Recently in NYC Category


It was conceived as an important visual document, accessible to the public and to institutions, which would describe the faces of a community and a moment whose memory is already fading from our consciousness.

The Kickstarter for the project needs a real boost as it winds down now, with less than three days to go. If the book doesn't get published, I think it will be a genuine loss for activism today.

Of course if it does get published, it won't mean a cure for AIDS. Also, to be sure, "The AIDS activist project: A new book of portraits of AIDS activists from around the globe" is not a vanity project for the artist, Bill Bytsura, or for those members of the historical ACT UP whose beautiful portraits will be a part of it.

Its importance is greater than the authors of the project or the subjects included in the book.

Pictures are important for understanding a past and inspiring a future, but pictures assembled in a context are still more important, and take on a life of their own. ACT UP was a movement which exploded in the late 80s, and burgeoned through half of the next decade, responding creatively, and often heroically, to a life and death crisis which was being ignored by an establishment which appeared to be unmovable.

Its people and the community they formed, along with the AIDS crisis which galvanized them, may be ancient history to a generation struggling today worldwide with an indifference among the powerful arguably even broader in scale - if, perhaps, less deadly. There is much to be gained today from looking at the devices employed, their successes - along with their failures, by a movement which flourished twenty and more years back. There's also the courage and nobility of so many of its members, and the anger and the love which was always a part of the movement.

Bytsura's book would give a face to an entire generation of activists (although in fact people of all ages were included in its membership), and it could serve an entire new generation as both muster to resistance, and powerful inspiration for effective resistance. Please help to breathe life into it, and consider contributing to its publication.


Full disclosure: Billy has been a friend since the days of ACT UP at it peak, and Barry and I have several of his beautiful non-activist photographs in our collection. There is also this portrait of a very young me, at 50, in 1990.

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Yesterday we visited the first part of the third and final stage of New York City's richest park, the High Line. We went with a Berlin friend who is visiting New York to attend a tech design conference and was very eager to see it. In fact, I think it was the only thing he had mentioned when we asked what he would like to do while here. Berlin has an enormous amount of green space, and Nico, who has been to New York before, knows the poverty of our own.

There was a light drizzle all afternoon, which may explain my reluctance to capture more images than that of this faux-naturalistic arrangement of wild flowers somewhere above the tracks.

I generally love the rain, so the dampness probably can't explain my mild melancholy as we traced our path north above our neighborhood, starting at the 18th Street stairs. The number of new high-rise luxury apartments (they're always 'luxury apartments', aren't they?) which continue to spring up barely a few feet away from the re-conceived elevated garden path has always depressed me. Even before spotting the latest crop yesterday I had wondered, and only half in jest, when we would reach the critical mass which would block the sun altogether, preventing anything, even its iconic weeds, from surviving on what the New York Times calls "the cherished cause of Western Manhattanites".

Then I saw, straight ahead, the wall of the enormous under-construction high-rise which looms above the park exactly where it abruptly turns toward west, at 30th Street. We turned and walked toward the Hudson River, soon clearing its mass. The view was then completely open in that direction, as well as north to 34th Street and the Javits Convention Center, and even far to the east (especially once we arrived where the section curves to the north), above what had once been the West Side Yard. Open, that is, for now. Parts of the yards have already been covered in steel and concrete, in anticipation of the Hudson Yards Redevelopment Project, an enormous corporate investment for 'developing' the former rail yards with high rises. Some of the buildings planned will apparently rival the height of the Empire State Building, already beginning to take a back seat to the developments on 57th Street.

The platform of the Hudson Yards Project will be at the same height as our much-vaunted 'aerial greenway', and the new buildings will actually present the only views available from this third section of the park - except for the window to the west, toward the Hudson, between 30th and 34th streets (the proximity of the West Wide Highway and Hudson River Park would seem to ensure that view at least remains).

The best part about the new section? I would say it's the fact that, in its more natural-looking state, it really is, more than the first two sections do, a bit more like what attracted people to the abandoned West Side Line in the first place.

The worst part? The certain knowledge that much of what makes it special now will be reduced, co-opted by the capitalist greed which cynically adopted the park in the end.

Also, for me this paragraph is probably the brightest section of the Times story linked in the third paragraph above [neither the Mayor nor his parks commissioner attended last month's formal opening of the section]:

Mr. de Blasio, a Brooklynite who prefers the scruffier fields of Prospect Park, is less focused on forging new urban green space than on reviving old ones. He has called for wealthy private conservancies -- similar to the one that oversees the High Line -- to share financial resources with impoverished parks around the city.

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untitled (kale wave) 2013


I saw this wave of ornamental kale assembled inside the pedestrianized area of Broadway just to the east of the Flatiron Building today, and snapped this picture with my phone camera. The little guys were waiting to be distributed around the neighborhood, where they will be transplanted into large pots or sidewalk cuts, usually at the base of a small tree. One of New York's ways of recognizing the arrival of fall is to replace the flowering plants which had graced the streets during the summer (yeah, things certainly have changed around here since the 70s and early 80s).

I love kale, and I think I appreciate the ornamental kind almost as well, but I can never quite empty my head of the knowledge that even these plants are actually quite edible. In a pinch they could ward off starvation, but lets hope it won't be a long hard winter.

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untitled (rebar) 2013


The "pond", of which only a part is shown above, is actually a flooded (and abandoned?) construction site in Williamsburg, at the SE corner of Berry and N 12 St.. A pair of ducks, and some weeds waving in the breeze, supplied the only movement seen that afternoon.


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The end of our ArtCat Calendar, a project which Barry and I began eight years ago, whose mechanics he has pursued with great skill, generous commitment, and much love, was announced this morning on Twitter, in emails, and in a post which he published on Bloggy.com. I have reprinted that post below.


The first version of ArtCat calendar (then called ArtCal) launched in November 2004. I wrote the first version in one weekend, to make it easier for James and me to keep track of shows we wanted to see, especially once Chelsea reached 300 galleries. For a long time it was a minimal website with locations, shows, and their dates -- not even images. Over time I added images, iCal and RSS feeds, and a weekly newsletter.

Over 16,000 exhibitions at more than 2,000 venues have appeared on ArtCat. We average 200-300 current exhibitions on the site. While forms for galleries to add their exhibits have existed since late 2010, we still view each submission to approve it, for quality control and to prevent duplicates. That is the most time-consuming part of running the site. We also spend a lot of time processing corrections due to galleries submitting new version of press releases, or correcting typos and erroneously-submitted dates.

Advertising revenue, even if one assumes my time is free, does not currently cover the cost of hosting the site plus paying someone to help me with approving submissions and responding to corrections. The calendar does serve as promotion for ArtCat Hosting, but the value of that, versus having more time to improve ArtCat Hosting, is unclear. Most of my hosting clients do not mention the calendar when signing up.

Advertising revenue has averaged $250/month over the last year, primarily due to the support of Storefront Bushwick and Deborah Brown. Other advertisers have included Theodore:Art and Kianga Ellis Projects. Note that all of these are Brooklyn-based. Since I ended the Culture Pundits advertising network, there have been no advertisements from a Chelsea or Lower East Side gallery. During the entire 4 1/2 year run of Culture Pundits, only two commercial galleries in New York advertised with the network.

Charging for listings, for a calendar that wants to maintain quality and promote underknown artists and galleries, is a non-starter. It is apparent to me, after eight years, that there is no financial support for an art calendar of this kind.

I don't have the resources and time to continue to run the calendar by myself in its current form. I am spread too thinly to do a good job of running ArtCat, improving ArtCat Hosting, promoting and publishing IDIOM, documenting our art collection, and actually getting out to see art. Of course, I also have to make a living through my freelance work. My goal is to narrow the focus of my work I do within the art world, and do one or two things very well, rather than provide lesser versions of many things. As the wonderful Michael Mandiberg pointed out here, there are limits to one's time/labor/capital and it's healthy to move one when the time feels right.

I will convert the site to an archive as of January 1, 2013. If someone is interested in the code and data (it is a Ruby on Rails 2.3 application), I'm ready to talk. The ArtCat name and domain will stay with me, as I own the trademark for it, to be used specifically for my art website hosting business.

If you would like to express your gratitude in some way, please consider a tax-deductible donation to IDIOM.


Please think about how, with even a modest amount of support, you might help IDIOM continue to publish and flourish. Thank you.

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Installation view of a portion of the collection installed in the apartment, with works by David Reed (center), James Wagner (to the left). Photo by Fette


Chris Harding of English Kills Art Gallery has selected 48 works from our art collection, and will be showing them at his gallery in Bushwick, 9/21-10/28. Please join us at the opening, or come see it one weekend while it's up.


The press release:

English Kills Art Gallery has installed a few dozen works from the Hoggard Wagner Art Collection in an exhibition which opens with a reception this Friday, September 21, 2012 from 7 to 10 pm.

Barry Hoggard and James Wagner, who share an interest in all of the arts, have assembled a large, very personal and extremely diverse collection of visual art begun modestly by Wagner ten years before the two met in 1991.

They began by acquiring a few works to enjoy in their own home, but very soon realized that part of that enjoyment came from supporting artists, galleries and non-profits which they believed should be encouraged. They were concerned, however, that there are limits to the number of people who could see the work they took into their home (and only a fraction of the collection can actually be displayed there). It was largely to make it accessible to as many people as possible, and for information purposes, that they created the Hoggard/Wagner Collection website.

For the same reason, the couple enthusiastically agreed to the suggestion of English Kills that a part of the collection itself be installed in Bushwick for six weeks. The Gallery alone is responsible for the choice of works displayed; the selection was made from among the 300+ pieces visible on the walls and surfaces of their home. There are approximately 600 more in flat files.

Hoggard and Wagner have never sold a single work from the collection and they do not intend to do so. No sale of any kind is involved in the English Kills exhibition.

Artists include*: Nancy Spero, Keith Haring, David Reed, Wolfgang Tillmans, Clement Valla, Eric Doeringer, Sharon Louden, Felix Droese, Jules de Balincourt, Marco Breuer, Tom Fuhs, Bryan Zimmerman, Yasser Aggour, Michael J. Dvorkin, Deborah Mesa-Pelly, Jason Simon, Louise Fishman, Clarina Bezzola, Michael Meads, Mike Asente, Tracey Baran, Teresa Moro, Jaishri Abichandani, Rupert Deese, Alejandro Diaz, David Humphrey, Matt Dojny, Dan Golden, Gregory Botts, Rochelle Feinstein, Robert Wilson, Hiroshi Sunairi, Charles Goldman, Michael Williams, Wijnanda Deroo, Amy Feldman, Janine Gordon, Joe Ovelman, Kim Schifino, Joyce Pensato, Bruce High Quality Foundation, Margaret Lee, Ben Godward, Kiki Smith


*NOT INCLUDED in the list on the press release is the creator of this work, an artist whose name is currently unknown to us. Come see the show and help us to identify her or him. An image of the work is shown below.


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untitled (red tracers) 2012


Last night I accompanied Barry to the Gotham Ruby Conference (GORUCO) afterparty. I was his arm candy, we explained to anyone who asked about my [technical] orientation. It was a beautiful night to be on the water, with a quarter moon above and under our feet a boat filled with some very nice and very smart people (including some real eye candy of all kinds). When we neared the Statue of Liberty the skies exploded in a terrific fireworks display set off from a barge anchored just off Ellis Island. Although this is the weekend of the 43rd anniversary of Stonewall, the occasion, and the sponsor, of these particular pyrotechnics was actually The B.I.G. Celebration.

I captured some more conventional shots, but this is the one which captured me, and it needed no Photoshopping. Fireworks are abstractions anyway; that's why most of us prefer them to bombs.

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ADDENDUM: May Day 2012 actions specific to, or related to, OWS Arts & Labor initiatives


It's in the nature of these events that not everything planned around them can, or should, be known in advance, but the OccupyWallStreet site has extensive information on both 'permitted' and 'unpermitted' actions anticipated in New York City this Tuesday, May Day 2012.

It also includes a link to known actions in some 125 cities around the country.

I don't have a link for actions outside the U.S., but there is this link to an interactive map showing 1400 Occupations across the globe.

All of this of course is just for starters. Expect a very interesting day. The 1% is on the run.


[I can't credit the origin of the flier I photographed and uploaded here, except to describe it as the most minimal - and commanding - of several available in one of the cooler galleries participating in the very cool Dependent Art Fair two months ago]

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adding them up


Today marks the end of a full decade for this blog.

As I have been more than a little slow in posting over the past year (probably from having discovered more of the outside world - and of course Twitter), I felt I didn't deserve a real number on this anniversary; instead of a 10 I've gone for three numbers which add up to 10.

I can't predict what, or how much, will show up in the blog over the next year, but It's not going away. In the meantime this is a brief description of its history, in pretty much the same words I used a year ago:


The blog began when, finding myself totally frustrated with the idiocy and brutishness of my country's response to the events of September 11 and feeling almost totally isolated in my disgust, I started sending a series of emails to people I knew well, sharing my thoughts and my anger. A few months later I started jameswagner.com, intending it to be a more structured - and more widely broadcast - form for the kinds of unelicited rants with which I had been testing the patience of my friends. It was also intended to include ruminations on subjects in which I thought others might share my interest.

Almost from the start there were entries on politics, the arts, queerdom, history, New York and the world, and within a year they began to be accompanied by images and photographs. Many of the latter have been my own.


April 27 is another anniversary for me, much more precious and infinitely more important than the launch of this modest little blog: I met Barry, my perfect partner in everything (and Wunderkind webmaster) exactly twenty one-years ago today.


[the image is that of the modernist numbers above one of the entrances of the building two doors down from us, a very sturdy structure which incidentally houses the National Office of the American Communist Party USA]

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the Karsan V1, with just about everything going for it, really would be the 'Taxi of Tomorrow'


Although the very modern, beautifully-designed, extraordinarily-roomy and fully-accessible Karsan V1 was hailed by New Yorkers (65.5 percent of those polled) as their favorite "Taxi of Tomorrow", the city ended up choosing the least popular entry, the hideous Nissan NV 200, to which Motor Trend's Frank Morris referred, somewhat generously, as "a dorky looking van that's being converted to taxi duty".

New York City initiated the competition in 2007 to find a replacement for the unmourned, unlovely, and antediluvian Ford Crown Victoria. Its Dearborn manufacturer had announced that it would discontinue the vehicle by 2012; otherwise, it's likely we would still be enduring its discomforts and its aesthetic and environmental assaults decades from now, even though it was based on an automobile platform first introduced in 1978.

As it had with the proposals it sought and received for the reconstruction of the World Trade Center site, the city ended up ignoring the results of its own vaunted "Taxi of Tomorrow" contest: In the end it settled on the one design most people didn't like; it was also the design which least satisfied the requirements of the commission.

While the Nissan was certainly the most conservative response to an important challenge, in the end it will prove to have been the most impractical choice, and therefore the most radical, given the parameters of the search: Of the three finalists it responds the least well to current taxi needs, and its environmental and accessibility inadequacies, among others, will look be even more grotesque as time goes by. In picking the barely-adequate, ungainly and unlovely Nissan "they" struck out once more, embarrassing New Yorkers who actually care about the city's ability to get things right (both better than and before others do, if possible). And then there are the aesthetics: The brutal, armored-truck lines of the obscene American SUV fetish object seems to have inured even certain New Yorkers to the gross plug-ugliness of this vehicle.

For what it's worth (and in a supposedly post-industrial and post-Wall Street world i think it's worth a lot) the Karsan is the only vehicle of the three finalists which would have been manufactured in the U.S. To be specific, it would have been assembled in the home country, Brooklyn (Sunset Park).

In an article today, the New York Times doesn't seem quite persuaded by Nissan or the New York City Taxi and Limousine Commission that a hired French designer can tart it up enough with a special horn, speckled flooring, and altered paint color to get us to think of the bulky Nissan NV 200 as their promised "Taxi of Tomorrow". I don't believe New Yorkers, or at least those paying attention, will buy it, but then I think of those junky Crown Victorias and, more recently, the cramped hybrid sedans, and ridiculous climb-up SUVs we're dealing with now.

I'll leave the French Designer with the last word, pulled from the Times piece, where it is the last word:

"New Yorkers are so used to their cab rides," [Francois Farion of Nissan] said, "that they sometimes forget how it could be better."


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the Karsan: roll up your chair, bike, stroller, or hand truck from a built-in ramp on either side


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The Ford Europe's Transit Connect is a very decent "Taxi of Today" and some are NYC rides now*


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The dumpy, malformed Nissan NV 200, introduced in 2007, is barely even the "Taxi of Yesterday"


*
the one seen here sighted at Madison Square last October


[first and second images Motoring Dreams; third image blogger's own; fourth image fyidriving]

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