Culture: May 2009 Archives

". . . she certainly was then quite completely interesting." [from the dialogue]

It's an exquisite recreation of one of her most abstract texts. Target Margin Theater's powerful production of Gertrude Stein's "A Family of Perhaps Three" continues at the Chocolate Factory on June 3rd, 4th, 5th and 6th. David Herskovits, the founder and artistic director of Target Margin, directs, and the small cast is superb. It includes Chinasa Ogbuagu, Allison Schubert and Indika Senanayake. The sets and costumes (Lenore Doxsee) are minimal, beautiful and supplely evocative, and the sound design (Jim "Sneaky" Breitmeier) is brilliant and completely articulate. We love the "Sound Demon", Caroline Kaplan, and I know I must be leaving a number of people out.

"A Family of Perhaps Three" is just one of a group of plays in the company's current series, called "Theater of Tomorrow", exploring the early twentieth-century roots of the American avant-garde theater with works by Stein, Zora Neale Hurston, Eugene O’Neill, Edna St. Vincent Millay and E.E. Cummings.

After exactly a century, Gertrude Stein's most revolutionary work remains famously unread, as it always has been. For most people, her work has always been approached, and treasured, as an impression (sometimes a totem, sometimes a joke) more than an actual presence.

Of course there's "The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas by Gertrude Stein", the most un-Gertrude Stein of all her works, and which has never gone out of print. I read it and Toklas's own autobiography fairly early, but eventually I decided I needed to know what it was that made Stein's prose seem to drive so many people crazy. More to the point, was there anything there when you got there? Was it really unreadable? I had to give it a chance, perhaps just because it was too big to ignore.

I actually made it through "Three Lives" and a good part of "The Making of Americans" while still in college and grad school in the 1960's, so I have an answer: No, it's not unreadable. It's an awesome experience if you can make it through the text; the effect may be a little mind-altering (but unlike chemical stimulants, it demands some concentration if you want to get through it). My answer has to be qualified however: Stein may not be for everyone. In the interest of full disclosure, I've always been a big fan of confounding art forms, including cubist visual art and theater, and I've adored John Cage for half a century. I've also enjoyed my share of some of the milder stimulants closely identified with the counter-culture born in the early years of my majority, so you probably can't take my word alone for a prediction of the pleasure of a Stein immersion.

But you won't have to read anything to prepare for "A Family of Perhaps Three". It will tell you a lot about the author and why she is still revolutionary, but you'll probably want to hit one of the books after you've seen the play, even if only to check out what the sensation feels like in print.

I've just read a part of the text of the play [available here] and I now realize the miracle of what this company has accomplished in its collaboration with the author. Gertrude Stein's language came to life last night. I'd go back again if we weren't going to be out of the city this weekend

Don't miss out on it. I know the idea of Queens [the borough, that is] may be scary for some, but the location, the time commitment and the cost of tickets presents absolutely no barrier to a terrific evening of theater: The little building is only steps from the #7 train's first stop in Long Island City, it's only one hour long, the price is $15, and once you're there you'll find yourself in the midst of a healthy new pub and restaurant scene for discussions with friends before or after the play.

[image of Chinasa Ogbuagu from Yi Zhao]

Bill Mutter Bunny Boy, Devil Boy, Pinnochio Girl (dates unknown) ceramic sculptures, dimensions variable [installation view]

I think what you see above was the most intense image I carried home in my head from the opening of "Then and Now" at the LGBT Center last night. For the longest moment, when I spotted them just as I reached the busy stair landing where these smallish (2 1/2 to 3 1/2 feet tall) figures were installed in a corner to the left, I was still almost totally distracted by a conversation with Barry about an installation we'd just seen. I absolutely didn't know what I was looking at for a few seconds, but I remember I was almost giddy with delight and at the same time a little unbalanced by their suggestion of some kind of horror.

They seem to be children in halloween costumes, but the members of this little band clearly represent some kind of outsiders, especially when seen in the context of the building where they've been assembled, although in fact, like all the undisguised queers they seem to represent, they would be outsiders virtually anywhere.

I know little more about the artist than what I learned from this link, and in the last paragraph of this 1987 New York Times review of a group show.

What follows are images of a few of the other works installed on 13th Street, some of it from the 1989 "The Center Show" show and some of it chosen by the artists in that show for inclusion in this one. All works dated "1989" are works installed twenty years ago.

Gran Fury RIOT 1989 acrylic on canvas

fierce pussy [title not supplied] 2009 black and white xeroxed posters on wall, dimensions variable [large detail of installation inside a multiple-toilet room marked "ALL GENDERS" on the door]

Leon Golub Heretic's Fork 1989 oil on wall [installation view]

Nancy Spero Elegy 1989 acrylic on wall [installation view]

Tre Chandler A narrative of ga(y)zes 2009, 90 ink on paper drawings; 10 ink on paper post-its, dimensions variable [large detail of installation]

Stephen Lack Boy on Wall 1989 oil on wall [large detail of installation]

sculptor David Lukowski warming up for tomorrow's play

For twelve hours tomorrow, beginning at noon a group of 30 or so scrappy artists will be putting on their own show, "Playing Through", in an enormous, huge-windowed 16,000 square foot indoor space in Sunset Park, Brooklyn, just above the docks (55 33rd Street).

They describe it as an extensive mini golf course, but much more, a "carnival extravaganza". The announcement continues:

We are eliminating greens fees and assembling a full food court featuring many local vendors. There will be a cotton candy machine and a popcorn waterfall. The course will have roaming beverage cart service. Nightfall will see the musical stage come to life, with several bands performing. In these tough economic times we're taking care of you with an entire day of free entertainment for everyone on the Brooklyn waterfront.

As Barry writes in his blog today, we definitely hope to stop by. The concept, and the creative energy involved, would be more than enough, but the list of artists (some emerging and some quite visible), many of whose work we know and some we have written about, virtually guarantees excitement. Barry:

I was told by one of the organizers that they wanted to use an event like this to introduce the artists working there to the broader community. I particularly like the fact that they have fliers in English and Spanish!

The space is only about four blocks from the D,M,N and R (36th Street station). Here are the other details, on flyers in each language:


[first image via The Brooklyn Paper, the other two from Playing Through]

with good in one hand

and evil in the other

Barry and I happened to be visiting the Metropolitan's newly-reworked American Wing on the same day the California Supremes announced their decision on queer marriage. There didn't seem to be one jot of a connection between the two events when we started out, but I eventually manged to find one.

I spent much more time with the nineteenth-century sculptures in the glass court than I might normally have expected to because we were with the artist Sarah Peters, whose work has been inspired by the milieu in which these earlier American masters flourished, and by their skills, although she finds her own space in interpreting that world anew and commenting on what the artist and his/her contemporaries thought of it through her own drawings and sculpture.

I was also eager to investigate what had inspired Holland Cotter's terrific piece on the galleries which appeared in the Times last Thursday.

The female nude by Hiram Powers, intended as a California allegory, attracted my attention primarily for the odd props the figure was holding, especially the divining rod which she grasped so demurely before her smoothed pudendum. My mind jumped back to the news of the day when I read the note on the museum card, which reads in part:

Inspired by the California Gold Rush of 1849, Powers devised the following program for this allegorical figure: ". . . an Indian woman . . . stands in a reserved and guarded posture and with a watchful expression, holding the divining rod in her left, and pointing with it down to the earth, under a large quartz crystal, which supports the figure on the right. Quartz is the matrix of gold and the divining rod is the miner's wand, or the sceptre of 'California' . . . In the right hand, which is held behind, there is a branch of thorns, to finish the allegory for she is the miner's goddess, or 'Fortune,' and as it is usual to represent the Goddess 'Fortune' with good in one hand and evil in the other [my italics], by suitable emblems I have done so with 'California,' and the moral is that all is not gold that glitters. . . ."

What California gives, she also taketh away - sorta, sometimes, possibly only for a while. Maybe the queers will eventually make out, er, . . . that is, within a structure certified by the state.

BTW, it would certainly help if we could remember to call it "civil marriage" rather than "marriage", which in this benighted land always means religion is involved. That way we might be able to get the folks over 30 to go along with the concept.

For those still interested in the allegory with which I started this post, here's "California" in full figure:

Hiram Powers California 1850–55 (this carving, 1858) marble 71" x 18.25" x 24.75"

[third image from Metropolitan Museum of Art]




I've seen it described as his masterpiece; it's almost certainly his most personal, exuberant and uninhibited expression of pure sexual jouissance.

Twenty years ago today Keith Haring finished his men's room mural, "Once Upon A Time", on the second floor of the LGBT Community Center on West 13th Street. Then he signed and dated it. The detail shots above show that it remains there today, pretty much as he left it, with one important exception: The ancient toilet fixtures and partitions which brought both great relief and great joy to the building's habitues over the years have long since been ripped out. Sadly, the room appears to have fallen into desuetude.

But, wait, is that actually a conference table I see in the picture below?


While Haring's room-size installation may have been the most extravagant, it was just one of many works included in The Center Show [see video], organized in 1989 to celebrate the 20th anniversary of Stonewall. These additional artists included, among others, Leon Golub, David LaChapelle, Barbara Sandler, Kenny Scharf, Nancy Spero, and George Whitman, and much of their work remains inside this amazing, reinvented 165-year-old school building today, continuing to enrich the dynamic energy it both encourages and shelters.

The Center is putting on a show again this year. It's entitled "Then and Now", and it's intended to commemorate the 1989 events with a new installation by a new catalog of artists, although without the permanent, applied-directly-to-the-walls part of the original. It opens tomorrow, May 28, with a free reception from 6:30 to 8:30, and it will remain installed throughout the summer.

The artists invited this time around are:

Trisha Baga, The Brainstormers, Ian Campbell, Tre Chandler, Chi Peng, Abby Denson, fierce pussy, Daphne Fitzpatrick, Lola Flash, Alex Golden, Rory Golden, James Kaston, Jillian McDonald, Bill Mutter, Deirdre O'Dwyer, James Rohmberger, Jamel Shabazz, Nathaniel A. Siegel, Lori Taschler, Wu Ingrid Tsang, Forrest Williams, and Sarah Nelson Wright

Carrie Moyer Ballet Mécanique 2008 acrylic, glitter on canvas 80" x 60"

[detail (yeah, that's real sparkle dust)]

Carrie Moyer First Instance acrylic, glitter on canvas 60" x 40"

I thought we had gotten to the gallery pretty early in the show's run, one week after it had opened, but when Barry and I started talking to others about the brilliant, glittering canvases in "Arcana", Carrie Moyer's show at CANADA it seemed that everyone we knew had already seen it. What was also immediately clear was the fact that everyone really liked it, so this short post of images is really for those who haven't yet been on lower Chrystie Street this month, and for those outside of the city who will miss it altogether.

Suzanne Thorpe and Philip White created "Balancing Act", a psychoacoustic composition which related the list of the ship to the location of the listener on the cabin deck

Richard Garet's "Inner-Outer" harmonized a video projection of the abstract, crystalline effect of light reflections bouncing on the water's surface with a sound collage of recordings made underwater

with "Underfoot", Melissa Clarke, Ben Owen and Shimpei Takeda recreated the Hudson River bed within the ship's bowels, using projections, sound, reflective materials composed of geographical data, and light

Bart Bridge Woodstrup's "Gathering Lore", set up on the ship's bridge, was a weather station which translated current meteorological conditions into sound

Jessica Feldman's evocative piece, "Sirens", heard throughout the ship, and beyond, reflected the ship's original function, warning sailors, simultaneously playing with the natural seductive quality of sound

It's not often that I get a chance to post my own images from my experience of a musical performance. Even if it might be better described as a musical "installation", my ears and my camera both delighted in "Sound in the Frying Pan", a remarkable project put together this past weekend by the Electronic Music Foundation in and on the "Frying Pan", a historic decommissioned lightship moored in the Hudson River at the end of 26th Street. What you see above are a just a few bits from my collection of visual takes on the five separate site-specific compositions created by the artists or artist-collaboratives who worked on this quite literally "phenomenal" sound project, curated by Suzanne Thorpe.

This post, because of the images, may seem to be as much about the "Frying Pan" as is about the music, but I've been to the ship before* and yesterday it wasn't only the squeaking of its old metal plates that I heard as it rolled gently alongside the dock, although that sound accompanied the ensemble introduced both above and below its decks; yesterday the old barnacle-encrusted veteran actually sang.

beginning in September 2000, in the halcyon days before Bush 2, with the appearance of Miss Kittin in the program, "BATOFAR: NEW FRENCH ELECTRONICA"

[the images are mine, but the captions are partly borrowed from the press release]

preparing for the ArtBaselMiamiDocumentaSiteSantaFeWhitneyBiennaleVeneziaNadaPulseScope Fair

The SchroRoWinkleFeuerBooneWildenRosenGosian Gallery, a combined project of guest curators Jennifer Dalton and William Powhida, is currently installed in the Schroeder Romero Project Space. The title of the show is, technically, "Art-Pocalypto 2012". It's a very successful and extremely funny satirical take on a familiar art market, one which was marked by the extraordinary extravagance of the recent past but which feels more like it's in the midst of a death watch in the present. The artists have created this remarkable space as both a combined real and virtual representation of the fictional skeletal remains of the entire "fabled Chelsea at district" as they imagine it will look in the year 2012.

Excerpts from the press release:

Since the gallery is one of the only outlets for contemporary art related products remaining in New York’s fabled Chelsea art district, we will be exhibiting artworks by whoever we want.

As everyone knows by now, artists have not been able to produce any new art since the crash of 2009 due to shortages of art supplies as well as basic necessities. Dalton and Powhida will therefore be exhibiting 8" × 10" printouts of our very large stable of artists' pre-crash greatest hits which will be laminated on-demand. Make our day and ask if they are archival, that word helps us remember what used to pass for problems back in the day.

. . . .

Prints will be on sale for the low price of $500,000*. If we are lucky and supplies are available, we hope to be able to print in color. However, if we run out of fuel for the generator, the co-curators will make themselves available on selected Saturday hours to copy images by hand. Since child labor was decriminalized last year, we might even have the kids help out! You'd be surprised what they'll do for a cracker. Actually, by now you probably wouldn't.

And save the date! SchroRoWinkleFeuerBooneWildenRosenGosian Gallery will be exhibiting at ArtBaselMiamiDocumentaSiteSantaFeWhitneyBiennaleVeneziaNadaPulseScope this December.

*This is $20 in Spring 2009 dollars.

In schedules which slightly overlapped with SRWFBWRG, the two curators each enjoyed individual shows, in neighboring galleries, and neither was unrelated to their collaborative piece. In a show which closed at Winkleman last Saturday Dalton revisited her 1999 "The Appraisal" project with "The Reappraisal", in the hope of learning something about herself and her lifestyle through an investigation into the different dollar values very different authorities might attach to both. Powhida's delightfully messy installation at Schroeder Romero, "The Writing is on the Wall", is also something of a memoir, but of a more conventional sort, employing as it does both text and drawings, although for sure nothing about this artist can ever be described as conventional. Well, he is representing it as having been written "sometime in late 2009".

Jennifer Dalton puts all her stuff on the block [tiny detail of installation]

[detail of above]

a section of William Powhida's personal chronology [detail of drawing in installation]







My visit to Franklin Evan's studio at the Marie Walsh Sharpe Art Foundation Open Studios left me speechless, and that's pretty much how I remain today, so these images will have to mostly represent themselves.

But I will say that the room never left my mind's eye. It's the one image I've been carrying around with me ever since, and through all the personal and cultural distractions of the last two and a half weeks it's the thing I've most wanted to sit down and put up on this blog. I uncovered many other delights that day, but the total environment Evans had created in a real working space would have been unique in any company, and it was as awesomely smart as it was incredibly gorgeous.

Barry and myself have both been fascinated with Evans's painting/drawing (and his curating) for years, and while I've always thought he was a creative treasure working, remarkably, under many people's radar, I think that with this newest work he's onto something which can't be ignored, regardless of whether the viewer can share the intellectual complexity of the artist's conceit.

Jessica Cannon The Blinding 2008 gouache on paper 9" x 12" (13" x 16" x 1" framed)

Pamela Jordan Unititled 2006 oil on linen 21" x 21"

Eric Heist Untitled (Megachurch) 2007 gouache on paper 22" x 30"

Paul Mpagi Sepuya Self-portrait with John 2005 C-print 10" x 8" (edition 2 of 3)

Not satisfied with seeing them only online, Barry and I finally got to see the actual works available in the fifth annual BAMart Silent Auction last night. Having headed off to Fort Greene for the benefit party held in the lobby of the historic Brooklyn Academy of Music, we found ourselves surrounded by the art and a huge crowd of very enthusiastic patrons - of all ages.

The list has been very smartly curated once again, but this year represents something of a change in that many more emerging and local Brooklyn artists have been included than before. The expectation is that the event will be energized with the infusion of larger numbers of emerging and artists related to the community. Judging form the attendance and the activity at the computer stations in the room last night that bet seemed to be paying off already.

I looked at the list this afternoon however and I saw that on most items there's still a lot of room left between the minimum bids and estimated values. Even though I know a lot of passionate people generally wait until the last moment [the auction closes Monday night at 8] to enter these "competitions", there are now and should remain some terrific opportunities on every donor/purchase level. I've included a few images here only to show a bit of the range; You can be an art lover and a patron for only a few hundred dollars, and I probably only have to mention in passing that there's also a Rauschenberg print, a great, still-affordable Louise Bourgeois edition which has already generously exceeded its estimate, an Alex Katz print, a Chuck Close photo diptych, a Don Baechler gouache and collage, and an exquisite Malick Sidibé multimedia piece.

Visit the benefit site for more information, including a funny how-to-bid-online-video from Andrew Andrew, and a complete catalog of the more than 150 works available.

[image of Eric Heist drawing from ArtNet; all others from BAMarts]


two pieces by Gabriel J. Shuldiner from the Parsons MFA show

[large detail of the triptych, from the side]

I wandered over to the Kitchen Thursday evening for the opening reception of the Parsons MFA Fine Arts Thesis Exhibition, here I saw these two works by Gabriel J. Shuldiner displayed. The triptych represents an interesting and significant departure from Shuldiner's work I'd seen recently. Much of it was closer to the first image shown above.

There's a lot of noise in the image of the triptych; it was very difficult to get a good picture of it. Even though it was hung just left of the other piece, its lighting was very different from the other, pretty weird, it turns out. So you'll have to take my word for it: the surfaces of both works are very, very black, except for the irregular appearance of an underlay of emergency-orange paint on the first, paint which also covers the glass bottle neck projecting from its wonderful muck and which is responsible for the light cast on the walls wherever it appears on the deep side panels of both. Also, when you're standing in front of it the pitch-black surfaces of the triptych look more like a stretched, pleated bolt of rich mourning silk than dried paint.

The room was really hot and very crowded, and there was a tiny black kitten in the immediate vicinity, so I forgot to get a picture of the label with the details of either piece. They are both approximately three feet high and, if I remember correctly, the lengthy list of elements describing the medium of each begins with "modified acrylic polymer emulsion".

There is a lot of good work, in every medium, being shown by the twenty-one artists in this exhibition. It continues continues through May 16. The full list includes Emil Bakalli, Angela Basile, Michael Caines, Wai-Yam Cheng, Rebecca Curry, Matthew de Leon, Benjamin Finer, Jana Flynn, James Harley, Kyoung Eun Kang, Antoine Lefebvre, Seyhan Musaoglu, Mary Nangah, Jess Ramsay, Caitlin Rueter, Gabriel J. Shuldiner, Suzanne Stroebe, Lars van Dooren, Nikita Vishnevskiy, Genevieve White, and Stephen Wilson.

Ian Pedigo Untitled 2006 collage 13.25" x 13.25" [installation view]

Ours were the 33rd names (I had checked off the works on the list as they were picked) to be drawn at the Momenta Benefit Wednesday night, but Barry and I still managed to get our first pick, a choice made incredibly difficult, almost unnecessary, by the quality of the art which had been donated this year.

We've been big fans of Ian Pedigo's art (sculptures, collages and prints) for years, so we were very excited about finally being able to go home with one of his works.

Now we're going to have to decide how to show it on our walls, since with this particular piece the argument about whether to hang simply or protect with a fame is more critical than it is normally: The projecting points of the thin, color-backed sheet of aluminum foil at the bottom don't quite lie still.

The party was great fun, and we hope it turns into a huge success for Momenta. Sarah Meltzer's multi-level space was a dream location, and she and everyone else connected with the event should be thanked for their generosity.

large detail of one of the four walls of artist-donated art installed at Momenta last week

Tonight is the night of the Momenta Art annual benefit party, and we've just learned that there are still a few tickets left. The event, which includes a raffle and a live auction, will be held at the Sara Meltzer Gallery in Chelsea this year (525-531 West 26th Street). The works can be seen there all afternoon today, beginning just about now, as I'm publishing this post, at twelve. The party begins at five, the live auction starts at 6:30pm, and the raffle will follow that.

I've said it before, but it's worth repeating: This artist-run non-profit space based in Williamsburg is absolutely as good as they come; they totally deserve and definitely can use our support. Having stopped by their space when the curated donations were first displayed I can say that this year the work looks even better than what we've seen in the past, and for those who have heard me talk about it before, that's saying a lot.

A $225 ticket gets two people in for free food and drink, and you also get to walk out with a terrific work of art!

The number of tickets is limited by the number of works available (approximately 130 or 140), and as of this writing at least, there are still slots available. Go on line from the Momenta site to get one or more tickets through PayPal. You may also call the gallery at 718-218-8058 for more information.

Even if you aren't able to get to the scene inside Sara Meltzer's great space, you can still order tickets and arrange for a proxy to make your selection from among the items in the raffle.

This page is an archive of entries in the Culture category from May 2009.

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