of excitement in the visual arts community currently because of the first Prospect biennial, put together by Dan Cameron. An NYU colleague -- Lucinda Covert-Vail -- was down in New Orleans in December and said it was amazing. The works were interesting but, even more, the spread of the art around the city was very exciting. The two women from The Front -- Rachel Jones and Natalie Sciortino -- also talked about the excitement of the art, the venues, the people. They felt that this was working to convince the general public in New Orleans that the visual arts could be a draw. Music, particularly jazz, has long been a draw in New Orleans and it was heartening to think that the visual arts could join the bandwagon in such a thrilling way.

Natalie and Rachel also talked about the spirit in The Front and in other collectives. An arts corridor is growing up on St Claude Avenue. There is much of politics and activism in the artist community. They, with Paul Chan, clearly indicated that good things can happen even if you don't have a lot of financial resources. When Paul mentioned organizing without resources, I had to think of Clay Shirky's book Here Comes Everybody: The Power of Organizing Without Organizations. And just a moment later, curator and panel moderator Joy Garnett mentioned that The Front's web presence was strong. And as I looked at the show "Things Fall Apart" in the gallery, someone in the office said they didn't know how many would come: "you know how these Facebook things are, people say they'll come and they don't." Back to Shirky and the power/chaos of social computing.

"Things Fall Apart" included a wall with works by the artists at The Front and Paul Chan. There were other interesting works including a video by Renata Poljak about Serbia and Croatia, and love and reality. It was pretty interesting and I liked the way it ended: was that a romance as we meandered in Serbia and Croatia, I don't remember, we can begin again.

I went to several other shows before and after the panel, and must admit that I stopped at Printed Matter to find the Henrik Olesen book entitled What is authority? You knew I'd have to buy that one. It's interesting, not quite as groovy as his new Some faggy gestures but then I haven't studied it yet to see if it's compliant with RDA and NACO guidelines.

The vintage photographs by Karlheinz Weinberger at Anna Kustera were pretty interesting but much like the book illustrations I'd seen. The Dirk Stewen collage/reliefs at Tanya Bonakdar are wonderful, mixes of books and photos and dowels. There's a Yuko Murata piece at Casey Kaplan that is really beautiful: just a circle and three horizontal rectangles on a dark background, suggesting a sunset or sunrise. Not big like a Rothko but very evocative. Michael Waugh's drawings of dogs in "The more I see of men" uses the words of presidential inauguration speeches in the lines of the drawing. A mix of Westminster Kennel Show and Obama inauguration, according to the press release. At Trìa, there was a show called "Malescapes" so I went in because I had to see what made a 'scape male. Not sure I know the answer but there was a beautiful encaustic painting by Frank Olt. Last stop was Aperture where they had an exhibit of photos by Luigi Ghirri -- "It's beautiful here, isn't it?" Duh, they were mostly of Italy so of course it was beautiful. There were views of places like the Farnese theater in Parma where I've been and can still remember the smell of old wood. The theater is rather like Palladio's Teatro Olimpico in Vicenza. Must get to Italy!

01 January 2009

lift a rock ....

Cleaning out your cubicle and desk can be such fun. There's a piece of paper in front of me that says:

Feb. Venice
Mar. Casablanca
Apr. Istanbul
Love the pasture,
hate the people.

Sounds like a retirement plan to me.