March 2009 Archives

Louise Fishman Slippery Slope 2006 oil on linen 88" x 65"

Louise Fishman A Certain Marvelous Thing 2007 oil on linen 38" x 21"

Louise Fishman Telling 2007 oil on linen 70" x 56"

Louise Fishman Bottom 2009 oil on jute 10.25" x 28"

It took me forever to finish this post. This time the problem was with the images, not the poverty of my text. I went to the opening reception of Louise Fishman's latest exhibition at Cheim & Read on Thursday, but I didn't bring my camera, since I expected that the crowd would make it difficult for me to step back to get the shots I'd want. I rushed back on Friday, even earlier in the day than Barry and I usually manage to get out of the apartment. I wanted to be able to see the paintings without having to deal with large numbers of people, I wanted to get shots for a post, and I wanted to broadcast my enthusiasm and publish it sooner than later.

When I arrived home that night I started to upload the images, but I was dissatisfied with, or unsure about, the colors I was seeing. I was unable to reconcile what I was looking at with the claims of my memory and what I saw on the gallery's own site.

I went back on Saturday before visiting some other Chelsea shows, and I stood before the paintings for a few minutes, trying to memorize a few key colors on the few I had selected to capture the day before. It's Monday evening, and I'm only now getting back to the entry I started several days ago. While I've been busy with a lot of other things, I've also been feeling anxious about my self-assigned responsibility of representing Fishman's gorgeous paintings on a computer screen as faithfully as I am able.

I'm regularly frustrated, and humbled, by the difficulty of transferring a worthwhile part of the ordinary/extraordinary experience of being there into the two meager dimensions of a small screen, in spite of all its electronic mojo, but this time I really felt stumped - at least for a while.

In the end I took the bull by the horns and just did it. These pictures are not and could never be exact copies of the art they describe, even if the works themselves were not so beautiful or so physical as Fishman's certainly are. But I think that they are able to suggest why I believe this is one of the best, if not the best, painting show in town.

The gallery has included work Fishman completed over the past three years. Some of it is clearly related to work she had shown earlier in the century [wow, that usage sounds so weird to someone born in the first half of the last one], but there are some astounding pieces here which seem to break ground in ways which might seem a little crazy to anyone who has only been following her recent career. Fishman has never stood still, and neither have her real admirers.

The gallery has included some of the artist's small paintings, I think for the first time, and they are fully as strong as her larger works.

I just noticed that for whatever reason, I didn't manage to get images of any of the more unfamiliar abstractions that I've just referred to. But what the heck, it should make a visit to the show, for those able to get there, even more exciting. I seem also to have confined my choices to a strangely-limited pallet: Blue dominates each of these four pieces, but in the gallery itself there are some extravagant yellows and golds, reds and greens, and at least two subdued, but shimmering rainbows, and most of the nineteen or so paintings are in conversation, or confrontation, with black.

untitled ("feather-light") 2009

It's an even more awesome and happy sight when they're seen moving.

qi, aka "The Art Thief", disguised as Hillary

institutional critiquing

Artist qi peng's blog on the Salt Lake City Fine Arts Examiner website includes a number of conversations (which he characterizes, on his own site as part of his conceptual art, that is, "'interviews' executed as a form of collaborative portraits") with artists and art mavens who might be located just about anywhere.

I agree with Ed Winkleman's assessment: While the interviews are just one of the reasons to go there, you'll find some very good talk, notably an astounding exchange with artist William Powhida [hot photo, William], who is guaranteed good company every time. But just before that, you'll find qi's "portrait" of the great and generous Winkleman himself.

Peng's interview with this unworthy fanatic showed up on his site two days ago.

[image from the artist]

Maria von Maltzan

accepted no imitations

It's her birthday.

Maria Helene Françoise Izabel Gräfin von Maltzan, Freiin zu Wartenberg und Penzlin, was born on her wealthy family's Silesian estate, Schloss Militsch, north of Breslau on March 25, 1909. She died in Berlin's Kreuzberg district in 1997, after a very long and very rich life as a rebel, and one of the righteous - among all nations and for all people.

I first came across her heroic story in some incredible segments which peppered an excellent book I read last year, "The Fall of Berlin", by Anthony Read and David Fisher. I must have been impressed, because I noted the date of her birth in my pocket calendar and later transferred the information when I bought one for 2009. It probably helped that I realized that this year would be her 100th anniversary.

Von Maltzan's rebellion first became a public one with a decision, uncharacteristic for a girl in her society, to study biology, botany and anthropology. The righteousness was probably always there, but when she completed her doctorate in the natural sciences in the fateful year 1933 she almost immediately began her involvement in what was only the first of many underground anti-Nazi resistance movements to follow. She was very young, a part of a Bohemian circle in Munich, but she soon began illegally smuggling information out of the country.

Her lack of enthusiasm for the new regime alone would have been enough to trash a chance for any appointment with a scientific or academic institution, and none was to follow - ever. Von Maltzan began what would become a long career of what the world's conventionally-successful would call underemployments. She survived on money earned as a translator, a free-lance journalist and a lecturer. She also cared for horses and worked as a stunt rider for Bavaria Film. When she moved to Berlin in 1935 she worked in publishing, later as a postal verifier and then with the German Red Cross assistance service.

During the war she completed studies in veterinary medicine, all the while carrying messages and leading refugees through the sewers of Berlin toward freedom, falsifying papers, sheltering Jews and other fugitives (both in her own apartment and elsewhere), and personally assisting many of them in fleeing the country, whether, as in "Action Swedish Furniture", inside crates marked "Schwedenmöbe" or personally conducting some across the Bodensee (Lake Constance) to safety in Switzerland. In the midst of her underground activities she managed to remain close to both the conservative Kreisau Circle and the Communists.

During the last months of the war, inside a Berlin now leveled by allied bombs, Maltzan continued to help both refugees and deserters, and she organized a private soup kitchen for abandoned forced foreign laborers in the back court of her apartment house in Wilmersdorf.

I'm leaving out the story of three marriages (two to the man she hid from the Gestapo inside her couch for years) and the death of a child. But there was much more. Most of the heavy personal cost of von Maltzan's heroic exertions and incredible acts of courage were performed within a world whose restraints and terrors we can hardly imagine. We also won't ever know the full nature and extent of what she suffered both before and after 1945.

After the war, her family members dead or scattered, and her home now inside Poland, she managed to found a veterinary practice, working first for the Soviet occupiers and after that for the British. But she later lost her license because of a drug dependency and her need for psychiatric care.

She slowly regained her personal and professional independence, first traveling with a circus, later working in the Berlin Zoo, always caring for animals. She also managed to get employment as a substitute for vacationing veterinarians.

She eventually settled near the Kurfürstendamm in Berlin and opened a thriving veterinary practice which was patronized by both pet-owning celebrities and their equivalents in the red-light district. In 1981 she moved to Berlin-Kreuzberg, bringing her practice with her. She treated the animals brought to her by the punks in her neighborhood for free. While outwardly she might appear harsh and ill-tempered, inside she was a pushover for the victim, the vulnerable and the downtrodden. She readily chose to defend the relatively powerless individuals and multitudes who were crowded into her district, foreigners or outsiders of all kinds, from corporations, police and politicians. She told an interviewer:

I'm quite engaged in social things now because this part of Berlin is a perfect slum. They don't like me to say it. I really stand up for this part of Berlin, Kreuzberg. They've shoved everybody into this area - Turks, colored people, Poles, everyone stuck into this corner! We have houses with eight flats on one floor with one w.c. on the staircase. The police, you can't imagine how brutal they are down here, beating. If I see it - because you can see I have big corner windows with a clear view - I go down and get hold of the police and say, "Why are you beating these people?" And the silly police say to me, "Perhaps you like colored here!" "Well, " I say, "I prefer them to helmets!"

In 1987 she was awarded the title "Righteous Among the Nations" by Yad Vashem. In this undated video interview conducted in her [killer] apartment von Maltzan says:

Because my mother was unjust I have a very high feeling of justice. That's the real matter of the whole thing. That's why I'm furious with Israel; they wanted to give me a eucalyptus tree, and I could get a medal pricked to my breast! Such things I don't really care for.

And they said to me they wanted to make a big kickup for me in Bonn, but the letter inviting me for this arrived the day after the attack on Sidon [she mentioned rockets and red phosphorus]. I wrote back saying that all my life I've tried to be for the peaceful co-existence of all people, of all colors and all regligions, and I don't see that Israel has anything to do with these my ideas, and so I don't think I want a medal from you. I didn't go.

Maria von Maltzan died November 12, 1997, in Berlin. She had published her memoirs, "Schlage die Trommel und fürchte dich nicht", a little over ten years earlier, but they have not yet been translated into English.

NOTE: There is a more extensive citation in the German Wikipedia, from which I've taken most of my account here.

[image from gayblock]

Republic Windows employees celebrate getting everything they asked for, after sit-in

taking over the factory

After writing up my report of what was said by others at last Thursday's panel at the X Initiative I asked myself what I thought about the question implied in the program's title: "After the Deluge?; Perspectives on Challenging Times in the Art World". I've decided to continue the discussion I had with myself in this space.

As far as the economy is concerned, I think things are going to get pretty crazy out there, and they may perhaps stay pretty crazy for a long time. In spite of the optimism coming from Washington and in much of the press in the last few days, I still think we're sliding into another great depression. I'd say they've really broken it this time. I'm especially concerned because I'm not hearing anyone who is supposedly in charge really admit it.

If the U.S. population is a little more than 300 million and the total amount of the so-called bailouts and capital infusions remains no more than the estimate of $9.9 trillion published in an article in the Times two months ago (which now may seem a very optimistic assumption), those numbers equate to more than $32,000. for every single American. And yet it may not do the trick. The country, and the whole world, might still collapse into chaos.

Under both best- and the worst-case scenarios, there will be changes in the way we all live.

But let's put aside the doomsday bugbear; it seems there's something else going on, and this phenomenon just might turn out to be a good thing. People are not just worse off than they were one year ago, or perhaps eight or even thirty years ago, as we're now learning. People are mad; they're *really* mad; and it's not just about the AIG bonuses. It's about the selfishness, the greed, the arrogance and the pure stupidity of those who have been given those bonuses, as well as all the other financial tycoons, and their fellow-traveling politicians too. They have together created the disaster which is taking from people their jobs, their savings and their hopes, while mortgaging their future and that of their children with the trillions of dollars stuffed into the pockets of those same tycoons and politicians, in transactions which remain opaque today.

For what it's worth, we can be sure this debacle won't look anything like the last one. When things like wars and depressions come back, when historical things are repeated, they actually never do "come back", and they really never are "repeated". World War II looked nothing like its almost-equally infamous namesake. We can also be sure that Great Depression II will end up looking nothing like the first one, which seemed to have defined the 20th century almost as much as totalitarianism, genocide and industrial progress.

One thing we do know is that nothing was ever quite the same both during and after the Great Depression. I think there's a good chance that nothing will survive the current crisis in the same form in which it existed just one year ago, including the current arrangements within the art world. I have no predictions about galleries or other institutions, but the relationship between the artist, the gallery and the public may be altered. It's probably safe to assume that while some will certainly survive and eventually flourish once again, any space which today we think of as on the leading edge will almost certainly be supplanted in that role by others not yet in business, and the old edge will become the middle ground.

But assuming we don't end up tearing each other apart over scraps of food, maybe we can look forward to "interesting times" as for artists and the people who love them and what they do. I've assembled a far-from-exhaustive list of developments which I think we're likely to see just ahead of us, if not already. It does not include trends which would seem to be unrelated to the economic depression, like digital experimentation. Also, most are not entirely new concepts or developments, and some of them are already here.

Every artist will finally get a website, including those who have held out because of some idea of principle, and those who have depended on their galleries.
There will be more virtual art, meaning both online work and projects.
We will see an growing trend toward the adoption of "open source, open content and open distribution" (pace Eyebeam).
There will be more interactive work.
Individual artists and groups of artists will be showing work in their studios, art both by themselves and by others.
Artists will organize shows themselves in vacant buildings and storefronts, even if private and public institutions fail to do so.
Some businesses, large and small, will find it useful and rewarding to cooperate with artists in a symbiotic relationship.
A distressed economy will encourage the recognition of the folly, and even counterproductive consequences, of camera prohibitions.
We can expect to see a greater popular documentation of the visual arts, where it doesn't interfere with its appreciation by others.
We will see more street art and more street performance, both in more inspired forms than ever.
We are sure to see more work that reflects the growing populism abroad in the land today.
And consequently, we will see more socially and politically provocative work (actually, that may be mostly wishful thinking).
But this new art will be subversive (no, I mean really subversive), even if it's not "Political".
There will be work which would have been unrecognizable as art, by most people, until now.
And certainly there will be art created in totally new mediums.
But, because of reduced budgets, we can still expect more works on paper and more work using found materials.
Governments and citizens will finally grant artists a status withheld from them until now, recognition as a full and worthy part of society in every way.

It all sounds good to me, but the best thing I've heard or read describing the positive things which lie ahead for artists even in our reduced economic circumstances was a piece Holland Cotter wrote for the Times, published February 12, "The Boom Is Over. Long Live the Art!":

At the same time, if the example of past crises holds true, artists can also take over the factory, make the art industry their own. Collectively and individually they can customize the machinery, alter the modes of distribution, adjust the rate of production to allow for organic growth, for shifts in purpose and direction. They can daydream and concentrate. They can make nothing for a while, or make something and make it wrong, and fail in peace, and start again.

Now if we can all just get through this no-money thing and crawl out the other side in one piece.

[image by E. Jason Wambsgans from the Times via Chicago Tribune and AP]

Rob Fischer Highway 71 No. 3 2004-2005 painted photograph

thoughts of living in reduced circumstances

Last night in Chelsea the X Initiative (actually, the "initiative" of Elizabeth Dee) hosted what was billed as a "town hall meeting and panel discussion", under the somewhat compelling rubric, "After the Deluge?; Perspectives on Challenging Times in the Art World".

It was a galvanizing evening, its importance having first been established by the economic developments of the past year, then furthered by the choice of the panel, and finally recognized by the fact that the seating was oversubscribed with art world people of every description. Virtually everyone in the audience was completely silent and apparently attentive during the discussion. It was very skillfully moderated by Lindsay Pollock, an author and a journalist with Bloomberg News. She's a star - and a nimble one at that: During the Q&A which followed Pollock fielded queries which had arrived on her computer during the presentation in the form of both emails and twitter (a first in my experience), and later fielded questions sent by low-tech upraised hand voice (inevitably the least audible of the three media, and so presenting perhaps a foretoken for the future of settings like this).

The panel was made up of a fairly narrowly-focused selection of occupations (gallerists, or artist/gallerists, and administrators), although there was certainly diversification within this small group. It included Jeffrey Deitch of Deitch Projects; Brett Littman Executive Director of The Drawing Center; Michael Rush, Director of the Rose Art Museum; and Anya Kielar, an artist and co-founder of Guild & Greyshkul.

I don't have most of the questions with which the moderator started the conversations on the panel. They were lost somewhere in that large, crowded room, having never made it to the small notepad balanced on my knee - in the dark. I was lucky enough to manage some more-or-less-legible scribbles which paraphrase portions of the answers, or statements. What follows are essentially my notes converted into sentences.

I think Pollock's first question was a general one, about the state of the art world today. Jeffrey Deitch began by saying that for many people the madness of the bullish art market had resulted in more than a little confusion in distinguishing between the most expensive art and the art which is most valuable.

He noted that museum curators had stopped visiting galleries and were instead buying art from the art fairs, and that Miami Basel was only the most dramatic example. And they were buying it straight off the walls. The traditional approach had virtually disappeared, that of visiting the galleries and then returning for the artist's next show, and sometimes visiting studios and talking to the artist, all of it to develop an understanding of and conversation with the art.

There had been what he called a "distortion" in the market, Deitch admitted, because of the extraordinary power of "the six billionaires" who in recent years actually were, the market [bear in mind that this was only at the very top end]. He quickly added that the number six was not a total exaggeration, and said that the most dramatic change within these exclusive precincts is the fact that this market has all but disappeared: He cited the collector François Pinault, who last fall cancelled every purchase he had made, all the way back to the previous April, as only the most dramatic example of this transformation.

He responded to something someone had said about the difficulty galleries have in a depressed market with the counsel that, "like any business", you have to live through both up and down periods. [here I thought to myself that it was easier to live through both if your ups were very up indeed].

I was actually surprised that as a hugely successful owner of three New York gallery spaces Deitch had taken the time to be a part of this discussion, and I was a little moved to hear his reply to a question Pollock asked later in the program: "What will change?" Deitch began, "We have our community", adding with great emphasis that it is a remarkable community. "We are going to use our community as an asset." He made analogies to the fraternity created in the last depression [my phrasing] by the WPA, which brought artists together who might never have known each other, or seen each other's work. He added that he believed the 1980 Times Square Show* was of similar importance for New York specifically, and that it became the foundation for the 1980's arts community.

In the Q&A part of the evening someone asked from the floor what the panel thought about calling for a new WPA. I didn't hear everything said in response, but there appeared to be little enthusiasm. Maybe it was only because it seemed like such a preposterous an idea to present to Americans today.

Barry had tweeted during the panelists' remarks, addressing to no one member in particular a question which he and I have both often discussed. It's related to a concept which had first excited me before I had even moved to New York in 1985. I'm referring to Creative Time's exciting early programs which put art into vacant storefronts and neglected landmarks, beginning with Art on the Beach in the late 70's. We can do it again.

Deitch took the question and sounded enthusiastic about the idea (well, sort of making it his own). He told a story about walking through streets in Soho with a friend from Beirut who, noticing all the empty stores, asked why the city didn't do something about it, adding that in Lebanon the government arranges to have art installed in such places. He thought it should be done.

[We absolutely should be doing this already. We have experienced people in place in several institutions now who could act as administrators and curators. We're going to have a lot of vacant stores for a while; artists never have enough spaces to show work; and most people never see enough art. It might have been a bit of a hard sell twenty-five or thirty years ago but today real estate owners and developers should jump on the idea. Art is now taken more seriously, and capitalism, well, it's not. I worked as a liability underwriter when I moved here, and it was clear to me that the biggest obstacle for these installations would always be the difficulty and expense of getting insurance to cover property owners who might otherwise be supportive. It still is. By the way, one of my company's biggest competitors, AIG, was always the most aggressive underwriter for this kind of odd risk arrangement. But New York City self-insures; there's no reason why it's not in the interest of the whole regional economy to absorb the risk for these minimal exposures. The idea is to turn the visual and performing arts, already integral to both the soul and the pocketbook of all New Yorkers, into an even more vital, attractive and economically-valuable part of New York (maybe the most successful part economically), at least until the rest of the economy can be reconstructed.]

Anya Kielar, who, with her two artist partners, closed the already-well-mourned Guild & Greyshkul space in February after five years, explained that they had done so only at the point they realized that if they were to pay the next light bill they would risk not being able to pay their artists. They had no capital, and no credit cards, and that's how they had always wanted it. Investors were interested in helping to continue, but they knew they would inevitably lose their independence with such an arrangement. Kielar also said that the decision was made easier knowing that running a gallery was not the only thing any of them had on their own.

Later in the evening she said that although she was fortunate to have success with her own work almost from the moment she left Columbia, she appreciates her teachers advising students early on not to rely entirely on their art. In fact, like many artists, she has been able to use her MFA to earn money teaching, even if her own assignment with a Bard program, teaching at Bayview womens' prison (in the Chelsea gallery district) might not be as financially rewarding as some. Speaking for her own relationship to the gallery system, she said that she was not currently associated with any, adding that independence had the positive aspect of enabling her to "flex and do projects". She suggested that artists shouldn't get too comfortable with a gallery anyway; galleries change, as artists change, and sometimes it's good to move on.

Kielar said that while she was there the art school structure had become and remains something of a community for her, adding "You don't realize that's one of the most important parts of being in school".

In the open part of the evening there was a short exchange related to her discussion of the teaching option. It started with someone's question about what effect the economic depression might have on school art faculties. It was suggested that we can easily imagine fewer art students in the foreseeable future and that would mean fewer teachers will be needed and fewer artists will be able to realize an income teaching, or even use small appointments to supplement other income.

People seemed particularly glued to Michael Rush's remarks, and not just because he happens to be the beleaguered director of the the Rose Art Museum**, and so represents, personally and professionally so much of what brought all these people to 22nd Street last night. He was impressive: articulate, gentle and humane.

I don't have a direct quote, but this is a pretty good description of how he started out: When the market was good, people said that art was all about money; now that the market stinks, people say it's all about money. He suggested we just leave money out of it, that we should be able to rise above money. He said that the experience of the last year or so (including his own, since learning that his museum's days were numbered) should teach us lessons of leadership and, . . . (hesitating for emphasis) humanity. He said he had learned not to let let panic determine action and how not to deal with other human beings.

He was emphatic that among the practical consequences of what Brandeis has already done will be that donors will, and should, ensure that more conditions are attached to their donations. He added that the days of "good faith" transactions are definitely over. Asking, "What is the public trust?", Rush said he wanted to make it clear that what was happening in Waltham was not about "deaccession", conduct in which a museum might properly engage under proper circumstances and for the right reasons. "This is about [a museum] selling art for money", and he argued that it was an enormously harmful and destructive development in the way we regard art, and that it must not be tolerated.

Brett Littman said that he believed one of the positive sides to the market downturn would be that for students leaving the academy the pressures to produce, or to conform to others' expectations will be lessened, that the environment for art will be "purified".

At the end of the program and before questions from the floor Littman, who is the executive director of the Drawing Center, had the last word when the panel was asked for predictions of what "changing times in the art world" will mean. Referring to the new reality, in a depressed market, of unaffordable materials and projects, he said, "I do think that it means artists will draw more".

The last questioner rose from the audience to ask the panelists how a constrained market was affecting the kind of art that is actually being made. She recalled that in the 70's, with OPEC raising oil prices, dramatic inflation in the cost of living, and the Vietnam war and its aftermath, we saw the growth of body art, performance art and conceptual art. Art seemed no longer to be about "making objects that could be bought or sold". I didn't hear any predictions from the table.

She suggested that the question might be the topic of the next town hall meeting.

It wasn't long into the evening's discussions that I was thinking myself how remarkable an assembly this was, and that it should somehow continue. Perhaps it might be in a different format and perhaps where it might be easier to make it more interactive - without keeping invited the guests up too late, or driving too many people crazy. Next time I'll even help with the chairs. Okay, I missed the GLF and the GAA, but I did ACT UP. Although real lives were at stake in that community of free spirits, it was also a swell fraternity/sorority.

NOTE: S.C. Squibb has a smoother, more concise account on the ArtCat zine.

Jerry Saltz, describing the show:

Young artists, critics, and curators begin their takeover of the New York art world with the "Times Square Show," curated by artists, and held in a two-floor former bus depot and massage parlor off Times Square. It included work by unknowns Jenny Holzer, David Hammons, Jean-Michel Basquiat, Keith Haring, Kiki Smith, Walter Robinson and many others who were making a loose street-wise non-academic, non-post-minimal art. The show is a call to artists everywhere to do what they want as often and as energetically as possible.

It was the Rose Art Museum, part of Brandeis University, which made the news two months ago when it was learned that the university's philistine administration had decided that the easiest way to make up their own endowment gap was to close the museum and sell all the art (in the midst of a major depression in the art market). The Rose itself is independent in its funding, has experienced no financial problems, and in fact passes on 15% of the money it raises directly to Brandeis.

[image from re-title]

Penelope Umbrico 4,786,139 Suns from Flickr (Partial) 1/14/09 2007-2009 4" x 6" machine prints [detail of installation]

The 2009 New York art fairs closed ten days ago, and I wouldn't bring them up now, since there's so much interesting that's been happening since, except that there are still a few images of good work knocking about in my head (and in my laptop), and they insist on getting out. This entry will describe work seen at PULSE New York; I expect to do at least one more post before I'm done.

The image at the top of this post is of Penelope Umbrico's Special Project installation at PULSE. It's exactly what the title implies, a portion of the pictures of sunsets which the artist found while searching the word “sunset” on Flickr on the day she made the piece seen here. She had started the project several years ago on the day she had found (only) 541,795 pictures indicated on the site. She cropped out all but the suns alone from those some half million images and then made 4" x 6" machine prints.

If you have the time and you're interested, it looks like the 541,795 cropped images are all right here. No dark glasses needed.

Brooklyn's Randall Scott Gallery brought the piece to the fair's site on Pier 40 at Houston Street.


From what I've read and heard, the DCKT (New York) one-artist installation of work by Cordy Ryman was a favorite of almost everyone who visited the show - even people who still have money to spend. This is Ryman's "ZigZag" (2009). It's executed in acrylic, staples and velcro on wood.


Brion Nuda Rosch was represented by this simple construction, a negative collage, "Having Felt Placed" (2009), at the booth of Baer Ridgway Exhibitions (San Francisco).


Baer Ridgway also showed Mads Lynnerup's delightful "Clock" (2008), a 24 hour video of the artist operating a very low-tech digital clock. The piece was done in one long take. I want it; I really, really want it.

Go here for a video excerpt.

Erik Benson's large scary/gorgeous "IKEA", an acrylic which somehow manages to look a little like reverse-painting on glass, was hanging inside the booth of Black & White Gallery (New York), where he is part of a three-artist show up through the end of the month.


This print could be found at the ACRIA booth. It's a 2007 silkscreen by Angela Dufresne, reworked with applied pencil, titled "Westchester County Country Club pool with view of Richard Buckminster Fuller Aquatic Dome House of Victor Bloom - seen* in the foreground in the Pool receiving fellatio from an un-named woman". It's 13" x 19" (image size), in an edition of 40. The price is $300. It's hot.

Dufresne shows at New York's Monya Rowe Gallery.

ACRIA [AIDS Community Research Initiative of America] was one of a number of non-profits invited to participate in the fair. This is a terrific institution and I would stand by that adjective even if I weren't personally very interested in both the organization's fundamental mission and one of the most important methods by which it raises funds. ACRIA uses an activist approach in the study of new treatments for HIV and AIDS and in its educational activities. A sophisticated art sales program which enlists volunteers and contributions from the arts community has been a part of their funding activity for years, I think from its very beginnings.

At Pulse they had a booth displaying and selling wonderful prints created by serious established and emerging artists. Some of the work sells for as little as $100. It's a great opportunity to feel very good about acquiring some great work for very little money. The shop is always open, and can be accessed here.

In both the ACRIA and Monya Rowe sites this word is spelled, "scene", but I'm assuming that is a misprint. Of course the title might profit from a couple of commas as well, but the sense of it is there in any event.

[Dufresne image, at the bottom, from ACRIA]

Federico Solmi's "crucifix" [my punctuation], related to his 2008 hand-drawn animation video, "The Evil Empire", a satirical look at the outrageous exploits of a fictive pope, and a part of his "ongoing desire to satirize tyrants" [as quoted in both ARTINFO and ArtNet].

I suppose this artist's work may look to some like heady stuff, but only if you're Catholic, unwholesomely deferential toward superstition, or just dysfunctionally prudish.

The object shown at the top is a little provocative, but it's also very beautiful, and I think his red knob is cute. Still, Solmi's crucifix, while being shown at Bologna's Arte Fiera this past January, so aroused local judge Bruno Giangiacomo (Judge for the Preliminary Investigation (Giudice per le Indagini Preliminari or G.I.P) who appears to have only heard about it second hand, that he had the Carabinieri seize it from the booth occupied by Naples' Not Gallery and the artist charged with, essentially, blasphemy ("il vilipendio di cose destinate al culto"/"contempt for an article of worship") and obscenity ("l’esposizione di oggetti osceni"/"the display of obscene objects"). The crucifix had already been sold to a collector, and Solmi first heard about the charges after he had returned to his home in New York. The blasphemy count was later dropped, when someone realized that the statute had been rendered null by a constitutional court in 2000.

No, sadly, this wasn't a publicity stunt, but when I was first told about the confiscation and the charges I did think that someone was pulling my leg. Actually I was almost stupefied, since the great city where this occurred has the reputation here of being Italy's most politically and socially radical. The artist's own home town and the capital of Emilia-Romagna, Bologna led the country’s socialist movement early in the twentieth century, was extremely active in the revolt against the fascists in 1944, and after the war, until the last decade, the city consistently voted for communist governments. I had assumed its fiery, secular, non-conformist political history would have supported an artist's right to his creation, however provocative. Now it's up to the lawyers to decide how much liberty is too much liberty.

drawing used in Solmi's "Evil Empire" video

Our own art fairs last week didn't produce anything like this kind of excitement. It almost makes me nostalgic for Rudy Giuliani's imbecilic tantrum over the Brooklyn Museum show, "Sensation", ten years ago. Just kidding; maybe we should think of censoring little boys and she-goats as more than enough excitement.

For more information see these ArtNet and ARTINFO articles.

[image at the top from the artist's New York gallery, LMAK Projects, via ArtNet]

Sayed_Parwiz_Kambakhsh.jpg Sayed Parwiz Kambakhsh, sentenced not for downloading porn, but for printing an internet article about Islam and women’s rights, and adding comments on the Prophet’s shortcomings on the subject

KABUL, Afghanistan — The Supreme Court in Afghanistan has upheld [in a secret decision made last month, but revealed only yesterday] a 20-year prison sentence for an Afghan university student journalist accused of blasphemy.

. . . .

The student, Parwiz Kambakhsh, 24, from northern Afghanistan, was arrested in 2007 and sentenced to death for blasphemy [following a two-minute trial; the sentence was commuted to 20 years last October] after accusations that he had written and distributed an article about the role of women in Islam [my italics]. Mr. Kambakhsh has denied having written the article and said he had downloaded it from the Internet. His family and lawyers say he has been denied a fair trial.

This story in today's Times headlines only one of an increasing number of incidents within "occupied" Afghanistan, including murder and imprisonment, which reflect appalling threats to personal freedoms, especially those affecting women, and the ordinary functions of the media, even within the capital itself. The threats come from the Taliban, Islamists, the traditional conservative patriarchy, and even from official government, political and less extreme religious circles.

Can someone tell me again why we're in Afghanistan?

It's been seven and a half years since we invaded that country and sharia* is still, literally, the law of the land. This place is on the other side of the world, but its where our new President wants to introduce a larger American armed presence than that which we have already installed there, and that mindless military solution looks like it's about to become the model for our next overseas adventure, the occupation of one of our allies, Pakistan (whose government has already handed over a good part of its own territory to the Taliban and sharia law) in our continuing "war against terrorism". In the beginning it was all about Bush, but in the end it's just going to be Obama and the ghost of LBJ.

Occupying these countries will not make them do what we want them to do, and who doesn't already know that?

Looking to the west, all the way across Iran to Iraq, we also learned today that the courageous reporter and patriot who insulted Bush fifteen months ago in Baghdad by throwing two shoes at the visiting American commander/comqueror has been sentenced to three years in prison. I would say he's lucky he wasn't shot on the spot, executed, "disappeared", or given 20 years, but this is no way to treat political protest, even in an "Islamic, democratic, federal parliamentary republic" assembled by clueless occupiers. Bush himself, no enemy of secret trials or torture, responded, after ducking the shoes, "that's what people do in a free society, draw attention to themselves". Zaidi could be heard screaming outside the room.

One more thought to ponder: Take a look at a map of the Middle East and imagine what you would think about these developments, and the other political and military arrangements an aggressive U.S. empire has made with countries in the area if you were responsible for the security of the proud and ancient people of Iran.

feeling surrounded

Unless you have a very strong stomach, don't search Google images "sharia". (I made the mistake of going there because I was hoping to find a generic picture of the subject to illustrate this entry.)

[first image from Getty Images; second from the New York Times]

Rune Olsen Hysterics 2009 graphite, masking tape, blue mannequin eyes, newspaper, wire, steel and UV-resistant acrylic medium 57" x 48" x 53"


two projection stills from "Sonic Vision" by Alexander Rishaug and Marius Watz.

During the run of the much larger art fairs last week M*A*S*H New York hosted a mini-fair of Norwegian artists inside Chashama's West 42nd Street quarters. The multi-media show, "Darkness Descends: Norwegian Art Now", was curated by Christina Vassallo and produced by Michael Sellinger's Cottleston Advisors.

The organizers had planned to place Rune Olsen's sculpture, "Hysterics", in the front window of the space, but soon after it was installed the building real estate manager, acting perhaps to protect the tender sensitivities of the corporate owners, decided it was objectionable and demanded that it be removed or covered up, threatening to cancel Chashama's lease if nothing were done. Thick draperies were hung behind the window glass throughout the run of the show. The Norwegian newpsaper, Dagbladet, was amused by the landlords' hysterics. Despite the fact that the work could only be seen from inside the space, and from an angle which distinctly obscured it, a collector had bought it by the time I had arrived at the opening reception.

During that reception Alexander Rishaug and Marius Watz collaborated on an Audio and Visual performance which produced brilliantly-colored abstract computer-created images affected by (improvised?) electronic ambient sounds, the shapes projected on a large screen. There were four "movements", so maybe I can call it a symphony, a symphony of sound and light. The work is actually intended to be performed with four projections, and it was scheduled to be performed that way on the next day at Monkey Town, in Williamsburg.

[image of "Hysterics" from the artist]

Having run out of time the night of the preview, Barry and I returned to the Armory Contemporary show on Friday. These are some more highlights from Pier 94, where the gray carpets were rolled up Sunday night. Images from some of the other fairs will appear in later posts.


Carolee Schneeman's 1973 "Parallel Axis" at Carolina Nitsch Contemporary (New York)


Galerie Frank Elbaz (Paris) showed the work of only one artist, Gyan Panchal, elegant sculpture which uses found, manufactured materials to evoke, or gently kiss, a more natural world.


Galerie Sabine Knust (Munich) showed Imi Knoebel's 1990-1992 silk screen prints, "Rot-Weiss I".


"du kan tro det virker, Pippi!"


Sommer Contemporary (Tel Aviv) fitted out its booth entirely with work by Rona Yefman. The artist collaborated with Tanja Schlander, in Abu Dis, at the Dividing Wall, to create the 2008 video, "Pippi Longstocking, the Strongest Girl in the World".

The second image is from a series, "Martha", which Yefman did while working with an Israeli octogenarian, holocaust survivor, father, and secret cross-dresser.


Peter Blum (New York) was invited to install a number of John Beech's turning discs along one long wall of the show. I'm not sure whether I should have been disappointed to not see anyone trying them out.


Galleri Charlotte Lund (Stockholm) showed several mixed-media, transcendent "paintings" by Astrid Svangren.


It was obvious that Alyson Shotz's dichroic acrylic on aluminum "Wavelength 2" at Derek Eller (New York) was catnip for every camera on the pier, including my own. That would have been no surprise to anyone familiar with her work.


Tel Aviv's Dvir Gallery had one of the smartest-looking and most elegant booths at the fair. They were showing work by Pierre Bismuth, Jonathan Monk, Adi Nes, Yigal Nizri, Miri Segal, Nedko Solakov and Lawrence Weiner.


Moscow's Regina Gallery was pretty busy when we went by. Most people were talking or writing about a neon work declaiming "Down With Capitalism", but I found this Shepard Fairey-like painting of Putin bearing the "CHANGE" text more intriguing. I'm sorry I didn't get the name of the artist, but after checking out the gallery's web site today I'm sorry I didn't really investigate the booth.

[image of Rona Yefman's "Martha" from the The Armory Show]


Near the entrance to VOLTA, just across from the elevators, Bruce High Quality Foundation has installed an unobtrusive old black monitor which runs a surveillance video recording a number of zombies wandering around the fair's spaces.



[the bear]

The concept which underlies Rune Olsen's "Too Drunk To Fuck: Father & Son", one element of a four-part project, suggests a more ambiguous, and even more disturbing, interpretation than these apparently straightforward images of inter-generational passion might suggest.

Olsen's "Bear Paintings" replace the heads of adult magazine models with portraits of a bear, their own eyes remain as exposed as their bodies, staring at the viewer. Just as with the sculptured images used in the "Too Drunk" series, the substituted heads were inspired by an image the artist had found on line, this time that of someone's idea of a trophy, a freshly-severed bear head lying face-up in a pool of its own blood. Olsen has re-imagined it in this same installation as the black sculpture mounted on the wall adjacent to the paintings/collages.

Samson Projects curated the installation.


[wall text]

For a limited amount of time, and by their own choice, Regina Jose Galindo and her family occupied a "family cell" (intended to house whole families, typically immigrants awaiting the disposition of their cases) in one of the forty private prisons located in Texas.

Prometeo Gallery
curated the installation.


David Kramer's heart belongs to Brooklyn.

Aeroplastics Contemporary curated the installation



Photojournalist Rina Castelnuovo's images, taken within both Israel and the occupied territories, manage to convey the twisted horrors of life as it is experienced by ordinary people in communities boasting, or burdened by, virtually every kind of political status.

The first image above details a pair of photographs, that on the right showing young Israeli soldiers mourning the death of one of their number during the invasion of Gaza early this year; that on the left shows Israeli Druze women lamenting the death of a young Druze soldier who served in the very same unit. The image below these two photos is of Palestinian boys on the West Bank, playing on the dump created by Jewish West Bank settlers. The boys are part of a large colony of scavengers who live on what they can find in that trash.

Andrea Meislin Gallery curated the installation.


[larger view]

Maria Nepomuceno's organic twists, coils, and sews fabrics and beads into fantastical organic shapes with a genius, an imagination and an industry which suggests that, given enough time, she just might be able to arrange to have them replace the world's more conventional matter.

A Gentil Carioca curated the installation.

These are just a sample of some of the other installations at VOLTA which I thought were successful projects. Or perhaps they were only remarkable in some particular. They may also have simply moved me. They are also here because I found they responded to my camera, although it's both frustrating and embarrassing to have to take that into consideration at all.








I don't really have enough time to explain why I think the art of Alex Rose is something no one should miss seeing this week, but I thought these few poor images might do almost as well.

Envoy is showing this Irish artist's work in their space at VOLTA, and I can't say enough about it - on virtually every level. This is a breathtaking body of work, and it has been curated with an artistry and sensitivity worthy of both its exceptional beauty and the unique story of its creation - and destruction.

Rose, who lives in a cottage in Cork, has been and remains a shy young recluse who has created art obsessively for most of his life. He did have some experience with art school, reportedly graduating in the end at the bottom of his class, but he seems to be more of an autodidact. He works compulsively with found materials, reworking them until they are fully invested with his own soul. He burns or buries the art he has created, documenting its destruction; the documents themselves may then be reworked and turn up in other work. Images are uploaded for a brief time on his blog, but they are ultimately removed, so that nothing survives in the end.

Fortunately he was persuaded by the gallery's director, the artist Jimi Dams, that letting go of some pieces, letting them be seen, would help other artists, and that is the only reason that we may see some of them here. But even this fragile window, a reluctant concession to visibility, was won only on the artist's understanding that the work which survives the ordinary terms of his practice (that is, always ending with its disappearance) no longer has anything to do with him.

When Envoy began to sell work during and after a solo show last June and Dams tried to send to the artist the money he was owed, it learned that he didn't want it. The physical objects no longer existed for him, and besides, he told them, he already had a secure, though very modest job and didn't need the money. Dams suggested, and Rose agreed, that his share of any sales could be left in a fund which would help artists who needed it to mount their shows in the gallery.

A most peculiar and wonderful artist.

What with everyone trying to show off their best things at once, it's always difficult to "cover a larger art fair - even physically - and Armory 2009 was no exception. I'll have to go back, but in the meantime what follows are images of just a few of the things that attracted my attention at the "Contemporary" section during last night's reception.

Richard Tuttle paper-pulp edition at Dieu Donne (new York)


Josephine Meckseper print on reflective Mylar at Elizabeth Dee (New York)



two David Godbold paintings at Kerlin (Dublin)

section of one Matt Connors wall at CANADA (New York)

two Gerwald Rockenschaub sculptures at Georg Kargel (Vienna)

Jan De Cock architecture-related sculpture, including artist-countenanced reflections, at Stella Lohaus (Antwerp)

[large detail of artist's label]

Sarah Braman sculpture at Museum 52 (New York, London)

large detail of Fabian Marcaccio sculpture at Thaddeus Ropac (Salzburg, Paris)

small Merlin James acrylic at Kerlin (Dublin)

stroller spotted parked inside a booth during last night's VIP reception

Rachel Whiteread Water Tower 1998 translucent resin and painted steel 12' 2" x 9' in diameter [installation view]

I don't know how long it's been up there, but while at the Kippenberger press preview at MoMA last week I spotted a discreet label on the wall behind that artist's jaw-dropping Styrofoam-to-aluminum "Santa Claus Lamp"*, which is installed where Rodin's Balzac normally stands. I turned around and looked past the Sculpture Garden and up to the roofs where you see it here. Now owned by the museum, Rachel Whiteread's "Water Tower" was commissioned by the Public Art Fund. The last time I saw it was ten years ago when it was installed in its temporary home on top of a building in Soho.

It's shocking to find that there's no image of this piece on line, and perhaps even more shocking to find that MoMA has only one image of the entire Kippenberger show on its site (MOCA, where the exhibition originated last year, has only six). Especially for a museum operating in the twenty-first century, such neglect doesn't make it look like the "educational institution" which its founders wanted MoMA to be when it began in 1929.

To be fair, MoMA is relaunching its website later this week, and that may be the reason for the lack of images on

untitled (two pots) 2009

It was only noon today, but I wanted to capture an image for the blog of the ho-hum big storm of March, 2009. At the same time, not wishing to suit up for the cold and the wet before breakfast, I decided to stick my camera out of the breakfast room window. It was still snowing.

Believe it or not, this is actually a color image: I can't wait until spring.

he's not just preaching to the choir

Billy's the real thing.

Reverend Billy of the Church of Not Shopping is more than a performer and a performance. His, its, their dedicated and vocal supporters are only one center of a contemporary activist, grass-roots movement for economic justice, environmental protection, and anti-militarism, but their performances and meetings have typically been among the most entertaining and joyful manifestations of a growing movement which may be about to come into its own, even if it may not yet be in sight of the promised land.

Bill Talen (Reverend Billy is the stage name he's used for years) wants to be mayor. Let me go on record right now by saying I'd vote for him at the drop of a hat, and that's what I saw happen today at noon in Union Square. Since the good Reverend himself is never seen in anything resembling a hat (his thick theatrical comb-back "do" probably supplies enough warmth), if I'm going to resurrect another hoary expression to describe what I saw, I'll have to emphasize that Talen threw his hat into the ring only metaphorically, when he declared his very serious candidacy for the office of Mayor of the City of New York on the Green Party Ticket.

If you've heard him speak you know Billy's a master with metaphor, but you may not know that he's a master at gently but firmly cutting through the cant, stupidity and obfuscation which passes for political discussion in New York. He's quick on his feet in front of both large and small crowds, but he reveals an awesome, genuinely-sincere mind - and heart - in the very smallest groups, or in one-on-one conversation.

He's an impressive speaker and an impressive candidate. If only he were able to appear in front of voters and speak to them as I've heard him talk, both in and, at least as importantly, out of his theatrical character, I believe he'd be a shoe-in for the office (another clothing metaphor, but we do know Billy wears shoes). They'll come to smile and to laugh, but the message he delivers is serious, and it now has more meaning for more New Yorkers than ever before.

In the midst of an economic disaster Billy can no longer be dismissed as a voice crying aloud in the wilderness, but of course for many of us he never was.

He's not going to be quiet, and as the candidate of an established party he can't be ignored.

When the choir had finished and he was done speaking, Talen walked down the steps from the rostra (where he stood at a white-painted wooden church "pulpit" constructed for an earlier "Church" action) to take questions from the press assembled below it. He was asked what he thought about the difficulty in beating the incumbent, Michael Bloomberg (the richest man in Gotham, who literally bought the office - twice - and is willing to do so again) "Bloomberg? I don't think he'll win; he's running against democracy; it's Mike vs. democracy, and democracy will win. It actually is that simple and clear to lots of New Yorkers". Asked if he himself represented democracy, he answered generously: "There are a number of very worthy candidates," adding, "we have to respect the people of New York", alluding at least partly to the voters' decision to impose and uphold term limits recently scrapped by the Mayor and City Council.

The new Green Party nominee pointed to the historic focus of his political activism up until now, New York's 500 real neighborhoods*, as the new political reality with which he will be working, and which he said should and would replace that of the paternalistic and undemocratic system of failed corporations, insolvent banks and ruined developers. "The key is in the neighborhoods, [even if] for some neighborhoods it's too late." Reminding us of one the Church of Not Shopping's battles, that focused on the multiplication of the big chains and the disappearance of local businesses, the Reverend seemed to be warning Bloomberg and the beneficiaries of his largesse, "We all now know what the monoculture is, and we know to oppose it."

From the candidate's letter to New Yorkers which appears on the campaign web site:

The 500 neighborhoods of New York, if they are healthy, are protecting our families and jobs. Local economies anchored by independent shops and public spaces are not as sexy to this administration as luxury boxes, corporate jets and the like, but really the greatness of this city is in its neighborhoods.

This would all sound like only an utopian dream if we weren't already experiencing the beginnings, within the country as a whole, of virtually a revolution in public attitudes and government programs proposed, and even an alteration in the political system itself, all being driven by circumstances, the internet, and Barack Obama's emergence originally as candidate and now as President.

ADDENDUM: Video documentation of the scene in Union Square yesterday:

Billy's oration
Billy and the press
Bill of Rights chorale

Billy says he and the members actually got together to try counting, and stopped at 500.

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