July 2005 Archives

Brandon Ballengée Cleared and Stained Clearnose Skate, Rajaegianteria 2003 digital C-print mounted on Plexiglas 60" x 48" [detail of installation]

It's only a coincidence that this image and post follows my lizard report, but I like the connection. Brandon Ballengée's skate was one of the works in a very interesting show at Archibald Arts we visited on Saturday. Ballengée is an environmental artist fascinated by fish and amphibians, notably lizards. In a remarkable show of haunting images of nature, and our corruption of nature, "Cleared and Stained Clearnose Skate" was the beautiful elephant in the middle of the room.

Skate [installation view of full image]

Eastern Fence Lizard, Northern fence subspecies

I think it was one of his relatives.

I don't know when a modest garden of pots on a low Manhattan roof qualifies as a natural wilderness, but I'm thinking that ours must be getting pretty close. We've watched birds of all kinds visiting the scene for water, berries, grubs or house-building materials, and one parakeet decided to come in out of the cold and stay. I've also collected and resettled a few snails in the last couple of years, but today I spotted a tiny lizard on the wall above the pots. Its body couldn't have been more than an inch long, excluding its tail, and because of its size and line-markings I thought at first that it was some kind of centipede or water bug. I just don't think of lizards as being big on New York real estate.

I didn't get a picture while I stood out there with my hose. I guess I couldn't quite believe what I saw, or maybe I couldn't imagine it was an unusual sighting. I still don't know if it was: Try Googling "New York City" and "lizards," and you'll see what I mean. Also, the critter was so small and well-camouflaged on the brown-grey stucco wall that I doubt it would have shown up at all even if I had my camera with me.

If he stays around I'll try to do better next time, but I don't want to frighten him away.

[image from eNature]

untitled (rose scallops) 2005

. . . there were these communities.

I'm very fond of shellfish, and my taste in art and food, especially food preparation, includes a powerful strain of minimalism. I spotted this gorgeous cache of shellfish at the Union Square Greenmarket this afternoon. Our plans for the evening precluded my bringing any home today, but at least I was able to take away the memory, the pleasure and this captured image.

The suppliers of this happy bounty were the smiling people of Pura Vida Fisheries, from Hampton Bays, Long Island.

I'm going back next Friday.

Bob and Roberta Smith Left is the New Right 2004 screenprint 30" x 20" [installation view]

Mike Paré and Marc Swanson It Will Be The Same (Blacklight Goya) 2004 five-color silkscreen 17" X 26" [installation view]

Scott King.jpg
Scott King Gold Madonna 2003 screenprint 32" x 24" [installation view]

Charles Goldman Your Name Here 2000 poster 12" x 17.75" [installation view]

It was the last day of a large group show when we finally made the ten-block trek to White Columns on Saturday, but I couldn't resist doing a post on it anyway. I found Matthew Higgs' "Post No Bills" so impressive (and sometimes even a lot of fun, in between the more disturbing posters) that I wanted to be on record for saying so. There were dozens of artists represented, hung more or less salon style (bill style?), and none of them was a dud. The images shown above are almost a random selection, and partly a consequence of relative success with the camera, but they were all in a long list of favorites.

The complete roll:

John Armleder; Fabienne Audéoud and John Russell; John Baldessari; Fiona Banner; Derek Barnett; Simon Bedwell; Walead Beshty; Matthew Brannon; Matthew Buckingham; Clint Burnham; Steve Claydon; Jeremy Deller; Sam Durant; Shannon Ebner; Harrell Fletcher; Ryan Gander; Charles Goldman; Wayne Gonzales and David Silver; Rodney Graham; GuerrillaGirlsBroadBand; Mark Hagen; Steve Hanson and Frances Stark; Inventory; Scott King; Jim Lambie; Cary Leibowitz; Robert Linsley; Lucy McKenzie; Aleksandra Mir; Jonathan Monk; Alex Morrison; Paul Noble; Mike Paré and Marc Swanson; Kelly Poe; Allen Ruppersberg; Igor Santizo; Steven Shearer; Karina Aguilera Skvirsky; Kathy Slade; Slimvolume 2004; Bob and Roberta Smith; Michael Smith; Ron Terada; Rirkrit Tiravanija; Kelley Walker; John Waters, and William Wegman.
There's no longer any excuse for boring dorm or apartment posters, no matter the budget, but of course there never really was.

Phong Bui Hybrid Carnival for Exupéry #2 2005 [detail of gallery installation]

Phong Bui's site-specific installation takes over almost every inch of Sarah Bowen's gallery space. The press release talks about flight, "exhuberant fantasies of lightness," the painted language of cubism and his free evocation of "the mystifying vision of Modern artÂ’s rambunctious youth."

I also like the gorgeous collage drawings shown on a wall in the rear gallery. They suggest studies but they could only have gone so far in directing the kind of spontaneous exuberance seen in his three-dimensional intervention.

untitled (summer border in purple) 2005

Aaron Wexler Flowers Through the Weeds 2005 acrylic, ink and paper on panels 96" x 104" [detail]

- being another work from the current show at Jack the Pelican Presents. Barry and I had first seen Aaron Wexler's beautiful art exactly one year ago at Oliver Kamm's 5BE Gallery in a show curated by Lital Mehr. Wexler's older paper collages were so subtle they were virtually invisible, especially in photo reproduction. I only had to wait.

[image from Aaron Wexler's site, where the piece is titled, Out of Darkness]

Katherine Daniels Multi-Colored Pendant 2003 wired plastic beads on plastic spool [large detail of installation, with details of two works on paper in the background]

I realize this site has been looking pretty grim lately, and that I was risking the loss of its art blog aspect, so I went through my photo stash and found something which would brighten up the space and at the same time show some beautiful work most people would not have seen yet.

This piece by Katherine Daniels was installed in one of the rooms at the Pool Art Fair earlier this month. Daniels was included in the show David Gibson curated at Jack the Pelican last April, "Culture Vulture," with another wonderful, even more extravagant piece.

not so simple now, even for white guys, but maybe it never was

UPDATE: I received a very constructive comment on my last post, "bag the entrance searches, we need exits!", from Matt of the "Flex your Rights Foundation," and I thought it would be extremely useful as a post of its own.

Go here for The Citizen's Guide to Refusing New York Subway Searches. The site includes an excellent introduction to its practical advice on how to "safely and intelligently 'flex' your rights":

In response to the recent London terror attacks, New York police officers are now conducting random searches of bags and packages brought into the subway.

While Flex Your Rights takes no position on the usefulness of these searches for preventing future attacks, we have serious concerns that this unprecedented territorial expansion of police search powers is doing grave damage to people's understanding of their Fourth Amendment protections against unreasonable searches and seizures.

In addition, as innocent citizens become increasingly accustomed to being searched by the police, politicians and police agencies are empowered to further expand the number of places where all are considered guilty until proven innocent.

Fortunately, this trend is neither inevitable nor irreversible. In fact, the high-profile public nature of these random subway searches provides freedom-loving citizens with easy and low-risk opportunities to "flex" their Fourth Amendment rights by refusing to be searched.

The site includes a handy guide-flyer which can be downloaded and printed for giving out to friends and strangers, dressing up a refrigerator or carrying in your . . . er, . . . bag.

[image of Norman Rockwell's 1958 "The Runaway" from the artchive]

the wrong kind of crowd control

It's a good thing it was Penn Station, because virtually none of New York's Transit system stations could be evacuated for either a real or a false alarm.

Chief Kelly and Mayor Bloomberg's new policy of passenger searches absolutely will not prevent a terrorist hit in our subway system. A real terrorist will just take another train or set off a weapon on the spot. But if something does happen tomorrow, any survivors of an initial attack are likely already doomed by today's official negligence.

They'll never get out.

Sometimes there are a few regular low-bar turnstiles at a station, but most of the time passengers have to exit through ceiling-to-floor turnstile cages which admit only one person at a time. In addition, even though there are often a number of exit stairways in each station, during many hours of the day (or permanently) all but one of them is locked, even those which can only be used as exits!

There's no chance a number of cars and a platform could be emptied in anyone's definition of a hurry. Up to 2000 people may be on a single train, and many more might be on the platform, waiting or leaving, at the same time. Most everyone will have to pass through cages one at a time. I sounds to me like this could easily take a half hour or more.

In addition, it won't help any of us to survive if the system's emergency lighting is still connected to the third rail, as it is now. When train power is cut for whatever reason there is no light anywhere in the tunnels.

Looking to the near future, the MTA is still proceding with plans to eliminate clerks in the stations, conductors in the cars, and even motormen at the stick. Where is the sanity?

Our politicians and public guardians hope to give us the impression that they are making us all safer with unconstitutional searches. Certainly they know the policy is wrong and useless, so why are they not addressing a very real danger but jumping at the chance to push this obviously bogus remedy? I think it's because sending the police in to go through the bags of people of color is much less trouble, much less expensive, and, above all, much less like an embarrassing admission of continuing incompetence - that is, until something really does happen.

For a personal account of our own experience of MTA incompetence in a real incident, fortunately with neither serious injuries nor terrorism involved, see this post.

[image from the MTA]

Jean Charles de Menezes

The gang of men who accosted and chased a terrified young electrician into the tube where they shot five bullets into his head after he tripped and fell onto the floor of a car filled with people were plainclothes policemen.

Jean Charles de Menezes entered Britain with student visa; he may or may not have still been a legal resident three days ago, but on the other hand, especially by post-9/11 standards, it's clear he was not perfectly white.

I don't want to hear or read anything more about how the victim was responsible* for his own death - and that we should all expect the same treatment ourselves to save us from terrorists.

For more, see the post of a friend/acquaintance:

His English was OK, but he wasn’t fluent. He was pursued by up to 20 normally dressed men who screamed at him in a language that was not his own. Jean comes from Brasil, a country where violent crime is a lot more ‘in your face’ than it is over here. A group of plainclothes men screaming at you, chasing you, you fucking run. Brasilian police frequently shoot the public indiscriminantly, there was an incident earlier this week - 10 killed. Maybe Jean had thoughts about this when he ran, I don’t know. Watch "Bus 174".

including the only two letters read on the BBC News Hour this morning

[image from finn]

brown-eyed susans in our building's court garden today

the Madtown Liberty Players portray the Fourth Amendment under attack (two years ago)

The House voted today to make the "Patriot Act" permanent. In what may be the least patriotic vote ever recorded in that chamber, our representatives effectively moved to revoke the Fourth Amendment for all time.

My countrymen are cowards. They are ignorant of themselves and of the world. The unknown is always what we fear, and this country has an enormous dark store of the nameless feeding its private terrors.

Americans don't know who they are, and they don't know the outside world. We never had to learn anything about either subject, and for pretty much the same reason: the country was just so big; we were busy filling it up and we could pretty much ignore everyone outside our borders and most of them inside. We don't like people anyway, whether they're from another continent, another city, another neighborhood, another family. I don't even have to mention our class, racial and ethnic insularity, they are so well-documented. We don't even like to be too close to those in our own families. We like the separation the oceans furnish us and we wish there were others on our northern, and especially southern, borders. We want as much space as we can manage to arrange between ourselves and the next fellow's place, and everyone in the family should have a private room and bath, as well as his or her own car.

I'm appalled, but not surprised, by this cowardice on the one hand and on the other a welcoming, even enthusiastic, support for, excuse the expression, but I do know my history, clearly "fascist" concepts of political control that are being embraced by so many of our fellow freedom-loving Americans. These are people who will still boast tomorrow that they enjoy a unique island of liberty and democracy blessed by a god who favors their virtue.

America has indeed been terrorized. It was the work of a single brilliant and monstrous blow, but the land of the free and the home of the brave is now willing to trash its heritage for the mere illusion of security. While most of its people are willing to admit the trade, they don't see the disconnect.

We're doomed.

[image from Madison Indymedia]

Bethany Bristow, dropped off on the way to the museum

I've had this weird reaction to her art since coming across it (in a switch, it was sometime after we had met). Bethany Bristow's messy alien-organic sculptures attracted and repelled me at the same time, and I even forgot that this response usually meant that I was likely to end up liking a work, or a body of work, very much.

I now like it very much indeed.

She has work spread throughout the current PS1 Greater New York 2005 show, all of it placed as if it were something waiting to be cleaned up. But nothing worked so well for me as this image I saw in a link on an email she sent out this afternoon. Maybe it's the daylight, maybe it's the space. It's a great photograph, the piece is perfectly installed and I can't really blame the artist of a guerilla installation for having art inside a museum at the same time.

It's all public art, even if you may need $5 to see the stuff inside.

[image from Bethany Bristow]

No, not that one, it's about the one we ordered.

Danny Lyon 327, 329, and 331 Washington Street, between Jay and Harrison Streets

It's all gone now. Sixty acres of lower Manhattan's nineteenth-century buildings were demolished during the mid-sixties, including what became the site of the World Trade Center towers. There was also a new vehicle ramp to be added to the Brooklyn Bridge, Pace University was to be enlarged, and historic Washington Market was moved to the Bronx, its buildings reduced to rubble.

Danny Lyon writes today in The Village Voice about his documentation forty years ago of a massive "urban renewal" project in Manhattan:

It was a huge story in New York City at the time. (I'm from Queens, and when you're from Queens, you really admire Manhattan . . . and this was the most historic part of Manhattan. The oldest part of Manhattan was vanishing.) And it was an ignored story at the time, or I wouldn't have done it. Part of how I saw myself, as a journalist, was finding the truth and delivering it to the American people. To put it in a really crude way.

. . . .

You have to understand that I was—and still am, although I've aged and mellowed— I was obsessed with the power of photography. I thought you could take a bike rider, Harley-Davidson, roaring along, and that this photography was so miraculous that you could somehow contain that power in the negative. Unlike this guy who would go around the corner and die, or run out of gas, that the thing that you contained would be for all time. . . .

I had the power to use all of these buildings and preserve them for the future. And if anybody wanted to experience [the] Lower Manhattan that had stood there for 150 years, they would have to come to my photographs! Which would be washed and preserved and in the New York Public Library. . . .

. . . .

I understood that the way to deliver photography as news was to do books. That's what I think the news should be: an individual's statement about how he sees reality. Or as Ferlinghetti says, "The dog trots freely in the street and sees reality. . . . "

The book's about architecture. This country's committing architectural suicide. It's doing it right now, this moment. Not 37, 38 years ago. This is nothing, what they did down here: The 60 acres is nothing. We're destroying 6 billion acres of America, and we're doing it right now. We're doing it because you can get a mortgage for 5 percent.

Anybody can do anything anywhere.

We can't expect a city to remain the same forever, but we never needed any of the "improvements" for which these neighborhoods were sacrificed, and don't even mention the aesthetic crimes committed.

Danny Lyon is an artist and a poet.

[image from Gay City News, courtesy of the Edwyn Houk Gallery]

for picking weeds

It probably won't be news to anyone in the new music scene, but this account of vicious New York city police thuggery may be a surprise to many of my readers, even those who have seen my Chief Smolka posts; and even those who are familiar with the police camp that the Village's Washington Square Park has become in recent years. Smolka is in charge of the street crimes unit which assaulted the Broken Social Scene's Dave Newfield in the park last Thursday.

The cop's official title is "Commanding Officer Patrol Borough Manhattan Assistant Chief Bruce Smolka," according to the NYPD site. I call him very dangerous.

Who will protect us from those who say they will protect us?

This is an excerpt from the pitchforkmedia report:

So, [his friend] exchanges $20 with a dealer in the park while Newfeld stands by watching the events unfold. As Newf tells it: "We walk around the corner, and all the sudden I'm tackled in a football style attack, like a mugger would do, you know? You grab the person and catch them by surprise and they ambush in a football tackle. And then they're like, 'Police, police, police! Fucking put your hands behind you!'" Due to the lax drug laws in Canada [his home], Newfeld says he didn't connect what he assumed to be a mugging with his schwag score, assuming the "police" claim was a ploy by thugs to keep their victims passive for an easy stick-up.

"They started punching me in the face and beating the shit out of me and throwing me on the ground, so I'm trying to get away-- not fight them back, because I'm not capable of that, but just to escape. And then they threatened to break my hand and I'm like, "No, don't break my hand! I'm a musician. I gotta fuckin' play tomorrow! And so I'm really freaking out, and at that point I thought, 'Just take my wallet, whatever. Don't break my hand. My wallet's not worth it.'" By now, Newfeld's pal was cuffed on the ground, and finally decided it was time to break the news: "They're cops! Submit!" Oh, and P.S., whoops!

After being thrown in the back of a paddywagon, Newfeld was left to sit with a handful of shady characters while the 5-0 went around picking up other perps. He was then taken back to the station in pretty poor shape, strip-searched (whuh-oh), and, having been left in a cell for an hour or two, taken to Bellevue Hospital to have his beatings checked out. It turned out he'd suffered two cracked ribs. While in his hospital bed, he was given a report detailing the charges against him-- four counts of assaulting an officer and possession-- which still stand as of press time.

[image from pitchforkmedia; story tip from a reader, whose email subject line read, "where's there's smolka, there's fire..."]

a Palestinian man walks next to a section of a wall eight-meters high built by the Israeli government, arbitrarily separating Jerusalem (and some additional annexed lands) from the Palestinian suburb of Abu Dis

We will not prevent terrorist acts by raising walls or bombing innocent strangers with sophisticated weaponry; by increasing the legal penalties for posession of a bomb; by spying on each other, high-tech or otherwise; by humiliating "the other;" by outlawing nail files or lighters; by putting an armed guard in every environment which has been a previous target; by incarcerating all the brown people on earth; by staying at home behind drawn curtains.

If we want to see it cease, we have to look to the cause of the terrorist response, not its manifestations. And it is a response; terrorism is always a response of the weak to the assaults of the powerful.

Terrorism feeds on imperialism. Neither of these is a state, merely a tactic; eliminate the imperialism and the threat from terrorism will disappear. We will never be made safe by building walls or by extending the power of our own state at home or abroad; the entire planet will survive and prosper if we recognize the appropriate limitations of that state and the proper proportion of our people, and placing both in the community of all nations and peoples.

[image from Newsday by Moises Saman]

Dan Steinhilber Untitled 2003-2005 duck sauce, plastic 60" x 80" [detail]

It's a good thing. The art, for sure, but also it's a good thing that gallery shows which open in late June are often extended through much of the summer. Distracted by the heat and humidity of July in New York, I almost missed posting something about this one. Tyler Green has curated a beautiful exhibition at DCKT, a very cool show of cool minimal art by Rosana Castrillo Díaz, Augusto di Stefano, and Dan Steinhilber.

The curator's conceit is the manner in which the work of these young artists (and I don't think there's a single piece here which is over a year old) relates to an older generation of American minimalists - that is, absent the hard edges and right angles. A less ideological, more organic, even humanist minimalism?

Yes, Steinhilber's large work on the north wall is composed entirely of small packets of duck sauce, and it really glows. Nothing else in the room looks anything like it, even Steinhilber's other two pieces. The three artists' very individual aesthetics don't overlap even in this modest-sized space. They're all beautiful, and together a perfect fit.

[of a kind of harmony]

and I'm also very fond of red, when it's used well [scene from "Shadowtime"]

Brian Ferneyhough Time and Motion Study III 1974 16 mixed voices, percussion, live electronics [detail of the score]

I had intended to get tickets to Brian Ferneyhough's new opera, "Shadowtime," which receives its American premier next week, from the moment I had heard about it. But the Lincoln Center Festival flier we had received weeks ago had very soon been buried underneath competing mailings and was almost immediately forgotten - until this afternoon, when I read Jeremy Eichler's piece, "A secular Messiah gets His own Opera," in the NYTimes Arts&Leisure section. I immediately looked for the Festival site on line and then grabbed the phone, fearing that there might no longer be anything available but my best chance would be with a human voice. Then even as I was doing this I had to remind myself that this was not "La Boheme." The world wasn't going to be beating a path to Columbus Circle in order to hear an opera about "an arcane cultural philosopher" featuring "fantastically intricate music, with nothing as old-fashioned as a tune in sight," in Eichler's words - even if I had been seduced immediately.

While the two paragraphs from near the conclusion of the Times piece I'm copying below may not entirely explain my own love of difficult music (which is as much about the vulgar appeal of its invention, its energy, its novelty and its provocation as it is about its intellectual virtues), they do say something about the social and political utility of difficult art - in any medium.

"Shadowtime" had its premiere last year at the Munich Biennale, and critical reaction ranged widely. The Süddeutsche Zeitung hailed it as "an apex of modern operatic artistry," but The Sunday Times of London described it as overly cerebral, "an abstract idea of an opera rather than the thing itself." The truth may well depend on one's definition of modern opera.

Mr. Bernstein [Charles Bernstein, the librettist], for his part, readily concedes the many difficulties of "Shadowtime," and argues that they arise not only by design but by necessity. "Clarity is valuable in many situations, but not necessarily in art," he said in a recent interview at his Manhattan apartment. "Many will no doubt be befuddled, just as a work that seeks to be clear risks boring people. These are the risks you have to take."

Yet more seems to be at stake than simply keeping an audience challenged. When pressed, Mr. Bernstein echoes Benjamin's friend and colleague Theodor Adorno, who defended difficult music as having its own social value precisely because it teaches us how to withhold understanding and therefore helps us resist the allure of false clarity in the world beyond the concert hall. Complexity, in other words, is a worthy ideal in art because reality is even more complex and dissonant than the thorniest work of modernism, even if politicians and the commercial culture reassure us that everything is simple, clear and harmonious.

Oh yes, I had no trouble getting two good seats on the aisle in the orchestra, and for a fraction of the price of seats at that older and much more famous opera venue where they don't seem to be able to get past "La Boheme."

[first image from the NYTimes; second image from tagederneuenchormusik]

leaving it up to the riders

Barry has just about covered the issue, with the help of Newsday's estimable Ray Sanchez, but a letter to the editor published in the NYTimes helps to illustrate the scale of the criminal incompetence and negligence of those at the top by bringing up the most recent scandal involving the MTA:

To the Editor:

The terrorist blasts in London and a similar attack last year in Madrid dramatically point to the vulnerability of New York's transit system to a similar attack.

Despite setting aside nearly $600 million [state and federal money] to secure the transit network against a terrorist strike, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority has accomplished little since 9/11. It was not until March 2003 that the agency announced a plan to address the transit system's weaknesses.

In fact, the lion's share of the money has not been allocated. The agency's most public initiative is a failed proposal to ban photography by straphangers.

Its foot-dragging is especially unsettling when contrasted with the speed with which it rushed through a deal for the proposed West Side stadium. [the italics are mine]

Instead of issuing color-coded alerts, the federal government and the M.T.A. should urgently undertake measures with existing money to enhance security.

Manuel Cortazal
Bronx, July 7, 2005

Wish us all luck. It looks like we're going to need it.

[image from the MTA]

Bubba waiting for us on Bedford Street in Williamsburg today

I have always been interested in cars. Actually, I'm something of a car nut, in spite of my interests and principles otherwise. Yeah, I know, it's 2005 and we now understand how much the automobile has done to destroy the world, but I can't explain my fascination. And I can't help it, if for no other reason than that I live in that world, where the automobile is necessary at least occasionally, even if you're a New Yorker and you really, really hate its cabs.

Barry and I have a new magic carriage. It comes when we call it, a little like Aladdin's ride.

I've always described the subway as a magic carpet, because its there when you need it, it never has to be parked and you can take all your friends with you. But sometimes carpets get tired and they start falling apart. I'm thinking in particular of my experiences with the unreliability of the L train between Manhattan and Brooklyn on weekends, but the cancer has been spreading. It shouldn't take us nearly an hour to get to our home in Chelsea from Soho (that's about two kilometers, or a mile and a quarter), as it did this past Friday.

A few weeks ago we decided to activate a dormant Zipcar membership for the first time because we wanted to get to several openings in Chelsea and a few in Williamsburg on the same night. Alright, I admit it: I missed driving a car. Anyway, we picked "Bubba," which is the name assigned to the wonderful little Scion Xb in the picture above, and that night we carried five friends (two or three at a time) between the boroughs and around the town. We had a ball, in the end stopping for dinner with three of them before we floated back to the garage, crossing the Williamsburg Bridge again and continuing our stately progress up a lively Clinton Street and Avenue B before turning West and heading for home, on a perfect summer evening.

It's a fantastic carriage, and I use the noun advisedly, since we sit high inside a comfortable box, with six or eight extra inches above our heads and several feet between our noses and the upright windshield. A number of travelling trunks can ride secure and dry inside behind the second row of seats. The four doors open wide and if you want you can cross your legs while sitting in each of the passenger seats. There's excellent air conditioning and a great sound system. The car is whisper quiet, well-built and incredibly practical, and you can rent it on line or on the phone, by the hour or the day, picking it up and dropping it off at a garage around the corner (there are no check in or check out lines and no clerks to deal with). The Scion is two feet shorter than a Volkswagen Golf (or is it the Toyota Corolla?). Anyway, it's pretty short, and you can park it almost anywhere. It's just about the unAmerican car.

I have to admit Zipcar's biggest appeal for me was the kind of cars they have available, and not just the short-term feature which must account for much or most of its popularity (you can rent some models for as low as $8.50 an hour, or $65 a day). It's been years since I rented a car in New York (for a day or weekend trip), and I think I only indulged myself twice. I blame my lack of interest in repeating the experience on the incredibly junky choices available from the standard rental companies. And what does it cost now to rent a car in New York on a weekend? I'm guessing around $130 to $150 a day.

I had decided that if I wanted a decent ride I would always have to wait until I got to Europe, where they have cars for people who really like to drive. Zipcar has Volkswagen Golfs, new Beetle convertibles, Scion Xbs, Mini sedans and convertibles, even small Volvos and BMWs for the big spenders, but I'm not going to give up Europe. They have the Smart, and the roads are wonderful too.

We revisited Bubba this afternoon and evening, because we were trying to get to a number of galleries in different parts of two boroughs not easily accessible by subway and on foot. And because we had so much fun last time.

Next up: a short trip into the country, and maybe even a splurge on a little convertible - short term of course.

IDEC in New York, two weeks ago

I absolutely do not follow yachting news. Well, at least not since I lived in the old, "undeveloped" Newport and enjoyed the regular visits to that sleepy town of hunky crewmen from around the world seeking to wrest the Americas Cup from the New York Yacht Club.

But the yachts can be extraordinarily beautiful themselves, even if today their design may sometimes approach the grotesque in the hands of skilled engineers and mathematicians.

A little over two weeks ago I saw the great tricolor trimaran IDEC moored in the basin below the Winter Garden in the World and casually snapped the picture above. I decided it wasn't a bit grotesque, but rather resembled a giant water strider. The vessel looked shockingly purposeful, even if I was ignorant of its mission.

While going through my photo library this evening looking for something else I decided the IDEC shot was worth uploading for the image alone. Since I wanted to identify the craft I Googled the name and discovered that after leaving New York the vessel and her skipper, Francis Joyon, had broken the 24-hour world speed record when they clocked up 543 miles and, on arriving in France six days out of New York, the transatlantic record for a single sailor as well. The French landfall occurred just three days ago.

But there's more to the story, an ending the ancient Greeks would surely have understood.

Just a few hours after breaking the outright singlehanded transatlantic record yesterday (see news story here) Francis Joyon was involved in a collision which has totally destroyed his 90ft trimaran IDEC.

Having crossed the finish line off the Lizard, Joyon - still unaccompanied - did a quick u-turn to head back to his home port in La Trinite, France but fell asleep and hit the rocks at Pte de Marc'h at 0100 this morning.

The skipper survived unscathed.

NOTE: the Greek moira is similar to the Latin fortuna.

Aja Albertson If a birth flower falls in a forest, and no one is there to smell it, will it then grow a stone? 2005 silk flowers, faux gems, urethane, glass vase and butterfly approx. 12" x 12" [view of installation on gallery shelf]

The show is called "Something is Somewhere," and in the Monya Rowe Gallery's elaborate press statement the curators, Anat Egbi and Monya Rowe, explain a conceit which doesn't seem to be attached to the amusing image on the invitation (and the gallery site). The photo shows most of the participation artists lined up in front of a wall on either side of the two curators, every one of them dressed as the gallerist, in little black dresses and white neck scarfs. Yup, no guys.

I couldn't get anything into my camera's memory card which would do justice to the great pieces I saw in the gallery. A view of the shelf near the door will have to suffice for this post. This show, which includes work in the mediums of painting, photography, video, drawing, and sculpture, really has to be seen in person. The artists are Aja Albertson, Katia Bassanini, Larissa Bates, Amy Bennett, Jen DeNike, Angela Dufresne, Echo Eggebrecht, Adriana Farmiga, Sabrina Gschwandtner, Magalie Guerin, Elizabeth Huey, Ellen Lesperance & Jeanine Oleson, Caitlin Masley, Sigrid Sandstrom, Erika Somogyi, Frances Trombly, Whitney Van Nes, Abbey Williams and Sheri Warshauer.

Ara Peterson Standing Waves 2004 wood, acrylic 45" x 168" x 30" [detail of installation]

Ara Peterson is included in a group show at Greene Naftali based loosely on the idea of fractal geometry. Both the concept and its execution suggest the mystical as much as the scientific. A stunning show, and there are some great images on the gallery site itself.

In addition to Peterson's work there are fascinating contributions from Julie Becker, Keith Connolly, David Dempewolf, Rachel Harrison and Michaela Meise.

Keith Connolly Qvaris Object at Dawn 2004-2005 wood, mirror, acrylic, plaster, DVD, mini monitor 49" x 49" x 25" 40 minutes [view of installation]

David Dempewolf Time Travel Project - Glenn Gould 2005 digital video installation dimensions variable [still from installation]

the view from the paving stones in the middle of Wooster Street

and the prospect from Spencer Brownstone's loading dock moments before

It's just a summer show, but it includes a huge list of artists, and it was only one of three neighboring galleries in the only part of Soho which still has any creds with openings last night. The street outside Spencer Brownstone was effectively closed because of the crush of art fans and related sorts.

Last night we started out at the gallery's group show and then squeezed further down Wooster Street to Guild & Greyshkul's "The General's Jamboree/Second Annual Watercolor Exhibition," which was just as well attended (that is to say, totally jammed). Both shows are basically surveys of what's going on in New York today that hasn't yet been seen in a major gallery (or any gallery) anywhere. Worth a detour! Actually, worth a trip, even without the attractive opening-night crowds.

Valerie Hegarty Still Life (with Birds) 2005 paper, watercolor, glue, wire [detail of a piece, which included work on the wall above, installed at Guild & Greyshkul]

I can't speak to the attractions of Swoon's installation at Deitch on Grand Street, which also opened last night, since Barry and I decided to pass on the opportunity of slipping through the eye of a needle to get into the steamy inner sanctum where her big stuff is installed. Had to be content for the evening with this view of the floor in the outer gallery:

the very beautiful, and somewhat challenging floor installed by Swoon in Deitch's small south gallery

For more, see Bloggy.


In a NYTimes review of the restaurant Loreley published just over a year ago Julia Moskin wrote, "German food can be a hard sell. It is deeply unfashionable . . . . " I copied the quote down. Today I'm not entirely sure why, but it ended up in the pages of one of my German cookbooks where I found it a few days ago.

I didn't start off this week intending to prepare German dinners exclusively every night, but it's been working out that way ever since we made a return visit last Saturday to one of our favorite hometown restaurants, Kurt Gutenbrunner's Austrian restaurant, Wallsé.

My original idea was just to so something from my own childhood experience of a 4th of July meal, but a simpler, low-key version, since that was how Barry and I were dealing with the day otherwise. The fact that I didn't want to heat up the kitchen and we weren't able to cook outside certainly contributed to reducing my ambitions as well. I ended up with bratwurst (unfortunately they were nothing like the legendary Sheboygan sausage) grilled on a ribbed castiron pan, real German potato salad, some fantastic pink/white radishes, a cucumber salad my mother would have been proud of and a decent loaf of pumpernickel bread. In a significant departure from my Wisconsin family's experience we decided to raid the wine rack rather than the beer we're no longer laying down in the refrigerator because we need the space. The excellent riesling is probably what persuaded me to continue the Rhineland theme the next day, the day after the next, and eventually through tonight as well.

On Tuesday I located some excellent smoked trout, which I served with a bowl of whipped cream I flavored with lemon and grated horseradish, and we continued through most of the vegetables we hadn't been able to finish the day before, with the rare addition of some spicy puntarelle not consumed in an Italian salad two days earlier. Another Rhine or Moselle from the "cellar," and then a ginger rhubarb compote for desert.

Wednesday evening we had some crisp flatbreads with two smoked eels I had collected from the Union Square farmers (fisherman's?) market that afternoon, some wild watercress and the rest of the whipped horseradish cream. For an entree I turned on the gas for the first time since Monday in order to saute a thick slice of Niman Ranch ham and to boil some new potatoes I finished in sauteed sweet onion slices and topped with fresh thyme. We had small bowls of what remained of the cucumber salad on the side, now slightly augmented and refreshed with chopped puntarelle. Another good riesling, a Pfälzer, a Deidesheim.

Tonight after returning from a number of art openings in Soho we only needed a small snack, since following an afternoon in Chelsea galleries we had enjoyed Korean sushi at what was an outrageous hour for lunch - even for us. I had managed to save a bit of the ham from last night and we had it together with some good German mustard, the last of a potato salad which was still showing the stuff it was made of and some buttered slices of the sturdy pumpernickel. A fine Nierstein Riesling Kabinet was our company.

My point is that German food does not have to be scary. It never did, but today there is even less cause for alarm because of the development of a nouvelle German cuisine which I had predicted was inevitable years ago, at a time when I could and would abandon myself to the heaviest examples of German cookery with no regrets, no complaints. Unless she has changed her opinion, wherever she may be now, I would argue with Ms. Moskin that today German cookery finally has become fashionable; it's just that most of the world doesn't know it yet.

If anyone is looking for inspiration they should take a peek at the gorgeous photographs in "Culinaria Germany." My potato salad came straight from its pages, but I fell in love with Mimi Sheraton's "The German Cookbook" four decades ago and won't let it out of my sight. I may have moved from a German kitchen into a French one and today an Italian, but my first great love was this 1965 classic. It remains unchallenged as an English-language guide to German cooking even if it can't boast a single illustration. It was Sheraton's cucumber salad we enjoyed this week.

I knew I was going to go back to Southern Italy again, at least for a while, but I bought another handfull of kirbys just yesterday at the greenmarket. Tomorrow I'm going to see if I can find anything in Italian cuisine which could possibly love a cucumber.

NOTE: I tried to locate an image from "Culinaria" or elsewhere which might do justice to my argument, but without success, so I settled for the entertainment value of a World War I British propaganda postcard which may or may not be serious in complaining about the enemy's cookery.

[image from firstworldwar.com]

Christian Jankowski 16mm Mystery 2004 35mm film [video still in view of installation]

I waited a long time before checking out the "Greater New York 2005" show at PS1, but in taking in much of it on a relatively short visit this past Sunday I ended up thinking it was surprisingly good, and sometimes great fun. It was the weekend of July 4th, and there was almost no one else there, so I'm wondering how that might have effected my impressions. Well, it was relaxing, more like visiting a dusty museum in Calcutta than the vital loft-like spaces in which is installed the art we are told best represents our own anxious time and space.

Sure, we're seasoned veterans, so there weren't too many surprises, but even artists with whom Barry and I were pretty familiar generally showed unfamiliar work. That was what the curators had wanted, and most of the invitees seemed to have gotten that part down pat.

After hearing so many friends in addition to ourselves admit that they hadn't made the trip out to Queens (and not just because even now there are still almost three months left to see the stuff), it turned out to be much more interesting than either of us had been led, or had led ourselves, to expect.

We'll be going back soon to catch what we missed the first time around.

. . . but I wasn't a pornographer*

safe enough for him?

Patrick Moore has an OPINION piece in today's Newsday, "Bush team uses 'skin game' to attack porn," which sounds an alarm on behalf of principles much greater than the protection of our access to adult sexual entertainment. An excerpt follows:

Under the guise of regulatory powers, the department [of Justice] is planning a punitive and ideologically motivated assault on the adult entertainment industry. A legal challenge last month delayed the onset, but Justice is hoping later this year to begin enforcing a host of regulations so onerous that they may represent the end of pornography as a viable business in America.

Regardless of one's feelings about adult entertainment, the situation is a disturbing illustration of a larger trend in the Bush administration: the use of regulatory powers to advance a conservative moral agenda.

. . . .

One can understand that the government wants to ensure that porn performers are of legal age. However, these regulations ensure no such thing. In fact, in several lawsuits involving underage performers, the minors had provided government-issued IDs to producers. As we are learning in terms of both national security and immigration, government IDs are easily obtained and easily falsified. And demanding proof of age for performers who are clearly 30 or 40 years old seems less about protecting children than about punishing an industry the government deems immoral.

By focusing on regulatory enforcement, the Department of Justice cannily avoids repressing adult entertainment on the basis of content, knowing that the First Amendment presents a challenge that probably cannot be overcome. But the effect - suppression of protected speech, whether or not it is deemed obscene - is achieved outside the normal checks and balances of American government.

The Bush administration has a track record of attempting to regulate morality behind a smoke screen of law enforcement, bureaucratic rules and scientific research. These efforts are often focused on unpopular issues, where the administration is fairly certain that public opinion will provide protection, regardless of the ethics involved. Few citizens in an increasingly conservative America will fight to protect the constitutional rights of pornographers.

AIDS is another example. For several years now, researchers applying for National Institutes of Health grants to study AIDS have been told to remove references to gay men, even though they continue to represent the majority of cases here in the United States. And, famously, the Bush administration has touted its compassion for those dying of AIDS in Africa, even while it denies funds to organizations that offer reproductive health services or stress condoms over abstinence.

Full disclosure: I knew Patrick Moore slightly but I admired his good sense hugely when we were both busy with ACT UP fifteen years ago.

My introduction is a conscious reference to Martin Niemöller’s lines about moral failure in the face of the Holocaust:

First they came for the Communists, but I was not a Communist, so I said nothing. Then they came for the Social Democrats, but I was not a Social Democrat, so I did nothing. Then came the trade unionists, but I was not a trade unionist. And then they came for the Jews, but I was not a Jew, so I did little. Then when they came for me, there was no one left to stand up for me.
Yes, I know a morality crusade does not make a holocaust, but although we deal with new evils in new times, fascism's tactics, and the kind of popular response needed, have changed very little.

[image via E. Heroux]

reaction in the public gallery of the Cortes on June 30, as the Spanish parliament extended full rights of marriage to all citizens

Some day a people crazy about waving its own flag at home and around the world may actually understand the liberty and justice it was intended to represent.

Meanwhile, much of the rest of the world has already overtaken us.

Excerpts from the speech by Spanish prime minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero delivered just prior to the vote last Thurday which legalized gay marriage and adoption of children by gay couples:

We are not legislating, honorable members, for people far away and not known by us. We are enlarging the opportunity for happiness to our neighbors, our co-workers, our friends and, our families: at the same time we are making a more decent society, because a decent society is one that does not humiliate its members.

In the poem 'The Family,' our [gay] poet Luis Cernuda was sorry because, 'How does man live in denial in vain/by giving rules that prohibit and condemn?' Today, the Spanish society answers to a group of people who, during many years have, been humiliated, whose rights have been ignored, whose dignity has been offended, their identity denied, and their liberty oppressed. Today the Spanish society grants them the respect they deserve, recognizes their rights, restores their dignity, affirms their identity, and restores their liberty.

It is true that they are only a minority, but their triumph is everyone's triumph. It is also the triumph of those who oppose this law, even though they do not know this yet: because it is the triumph of Liberty. Their victory makes all of us (even those who oppose the law) better people, it makes our society better. Honorable members, There is no damage to marriage or to the concept of family in allowing two people of the same sex to get married. To the contrary, what happens is this class of Spanish citizens get the potential to organize their lives with the rights and privileges of marriage and family. There is no danger to the institution of marriage, but precisely the opposite: this law enhances and respects marriage.

Today, conscious that some people and institutions are in a profound disagreement with this change in our civil law, I wish to express that, like other reforms to the marriage code that preceded this one, this law will generate no evil, that its only consequence will be the avoiding of senseless suffering of decent human beings. A society that avoids senseless suffering of decent human beings is a better society.

With the approval of this Bill, our country takes another step in the path of liberty and tolerance that was begun by the democratic change of government. Our children will look at us incredulously if we tell them that many years ago, our mothers had less rights than our fathers, or if we tell them that people had to stay married against their will even though they were unable to share their lives. Today we can offer them a beautiful lesson: every right gained, each access to liberty has been the result of the struggle and sacrifice of many people that deserve our recognition and praise.

Today we demonstrate with this Bill that societies can better themselves and can cross barriers and create tolerance by putting a stop to the unhappiness and humiliation of some of our citizens. Today, for many of our countrymen, comes the day predicted by Kavafis [the great Greek gay poet] one century ago: 'Later 'twas said of the most perfect society/someone else, made like me/certainly will come out and act freely.'

Can we try to remember these noble words the next time any U.S. politician opens his or her mouth?

[a dear friend of mine, Jamie Leo, forwarded the speech text this morning; it can be found on Doug Ireland's site, where the translation is credited to Rex Wockner; image by Susana Vera from Reuters]

PS1, at table, waiting for our panini number to be called

untitled (galvanized) 2005

untitled (Garden of Eden melons) 2005

Wishing everybody out there (except for the neo-fascist fundamentalists who would destroy it) a delightful 4th of July!

untitled (construction netting)

Ann Craven Pink twig III [detail]

Klemens Gasser & Tanja Grunert have installed a very impressive summer garden show in their very urban quarters on West 19th Street. I'm leading this short post with a detail image of one of the works in the installation rather than the picture of the entire piece with its neighbors because, I think, it works so much better on the scale of this small screen. Much of the surface of Ann Craven's luminous oils have the soft focus of pastels and their extravagant beauty can barely be suggested in reproduction, but this small detail of a branch packs a lot of punch even in a few square inches.

I love her work, as much for its seductive beauty as for its totally uncynical goof on the popular excesses of cuteness and its reproduction.

Ann Craven [installation view of Pink twig I, Pink twig II and Pink twig III, each 2005, oil on canvas, 60" x 47"]

The other artists in the show are Ena Swansea, Petra Singh, Will Ryman, Elizabeth Neel, Bart Romberg, Laura Stein, Jeannie Weissglass, Benjamin Cottam, Debora Warner and Joyce Kim. They make an odd assembly, especially for a show entitled "Flower Power," but these aren't your mother's daisies.

Jeannie Weissglass The Garden 2005 wallpaper, ink pencil and oil paint on wood panels 84" x 144" [installation view]

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