September 2006 Archives

I was shocked I was

I went to a presentation by the artists and book signing at Aperture on Thursday night, and this is one of many duplicate posters I found clipped up and down parking signs and light posts along West 27th Street when I left to go home. This particular block is all about commercial businesses and galleries during the day and straight clubs late at night.

The sexy bills are part of a marketing blitz for "A Guide To Recogizing Your Saints" which, regardless of its merits or demerits, is apparently not actually a "gay film".

It was a wonderful block party, and I have no doubts that the show which attracted the crowd is a hoot, but I'm going to have to go back to check out Cory Arcangel's latest magic show. Openings are usually a real challenge for anyone who actually wants to check out the art, and this one one one of the toughest I've seen yet. I couldn't even get a decent photo image because of the crush.

I'll try again later in the run of the show.

Meanwhile, the parade of SUVs emptying out of the Holland Tunnel and heading east across Grand Street in pursuit of Friday night excitement in Manhattan had to squeeze through the smart, celebratory crowd which poured out of the doors of Team's new SoSoHo quarters and then proceded to just hang out for a few hours. There wasn't even the attraction of drinks, alcoholic or otherwise; just good conversation, pretty people and lots of smiles. The NYPD squad cars inching by didn't seem to know what to do about large numbers of happy people gathered together in polite society, without benefit of wheels of any description, on pavement laid a hundred years before the invention of the automobile.

I noticed that Mary Boone and gallery neighbor Jeffrey Deitch had to check out the goods inside, or maybe they just wanted to say hi. In any event I didn't see either of them hanging out on the street on their way in or out.

A couple of crowd shots:



Closing in on Jacob and Jessica Ciocci, two thirds of Paper Rad, comfortably-ensconced on the ancient wall shelf with Noah Lyon:


And, in separate smart clutches, two of our favorite gallerists, John Thomson and Michael Gillespie:



DavisGeraldET.jpg DavisGeraldGrandma.jpg

Gerald Davis E.T. and Grandma, 1986 2006 colored pencil on paper 50" x 38" (each drawing in diptych) [large details of the installation's two framed drawings - including ambient reflections]

Gerald Davis's show at John Connelly is breathtaking for both the simple beauty of the pencil drawings and and the richly personal images they describe. The dates in the title of each work refer to their autobiographical content, although even someone who is not part of Davis's own generation is immediately and totally drawn into his creative memory of the world which shaped the artist's passage into adolescence.

It's an awesome show in the most genuine sense of the word.

Gerald Davis The Rumor, 1986 2006 pencil on paper [installation view]


the airline's straights-only security rules don't fly

I have now heard from our friend David Leisner, who was quoted in the The New Yorker story I wrote about on Thursday evening. David was one half of the couple which witnessed the threats delivered to two other passengers seated in front of them, a homosexual couple, by (successively) the flight attendent, the purser and the captain of an American Airlines flight en route from Paris to New York. Both he and his partner Ralph Jackson were quoted in the magazine, but David has added some perspective and one damning fact which makes the airline's confrontation even more outrageous than initially reported.

David writes, in part:

You can assure anyone that questions the degree of affection these guys were showing that it was very innocent - hand-holding, resting one's head on the other's shoulder and repeated kissing (but not French kissing!). Nothing disturbing about it at all, unless it had been a straight couple :-).

Also, the New Yorker writer got the punchline wrong: what the captain said to one of the couple was that he would divert the plane not if the arguing continued, but if he heard any more reports of such behavior (kissing). [my italics - JAW] It made an increasingly weird situation even more surreal and disturbing.

[image from pedalcarzone]



Taylor McKimens has a single large piece installed inside Clementine Gallery.

An exhibition featuring Taylor McKimens's first comic book, published by PictureBox. All of the artwork used to make the comic book has been re-mixed to make a single freestanding large scale artwork in the space.
No old board fence ever looked so pretty - or so wonderfully yucky. The show's title, "Drips", only begins to explain the latter; the two details of the untitled 2006 work shown above should also help if you haven't been there yet.

Barry and I bought the comic - and the editioned small print - on the spot. We both find it hard to stay away from McKimens.

untitled (yellow pole) 2006

Terence has two fathers, and that's good

This amazing video excerpt from an ordinary Dutch children's TV show sings and speaks for itself, but following upon the story about the American flight diversion threat appearing just below this post it just about explodes on the screen!

We love the Dutch.

[many thanks to Slava for the tip]


SEE AN UPDATE IN THIS SEPTEMBER 26 POST: "the American Airlines homo scare: even worse than reported"

Shortly after takeoff, Varnier nodded off, leaning his head on Tsikhiseli. A stewardess came over to their row. “The purser wants you to stop that,” she said.

“I opened my eyes and was, like, ‘Stop what?’ ” Varnier recalled the other day.

“The touching and the kissing,” the stewardess said, before walking away.

This isn't fiction; It's right there in print, in "The Talk of the Town" section of The New Yorker. The two people told to cut the show of affection while on a transatlantic flight one month ago were two gay men.

They asked to speak to the purser, who denied instructing the stewardess to tell the men anything. She admitted there was nothing inappropriate about the behavior they described and while she initially seemed to be supportive she ended the discussion by announcing that kissing was improper behavior on an airplane. She then said she was busy with meal service and left, promising to come back afterward.

Half an hour later, the purser returned, this time saying that some passengers had complained about Tsikhiseli and Varnier’s behavior earlier. The men asked more questions. Who had complained? (She couldn’t say.) Could they have the stewardess’s name, or employee number? (No.) Would the purser arrange for an American Airlines representative to meet them upon landing at J.F.K.? (Not possible.) Finally, the purser said that if they didn’t drop the matter the flight would be diverted.

After that, [a passenger whom we know who was seated behind the couple] said, “everyone shut up for a while. ”Maybe an hour later, the purser approached Tsikhiseli and said that the captain wanted to talk to him. Tsikhiseli went up to the galley and gave the captain his business card. The captain told Tsikhiseli that if they didn’t stop arguing with the crew he would indeed divert the plane. “I want you to go back to your seat and behave the rest of the flight, and we’ll see you in New York,” he said. Tsikhiseli returned to coach.

This is just one of the reasons why Barry and I are thinking about leaving the country. Such an assault may be worthy of a few paragraphs in a sophisticated New York magazine, on the basis of its outrageousness, but this sort of thing - and much worse - is still taking place all over the country, even on and above international waters. I just don't think there's a future in this country for people who think, even if they're careful to kiss the people they're supposed to kiss.

It's not only about queer terrorists.

[image from Women in Uniform]

Christopher Reiger this now, like the beginning, again and again 2006 watercolor, gouache and marker on stretched Arches paper 25" x 25"

I'm finding it harder and harder to leave this work alone. I regularly see Christopher Reiger's vibrant images in my head when I'm not in front of them, and they never look the same to me when I return to look again.

I didn't know what to make of Reiger's painting when I first came across it. Even the encounter itself was a little quirky, since it involved a successful online bid for a 2001 work he had generously contributed to a small benefit assembled to help a mutual friend with green card expenses. The piece is much more abstract than most of his work I've seen, but it seems to inform, and is informed by, all the others. It's the first thing I look at every time I walk into the room where it's currently propped against a window. In a large, very busy salon-hung environment of competing images, that's just weird.

I understand from the press release for his show at AG Gallery, "Mongrel Truth", that Reiger's art is supposed to be bound up with our age's generally problematic relationship to the natural world and grounded in the artist's own youthful, very likely profound (and continuing) experience of nature in an Eden most of the people who see the paintings and drawings can barely imagine. But the art doesn't stop there, for his painted-paper images of plants and animals are neither entirely innocent in their nature nor entirely abused by modern man's distraction with his own constructions.

They have been redrawn by and for an anxious, creative age which can leave neither inherited nor created sciences and myths alone. I suspect neither nature itself nor these intense paintings and drawings will sit still for any of us now.

Christopher Reiger a dead silent cock 2006 watercolor, gouache, sumi ink and marker on stretched Arches paper 25" x 25"

[images from the artist]

Alice Könitz Magazines and Stand 2006 wood, Chromolux paper, magazines 47" x 25" x 20" [view of installation]

Hudson Franklin has a wonderfully-challenging (okay, it's actually pretty baffling, and for me that's like catnip) show of sculpture and collage by Alice Könitz.

Much of the work shown is assembled from cut paper, but what beautiful paper and what beautiful cuts! Most of the other materials used are pretty common as well, even if the installation is anything but. If we were only looking at an elegant room, it would be as sterile as such a space always is when empty of people and dreams, and this gallery is not unoccupied. There's solid stuff underneath Könitz's paper glitz, and it's worth exploring.

untitled (asphalt siding) 2006

I'm pretty fond of the siding this nineteenth-century house in Brooklyn's Vinegar Hill aquired some time in the next.

Haeri Yoo Untitled 2006 acrylic and gouache on canvas 12" x 12" [installation view]

While I was in Thomas Erben's gallery yesterday I couldn't help thinking about the fact that I was looking at the work of one established artist, one just beginning to be recognized and sought, and a third who has hardly been seen at all. Only while I'm writing this now do I also notice that each of these artists is a woman.

The artist who is becoming increasingly visible is Chitra Ganesh, and she deserves even more than all the goodies that have been said about her. The underknown artist is Haeri Yoo, whose small drawings Barry and I first encountered in the Queens International two years ago.

I had not seen anything of hers on canvas until yesterday, but if this very beautiful small figured "landscape" is representative of what she can do, I expect my earlier enthusiasm to me more than just renewed if she contiues to work in this medium.

Dona Nelson Untitled 2004 acrylic on canvas 69" x 80" [installation view]


Dona Nelson Walnut Way 1999 charcoal on canvas 88" x 106" [installation view]


Dona Nelson Gaucho Groucho 2005 acrylic and cheesecloth on canvas 88" x 106" [installation view]


I think it's a great show. I went into Thomas Erben's gallery this afternoon pretty much ignorant of the work of Dona Nelson, although I knew enough to realize that was a lamentable admission. Nearly an hour later I left her brilliant installation, "Brain Stain", very impressed, also thoroughly charmed, and wanting to know more.

The work could speak for itself in any environment, but I have to say something for the installation: It manages a huge success of its own, balancing the paintings in the way normally only a good museum show can, while accomodating the fortunate visitor's access to both sides of two of her extraordinary double-sided canvases.

Five years ago Roberta Smith wrote in her review of the artist's solo show at Cheim & Read that "Ms. Nelson is painting up a storm." The end of her last paragraph, ". . . these works suggest that the dead horse of modernism still has plenty of kick." could have been written for the current show.

I was told that Nelson was fully responsible for the installation herself, so perhaps I should ask her forgiveness for giving the priority of location here to the untitled red (very red) painting hanging in the project room behind the main space.

Check the gallery's press release for more about the artist's technique and some "performance" notes, but if you are in the New York area and you find what you see here the least bit seductive you really should visit 26th Street in person.

UPDATE: The artist who created the object has finally been identified on a label attached to the window (see the credit immediately below the image here), and it seems that the window is now the responsibility of something called Art Production Fund. Some geometric abstractionist cognescenti (I confess: not including me) will immediately notice that the title of Anthony's piece has a history.

Anthony James New York City II 2004 [installation view]

I like it, but I have no idea who did it. This piece has been installed inside the Kantor/Feuer Window on 10th Avenue since Tuesday at least, but there's no label and the website hasn't been kept updated.

The box, punctured in a number of places for the passage of a number of colorful neon tubes, is constructed of a better grade of plywood and lined with a reflective material, perhaps mylar.

later the visitors did actually "step over the body bags" to reach the backyard bar

See Barry for the word on Susan Dessel's first review. The writer seems to have gotten it just right, and this account of a Williamsburg show appears in the middle of a recap of Chelsea openings last week. Goodness.

I wasn't going to say anything more today about the fifth installment of our annual orgy of mourning and revenge, the anniversary of September 11. But things just got out of hand once we walked into Pierogi this evening and now I can't help myself.

For some this sacred holiday was all about a service held around a small temporary wading pool installed downtown at the bottom of a very big hole (by now the flower-filled tank of water has probably been drained and its parts tossed into some recycling bin), but some of us decided we had to be around other, more thoughtful New Yorkers on the evening of the day which just won't shut up, the drubbing from which most of our countrymen seem to have learned all the wrong lessons.

Barry and I decided to go to Brooklyn, and specifically Williamsburg, always a reasonable choice in stressful times.

Tonight Pierogi Williamsburg threw an opening party for "Matt Marello and Matt Freedman, Five Years After" and it would have been a smash even without the presence of most of Brooklyn and Downtown Manhattan's art world working aristocracy and creative yeomanry. Matt Marello was in Gallery 1. From the press release:

Matt Marello's "1968/2001" is an extensive multimedia presentation based on the phenomenon of apophenia [the experience of seeing patterns or connections in random or meaningless data, according to the press release]. A few years ago, while digesting the events of 9/11, Marello began to notice an odd synchronicity between the destruction of the World Trade Center and Stanley Kubrick's sci-fi epic, "2001: A Space Odyssey." His further explorations led him into a strange and murky world, linking together such diverse elements as the moon, apes, 9/11, "2001: A Space Odyssey" and the historically pivotal years 1968 and 2001.

Matt Morello Lenticulars: Ground Zero/Planet of the Apes/Apollo 8 Astronauts/Escape from the Planet of the Apes 2006
2 Lenticular prints 20" x 63" [large detail of installation]

Matt Morello Bone (WTC)/Plane (2001: Space Odyssey) 2006 large format ink-jet print 60" x 158" [large detail of installation]

Matt Freedman's "Twin Twin II" in Gallery 2 was a wonderfully silly and welcome magical antidote to the baneful effects of our self-inflicted twenty-first century affliction: 9/11 24/7. From the artist:

I kept coming around to the notion that the images of the towers were sort of recurring waking dreams, and that collecting them should be a continuing process of perception and manipulation. What I keep looking for in all the material I am using is something uncanny--either in the found objects themselves, or in the nature of the interventions I make--that leaves a lingering sense of unresolved discomfort in the mind of the viewer. The overriding and consciously dumb idea behind the work is that whatever else the towers are, they are definitely not gone from our lives, and they never will be. (Freedman, 2006)

Thumbnails of only a very few of the twinned objects seen tonight in Freedman's ongoing project:










Presto! Exorcism complete.

Alejandro Diaz Unknown Artists at Unheard of Prices 2006 purple neon sign 24" x 36" [installation view]

I'm drooling.

Alejandro Diaz attached this [sad/happy?] image to an email greeting this morning and I couldn't resist broadcasting it further. It also gives me a device for reminding myself and anyone reading this that the message of this piece is still valid, and in a new age of hype and price inflation it's more exciting than ever.

There's plenty of "affordable", cheap or even free art by "emerging", underknown or even secret artists still out there waiting to be discovered and picked up by intrepid patrons and impecunious collectors. I don't know the price of this one, but it's an edition, so at least the cool message could potentially keep several people warm.

More on this subject, including "less than the price of a movie ticket", here and throughout the archives of this site.

More on Diaz here, here and here.

[image from the artist]

I suggest we haven't had another terrorist attack within our borders in these five years precisely because it hasn't been necessary.

Bush has managed to exactly fulfill the objectives of the last one. To begin with, it's now official: He's murdered more Americans in Iraq alone than the terrorists murdered in the destruction of the World Trade Center (and not all of those were American citizens).

This administration has also destroyed America's ability to do anything but think about, or rather pretend to think about, the threat of another strike, and it has succeeded in destroying whatever sympathy or support the world had extended to a wounded nation immediately after September 11, 2001.

Even absent this regime's record of abysmal incompetence, ordinary and extraordinary domestic imperatives which demand political attention have been forgotten or deliberately ignored largely because of our fear of terrorism and the manipulation of those fears. The same factors have caused us to casually abandon most of the fundamental liberties which were once our boast and the envy of much of the world.

Because we are tied down in a totally misconceived and disastrous adventure in the Middle East the world's only remaining "superpower" is virtually helpless to impact events elsewhere, especially since we have also managed to isolate ourselves diplomatically.

Finally, because our domestic political process has been so corrupted by fear, simple timidity, opportunism, greed and cynicism we are arguably in an economic decline from which we may not recover even if we somehow manage to shift political personnel between now and 2008. We are intellectually and morally bankrupt.

Only because the worst may be yet to come, I won't say the terrorist victory is already complete. But I'll wager they've been smiling for five years.

Chie Fuyeki The Nature of How We See 2005 acrylic, mixed media, paper/wood 96" x 72" [installation view]


I'm not sure when I last walked into Mary Boone on 24th Street, (these days much of my decision-making about worthy gallery stops has to resemble the ordinary dilemmas confronting emergency workers in administering triage), but I have to admit I was happy about our visit yesterday. Chie Fueki's paintings, in a show titled "Lucky, Star, Super, Hero", manage to be both scary and cheery at the same time, while broadcasting the kind of rich textured detail usually seen only inside the glass case of a renaisance treasury.

I have to admit that the subjects she chooses were responsible for at least some of my interest.

Remember the Bill Maynes!

Chie Fueki Toward and Away 2005 acrylic, mixed media, paper/wood 86" x 60" [installation view]

[detail of "OUR BACKYARD: A Cautionary Tale" as it was being installed yesterday]

"They're wrapped in the material used to make sandbags. The sandbags always arrive when it's too late, don't they?" Susan C. Dessel was answering a friend's question about the outer layer of each of the pieces in her installation at Dam, Stuhltrager while she arranged the twelve differently-sized figures on the newly-sodded lawn behind the gallery building.

She bent over each wrapped figure, softly talking to the silent shapes and tenderly placing and positioning them (as family units?) according to a plan she had obviously been thinking about for a very long time.

Dessel had been with all of them from their birth. They were born in her creative mind and then throughout a very hot summer in her warm studio she had spent long hours shaping fully-formed individual bodies from the synthetic "clay" of the modern sculptor's bucket. In the end, like the countless victims of the hideous unnatural disasters they call up from our conscious or unconscious, individual or collective guilt, they were wrapped in blankets, sealed in plastic and laid back in our yard.

There the beauty of these veiled figures partially confounds the horror of their significance.

How does an artist work in the environment we have created? Dessel's sensitive installation invokes no specific wars; no specific catastrophes, whether the result of criminal negligence or deliberate policy; and no specific crusades embarked upon by an ignorant, manipulated and frightened populace, but it is clear these bodies do not represent natural deaths and that they have to be seen as our friends, neighbors and relations. Their presence here, in this very ordinary, even universal "backyard", speaks to the continuing personal responsibilty we share for their deaths. Even an artist cannot make them disappear, but a humble moral and bold political awakening now would mean that the dead could be given a proper burial, and it would shut down the slaughterhouses which threaten the living.

In reply to an email request I made earlier today, Susan responded within minutes with this wonderful description of her construction proces:

For the adults I began with the basic, but generic, form of female and male using mannequins as my models (three female, one male). The kids were made totally from freehand and for them I used cement and fiber glass bits.

I thought of each body as a representative individual, i.e., I did not give them names - I always bond with my pieces. The process is very important to me, and over the time that the whole piece takes from idea to research to selection of materials to actually making the work the work becomes a part of me. I think that most artists experience something similar.

I thought of each as a body type representing a human condition in a general situation. I made more females than males to represent the fact that it is the innocent (i.e., non-military, or what our government refers to as collateral) that are so often among the dead.

The forms (bodies) are made out of many layers of plaster gauze. (this is gauze already permeated with plaster that you dip into water to activate). I made each figure in two halves and then wrapped the gauze around the halves to create the whole.

I altered the forms after the initial body form was made (i.e., the first two layers or so of the gauze). For instance one woman is pregnant, another is fat, the others have slightly different bust sizes, arm and/or feet form/direction, body language. This is the same with the men, e.g. one of the men is emaciated. The infant, child, and adolescent are more based on size to represent stages in life than a particular body type or situation.

When the bodies were dry (you do recall the environmental challenges during the time I was working. UGH!), I covered each with two coats of marine shellac. This is for exterior use, primarily on boats. In particular I did this because the installation is an outdoor installation and it is sure to precipitate over the course of the exhibit.

This also eased my uncomfortableness with the fact that the plaster layers were basically white (as in caucasian). I wanted these forms to represent humanity not people of a particular background. So while none have dark skin the effect of the shellac was to turn them to shades that were creamy to light brown.

Also, as I do not believe that any of us is perfect (in any way. and how boring that would be, no?) there are lumps and drips and bumps, such as we each have.

The bodies that we see in print and the electronic media are wrapped in blankets and then sometimes in plastic. I selected medical emergency blankets that are used by EMS teams around the country. The color - amber, yellow, or whatever - represents to me caution and that was appropriate for the essence of the piece. Also the blankets are poly with about a 1/16" layer of foam on the backside. The blankets are wrapped around the whole body and the edges hand sewn into place.

I decided to use sand bag tarps for the outer layer, because of the elements over the duration of the exhibit and because it is fitting for dead bodies that are to remain unidentified and in the public eye.

Sand bags are usually used when a disaster has already started (to shore up the banks of a body of water, etc.) and often do not work to prevent a disaster. Thus it felt like a good fit. These were also hand sewn to close the openings and tied (self ties, i.e., also sand bag tarp material) in the fashion that dead bodies are tied. The size of the three non-adults is emphasized by the outer wrapping that hangs below (the feet) and above (the head) of the actual body form.

For a dignity which is very important and often not heeded, the outer covering is an attempt to protect the body when it is no longer able to protect itself, or even try to.

Susan C. Dessel OUR BACKYARD: A Cautionary Tale 2006 sandbag tarps, EMS blankets, shellac, plaster gauze, cement, dimensions variable [view of installation]

The first part of the first real-time show either Barry or I have curated opens this Friday at Dam, Stuhltrager in Williamsburg. The opening reception for Susan C. Dessel's sculpture yard installation, "OUR BACKYARD: A Cautionary Tale", is the evening of September 8, from 7 to 9. The address is 38 Marcy Avenue, just west of the BQE on the corner of Hope.

The inside galleries will be showing the work of five Spanish artists, Yolanda del Amo, Ruben Ramos Balsa, Rafael de Diego, Esther Manas and Javier Viver, in "Echo", an installation curated by Sara Abad & Elena Blanque also opening the same night.

Yes, of course we'll be there.

Check ArtCal for the remaining 110+ openings we care about in the next few days, and see Bloggy for some suggestions for simplifying your cultural mapping for tomorrow, Thursday, by any account New York's biggest night of the year for new art.

The second part of our own show opens inside at Dam, Stuhltrager five weeks from now, on October 13. More on that adventure in this space during the weeks to come.

"Kamp K48", a large detail of the installation inside the "JCP Annex"

Shay Nowick Protest Banner 2005 acrylic on cotton fabric 4' x 6' [view of installation, with a glimpse of Hrafnhildur Arnardottir's "The Hairy Hunchback" on the right, Hug & Magnan's "Chainlink wallpaper" behind, A.L Steiner's "Untitled (trail of loathsome slime)" to the right, and rachel Howe's "We Lit the Fires (Misfit)" on the left]

Noah Lyon 50 Cent Friendster (aka White Tees) 2005 marker and collage on canvas 9" x 12" and It's Lonely Being Lonely aka Breeeaaaast Milk You Made My Daaayaaa!!! 2005 paint and marker on canvas 9" x 12" [view of installation]

John Connelly's last show of the summer, which closed last week, was ostensibly about camp, but not the one in Susan Sontag's notes, and not the one your parents thought they were sending you to. "Kamp K48" was the inspiration of Scott Hug, the artist, curator and publisher of the magazine K48. From the press release:

For this outing, Troop K48, consisting of artists who have been affiliated with K48 throughout the years, will take you on an artistic hike through the breathtaking scenery and boundless beauty of the natural world.

The exhibition plans to explore both the stereotypes and realities of our relationship to the environment, how nature is sometimes used as a marketing campaign and how we have cultured nature to suit our own needs. In the installation, nature and the art it has inspired has been visually fenced in, either to keep you out or to keep it in. The 48+ contributors in Kamp 48 have been working from their own ideas of nature to create a campsite where mass media’s manipulation of nature is fully explored. Featured works take cues from horror movies, abduction stories, troop leaders gone wild, alien abductions and the army-like transformation of boys to men under the stern direction of the Boy Scouts of America.

But if you made it to 27th Street last month, it wasn't really that simple; camp probably never was.

See the review by Wayne Northcross in Gay City News.

I have to single out the work of an artist in this show of whom I haven't seen enough lately. Deborah Mesa-Pelly had three modest-sized photographs mounted in different areas, and I can show images of two of them here. The second was a big surprise when I uploaded my card onto the computer, since it hung in almost complete darkness inside the gallery's smaller room described as the "JCP Annex".

Deborah Mesa-Pelly Racoon Eyes 2005 C-print 19" x 24" [installation view]

Deborah Mesa-Pelly Wiener Hole 2006 C-print 15" x 19" [large detail of installation]


The old Chelsea confronts the new: The faded remainder of a painted twentieth-century advertising sign for a popular auto body polish faces the sparkling highlights of a nearly-completed Frank Gehry building on the West Side Highway. The top of the painted brick facade of the Anton Kern Gallery fills the bottom of the picture frame.

some kind of "Silence in the Streets", NYC, March 23, 2003

I saw this "Editorial Observer" piece by Andrew Rosenthal in yesterday's NYTimes and I could hardly believe my eyes. The writer asks, in the words of the piece's title, "There Is Silence in the Streets; Where Have All the Protesters Gone?”, and then goes on to complain about how indifferent to injustice, or plain soft or cowardly, today's generation is when compared to the nobility of his own:

. . . it’s hard to imagine anyone on today’s campuses willing to face armed troops. Is there anything they care about that much?

Student protesters helped drive Lyndon Johnson — in so many ways a powerful, progressive president — out of office because of his war. In 2004, George W. Bush — in so many ways a weak, regressive president — was re-elected despite his war. And the campuses were silent.

Yes, the lack of a military draft is an important explanation for the lack of political involvement on today's campuses, but Rosenthal is being more than a little disingenuous in not mentioning the most important element of what he portrays as, at best, the apathy of our youth.

I'm outraged that an Assistant Managing Editor of the Times can pretend to be blind to the fact that we have taken to the streets, repeatedly, in numbers of up to a million people in New York alone. We were virtually ignored by our President, our Senators and Representatives, our courts and, most importantly, our media, notably his own employer. Little has changed even today, when two thirds of the country opposes the Iraq War and just about everything else done by this administration. We've also voted, tried to nominate candidates, written letters, made phone calls, leafletted, hung posters, organized action groups, started committees and blogs, created art and eventually screamed at the top of our lungs. We've been arrested for protesting, or for looking like we were going to protest, and sometimes we've been injured or held for days without charges. We remain nevertheless virtually invisible and even less effective in impacting Washington than, say, Miami Cubans have had in influencing Havana. Now there's something worth thinking about, Mr. Rosenthal.

Fortunately some Times readers know a fool or a villain when they spot one, as I was pleased to learn in going through all five letters on the subject of his column which appeared in today's edition. Theodore S. Voelker speaks for so many of us:

Andrew Rosenthal raises a timely question. The silence in the streets is partly a sign of millions of tired or retired protesters. There is also silence because we currently have an administration that would not listen to protests if 200 million Americans marched on Washington.
And Nancy Goor is more specific:
I think one reason we have so few protests is that the news media in general did not and do not cover any protests in more than a cursory way.

From the earliest antiwar marches, protesters learned that it wasn’t worth the effort because their demonstrations were not covered by the news media and thus their message was not reaching their audience.

But Leslie Kauffman gets right to the heart of the matter:
Andrew Rosenthal writes that there is silence in the streets about the Iraq war. Does he mean the streets of New York City, where a million people have marched and protested since before the war? Five major antiwar demonstrations have been held here since February 2003, most recently last April 29.

Or is Mr. Rosenthal referring to the streets of Washington, where hundreds of thousands of people have marched and protested since before the war? At least four major antiwar demonstrations have been held there since January 2003.

More than 1,000 local antiwar groups are active in at least 530 cities and towns. Every week since the war began, peace vigils have taken place in at least 90 locales.

Mr. Rosenthal says that “it takes crowds to get America’s attention.” Large crowds have consistently taken to the streets to call for the troops to come home. Why is the scope of today’s antiwar movement, like the war itself, “largely hidden from American eyes”?

The idiot in Crawford would have gotten nowhere without the pass he got from the commercial media from the very beginning; the ultimate blame for our potentially fatal national agony, Mr. Rosenthal (and you should be squirming by now), lies on your own conscience and that of almost every editor and publisher in America.

In fact that failure began at least as far back as the campaign of 2000, but who's counting anymore.

[image from]

Josh Wolf, the young California video blogger and freelance journalist who was imprisoned August 1 for refusing to turn over videos of a political protest to a federal grand jury, has just been freed on bail by a federal appeals court, exactly one month later.


Wolf has left the Dublin prison facility, but he hasn't left the community he found there. Yesterday, before once again thanking those who have supported him while he was inside, he wound up his statement before the press:

I’m sure that many of you are curious about my experiences being imprisoned in Dublin; I have been very fortunate and much of my time incarcerated was actually quite positive. While locked up, I met many fellow prisoners who are truly stellar individuals and a observed a community which is actually one of the healthiest that I have ever lived in. To my friends in Unit J2, thanks for everything and I wish you all the best of luck.

In an effort to help get the stories of those incarcerated out into the world, I have started to develop a not-for-profit organization which will be known, for now, as – the project is dedicated to giving a voice to the voiceless, and is something that I am very excited about. Expect more details about this initiative in the coming weeks.

For more on the story of Wolf's release, see the San Francisco Chronicle and his own website.

rushing the turnstiles

happy together

favorite hunky clown

just ordinary commuters

DIY nose jobs

but hard to miss

I knew pretty much what to expect. I was told a horde of clowns would be descending onto a subway platform in Union Square at 5 o'clock this afternoon where they would squeeze into the L train heading into Williamsburg. I thought, "clowns"! How wonderful! And then I saw the pictures of pie fights on the website, and I thought of traditional scenes of eratic behavior, sadism including lots of let's-pretend violence and the the cutting-up-little-babies illusions. Real clowns don't come conveniently packaged for innocent amusement, and they never did. But that's precisely the secret of their universal and historic appeal. I went with this particular, merely mildly-scary bunch only to the Bedford Street stop and then a few blocks further down the street.

They were on their way to the Brick Theater, where the NY Clown Theatre Festival will be headquartered for the next three weeks. If New York is lucky these clowns won't confine themselves to the building at 575 Metropolitan Avenue.

We're told this is New York's first clown festival in twenty years. That probably goes a long way toward explaining why some things have been so messed up around here in the last couple of decades: Some folks need a little constructive provocation to stay in line, and New Yorkers could certainly use a regular extra-strength antidote for the common humbug.

But I'll own up to my own cowardice this evening: I never believed the baby stuff, but I'm still afraid of pie fights.

This page is an archive of entries from September 2006 listed from newest to oldest.

previous archive: August 2006

next archive: October 2006