25 October 2015

adkins and motherwell

I went to the exhibition closer for the Kenneth Adkins show at The Belfry in Hornell last night. I really liked the paintings and had a good talk with Ian McMahon, one of the gallerists. This painting is from the exhibition page and is one of his obituary paintings.

Now it's Sunday and I'm doing my regular Sunday duty at the ceramics library and looking at the 2002 MIT Press book on Black Mountain College. There's a show on Black Mountain College at the Institute of Contemporary Art Boston that I'm looking forward to seeing when I'm there for ALA in January. Meanwhile, this Robert Motherwell from the Art Institute of Chicago (Málaga, 1950) caught my eye in the MIT book:

The background story is probably pretty different but the visuals resonate.

23 October 2015


This correction was in yesterday's New York Times:

A film review on Wednesday about Laurie Anderson's "Heart of a Dog," which is partly a meditation on loss and love, misspelled the surname of an artist who died in 1978 and was a friend of Ms. Anderson. He was Gordon Matta-Clark, not Matta-Clarke.

I would have loved to have him as part of the family.

Here pictured is Bingo, seen in the Urban Alchemy show at the Pulitzer Foundation for the Arts: http://mattaclark.pulitzerarts.org/ The work was done in 1974 and is in the collection of the Museum of Modern Art. It was on display at the Albright-Knox in the "Wish You Were Here: The Buffalo Avant-Garde in the 1970s" show.

Here's the review of "Heart of a Dog" by Manohla Dargis from the Times with a short video.

19 October 2015

cities and Jews

This year's Lefkowitz Lecture in Jewish Studies at Alfred University was given by Deborah Dash Moore who teaches at the University of Michigan. Her topic was the "Urban Origins of American Judaism" which is also the title of her most recent book (published by University of Georgia Press in 2014).
I really enjoyed the lecture though she started out by saying that Alfred was probably as far from a city as she could imagine. Sigh.

Dash Moore divided her comments into three sections: synagogues, streets, photographs. The sections blended nicely. I enjoyed seeing the pictures of the Touro Synagogue in Newport (the only extant synagogue building from colonial times) and Plum Street Temple in Cincinnati which I was happy to visit when SAH met there some years ago. It's a Moorish Revival pile across the street from a Catholic cathedral and near a no-longer-standing Episcopal church, with the three religious buildings across the way from the city hall. She noted the importance of them near the center of civic power and prestige. Perhaps the Moorish Revival building brought in the Muslims too. Into the 20th century, she showed a picture of the Brooklyn Jewish Center (1920s) which had a pool, gym, and restaurant. She didn't speculate on whether the building of a Jewish community center was related to people not being on the street as much because they had bigger houses, or drove more, or wanted to be with their kind, or it was a reaction to discrimination. Other national and ethnic groups, of course, also had community centers, and I can blame almost anything on our car-oriented culture.

She talked for a while about the rhythm of street life following the Jewish calendar. That is, people shopped on Thursday afternoon and Friday morning, in preparation for the Sabbath. I wonder if she knew that Alfred was observant of the Sabbath until the 1950s. The stores and post office in Alfred were closed on the Sabbath (Saturday) because the town was founded by Sabbatarian Baptists (Seventh-day Baptists). See, Alfred is more like a city than you might imagine.

Lots to think and muse about. I might just have to read the book.

11 October 2015

refugees and peacemaking

Today's New York Times has an article about refugees stuck in a "grinding U.S. process" as they await permission to come to the land of the free. We've increased the turmoil with our wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, our adventures in Syria, Israel, and Palestine. We've helped make it well nigh impossible to peacefully survive in a wide swath of the Middle East and South Asia.

The Global War on Terror has been about as successful in bringing justice, liberty, and peace to the world as the War on Drugs. Perhaps the problem is the WAR part of both of these efforts.

Facing the article on the refugees is one about a concert in the Cathedral Plaza in Havana. There, Lang Lang played a Steinway while Cuban music superstar Chucho Valdés played another piano and the Cuban National Symphony Orchestra (conducted by American Marin Alsop) played Tchaikovsky, Gershwin, and works by Valdés and other Cuban composers. Steinway is contributing the piano to the Cuban Institute of Music.

I know it's not black-or-white, or just war-or-peace, and that it's been fifty years of embargo and distrust between Cuba and the United States. Cuban refugees have been mostly successfully absorbed into life in Florida and I wish more international relations and interactions could be on the music side.

04 October 2015

Tania Bruguera

I had heard the name Tania Bruguera before I went to Cuba in May during the Biennal de La Habana but I certainly didn't know her work well. Others in the College Art group were well aware and Judith Rodenbeck participated in the reading of The origins of totalitarianism by Hannah Arendt at Bruguera's house. The September 2015 issue of Art in America has an interview with Bruguera by Travis Jeppesen. Just a few quotations:

"Also, we will have a big library [at the Hannah Arendt International Institute of Artivism]. We'll put shelves on the walls. It will be a specialized library, for people working in art, activism, philosophy and politics."

"I'm an anticapitalist. So I'm present in the discourse. I believe that socialism is a better model, even if it has some problems. I'm afraid that Cuba will go in a direction that is completely contrary to the Revolution."

"And racism is coming back. Yesterday I was talking to a former student, a black artist whose work deals with these issues. She told me that she will no longer go to some private restaurants, because nobody there is black -- not the cook, not even the person who cleans. Everyone is white. Racism is, of course, related to classism. This is something we haven't seen for a long time in Cuba. We were color blind. We saw people for who they were, how they behaved -- not how much money they had or the color of their skin."

As I walked the streets in Havana, there did indeed seem to be a diversity and mixing of people that was authentic and positive. I've been reading The New Jim Crow: mass incarceration in the age of colorblindness by Michelle Alexander so colorblindness and racism are much in my thoughts. The interview shakes my idealism about the situation in Cuba, a little bit, but I am very glad that there continues to be movement on the normalization of relations between Cuba and the U.S.

01 October 2015

Thursday adventures in Rochester

Thursday is usually one of my days to work at Scholes Library but I had a visit to the dermatologist in Rochester today. So it was off to the big city for a bit of adventure. I wanted to check the used bookstores to see if I could find of copy of The Gallery by John Horne Burns. I had finished not long ago the new biography on Burns entitled Dreadful: the short life and gay times of John Horne Burns by David Margolick. Imagine my delight that Greenwood Books had a copy and the added bonus was that it was a copy of the original 1947 Harper & Brothers edition that had belonged to the composer David Diamond. Franlee, the owner of Greenwood Books, said that she had bought several thousand of his books when his library was being cleared out. Normally I'd rather not have a marked copy but this copy had the marks of someone in whose notes I might be interested. On the way from the East End to the dermatologist, WXXI announced that they were going to be playing his fourth symphony tomorrow, 2015 being the centennial of his birth.

After I bought my book, I went over to Spot Coffee which is located in a former Chevrolet dealership.
I had last Thursday's New York Times with me, to read as I had a bagel snack and coffee. I was saddened to see the obituary for Phil Patton. I have enjoyed reading his essays and books since I was reading the chapter on Route 66 in Open road: a celebration of the American highway (1986) while sitting in a cafe named Route 66 in Amsterdam (yes, the one in the Netherlands). And I even saw a small version of the route sign on someone's mailbox post as I drove home.

Another article in the paper that especially caught my eye was a profile of fashion designer Nicole Hanley Mellon. She had been on a trip to Cuba in the spring. The article states that she "was initially confused by the Cuban capital. 'The first day we were there, it felt like there was no commerce. Each day, through conversation and observation, you peel off another layer.' She met a college student who was 'pretty candid and spoke about the way you're taught art to express a social issue or a political issue more than being personal, which I found interesting.'" This sense of the importance of social welfare and equality was something that seemed alive to me too when I was in Cuba in May. I just hope that Cuba doesn't become just another Caribbean island.