February 2005 Archives

Monique Luchetti Thorn In My Side 2005 re-braided rugs and commercial carpet, detail

Thorn, full image

Like so many of her contemporaries, male and female, Monique Luchetti delights in bringing what has been conventionally regarded as "women's work" to the sacred precincts of the art gallery. In her current show at The Phatory, "RNA," a practical domestic tradition has become almost completely transformed, far beyond the (considerable) labor involved in her physical alteration of (mostly) found materials. These "canvases" evolve into economically-constructed, powerful, abstract and timeless worlds. Or, as the press release would have it,

For this show, Luchetti presents work using second-hand braided rugs and other floor coverings, which she pulls apart and reweaves into works of art. As in cellular regeneration, Luchetti's work metaphorically decodes the aesthetic blueprints implicit in these formerly utilitarian objects, liberating them from their domestic duty. This transformative process extends the labor of the original weavers who, despite working within pragmatic and cultural confines, imbued their rugs with their own visual aesthetics.
There are now additional images, including some works on paper, uploaded onto Luchetti's website. Many of these pieces are in the current show, but there's much more.

[second image from The Phatory]

untitled (Phatory floor) 2005

Vincent Skeltis Mel's Corral #58 2004 metal, incandescent bulbs, photograph, plexi-glas 48" x 48" x 9"

31 Grand's press release says that Vincent Skeltis's show, "Nowhere But Up," among other things, "explores the death of the American nuclear family." I suspect that the only thing which has really changed about that almost mythical societal arrangement is what photography can now do, in the hands of an artist, to tell us about it.

This particular family happens to be Skeltis's own. He has installed a haunting show of photographs and artifacts describing the parallel lives of a father who disappeared into dissipation when his son was four, and the son who by his own admission was well on the way toward destroying himself when their paths crossed twenty-one years later, only ten months before Vincent Skeltis, Sr. died.

It's a dizzying array of images, of men, women - and things - presented without sentimentality but also without any bitterness. Things happened, people remembered.

Art survives.

Barry and I were walking about Williamsburg with our friend Karen the evening the show opened, and had earlier run into two other friends visiting the same galeries we were. At 31 Grand I was still in something of a daze, struck by the honesty and the strength of what Skeltis had done, when Cory Arcangel and Noah Lyon came in with a mutual friend of their own, Alex Galloway. Cory really loved what he saw, and since I don't think I'd heard it before, I took his own tribute to the show, "This is like real art!" for high praise indeed. There was no argument.

Vincent Skeltis Nude Portrait of Amy 2003 C-print 40" x 30"

Vincent Skeltis All Things Considered 2003 framed photograph, pocket knife, cross, camera, music box/flask figurine, scissors, steel, plywood 23.75" x 19.5" x 6.75"

[image, "Nude Portrait of Amy," from 31 Grand]

Trey Lyford and Geoff Sobelle (but imagine grainy and black & white)

I won't give any details. That's the way I myself like to approach a night at the theatre (that is, with just enough information to tell me it's going to be worth a detour) and that's the way Barry and I came to ALL WEAR BOWLERS on Thursday.

Well, I do remember reading something about Laurel and Hardy, Magritte, and Beckett. I also saw promotional images which showed two very hot men, each usually holding an egg in his open mouth. And to be fair, I admit we had already seen each of these wonderful performers several times before, working with separate companies (Trey Lyford with The Civilians and Geoff Sobelle with the Pig Iron Theatre Company). We knew we weren't going to miss their collaboration for anything, so I guess we did have a lot of information after all.

Now that I've seen it I will say that nothing I've read since and none of the images or short clips I've seen on line (don't go to the act's website - it doesn't begin to do the piece justice) can prepare anyone for what happens at the HERE Arts Center on lower 6th Avenue.

Like most everyone else in the audience, I laughed out loud throughout more than half of the evening's single act, and the rest of the time I was really worried about the survival of these two pure souls. Is this what our grandparents (great-grandparents?) experienced before talkies, before the victory of mass entertainment and the near-totally-unconditional surrender of live theatre?

In any event, I'm certain no one has ever seen anything like what these two performers are giving us today.

Their remarkable feat of collaboration has produced an extrordinary and compelling evening of sensitive drama. I admit that since all four members of our party sat in the front row, it would have been hard not to have been affected by what was going on only feet, or even inches, away. But since there were, I think, only four rows behind us, nobody is likely to miss anything.

And they shouldn't want to, but there are only two more weeks to secure a seat.

ALL WEAR BOWLERS is almost perfectly brilliant.

[image, by Gregory Costanzo, from Philadelphia Live Arts Festival and Philly Fringe]

Carter Kustera Boys Will Be Boys 2004 gouache and mixed media on paper 22" x 30"

Boys Will Be Boys detail

Violence with a flair. In his current show at Lyonsweirgallery Carter Kustera finds a way to seriously address the commercial world's obsession with glamorizing violence without abandoning his own aesthetic - or his usual good humor.

The show is titled, "Fabulous Anger," and these provocative works on paper will be up until March 12.

The press release on the gallery site tells us how we can become be an integral part of Kustera's art and wit. He's also a really nice guy, which would be pretty relevant to those who can accept this offer:

Carter Kustera will also be featured in -scope New York from March 11th – 14th at Flatotel, 135 West 52nd Street. Kustera’s "America’s Most Wanting" is a body of work gleaned from personal encounters. These intimate works on paper are simple silhouettes that have quips about the sitter. These engaging antidotes utter volumes about the way people project themselves in public and how the public interprets them. Kustera will be available for individual portrait commissions during the run of the scope Art Fair.

Carter Kustera Who's the Bitch Now? 2005 gouache and mixed media on paper 22" x 30"

Who's the Bitch Now? detail

[images from Lyonsweirgallery]

Jenny Scobel Flutter in the Room 2004 graphite, watercolor, oil and wax 32" x 24"

Friends already know I really like Jenny Scobel's work, but the current show at Thomas Erben has the best stuff I've seen yet. These two may be my favorites. I'll also admit that the backdrops are so exciting they make me shudder.

This is the first time we've seen a male image in her iconography, and the faces are usually anonymous. Scobel's brother Quentin died of AIDS in 1996.

Jenny Scobel Quent 2004 graphite, oil and wax on prepared wooden panel 32" x 24"

[images from Thomas Erben Gallery]

drawing from a pre-school Chechynan child

To Chechnya with art, with deep concern, and love too.

A number of artists from around the world have organized what they are calling the "EMERGENCY BIENNALE in CHECHNYA."

The extraordinary occasion, a work of conceptional art itself, will be inaugurated tomorrow, February 23, at 5 pm with a press conference at le Palais de Tokyo in Paris. Thereafter a suitcase filled with works, projects and concepts by more than 60 artists from all over the world will "hit the road," to be delivered in Grozny to a location yet to be finalized. The project is co-curated by Evelyne Jouanno and the artist Jota Castro with the support of the International Federation of Human Rights Leagues (FIDH).

Duplicates of the works and documentation packed in the suitcase sent to Chechnya will be displayed in Paris until April 23.

All kinds of information on Chechnya will also be presented [in le Palais de Tokyo]. Mylene Sauloy's and Manon Loizeau's films on daily life and culture of Chechens since the beginning of the first war in 1994 will be screened.

In addition, an internet post with webcam and direct access to the website created for the occasion - http://www.emergencybiennale.org - will do its utmost to connect with Chechen partners, to receive images and information on the suitcase and the organization of the exhibition in Grozny. A discussion forum will also offer an opportunity to react and exchange on the subject across and beyond all borders.

A publication is in preparation. It will comprise texts on the situation of human rights, some theoretical articles on art, political and social sciences as well as images of the various artistic projects.

[tip from e-Flux, image from sauseschritt, where it was accompanied by the text I've copied below]

terror und gegenterror in tschetschenien: aus einem 2002 veröffentlichten bericht (der russischen föderation und der republik chechnya) über die lage des Bildungswesens in tschetschenien stammen folgendes zitat und die kinderzeichnungen:
pre-school children were born and lived during war and continue to live in war affected situation. the psychological condition of children could be described by words and expressions like terror, reserved disposition, cautiousness in behavior with other adults, insufficient level of development of native speech, poor imagination, absence of variety of emotions ...

[my] English translation of the German above:

terror and counterterror in Chechnya: these drawings and the following quotation comes from an official report (of the Russian Federation and the Republic of Chechnya) published in 2002 on conditions within the Chechnyan education system:

a girl holds a poster reading 'Seriously damages human rights' during an anti-Bush demonstration in front of the US Embassy in Brussels today

Of course, like most people outside this country, William Pfaff knows that Bush doesn't really know a damn thing, so in this excellent discussion of the enormous and essential divide between the U.S. and the European world he addresses the myths held by a much larger constituency, the one which has made that little man President - and still likes what it sees.

Why Bush will fail in Europe

The President has an enormous political gulf to bridge. The trouble is, he doesn't even know it's there

William Pfaff
Observer, February 20

[Mr Bush's] trip will fail because he and his administration do not understand what really divides most continental European governments from the US ... Few Europeans believe either in the global "war on terror" or the "war against tyranny," as Washington describes them.

American claims about the threat of terrorism seem grossly exaggerated, and the American reaction disproportionate and even hysterical ... The invasion of Iraq is widely regarded in Europe as irrelevant to the reality of terrorism, overwrought in scale and destruction, and perverse in effect, vastly deepening hostility between the western powers and Muslim society ... Many Europeans believe it is not the world that has changed, but the United States.

[these excerpts from the full article appeared on a Guardian page covering the attitude of the world's press to the purposes of Bush's European visit]

I don't know how I'm going to be able to stay.

[image by Jacques Colett for Agence France Presse Belgium]

untitled (599 Lexington/Citycorp Center) 2005

Rob Fisher installation view of Summery (Goodyear Ecology) in foreground, Unity Road No. 1-5 on the wall, both works in detail

Cohan and Leslie has another winner with Rob Fischer's current show [site not updated] of sculptures, painted photographs and paintings. Once engaged, it's hard to walk away from this space, the images and the entire environment are that compelling.

The very healthy-looking grasses shown in both images included here are a part of a stunning piece which, in the words of the press release, "makes 'the outside' suddenly containable." It includes

. . . a tire track cut across Fischer's yard accidently which has been excavated whole and installed in a metal tray.

. . .

Fisher's project [that is, the entire show] addresses and explores the tension between transience and memory and the specifics of site.

. . .

The photographs on view, painted C-prints shot by the artist from his car while driving through his native Minnesota, are images of abandoned trailers on fire from various viewpoints. This creates a cinematic yet disorienting effect when viewed from one to the other. The trailer, an American icon of a culture that is historically characterized by the desire to migrate and discover is seen in an indefinable state - partly present, partly destroyed.

Rob Fischer Summery (Goodyear Ecology) 2004-05 tire track excavated from cultivated swamp, mixed media 32" x 71" x 30"

As I child I delighted in constructing new or re-imagining found miniature environments, so Summery totally charmed me on more than one level. I wanted to bring this one home. Barry suggested we could commission Eric Doeringer to do a "bootleg" work in a more convenient, apartment size. Hmmmm.

I kept expecting to see a tiny frog or guppy show up in the track, and the sight and gentle sound of water trickling from the pipe, if normally unnecessary to represent an ordinary puddle, was a delightful recognition of the requirements of the unnatural venue.

There is still much more, including a small warren of rooms constructed so that their interiors are less than two feet wide, each one separate from the other yet connected by a maze of water pipes. These spaces suggest domesticity, but with a built-in architecture of unease. New Yorkers will get it right away.

untitled (bicycle wheel) 2005


the "politicization" of the gates!

Many thanks to Noah Lyon for giving me the opportunity of pulling together my last two posts about art and politics (and maybe a good many more of these blogs, going back almost three years) with an email to which these photos were attached. The elegant sticker in the pictures is Noah's art, and my caption is taken straight from his message. Of course none of us knows much about the specifics of this particular "politicization" operation.

Incidently, for those who might be disturbed by the negativity of some of their critics, remember that we're still all part of their art, according to Christo and Jeanne-Claude, even when we quibble about or shout at The Gates.* It's such a burden.

* "The work is not only the fabric, the steel poles, and the fence. The art project is right now, here. Everybody here is part of the work. If they want it, if they don’t want it, either way they are a part of the work I believe very strongly that twentieth century art is not a single, individualistic experience." - Christo

[the images from Michael Carreira via Noah Lyon]

paradise, an imaginary park where "Fair Use" really is doctrine

Hide those cameras and sketchpads if you're planning on using them in Central Park this month, and even if you're not going, think of an alternative phrase to describe those 7500 orange-ish shower curtains. Do Christo and Jeanne-Claude own Central Park? Their publisher at least seems to think so, according to a post in Infoshop News by street artist and dedicated artists' rights gadfly Robert Laderman.

Christo's publisher [Kunst-Verlag Schumacher/Edition Fils] claims a vast new degree of copyright and trademark protection. They claim they will prosecute anyone who sells their own original photos of The Gates; who makes and sells a drawing of The Gates or who even uses the words, The Gates, without their permission. They claim to have copyrighted the words, The Gates. They also claim to have an agreement with the media that media sources may only use news photos of the gates for the period the installation is up. That after that the media will only be allowed to use "official" photos of The Gates.

They also claim that all of Central Park is now "private property." Talk about privatization! Be sure to thank Christo, Bloomscrooge and the CPC [Central Park Conservancy, the private group which now controls New York's parks, or at least the areas enjoyed by communities of money - ed.].

Don't forget the Maybach.

[image of Ghiberti's "Gates of Paradise" from Artchive; story tip from Robert Boyd]

Leon Golub Two Heads (II) 1986 oil on canvas 21" x 68"

It's a terrific show, and don't let thoughts like that expressed in the remark of the guy we passed on our way across 20th Street deter you. We heard him tell his companion, "If there's one thing I don't like it's the politicization of art."

Full disclosure: If you've been reading these pages for even a little while you already know that I have no problem with the "politicization" of art - any more than I have a problem with art which addresses any other subject. Man is both the creator and the subject of all art, and the root of the word, "politics" is the Greek word for "people."

The Jack Shainman show was organized by Claude Simard and it will be up until March 12. The title is a mouthful to be sure: "The Whole World is Rotten: Free Radicals and the Gold Coast Slave Castles of Paa Joe," and the content may be a headful, but there's beauty and power in the images of the mid-twentieth-century activist reponse to centuries of racism, and the continuing engagement of contemporary artists, which are included in this exhibition.

And exhibition it is, at least so it is in the larger room, where the works are displayed almost as they might be in a museum of natural history. We were at the opening with our friend Karen who liked the work but complained that the show just wasn't messy enough. Then she immediately added that her complaint "might just be the Group Material in me." But I thought immediately when she said it that she was right about the room. The works were generally excellent, even at first sight (they will further reward a return), and the crowd was dynamic, but the walls were holding back.

Then we found the small gallery to the side, which was hung just right. There were posters, photographs and newspaper clippings hung imaginatively in something vaguely like salon style, and in the center one of Paa Joe's large coffin replicas (there are two in this show) of slave castles from the Ghanian coast. Dynamite.

I've finally accepted the fact that I really do enjoy going to (some) openings, and the major lure, aside from the ties of friendship, must the be the kind of energy created by the crowd at the reception for this show.

Cave Nick.jpg
Nick Cave The Day after Yesterday 2005 human hair on found beaded and sequined garment fabric 43" x 111" x 1" detail

The witch hunt has begun in earnest, and we won't be the only ones hunting. The most insidious aspect of what is already taking on the appearance of a coordinated media campaign is the fact that it will be so difficult to fight back. The victims of ignorance and fear are put into a position where almost any response looks like it's merely a defense of the right to use recreational drugs, fuck like rabbits and murder the innocent.

Obviously responding to the media's recent hysterics over the first, sketchy report of a more virulent form of the AIDS virus, linked invariably with stories about promiscuous gays, Richard Cohen writes today in the Washington Post [I shouldn't be too surprised, since this is a paper which also thought the Iraq war would be a good thing] that the buggerers must be condemned.

For too long now heterosexuals have kept out of this debate. Many of us have been protective of gays, seeing them primarily as victims of discrimination.

. . .

But while gays clearly have their enemies, that should not mean they are immune from criticism. The fact remains that a portion of the gay population -- maybe 20 percent, [Charles] Kaiser estimates -- conducts itself in ways that are not only reckless but just plain disgusting. Unprotected, promiscuous sex in bathhouses and at parties and using drugs such as crystal meth to prolong both desire and performance are practices that should be no more acceptable for gays than for heterosexuals. Gays don't get some sort of pass just because they're gay.

. . .

They are entitled to their own sexuality, but not to behavior that endangers others, costs us all plenty and, too often, entails a determined self-destruction that too many heterosexuals overlook.

. . .

Back in the 1970s William Ryan of Boston College popularized the term "blaming the victim." It gave voice to a needed concept, but it also silenced critics who saw that sometimes the victim needed to be blamed. This is the case now with gays when their behavior is both stupid and reckless. When they're victims of discrimination, they need to be defended. When they're victims of their own behavior, they need to be condemned.

Why was this piece written? What's his purpose, since he gives no helpful advice, offers no proposals? While I have no reason to think it's not his intention, Cohen's venomous piece sounds to me like an incitement to violence.

Finally, and this isn't a rhetorical question at all: If the "carriers" are just gay men, why are he and his straight colleagues so worried about our health? I don't have a good answer.

AIDS and (recreational) drugs. It's a dangerous mix, but the danger is not just that described by the media lately; the danger lies also in our media's obsession with drugs and the impact that obsesssion has on all of our society.

The latest wave of hysteria over what is still presented as "the gays' AIDS" was inspired by the tentative discovery in one person of what may be a drug-resistant strain of HIV. Regardless of whether fears of a new mutation turn out to be justified, we should be asking some questions about the report itself and the public's reaction to it.

Today's NYTimes features a very frightening (although for reasons other than the paper intended) story in the center of the front page with the headline: "Gays Debate Radical Steps to Curb Unsafe Sex; Fear of a Severe AIDS Strain stirs talk of Intervention"

[Gay activists and AIDS prevention workers say] They want to track down those who knowingly engage in risky behavior and try to stop them before they can infect others.

It is a radical idea, born of desperation, that has been gaining ground in recent months as a growing number of gay men become infected despite warnings about unsafe sex.

Although gay advocates and health care workers are just beginning to talk about how this might be done, it could involve showing up at places where impromptu sex parties happen and confronting the participants. Or it might mean infiltrating Web sites that promote gay hookups and thwarting liaisons involving crystal meth.

Other ideas include collaborating with health officials in tracking down the partners of those newly infected with H.I.V. At the very least, these advocates say, gay men must start taking responsibility for their own, before a resurgent epidemic draws government officials who could use even more aggressive tactics.

Scared yet? That's the agenda. But actually, in addition to the weakness of its basic premises, there's a problem with most of the documentation used by the Times writer, Andrew Jacobs.

The piece discusses AIDS as if it were identified solely with the (American, male) gay "community," and every measure discussed for fighting its spread is directed to those "others" who supposedly comprise that community. Moreover, as usual this paper enlists the support of some of gaydom's more conservative "spokespersons." The result is some pretty scary stuff for the eyes of an activist who has survived the first 25 years of the epidemic (every one of them as a person with HIV disease) without succumbing to the hysteria of our "drug" laws.

Historian Charles Kaiser: "A person who is H.I.V.-positive has no more right to unprotected intercourse than he has the right to put a bullet through another person's head."

GMHC's executive director, Ana Oliveira: "It makes a community stronger when we take care of ourselves, and if that means that we have to be much more present and intervene [my italics] with people who are doing this to themselves and others, then so be it."

Treatment advocate David Evans: [who thinks gays are safe today] "You have to remember that was the era when Jesse Helms and others were saying that gay people got what they deserved, and that the government shouldn't spend any money to help them. There was a time when people thought, 'Oh my god, they're going to put us in camps.' "

POZ editor Walter Armstrong: [playing much less loose with our rights and with common sense, would leave the policing to gay organizations, but he thinks they should use widespread screening and a partner-notification effort to track users of crystal meth who have been infected] "I think there are ways to do interventions [again, my italics] ethically, sensitively and compassionately. There's a huge window of opportunity between criminalization and empty prevention messages." recently


The most reasonable voice included is that of author and clinical psychologist Walt Odets:

He and others said it would be more effective to try to identify the underlying causes of drug abuse and self-destructive behavior, including the difficulty of living in a society that rejects committed gay relationships while condemning homosexuals for having sex outside those relationships. Gay men, he said, are using methamphetamines as an anti-depressant.
Finally, at the bottom of the article we hear a reassuringly calm announcement from New York City's Department of Health and Mental Hygiene about plans for
a more vigorous return to conventional H.I.V. prevention. Deputy commissioner Isaac Weisfuse says that his agency is planning to place information banners on gay Web sites and devote more money to hard-hitting ads about methamphetamine use.

And, he noted, the free condom has largely disappeared from public places. "Unfortunately, condom use has fallen off the radar screen," he said. "We need to do something we did well 20 years ago, which is to get condoms in every place people socialize or have sex."

In the end it's still about knowledge and condoms - for everyone, not the totally discriminate use of "screening" procedures, prohibitions against sex, drugs (always the drugs the establishment doesn't admit to), on line hookups, medical records or whatever they may come up with tomorrow.

Chris Tanner Marcella 2005 mixed media on canvas 48" x 110" detail

Although perhaps not quite so excited as he himself should be with his latest success, we're still really delighted with Chris Tanner's spectacular show, "Ravaged by Romance," at Pavel Zoubok, an uptown gallery which recently moved to West 23rd Street.

Barry and I have been enthusiastic about Tanner's work (the paintings, the performances and Chris himself) for some time, but we've never seen so much of it at once, outside the walls of his dazzling apartment (yup, you already knew it's in the middle of the East Village).

It may be hard to believe, but what you see in this show are actually some of his more low-key creations. We have one brilliant, large-ish piece ourselves (always wishing we could have more) and, given a chance, it would probably upstage this show on its own. It should also upstage our entire apartment, but we haven't yet given it a chance. It still hasn't been framed, partly because it really needs something more like a box with a plexi cover: The problem isn't the paillettes; it's those fabulous feathers.

Okay, now I've talked myself into uncovering it again and just letting the magic breathe.

For more images, see the artist's page on the Pavel Zoubok site.

Tannerflowersmother .jpg
Chris Tanner Flowers for my Mother 2004 mixed media on wallpaper 17.75" x 17.75"

[second image from Pavel Zoubek]

untitled (blue mattress set) 2005

Nina Berman Cpl. Tyson Johnson III, 22, a mechanic with Military Intelligence

The caption next to the photograph of Corporal Tyson reads:

Cpl. Tyson Johnson

22 years old, 205th Military Intelligence Brigade, was
wounded September 20, 2003 in a mortar attack on
Abu Graib Prison. He suffered masssive internal
injuries and is 100 percent disabled.

Photographed May 6, 2004 at his home in Pritchard, Alabama.

"Most of my friends they were losing it out there.
They would do anything to get out of there, do anything.
I had one of my guys, he used to tell me, 'My wife just
had my son. I can't wait to get home and see him." And
you know, he died out there. He sure did, and I have to
think about that everyday.

"I got a bonus in the National Guards for joining the
Army. Now I've got to pay the bonus back and its
$2999. The Guard wants it back. It's on my credit
that I owe them that. I'm burning on the inside.
I'm burning."

We went to the opening last night mostly because a friend was part of Smack Mellon's latest group show (the site's not updated as I'm writing this, so check ArtCal for details), so it was supposed to be largely a social thing. Sure we knew the title of the show, "on the subject of WAR," ahead of time, but I can speak for both of us when I say that we were still caught a bit off guard by the power of the imagery. We didn't leave with any springs in our steps.

Susan Sontag, in whose memory the show is dedicated, would have been pretty pleased: The curator, Smack Mellon-ite and visual artist Kathleen Gilrain, wants to show how other artists continue to deal with the dilemma of representing in images the atrocities and absurdities of war.

Eve Sussman Solace 2001 video still

Twelve of the horrible, and infuriating, photographs and texts from Nina Berman's project, Purple Hearts, Back from Iraq, shared a room with Eve Sussman's very beautiful and melancholy video, Solace, from which the strains of Purcell's "Music for a While" were heard repeated over and over again, threatening to destroy any composure remaining to the viewer. The video is worked from homey Brooklyn footage assembled by Sussman on September 11 and the days following.

Mike Asente Aerial and Ground Explosions 2004-2005 mechanical embroidery, dimensions variable (detail of installation which included five pieces)

Mike Asente's delicate white needlepoint "canvases" explode near the entrance of the huge DUMBO space, which itself looks much like a survivor of urban war.

Barry and I have two of Asente's pieces, and we like them both a lot. One is a large soft sculpture, Baby Disney Asshole, and the other is a tiny framed embroidery suggesting a distant galaxy, which somehow, and quite oddly, links the earlier asshole with the current work with explosions.

There's much, much more in the exhibiton on Water Street, including a room of early 40's photographs from the "good" war by anonymous photographers (from the collection of Edward C. Graves), but crowds and the lateness of the hour made it difficult for us to see all of the work properly last night.

The other participating artists are Bobby Neel Adams, Barnstormers, Melissa Dubbin and Aaron S. Davidson, Ron Haviv, Susan Meiselas, Patricia Thornley, Sarah Trigg. While photography and video dominate, a number of other media are represented in this powerful show.

We should really go back ourselves, but it won't be easy. No one walks out whistling.

[image at the very top from Purple Hearts; Sussman video still from artnet]

actually, this was the only gate we found whose curtain was wrapped about its architrave

I just didn't get it. Barry and I went to see Christo and Jeanne-Claude's project for Central Park, The Gates, this afternoon, well, first because it was there and also because we expected there would be a great deal of excitement on the first day of its display. We also thought we'd run into a lot of friends.

It was there, and apparently it was opened this morning in the minutes around 8:30 as scheduled. But I think I was surprised that I didn't find it at least a little exciting, rather only very mildly diverting. Nor did it seem to inspire the kind of holiday cheer I had expected within the huge crowds which had turned out to see it, crowds found walking through and about [thousands?] of saffron-colored "gates" which lined almost every pedestrian path in the park (the Rambles and other "wild" areas were left alone). And there were no friends in sight, as if they all knew better.

The Reichstag thing I liked a lot, even if I didn't get to see it.

Anyway, I guess $20 million just doesn't buy what it used to.

Perhaps striking the right note for the day, we overheard one young woman, as we passed her and her friend on our way up to Belvedere castle, talking about the miles of saffron nylon on display: "Yeah, I'd make a skirt out of the stuff."

at the "Command Center," while our small crowd gathered on the other side of the vehicle, and as their intense conversation with a bunch of male authority figures in suits wound down, the pair kept pointing to the car; did they want to get rid of it or keep it?

Halfway through our trek today we were passing the Loeb Boat House and the parking lot across the path from its door when I spotted a very large limousine being escorted into the lot. I'm a car fanatic, so identifying a $350,000 long-wheelbase Maybach 62 in a blessedly-car-free (temporarily) Central Park was no problem. We stood around until we could spot the back-seat occupants and, not surprisingly, they turned out to be Christo and Jeanne-Claude. I have to assume that their use of the car was a condition of a patron's generosity to the project.

Oh yes, a final touch of another local color: Barry spotted a Duane Reade bag inside on the floor in the rear.

This is not a good thing for America, regardless of the court arguments.

Lynne Stewart, whom the NYTimes accurately describes as "an outspoken lawyer known for representing a long list of unpopular defendants," has been found guilty of all charges levelled against her by Justice Department prosecutors. The headline on the Times site for a story dealing with reaction within the legal defense community to her conviction is shown above. It's a little cute, but the reality is definitely not.

"I don't think that there's a political lawyer in this country who doesn't believe that the government has a plan to target the lawyers who do what we do and to silence us," said Stanley L. Cohen, one of the country's best-known defenders of militants, terror suspects and other unpopular clients.

. . .

Roger L. Stavis, who worked alongside Ms. Stewart representing another defendant in the case that led to Mr. Abdel Rahman's conviction [it was the lawyer/client relationship of Stewart and Rahman which was the subject of the government's ire - Ed.], said it was regrettable that a lawyer could be convicted of a crime "for her zealous representation of a particularly odious client."

But wait, good people, maybe this isn't such a big problem after all. This regime just sweeps up any number of folks around the earth whom it brands as terrorists, throws them into concentration camps, again anywhere in this Pax America world, and possibly for life, by the admission of its own spokespersons. There they are never charged with any crime, yet they are routinely tortured and denied access to legal counsel. We don't even know who they are or where they are; no list is ever furnished; and the gang in Washington may itself not know about the existence of most of them or the nature of their alleged wrongdoing. The victims' friends and family are normally no better informed about their disappearance than the rest of us.

In the current scheme of things, concerns about legal representation for an accused terrorist may have become irrelevant. Sheik Omar Abdel Rahman was seized and tried long before 9/11, when we are told "everything changed." There have been virtually no trials for real terrorism since, and zero convictions. This government doesn't believe in trials when they can get away with avoiding public airings of its incompetence and evil purposes.

Lynne F. Stewart's trial mave have been the exception which proves the rule.

untitled (Whitney) 2005

Claudia Weber The Return 2005 mixed media, dimensions variable, installation view

Claudia Weber Untitled 2005 mixed media, dimensions variable, large detail of installation view

Claudia Weber is represented by one photograph and two sculptural installations at Momenta Art this month. I like them all a lot. The installations both excite and scare me for their fugaciousness [I worked on that noun a bit]. For more, see bloggy and go to the gallery in Williamsburg before March 7.

Jennifer Karady Pageant Talent: Katrina Johnson, Miss Nimrod 2003, Nimrod, MN 2004 Chromogenic color print on Fujiflex, mounted on Plexiglas 30" x 30" installation view

In the second gallery space Jennifer Karady shows photographs which engage, and disturb, with their sensitive examinations of some very special [dependent but apparently quite fulfilling] relationships between people and the animals closest to them.

While looking around unsuccessfully for larger images from the show, on a day on which the people at Momenta are not around to help with a jpeg, I discovered that Karady has herself collaborated with a friend from a neigboring species, Tillamook Cheddar, a diminutive and very charming abstract expressionist with a solid c.v. of her own.

inside historic, if somewhat seedy, City Council Chambers, an easy camaraderie prevailed in the midst of testimony which will supposedly decide the fate of the Jets stadium proposal

Crowds of construction union workers, most of whom typically live in the outer boroughs or even the suburbs (including New Jersey), crowded New York City Hall today to reinforce Mayor Bloomberg and his powerful friends in pushing for the building of a monstrous thing the city doesn't need as the only way to urban economic health. But remember, this project is supposed to be very much about jobs and affordable housing for people who live in New York City - or at least that's how it's being sold to us by the wealthy owners of the Jets. It's certainly not about tailgate parties on the platforms of subway cars.

The words in the headline above are those of Council Member Bill Perkins [on the far left in the picture] as he began questioning the principal Hudson Yards/Jets Stadium backers during today's combined public hearing of the Finance, Transportation and Economic Development Committees. His words get right to the heart of the matter, but unfortunately in the end the decision will be made by people who have lots of money of their own, but want ours too.

The trio of guests (an impressive entwining of corporate and goverment power) gathered almost as one before the combined Committees while I was in Chambers today were Daniel L. Doctoroff, Deputy Mayor for Economic Development and Rebuilding for the City of New York and founder of NYC2012, the organization behind New York City's Olympic bid; Mark Page, director of the New York City Office of Management and Budget and a member of the MTA Board; and Jay Cross, President of the New York Jets. What a tangled web they have woven. Have they no shame? And a Manhattan football stadium as New York City's last, best hope?

I was there only for some of their testimony, and while most of it was devoted to financing issues, at least one commitee member brought up the subject of traffic congestion. I didn't hear anything about how we were to deal with the consequences of an enormous football stadium being dropped into the middle of a Manhattan already at a traffic standstill evenings and weekends, but one of the high-powered boondogglers repeatedly used the phrase "traffic mitigation" in his testimony, as if he were talking about condolences.

Actually I was unable to get into the room until very late in the morning. I arrived after 9:30, when the hearing was scheduled to begin. At that time I couldn't even get inside the park surrounding City Hall (locked behind gates now , but it once belonged to the people, two Republican mayors back), to say nothing of getting near the building itself.

I waited with a small dedicated group of anti-stadium people outside on the sidewalk in the cold, beyond the tank traps and metal detectors, for most of the morning. The construction trade unions had sent huge numbers of their members to pack the floor of the hearing and I was told that there had been only a few rows of seats available in the rear for those who weren't on their bandwagon. It's sad to see trade unions manipulated by corporations intent on destroying working-class neighborhoods for their own huge short-term gains.

Bloomberg and his corporate allies are trying to rush through an approval of the stadium project so it can be displayed with the city's proposal for the 2012 Olympics. The International Olympic Committee will be in New York for four days beginning February 21 as part of its round of formal visits to contending cities. But where is Bloomberg's head? If New York's bid ever had a chance after the beginning of Bush's "war on terror," it finally died when the Mayor's party decided to invade Iraq.

Interestingly, this photograph shows how the current City Council makeup pretty much reflects the demographics of New York, if not of much of the entire world, although here it does look like an entirely male world. The image is very misleading however. I was sitting in the second row and had to point my camera between two large suited gentlemen in front of me, so I didn't have much choice in deciding what was in the viewfinder. In fact, Council members Quinn, Sears, Gonzales and James, arguably some of the strongest and most articulate members, were seated on the dais just to the left and the right of the men pictured here.

If I can now be forgiven for going even further off-message, I want to admit that I'm finding myself compelled to keep looking back at the photograph above. I really, really like the gold needlepoint star with its red field on the back of the Speaker's chair; I now remember that even while I was sitting before a fairly animated group of committee members I was staring at the empty chair much of the time. I think everyone should have a chair with a star.


(perpetual garden found in front of an old house on Berry St. in Williamsburg today)

parked outside Pierogi 2000 this afternoon:



Howard Hodgkin In Bed in Venice oil on wood in artist's frame 38.5" x 49"
[not promised]

Susan Rothenberg Dogs killing Rabbit oil on canvas 87" x 141"

Anselm Kiefer dem unbekannten Maler (To the Unknown Painter) watercolor & graphite on paper, three sheets 25" x 52.25"

I went to the Museum of Modern Art yesterday for a preview of the temporary exhibition of works from the UBS/PaineWebber/Donald Marron collection. It was only my second visit to the museum's new quarters; the first was also under the circumstances of a preview, that of the new building itself, but in the end I hadn't made it to the two floors which housed the core of the prmanent collection before having to leave to make way for a reception being laid for serious patrons.

I think I wasn't expecting any epiphany this time, and I found none, but I did find at least some of the same excitement which a visit had always promised before, and rewarded, during the years when the artists represented in this collection were first being adopted by the Modern.

It only took a few minutes in the first of the rooms partitioning the enormous spaces of the top floor temporary-exhibition galleries before I had to stop, step back and just wonder at the quality of the art which had just taken my breath away.

There was a Rauschenberg, two Oldenburgs (one a delightful proposal for replacing the Nelson Monument in busy trafalgar Square with an enormous gearshift), one each for Richter, Lichtenstein (a perfectly-simple round bevelled mirror) and Ruscha, two Johns, a Warhol and a large Artschwager which should make almost anyone a worshipper - of Artschwager. Oh, and behind the first partition, the most magnificent Howard Hodgkin I had ever seen. (and then the artist went one step further and titled it "In Bed in Venice" - forever guaranteeing its beauty as far as I'm concerned)

Where had these paintings and drawings been all my life? (well, at least much of my life) Everything was new to me. Where will they be next year? Some of these works are promised corporate gifts to MoMA, but not all.

In my circumstances at least, their individual quality (I leave the discussion of the collection as a whole, how it got to 53rd Street and the fundamental subject of corporate art to Roberta Smith) was the perfect introduction to my descent downstairs to the fifth and fourth floors not yet visited. By this time however the reality of the museum's scheduled closing time forced me to do something like a run-through. It was still just enough to remind me how much had been missed during the five years the museum had been closed.

I still think the building is a disappointment for anyone who has survived into the 21st century, but I'll admit I was certainly able to enjoy the stash from the last century hanging on its walls. Some of the views were pretty neat too (see the images below).

Even a museum of modern art is still a museum, a place where we go to see things that have already been done, or things that are already known, but maybe that's okay. If we're really interested, we'll always head for the smaller, sometimes less clean and less well-lighted spaces (see most of this blog's other posts) to see the things that are happening now, the things that aren't really known yet.

the less grand staircase

Cisitalia in the garden

layers of art

[the three images at the top from UBS]

The Democrats have decided they'll let Gonzales become the chief law-enforcement officer of the world's only superpower rogue state.

If, after the November 2004 election, there might still have been any doubts around the world about how many Americans actually support the regime which has reinvented their homeland as a dangerous rogue nation, this will finally squelch them. The only "opposition party" in the country says it's pretty cool with the guy who was largely responsible for legitimizing our use of torture anywhere in the world as a device for protecting our very exclusive national security.

What are these privileged politicos waiting for? Where will they take a stand? I think we know the answer already.

But maybe this torturing rogue state thing is actually okay, even estimable, because, like Gonzales's own tale, it's such a great immigrant success story, the U.S. having come from such a humble background to finally emerge the most powerful and most violent nation on earth.

So perhaps you should give us a big hand and a warm pat on the back, world, although you'd better have a smile on your face.

Cory's PowerPoint presentation begins: "this is awesome"

Cory Arcangel hosted a lecture cum performance cum master class at the Swiss Institute this evening. You really had to be there to understand what it looked and sounded like, but while seated on the aisle in the eighth row, in between the laughs and the breaths swept away by his happy genius, I managed to capture a few visual stills and a few excerpts from some deathless remarks.

You'll soon be able to find the sounds, and much more, on his site (at the moment down for a rebuilding).

the pretty one

The evening was essentially an expansion of and a commentary on the "stuff" (he said he's been asked to stop calling it "crap") Cory has currently installed at Team and Deitch. He began with an explanation of how he created his mega jam, "the coolest" iPod CD (soon to be available free everywhere) and then he played the composed piece straight through.

He devoted a good deal of time to a discussion of his special take on the Simon and Garfunkel phenomenon 1967-1984 (see his video, "Sans Simon" at Team), starting with the question, "How hot is Garfunkel?"

Cory's DVD projection/human performance piece

"Simon sucks," reads one of his PowerPoints, so Cory thought he should try to block out the offending half of the duo - for visual aesthetic reasons (he allowed that Simon had all the musical talent).

Cory narrating what he called a "post-MoMA" scene from his "Super Mario Movie"

Arcangel, who had graduated from Oberlin not strictly with a degree in the visual arts (no one's complaining), but one in Technology in Music and the Related Arts, pretended to explain some of the work shown at Team Gallery with the claim that while working on the complexities of his "Super Mario Movie" he had decided he absolutely had to find simpler art forms. I think his words were something like, "I'm trying to figure out the least amount of work required to make a viable work of art. Is that formalism?" Ouch.

The formal part of the evening ended with Cory performing the role of director delivering a live narration over his own creation, that same wonderful wall-projected, altered Nintendo cartridge movie created by himself and the collaborative Paper Rad and now installed at Deitch. Before starting, he told the enthusiastic audience that he felt like the guy who sits in the easy chair to introduce public television's "Masterpiece Theatre." Returning to character, Cory quickly added, "No, just kidding."

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