Culture: June 2007 Archives


I had almost forgotten that I had this image. It's been on my computer for a week. Once you get past its nightmare-come-alive reference, I think this Shepard Fairey* piece is very beautiful, not least for the color and quality of the faux-dollar bill printing. And then there's also the ambiance of its immediate surroundings on this Lower East Side wall - and the late afternoon sun.

if I'm wrong about the attribution, somebody let me know

Kuhl and Leyton Just Like Heaven 2007 acrylic tape on paper 60" x 54" [installation view]

Lee Tusman Have a Nice Millenium 2006 quilt - mixed media, t-shirts, found fabric 56" x 54" [installation view]

Renee Riccardo
is the curator of a group show, "Homegrown", currently at David Krut Projects, which draws artists and collaboratives from five corners of the country. The threads running through the project include thread, itself in the case of several pieces, and a number of other homegrown materials and practices including tape, plastics, ribbon, foam, shells, refashioned found objects, glitter and collage.

There's much fun to be found here, but it's not all as playful as the materials might suggest.

The artists represented are Scott Andresen, Karen Azoulay, Bethany Bristow, Orly Cogan, Robin Dash, Misaki Kawai, Kuhl & Leyton, Greg Lamarche, Cristina Lei Rodriguez, Margaret Lee, LoVid, Adia Millett, Doug Morris, Anne-Francoise Potterat, Jon Rosenbaum, Erika Somogyi, Lee Tusman, and Jasmine Zimmerman.

Tom Meacham Untitled 2007 tape and acrylic on canvas 90" x 60" [installation view]

Tom Meacham Untitled, Diptych 2007 tape on canvas 60" x 72" [installation view]

Tom Meacham's work is always about much more than what first meets the eye, and his current show at 5BE is only the latest demonstration of his subtlety and intelligence.

The patterns on the canvases are sometimes ink jet and sometimes tape, and only two of them are actually painted. That stack of stretched canvases isn't just a stack of stretched canvases, and the seemingly-unrelated sculpture in the center of the gallery does not reveal much of its story to the casual visitor.

Sometimes an installation's instruction sheet really is a welcome collaborator, and its necessity not an indictment of the strength of the work itself. Of course it helps if the stuff is beautiful to begin with.

David Noonan Untitled 2007 silkscreen on stretched linen 84" x 120" [installation view]

David Noonan Untitled 2007 silkscreen on linen, plywood, dimensions variable (80" tall) [installation view]

David Noonan returns to Foxy Production with a dreamy (each definition) show of silkscreens and collaged paper work surrounding one large sculpture installation, all incorporating found photographic images in his own rich sepia-like monotone.

John Pearson Daylight Landscape 2001 video [large detail still from installation]

John Pearson Untitled with Commercial 2005 video [large detail still from installation]

John Pearson Untitled (white light) 2005 [large detail still from installation]

I've been a little distracted with the aftermath of the drama inside City Council Chambers on Wednesday evening, so I haven't had much time for some art posts I've wanted to do. The reverb continues even now [more on that eventually], so this and other entries may for a while be more brief than I would prefer.

But they will be no less enthusiastic. I was really taken recently with the videos Jeff Bailey is showing in his gallery's office space, and I think they really deserve a larger exposure. The artist is John Pearson, and the small show of videos and photographs was curated by Julian Pozzi, the artist whose beautiful paintings on paper are being shown in the main space. It's a wonderful idea for any gallery, and an especially happy one in this case.

There is much sweetness and some humor in these short videos, but for all that they are more than sophisticated enough at managing the not-so-simple effect of child-like, wide-eyed wonder, of looking at the world for the very first time.

In addition to his work as a painter, Pozzi is the organizer for Youth and Anti-Youth, which is presenting John Pearson's work at the gallery. The gallery describes the group as "a nomadic curatorial enterprise begun in Brooklyn in 1997". Images of Pozzi's own paintings can be found on the Jeff Bailey web site, but the work really has to be experienced in person.

ACT UP demonstration for access to clean needles, seventeen years ago

After yesterday's post, which was totally connected to current political activism, I'm going to turn back and examine what the territory looked like in the 80's and 90's.

Although many of us are still busy working on some of the very same issues which engaged New York activists, writers, artists, and residents in the previous two decades, it would make no sense at all if we were to ignore a radical activist history which can still inform what we do today.

On Tuesday, June 26, the New York Book Club at the Lower East Side Tenement Museum and the Gotham Center for New York City History at CUNY are hosting a panel discussion in the Museum. Called "Resistance: A Radical History of the Lower East Side", the event's participants will be Jay Blotcher, Al Orensanz and Michael Rosen. The moderator will be Clayton Patterson.

I think all of these people (with very interesting but quite different backgrounds in the same neighborhood) are contributors to a new book with the same title, a collection of writings and images. Okay, it sounds like it's also a book signing, but on Tuesday it seems both oral and written history will be shared with those who stop by.

I know Jay well, originally through ACT UP, where he directed media relations, but in addition to his AIDS activism he has also worked as a collage artist, documentary filmmaker, journalist and publicist. If he's involved in something like this, it's likely to be at least worth a detour.

The address is 108 Orchard Street, near Delancey, and the time is from 6 to 8 pm.

[image from the film "Clean Needles Save Lives: Drug Users Doing It For Ourselves" via Creative Time]

Peter Pezzimenti Untitled 2007 oil and latex on wood and cardboard 31" x 36" [installation view]

Peter Pezzimenti Untitled 2007 oil and latex on wood and cardboard 24" x 34" [installation view]

Peter Pezzimenti Untitled 2007 oil and latex on wood and cardboard 23.5" x 22.5" [installation view]

The sculptures by Peter Pezzimenti being shown at Monya Rowe through this Saturday are as much about painting as they are about space. In fact, I was slightly surprised when I went to the gallery site just now and saw the work described as "sculptures", even though I was there precisely because I was wondering about what noun I should use, and I wanted to know how the press release was categorizing these beautiful pieces.

Pezzimenti's assemblages of roughly-cut blocks of wood are totally alive inside their mat-black shrouds, even when the wooden shapes themselves have been painted black, as is the case with two of the fifteen being shown. Once they have engaged the viewer, they don't seem to want to leave the eye alone. I like both their boldness and their obvious playfulness (even today I'm not entirely weaned from an early and profound passion for building blocks).

Another disclosure, and, I confess, this one is a modest boast: Barry and I picked out a Pezzimenti work at the recent Momenta Art benefit. It was one of a number of works generously donated by Monya Rowe and the artists. This sculpture now hangs on (holds up, sits on or from?) one of our walls.



Sarah Peters Being American 2007 pen and pencil on paper 42" x 240" [details of installation]

I was going to post about some very good shows we had seen earlier, but this show got in my way. I suppose it's because we ended up buying a drawing ten minutes after walking into the opening reception for Sarah Peters's first solo show at Winkleman Gallery on Saturday. I couldn't wait, and I thought I shouldn't, to explain.

This body of work by Peters may have struck a chord in me, but it's more than a personal connection that drew me to the drawings. The work is wonderful. It's very strong and I'd be charmed by it even without a very particular relationship to its subject.

I lived in New England for twenty years before moving to New York and during that time I grew totally comfortable with, no, I fell in love with the history and the aesthetic of one of this country's most idiosyncratic areas, a distinct region which played an extremely important role in the creation of a national culture and its mythology.

Peters draws from an eighteenth (and early nineteenth) -century America mostly settled by Europeans who were interested in establishing, to the best of their knowledge and abilities, what they understood as a European culture, but one built on a new, idyllic continent they believed to be largely their own creation.

Art, many would be surprised to hear then and now, was always a part of the experience of New England and the Atlantic seaboard, even if most early Americans would have to wait one or two hundred years before they even had access to anything like the semi-provincial academy represented by William Rush or the Peale family, both of whom appear in Peters's work at Winkleman.

There was always folk art, including examples produced by the genteel occupation of young women, by the genius of local and itinerant artisans, and by the enthusiasms of just about anyone with the luxury of a little time and the passion to create. Needlework, stencils, drawings, wall, floor, and furniture painting, frakturs, quilts, rugs, wood or stone carvings, reverse-paintings on glass, collages and decorated pottery are just some of the forms which can stil delight us today.

I grew to love the charming and often very eccentric examples of this naive art when I came across it in friends' homes, in house museums, old antique shops and even barns and yard sales (this was now decades ago), but I have to confess my taste in furnishing the home I restored as something of a house museum ran more toward the minimal, and my partner and I led an artist friend to any folk art finds we might come across. I had decided early on (with further inducement provided by a probate record which listed the deceased owner's meager possessions) that the fictional inhabitants of this modest 1760 clapboard house just wouldn't have had the time or the wealth to accumulate much treasure. For their sake I hope I was wrong.

Sarah Peters work addresses the imagery with which the people filling up this new continent described their ideals. She begins with a few stunning and quite haunting (anonymous?) portraits and continues with still lifes and fantastic landscapes populated by smaller noble heads and clothed and unclothed bodies in classical poses, both sober and quite silly, magnificent trees and lofty mountains, broken columns and covered urns, flower arrangements and Greek vases. While she's doing this she introduces an extravagance which only an intervening two centuries could have made possible. Think William Blake and maybe Alfred Stieglitz and Francis Bacon.

There is something definitely more than a bit off about these images with their art or historical references. Peters is no copyist. The show's title (also the title of the largest piece in the show, a monumental twenty-foot-long drawing after the nineteenth-century fashion for panorama paintings) is "Being American". It's about a world now long gone, but which in fact never existed as it was imagined at the time. I'd also say that the idea of this preposterous world impacts us today perhaps even more than it ever did in the past.

In the end however Peters gives us a very original Elysium, and for that we can be grateful, as Elysiums are as necessary as they are agreeable. I will quote part of the press release:

Through her ongoing exploration of the earnestness with which early American artists strived, but often failed, to match the formal achievement of their European counterparts, Peters presents a spellbinding vision of an imagined paradise where the artworks of 18th Century America that missed the mark (often due to their creator's misreading of an ideal that never really was) went to spend eternity.

Oh yes, here's an image, with a detail, of the drawing which we picked out for ourselves:

Sarah Peters Séance 2005 pen, pencil and charcoal on paper 18" x 24"




I was stunned when I first heard about the "settlement" of the Brooklyn College MFA students' cases against the City of New York, the NYC Parks Department and Brooklyn College, cases which had cited First Amendment violations and property damages. I haven't even been able to bring myself to write about it until now, more than ten days later.

The eighteen students whose Master of Fine Arts thesis show was summarily shut down on May 4, 2006 by a Parks official, had their work removed from the gallery and damaged by their own College shortly thereafter.

After a full year of spent filing complex suits and presenting arguments, including negotiations between the students' lawyers and lawyers representing New York City the entire affair has ended with something like a squeak or a whimper.

The students (and one professor) each received $750 from the City, and the head of the Brooklyn Parks Department, the self-appointed public censor, issued a written statement which some have described as an "apology". Neither Brooklyn College itself nor any official connected with the school has had to do anything. In fact no one has lost her or his position in the City or the College. Oh yes, the settlement also required the City to pay the fees of the students' lawyers the amount of $42,500.

The students had decided not to file a separate suit against Brooklyn College after being told that they would have to secure other lawyers, and after being persuaded that a suit against the school which asked for compensation for the physical damage to their art works would have been ugly. In any event they weren't interested as a group in the cost and distraction of pursuing any further suit; they also don't appear to have ever regarded their case as simply a matter of compensation for material damages.

Of course it was never about money, so it seems to me that makes the piddling $750 figure ridiculous on the face of it.

I'm concerned about the fact that there really is no apology in the Parks chief's statement (it's more like the familiar "if anyone was offended . . ."), and that no institution has had to admit error, no official has been sacked, and none has fallen on his or her sword.

No principle has been upheld except that of the authority of the authorities.

Oh, yes, the "apology", issued on city of New York Parks & Recreation letterhead, reads as follows:

Statement of defendant Julius Spiegel, Brooklyn Borough commissioner of New York City Department of Parks and Recreation, in connection with the Settlement of Cohen, et. al. v. City of New York, et. al., 06-cv-2975 (CBA) (SMG).

"While I had no role in the removal and subsequent damage to Plaintiffs' artwork by others, I acknowledge my responsibility for ordering the closing of the Plaintiffs' art exhibit at the Brooklyn War Memorial, and for thereby setting in motion actions that led to the damage of Plaintiffs' artwork, which a reviewing court might find constituted a violation of the student-exhibitors' First amendment rights. Whatever the outcome in court might have been, I apologize to the Brooklyn College art students who spent long hours and considerable effort in creating their artwork and in mounting their exhibition at the Brooklyn Memorial site."
Now I know I wasn't one of the victims in this case (except in the sense we are all victims of censorship and the violation of intellectual and artistic property), and I wasn't privy to the discussions which preceded the announced settlement, but I mourn what has happened, or what has not happened, and I want to make a very few more general observations:
  • A city which thinks of itself as cultured and sophisticated doesn't let its functionaries shut down art exhibitions because of personal hang-ups about their nasty bits.
  • No art school is worthy of the name if it fails to defend its students' rights of expression and in fact callously destroys the creative work they produce in its shelter.
  • Constant artists, and constant art institutions, artists and institutions with real integrity, do no look the other way when their colleagues or those they serve are attacked or humiliated for their art.*

Of the entire local and national arts community, aside from some good words from a few bloggers, these students received written or vocal support only from their own College faculty, the CUNY faculty, the College Art Association and the President of the School of Visual Arts. The Brooklyn Museum was approached directly, because of its own struggle with censorship (when it had received an enormous amount of outside support), and its reply was something to the effect that the institution would no longer be getting involved in anything of this sort.

[image from timesonline]


Otto Muehl Wehretüchtigung 1967 film [two stills from installation video]


Nathalie Djurberg Dumstrut 2006 DVD [two stills from installation video]

Joao Ribas and Becky Smith have together curated a third, and unfortunately the final, show at Smith's gallery Bellwether (the complete series was titled "The Mallarmé Propositions"). The exhibition is as original and compelling as each of their earlier outings, last October and this past February. "In Defense of Ardor" presents work by Julieta Aranda, Johanna Billing, Colby Bird, Nathalie Djurberg, Dana Frankfort, Jutta Koether, Jonathan Meese, Otto Muehl, Michael Queenland, Jacob Robichaux, Jessica Stockholder and Kirsten Stoltmann.

If I were to make anything of the fact that I singled out images of the Muehl and Djurberg's videos for this post, I'd have to say I had some kind of affinity with what the curators describe as their "transgressive states of Dionysian or 'id-ridden' intensity", but actually my shots of these two videos merely happened to be more successful technically than any of the others I attempted.

Almost any of the other works alone might have been worth a visit to a show heroically designed to "contrast the corrosive, enervation effect of cynical reason" [from the last line of an intense press release which describes these pieces as serious alternatives to irony, cynicism and detachment].







Barry and I had to see what Austin Thomas was up to now, so we headed out to further Williamsburg (the Morgan stop on the L) for Jonathan VanDyke's installation/homage to the abandoned hair salon which has/will become Pocket Utopia. This rather ephemeral set-up, "The Salon of the Covered Bride," was inspired at least in part by a press image of "the runaway bride," Jennifer Wilbanks (who staged her own kidnapping in 2005 to prevent her wedding).

The exhibition represented phase one in the storefront's transition to full gallery mode, and it was granted barely ten days of life. The end came at sundown today, but I think I was able to capture and preserve a hint of VanDyke's weird genius in these photographs.

I have to admit that when I first walked into the space I had more than a little difficulty distinguishing the relics from the art, since so much of the hair salon environment remained, but by the time we had to leave I was finding dynamite subjects everywhere my eye would rest.

I'm very sorry it's all gone now, but on its evidence alone I wouldn't want to miss anything else Thomas might invite into this terrific new space.

tHe FinaL rUn iNs [detail of installation, including a bit of "unique miscellany"]

Kalup Linzy The Pursuit of Gay (Happyness) 2007 digital black and white video with sound [still from installation]

We were at Taxter & Spengemann this afternoon, but we had totally missed the excitement of the opening, a performance by the random hardcore band "tHe FinaL rUn iNs" (Ben Brantley, Nathan Carter and Matthew Ronay), whose sets, instruments, glitter and ragged concert remnants (including the semi-trashed fish tank above) now line the walls of the main space at the gallery. After a look around at this very site-specific installation we headed upstairs, where currently there's a lineup of four artist films in the gallery's self-described "Blockbuster Summer" exhibition.

Confession: We picked out one of these four shorts on the remote mounted on the wall, Kalup Linzy's "The Pursuit of Gay (Happyness)". I glued myself to the screen all the way to the end of this delicious little love story, starring the artist and Joshua Seidner (pictured). My favorite line was Seidner's woebegone response, as 'hero', correcting 'lady in distress' (Linzy) when she refers to important parts of her lover's anatomy, " . . . our cottontail . . . our peter!", while the voice of Bernice Edwards sings "Butcher Shop Blues" in the background. But in spite of their serious temptations it was a bit too warm inside to stay for the others* today. Absolutely must return.

For the first quarter of Linzy's piece, see this one-minute-plus excerpt on YouTube:

including two 1964 films by Lance Richbeurg and Pete Broadrick

Peter Fox SOME WORLD 2007 acrylic on canvas 34" x 54"


[oblique detail]

Williamsburg's The Hogar Collection, which was located on lower Grand Street, west of Bedford for several years, has moved a number of blocks up-island, to new quarters on the other side of the street*, just west of the BQE. It's a neat space, and on our first visit there last weekend we walked into a beautiful two-person show, a collaboration with eyewash.

I had seen the work of both Peter Fox and Jeanne Tremel before, and both of them are looking more interesting than ever.

Hmm. More abstractions showing up on this site: Is it me, or is this a trend?

luckily it's on the south side, which means work can be hung (to great advantage here) on a secondary white wall facing the street, just inside the large and handsome four-square front window

Jasper Johns Green Target 1955 encaustic on newspaper and cloth over canvas 60" x 60"

What can I say?

Ad Hunt The Ambassador 2007 oil on canvas

Beth Letain Every knee shall bow 2007 oil on canvas

A show called "Place Setting", of work by students at the MFA program at SUNY Purchase College was installed at Williamsburg's Supreme Trading, for only one week unfortunately (apparently an academic tradition for graduate shows). It closed this evening.

The paintings of AD Hunt and Beth Letain stood out in particular, but the larger group would have done any number of schools proud. The other artists, going down the checklist, were Chris Kaczmarek, Andrew Small, Parsley Steinweiss, Jeff Pash, Paul Bernhardt, Melissa Skluzacek, Kristen Gavin, Alec Spangler, Ali Dell Bitta and Sarah Sharp.

The show, of works in many media, was curated by Thom Collins, Director of the Neuberger Museum of Art at the college.

large detail of a fragment of a Byzantine floor mosaic (circa 500-550) with a representation of Ktisis, "a personification of generous donation or foundation", according to the plaque which accompanies this piece in the Metropolitan Museum of Art

Sharp viewer/readers will have noticed by now that an advert has appeared on my site for the first time, on the upper left corner of each page.

I thought that if I were ever to start this sort of thing, this would be the perfect time to break a five-year tradition of private publishing.

The spot is for NURTUREart's benefit tomorrow evening, and yes, Barry and I are being honored at the occasion. It's all a bit embarassing, and to mention it again would be even more embarrassing if the institution wasn't such a great cause.

There are still tickets available, starting at $75, and the event is conveniently located in the Chelsea gallery district (although I imagine many Williamsburgers will argue about the convenience of Chelsea).

Hope to see you there.

Ron Davis Ring 1968 polyester resin and fiberglass 11.25" x 56.5" [installation view]

On Friday I saw this piece by Ron Davis hovering over the information/members desk at the Museum of Modern Art. Delicious. Looking like nothing so much as a shiny, candy-colored flying saucer, it was love at first sight, and I completely forgot what we had come up to ask for. Fortunately Barry was much more focused, and we quickly got the day passes we wanted for our three guests.

Patrick Armstrong Virgo and Libra 2007 epoxy and gesso on paper 22" x 30" [installation view]

[view from one side]

Dorothea Rockburne Gravity Wave (Direction Painting #2) 1993 Lascaux Aquacryl, Beryl Artistic and Flasche on gessoed wood panel 40" x 24" [installation view]

Steve Keister Frieze I 2007 earthenware with acrylic 5" x 56" x 3" [installation view]

Galeria Janet Kurnatowski
is showing a bright sunny show of contemporary abstractions with a dark-ish title, "Corpse of Time", curated by the artist Ben La Rocco. The art however is anything but cadaverous, and the works actually seem to talk to each other, quite animatedly in fact.

The oldest piece is from 1993, but most of the work is quite recent, produced by a group eight men and women representing perhaps a half century of age difference.

The Greenpoint show includes painting and sculpture by Patrick Armstrong, Morgan Croney, Linda Francis, Steve Keister, Dorothea Rockburne, Carol Salmonson, Don Voisine and Chuck Webster.

Serra_Richard_rust.jpg Richard Serra Intersection II 1992 [detail of installation]

Serra_Richard_inside.jpg Richard Serra Intersection II 1992 [detail of installation]

Serra_Richard_tree.jpg Richard Serra Torqued Ellipse IV 1998 [detail of installation]

This isn't really a review of Richard Serra's show, which tomorrow opens to the public at the Museum of Modern Art. He's been around long enough to be familiar to anyone reading this blog, and the work doesn't change enough to provoke eyes which normally delight in emerging art.

Unfortunately, because of MoMA's photography prohibitions on work the museum does not own, I can't show images of the large installations inside, on the second and sixth floors. I was only able to to take shots of these two pieces installed in the sculpture garden. They're details only, because in still photography that's how this stuff looks best; Serra's sculpture is essentially about the experience of moving through it.

A few thoughts on the show:

  • It's about sculpture alone, so it doesn't seem to be a true retrospective (I think my first Serra love object was a black paint stick drawing).
  • Oddly, the exhibition doesn't include still or moving images of important work missing here, and this is an artist who makes much of the importance of specific sites for his sculpture.
  • There's not much really new; Serra is doing what he knows and what the public has finally come to like.
  • Don't miss looking straight up when you first enter the gallery rooms on the sixth floor.
  • I haven't decided whether the bird mess [white flecks on the third image above] on the pieces outside is a net plus or minus.
  • The latest work, installed on the second floor, is very, very big. I worry about filling our flat files, and we can't afford to rotate work hanging on our walls; don't I covet just a corner of his storage space!
  • This sculpture is very photogenic; I would love to be let loose with my camera in the interior galleries: minimal sculpture for minimal photography.
  • Favorites? "Sequence", from 2006 is great fun, because the course through its inside circuit seems endless (the piece looks great in the overhead shot printed in the show's brochure), but I really love the lead pieces from 1969-1970, and then there's the mid-70's "Delineator", which almost makes me swoon.




four details of Dan Perjovschi's drawings, the third taken through an opening in the wall on MoMA's third floor

In spite of their seriousness and the pain they evoke, the humor and compassion of Dan Perjovschi's delicate childlike drawings in the atrium at the Museum of Modern Art are totally infectious and, perhaps surprisingly, a great use of this huge space. It's interesting that the gargantuan works of Richard Serra are installed elsewhere in the building.

Barry loves the "no smoking" symbol on the tank turret.

Perjovschi's entire piece is titled, "What Happened to US?", touching on responsibilities both personal and corporate. I'm very sorry we missed the two-week performance, his installation of the work.

Fiona Banner Nude Standing 2006 pencil on paper 106.25" x 69.25" [installation view]


I spotted this drawing by Fiona Banner from the floor of the atrium space at MoMA yesterday. It's hanging on the third floor and part of it can be seen through a cutout in the wall. It's a very beautiful thing, a new acquisition for the Museum, but I'm not surprised that I was attracted to it, because of what I had seen the last time I saw the artist's work. Here is a 2006 post.

Please excuse the imperfect image (although MoMA's own is even less adequate, and the reflections on the plexiglas here do seem to add another level of mystery to the work).

This page is an archive of entries in the Culture category from June 2007.

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