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.

06 February 2009

... unadorned except for a few Benozzo Gozzoli reproductions ...

Benozzo Gozzoli is in the air, or at least in my air. I'm reading The Indian Clerk and am enjoying it very much. More of the Indian feeling that swept over me with the movie "Slumdog Millionaire." Still, after suffering from the weird LC/NACO heading for Benozzo a few days ago, I was rather amused to now read this description of the Neville's home in Cambridge:

"Earlier in the week, when she [Alice Neville] was preparing this room for Ramanujan, she found herself wondering what he would make of the stiff, high bed, the varnished bureau, the walls unadorned except for a few Benozzo Gozzoli reproductions, picked up on their honeymoon trip to Italy. Back in Madras, she knows, Ramanujan had no bed. Like most Indians, he and the other members of his family slept on mattress rolls that could be folded up and put away during the day. Any spare part of floor would serve as a bedroom. And now here he is in England where the trees are just coming into bud and, in order to sleep, he must climb up onto a bed. What must he make of it all? Does the strangeness terrify him? Will he curl into himself? Hide from it? Or will he find, in this strange, high bed, that a new Ramanujan -- a version of himself that can only be born abroad, as some new version of Alice was born in India -- is, like the trees, just coming into bud?"

-- The Indian clerk by David Leavitt (Bloomsbury, 2007), p. 142.

04 February 2009

mo(nu)menta finally

The L train wasn't running on Sunday so my trip to Williamsburg to go to Momenta turned into a trip to the Whitney. On the second floor was "Synthetic" which included the plastic surgery nose piece by Andy Warhol that I'd just mentioned in my "25 Things" thing on Facebook. They also had the Lynda Benglis floor pour with a Morris Louis flow painting on the wall nearby. Nice juxtaposition. Upstairs on the mezzanine was "Artists make photographs" with a nice Rauschenberg photo of chairs at Black Mountain, another Rauschenberg of "Cy and relics, Rome" (1952), and some images from Samaras's "photo transformations." All thoughtful and aesthetic. In the wall text for a Sol LeWitt piece on the 5th floor were the words "The idea makes the art." Not for everything but I love Sol LeWitt, partly because he's such a good example for "what is the work?"

Monday was looking good so I checked the Momenta website and they said they were open on Monday. Yea, let's go. I had sent a note to Holly Wilson about a couple "black" sightings: Hiroshi Sugimoto at Gagosian and the Rauschenberg four-panel collage-painting that was with the photographs at the Whitney. Her husband Vincent Como uses a lot of black in his art and Holly mentioned that he was also in the show at Momenta. Holly also mentioned that she really liked the Seher Shah works. And the reason that I had originally wanted to see the "Infinite Possibilities" show was that I got a notice from Carrie Moyer that she was in it. Quite a stack of expectations.

Seher Shah's drawings are delicate and finely crafted, not very big and almost icon-like. I liked the single one near the office best. I can imagine Holly responding to the pieces. Vince had three creased-paper works and a collection of nine panels on the wall 90 degrees to the creased paper. I especially liked the creased-paper work that looked like it was constructed of two pieces of paper, the one on the left. I thought about Ad Reinhardt and his black paintings. Perhaps the idea of Vince's nine panels was that they were JUST black, not varieties of blue-blacks and purple-blacks like Reinhardt.

There was also a work by Nathan Bennett in which he dangled some fluorescent light boxes from the ceiling, in homage to Dan Flavin and as he found the lights at the Ithaca Gun factory building. Since I'd walked by the Ithaca Gun factory many times when we lived on Falls Street in Ithaca, that work resonated in a number of ways. The tribute to Flavin was also interesting. Again, of this art moment rather than Flavin's, like Vince and Reinhardt.

Momenta used to be on Berry Street, near North 8th or 9th. Now they're down Bedford between South 3rd and 4th. I hadn't been that far South in Williamsburg for quite a while and the changes are significant. While I hate to see some of the gentrificational displacement, it was lovely to sit on the bench at Oslo Coffee Company with my really good latte and absorb some street life and some sun on a warm winter day. Somewhere else, Punxatawney Phil was checking for his shadow ... but I can never remember if we want him to see it or not.

Vasari's form not used

Can I tell you how disappointed I am that the heading for Benozzo Gozzoli is not "Gozzoli, Benozzo" but "Benozzo, di Lese"? And it's all because the surname didn't appear in conjunction with the forename until Vasari. Or so says the LC/NACO authority record, based on the Encic. ital.

010 __ |a n 50059011
040 __ |a DLC |b eng |c DLC |d DLC |d OCoLC |d DLC |d OCoLC
100 0_ |a Benozzo, |c di Lese, |d 1420-1497
670 __ |a Encic. ital. |b (Benozzo di Lese (detto Benozzo Gozzoli); nowhere (neither in documents, epigraphs, nor signatures of the artist on paintings) does the surname Gozzoli appear with the forename Benozzo; it is used for the first time in the Vite of Vasari)
[not all fields included]

The Biblioteca nazionale centrale di Firenze catalog uses "Benozzo Gozzoli" as the heading.