Culture: November 2005 Archives


I've displayed a severely limited color spectrum on this site lately, and I'm sorry that this shot isn't much of a stretch from those black and white images sitting just below it.

But I think that it does manage to represent a decent view of a very satisfyingly recondite installation at Haswellediger by the Dutch/Swiss artist Bob Gramsma.

I want it. But my appetite is obviously bigger than my stomach.

The gallery describes the complex monochromatic maze which almost totally dominates its exhibition space in this excerpt from the press release:

For Tanstaafl [the only slightly abstruse title of the show*] Gramsma will exhibit Schwamendingen, OI#0485, a multi-layered architectural structure of some two hundred glass windows and doors from an old house in Zürich in conjunction with several objects including a source of light. As with past projects, Gramsma continues to subvert the function of vehicles, passageways, ports and other “A to B” systems as a means of paralleling our present climate of disinformation and mistrust. The structure pits true and artificial light against one another like fact and fiction as the viewer maneuvers its periphery in a somewhat ironic attempt to decipher or reach its true core. The entire room continues this subtle atmosphere of conflict as rays of light,are bounced off of one another, while mediated and distorted through the glass panes of the doors and windows.
Oh yes, we were assured that the suburban villa which gave up its wonderful old windows to the artist still stands - now wearing modern replacements.

see the complete press release for some clarity on this appellation


I just came across this picture of a very come-hither-ish Montgomery Clift while looking through an email from Phaidon Press. It's from a new photography book, "Stanley Kubrick: Drama and Shadows," a collection of images captured by the film director betwen 1945 and 1950, when he was still very young.

I know I may be one of the last people to discover Kubrick as photographer, but I still thought it worth broadcasting these images for those who might otherwise miss them.

I think we can safely assume that the equally adorable subject of the picture below is the photographer himself.


okay, I saw these three in L.A., but they'll have to do for now

If you're in Miami next week for the art fairs* we may bump into each other, that is, if I can be pried out of our rental Beetle convertible.

We don't schedule our travels around these events, but Barry and I decided I had to see Florida at least once in my lifetime. If I needed an excuse, Art Basel (more especially the five other, progressively more scrappy shows which have been scheduled for the same days) and a long-standing invitation from an old school friend who lives on South Beach, seemed to be the absolute best.

For those who don't know my face, I'll probably be the only one with a red button on whatever top I'm wearing [I'm from New York, so I almost wrote "or coat"].

For a narrative, and some links, see Ed winkleman here and here, but don't forget Frisbee


Maybe it's the times, maybe it's the season, but there is a lot of fun and a lot of heart to be found in the Chelsea gallery blocks these days. The latest example is the group exhibition which opened at Julia Friedman last night, where Alejandro Diaz could be seen seated against a wall cranking out his signature cardboard signs while cradling his small mastiff, Diego.

Each of his works is available at the unprecedented rate of exchange of only $20. Disclosure time: We had already been enjoying two from this continuing series for years, and for our visitors they have always been among the most literally remarkable pieces to be found on our walls. Last night we came home with three more.

In the image seen above Diaz is seated below:

He's finishing up:
3 MILES [bold arrow to the right]
The other artists or designers included in the show are Feral Childe, Christine Hill, Derek Sullivan, Vexed Generation and Judy Werthein.

The gallery describes an installation which is as seasonal and political as much as it is a not uncomplicated delight to shop:

As a functioning store, "THE GIFT boutique" features a gift wrapping station, a selection of books, CDs, magazines, wrapping paper, packing tape, and clothing, all created by artists and designers whose play on the "boutique" model belies their sensitivity toward commercial practices, and in ways that both laud and critique this association. The presentation in a commercial gallery not only reinforces how easily these artists and designers assume corporate identities, but how each redefine the parameters of the boutique to create personal exchanges between themselves, their "products," and the consumer.

waiting for a copy

You have five more days to join in what will surely be remembered as one of the strangest and most delightful gallery experiences of the season, Gelitin's performance/installation at Leo Koenig on West 23rd Street.

From the Performa 05 website:

Viennese art collective Gelitin (Ali Janka, Wolfgang Gantner, Tobias Urban, and Florian Reither) will install and inhabit Tantamounter 24/7 a giant “copy-duplicator-transformation machine” for seven days and nights at Leo Koenig Gallery. The machine will be operated by the Gelitin artists under close supervision of a bankrupt psychiatrist. Visitors will be invited to insert any object, idea, or smell into the entry port, for duplication in the machine, and after an announced waiting time the input object and its duplicate will be ejected through the exit slot. The machine will be a sealed chamber of creativity with no connection to the outside world for the duration of the installation.

This afternoon Barry and I visited the box, intent on avoiding the weekend crowds*. Each of us was carrying an offering for the machine. Looking around for a precious posession, as we were advised by a friend, we first had the idea of bringing Sweetpea in his little traveling box. In the end the thought of the possible shock for either parakeet or artists made us look elsewhere.

We brought a neat old wind-up alarm clock and a favorite small houseplant. The clock went into the magic hopper first, and within twenty minutes or so it came back out accompanied by a truly wonderful, whimsical imitation, . . . err, tantamount, which boasted an old blue beer cozy for a housing, hand-inked numbers, two twisted paperclips for hands, two rubber feet from a small appliance, and, composing a top alarm shut-off button and controls for the back of the new "clock," various odds and ends of the kind found in the bottom of what my mother always called the junk drawer.

The plant was in the box for a much longer time, but the lovingly-crafted copy we found behind the door when the light went on was really spectacular. The Tantamounter had even accounted for the bits of perlite visible on the surface of the real soil by including some glossy dots and one tiny mother-of-pearl drop embedded in the Sculpey-soil.

insert object when light goes on

which one will need the sun?

actually, although the installation is open 24/7, as advertised, I think much of the fun is watching other folks come into the gallery with their own objects, and then seeing what eventually comes out of this extraordinarily imaginative machine

ADDENDUM: I've added images of the alarm clock and its tantamount below.



Josephine Meckseper Shelf #31 2005 mixed media on metal shelf 23.75" x 60" x 14" [large detail of installation]

Josephine Meckseper's show at Elizabeth Dee was the highlight of a Chelsea afternoon on Saturday, and I hadn't even prepped.

Total serendipity.

Barry and I still had a lot of catching up to do after being away for a few weeks, and because of a seven-hour time change we had been pretty much out of it for a week or after that. The result was that we were kinda focused on shows which were closing that day or in the near future when we saw the faux shop windows on either side of the entrance to the gallery on 20th Street.

From the press release:

Starting with the façade, Meckseper will alter the windows of Elizabeth Dee Gallery to resemble the dramatic display windows of an upscale department store. Mixing semantic codes, the objects on display in one window will seem to sell a vision of current American politics, while the other will offer images of an oppositional culture of protest and references to the women's correctional facility across the street. Vinyl lettering suggests the monolithic encroachment of a homogenizing globalism in a leveraged buyout and merger of New York's most prominent museum, gallery, and exhibition sponsor.
Meckseper's elegant, ironic installation seductively addresses twenty-first century American consumerism and power, in a not-so-subtle mockery especially of the two things we still do better than anyone else: shopping and shooting. There're also some good bits about the commodification of women, workers, race, relationships, sex, art and even ideas themselves.

Meckseper State of the Union Address to Senate and Nation 2005 glass, mirror, newspaper, chrome, metal mesh, found jewelry 42" x 18" x 12" [installation view, with three other works, Clearance Sale, Untitled (50% Off) and Untitled (Mirror Wall), in background]

Meckseper Untitled (Vitrine) 2005 mixed media in display window 46" x 46" x 18.5" [installation view]

Meckseper [installation view of a piece introduced to the show late; its details are not yet available]


Barry and I joined a large gathering of some of Bill Bartman's friends in the Friends meeting house off Stuyvesant Park on Saturday. It was a beautiful fall afternoon. There were wonderful words, much good cheer, barely-suppressed tears, lots of hugs and of course some great cookies. There was also a delightful slide show of images which included this snapshot of the irrepressible Bill, when the child was a child.

Song of Childhood

by Peter Handke

When the child was a child
It walked with its arms swinging,
wanted the brook to be a river,
the river to be a torrent,
and this puddle to be the sea.

When the child was a child,
it didn’t know that it was a child,
everything was soulful,
and all souls were one.

When the child was a child,
it had no opinion about anything,
had no habits,
it often sat cross-legged,
took off running,
had a cowlick in its hair,
and made no faces when photographed.

When the child was a child,
It was the time for these questions:
Why am I me, and why not you?
Why am I here, and why not there?
When did time begin, and where does space end?
Is life under the sun not just a dream?
Is what I see and hear and smell
not just an illusion of a world before the world?
Given the facts of evil and people.
does evil really exist?
How can it be that I, who I am,
didn’t exist before I came to be,
and that, someday, I, who I am,
will no longer be who I am?

When the child was a child,
It choked on spinach, on peas, on rice pudding,
and on steamed cauliflower,
and eats all of those now, and not just because it has to.

When the child was a child,
it awoke once in a strange bed,
and now does so again and again.
Many people, then, seemed beautiful,
and now only a few do, by sheer luck.

It had visualized a clear image of Paradise,
and now can at most guess,
could not conceive of nothingness,
and shudders today at the thought.

When the child was a child,
It played with enthusiasm,
and, now, has just as much excitement as then,
but only when it concerns its work.

When the child was a child,
It was enough for it to eat an apple, … bread,
And so it is even now.

When the child was a child,
Berries filled its hand as only berries do,
and do even now,
Fresh walnuts made its tongue raw,
and do even now,
it had, on every mountaintop,
the longing for a higher mountain yet,
and in every city,
the longing for an even greater city,
and that is still so,
It reached for cherries in topmost branches of trees
with an elation it still has today,
has a shyness in front of strangers,
and has that even now.
It awaited the first snow,
And waits that way even now.

When the child was a child,
It threw a stick like a lance against a tree,
And it quivers there still today.

Lied von Kindsein
von Peter Handke

Als das Kind Kind war,
ging es mit hängenden Armen,
wollte der Bach sei ein Fluß,
der Fluß sei ein Strom,
und diese Pfütze das Meer.

Als das Kind Kind war,
wußte es nicht, daß es Kind war,
alles war ihm beseelt,
und alle Seelen waren eins.

Als das Kind Kind war,
hatte es von nichts eine Meinung,
hatte keine Gewohnheit,
saß oft im Schneidersitz,
lief aus dem Stand,
hatte einen Wirbel im Haar
und machte kein Gesicht beim fotografieren.

Als das Kind Kind war,
war es die Zeit der folgenden Fragen:
Warum bin ich ich und warum nicht du?
Warum bin ich hier und warum nicht dort?
Wann begann die Zeit und wo endet der Raum?
Ist das Leben unter der Sonne nicht bloß ein Traum?
Ist was ich sehe und höre und rieche
nicht bloß der Schein einer Welt vor der Welt?
Gibt es tatsächlich das Böse und Leute,
die wirklich die Bösen sind?
Wie kann es sein, daß ich, der ich bin,
bevor ich wurde, nicht war,
und daß einmal ich, der ich bin,
nicht mehr der ich bin, sein werde?

Als das Kind Kind war,
würgte es am Spinat, an den Erbsen, am Milchreis,
und am gedünsteten Blumenkohl.
und ißt jetzt das alles und nicht nur zur Not.

Als das Kind Kind war,
erwachte es einmal in einem fremden Bett
und jetzt immer wieder,
erschienen ihm viele Menschen schön
und jetzt nur noch im Glücksfall,
stellte es sich klar ein Paradies vor
und kann es jetzt höchstens ahnen,
konnte es sich Nichts nicht denken
und schaudert heute davor.

Als das Kind Kind war,
spielte es mit Begeisterung
und jetzt, so ganz bei der Sache wie damals, nur noch,
wenn diese Sache seine Arbeit ist.

Als das Kind Kind war,
genügten ihm als Nahrung Apfel, Brot,
und so ist es immer noch.

Als das Kind Kind war,
fielen ihm die Beeren wie nur Beeren in die Hand
und jetzt immer noch,
machten ihm die frischen Walnüsse eine rauhe Zunge
und jetzt immer noch,
hatte es auf jedem Berg
die Sehnsucht nach dem immer höheren Berg,
und in jeden Stadt
die Sehnsucht nach der noch größeren Stadt,
und das ist immer noch so,
griff im Wipfel eines Baums nach dem Kirschen in einemHochgefühl
wie auch heute noch,
eine Scheu vor jedem Fremden
und hat sie immer noch,
wartete es auf den ersten Schnee,
und wartet so immer noch.

Als das Kind Kind war,
warf es einen Stock als Lanze gegen den Baum,
und sie zittert da heute noch.

Now it's up to us to find a way to keep that child's stick quivering. Bill's dream of a world of art to which access is generous and free for both the artist and the public has to live.

[Handke's words are from the Wim Wenders site]

Cynthia Madansky P.S.A. #8 2005 DVD [large detail of still from video projection]

Cynthia Madansky P.S.A. #2 2005 DVD [large detail of still from video projection]

Even in a world which includes so many other galleries showing new work and new or little-known artists, a visit to a show at Momenta Art is always like inhaling a breath of fresh air. But that certainly doesn't mean they make it easy for us. The work shown in the little rooms on Berry Street is always smart, always new, never dull and never derivative, but this is a serious space and I think it's safe to say that nothing you will find there is ever going to be just pretty.

That said, I have to admit that the aesthetic of the current show in the front gallery and office area, of work by Cynthia Madansky, can survive very well without any notes. You're going to want to know more however, and even a quick look at the press release will do some service. These beautiful drawings are from three different series, their subjects being historical instruments of human torture, the contemporary violation of the landscape and our enduring destruction of self.

Inside the office area two of Madansky's gorgeous short films, from an ongoing series titled "Public Service Announcement," are continuously projected on one wall. Largely abstract in their imagery, they are a hauntingly beautiful protest against "the American occupation of Iraq and the act of war." The films were made in collaboration with Brad Wolfley and Elle Flanders, and the wonderful soundtracks were composed by Zeena Parkins.

Robin Graubard This is War (Bucharest) 1995/2005 lambda print 16" x 20" (image
size 13' x 20") from the series "Black + Blue"

In the rear gallery Robin Graubard makes no attempt to seduce us. She has installed almost two dozen haunting, almost totally repellent photographic prints nakedly displaying the scars of neglect and violence borne by youths and children she has known or encountered in various brutal, yet almost entirely anonymous and interchangeable environments around the world. Think of Nan Goldin without any humor or joy, nor even a suggestion of conventional unconventional beauty.

[image of Graubard's print from Momenta Art]

dangerous art

I still can't quite get my mind around this story, although I first heard the particulars much earlier today: It's essentially the tale of an owner of an art gallery asking the police to get rid of an artist who was selling his work on the sidewalk a few doors down from his business.

If I didn't know Eric, I'd even be tempted to think this entire story was his invention, the perfect extension to one of his most interesting and familiar bodies of work.

For four years the young New York artist Eric Doeringer has been producing a series of work he calls "bootlegs." He sells the pieces outside [and sometimes inside] galleries, museums and art fairs in a conceptual project which has enjoyed some real critical and commercial success. The individual works take the form of scaled-down, very-affordable, crafted versions of the most recognizable products of the contemporary art market's biggest and priciest stars. His gallery is normally a sidewalk and a folding table, his public is a wonderful melange which can include the casual passer-by, the sophiticated patron or even some of the artists referenced in the work (some of whom have become his collectors).

Doeringer has a show in Los Angeles opening next weekend, he will be in an art fair in Zurich the week after that, and we can expect to see him at Miami Basel later in the month.

Apparently Mike Weiss, who runs his eponymic gallery on 24th Street, where our young artist has usually set up his shop, had complained about [what I would describe as the performance element of] Doeringer's art the weekend before this and had threatened to call the police if he returned the following Saturday. According to Doeringer, Weiss told him he didn't like him selling work outside, "because it attracts people." Doeringer says he thought at first Weiss was joking. Eventually he realized that he meant that Doeringer's presence would attract other artists selling their work there as well. Weiss complained about his high rent and how the artist was making it difficult for him to sell art.

In spite of the pressure, Doeringer was certain he was within his rights in what he was doing and so he returned this weekend. At some point in the afternoon on Saturday he was approached by the police, who told him they were responding to a 311 complaint. They informed him he would have to leave [later he learned that he only had to file some paperwork and register as a vendor, collecting sales tax, in order to be legitimate].

He packed up his work and confronted Mr. Weiss, who admitted he had called the police. He said that he didn't like "seeing people walking around with tiny paintings," while he was paying high rent for his gallery and, "trying to sell $30,000 paintings."

When Doeringer told him he was certainly going to let everyone he knew in the art world hear about what he had done, Weiss said, "If that's the way you want to play it, I'll call the police whenever I see you anywhere."

Gotta get rid of those pesky artists; they can so get in the way of the real business of art. But this one's so pesky that he's now determined to be back on the street when he's in the city and weather permits, even though he hadn't originally planned a continued open-air presence in Chelsea.

[image from Eric Doeringer]

This page is an archive of entries in the Culture category from November 2005.

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