April 2011 Archives

just like those in the Chauvet-Pont-d'Arc Cave, maybe these walls belong to the ages (detail of 1998 mural done by Chris Benfield to which other artists later made additions - customary practice in the ABC No Rio space - but those elements are not shown here)

Barry and I are going to be at the ABC No Rio benefit on May 3rd at Allegra LaViola on the Lower East Side. We're both really looking forward to it, for the interesting company, the beer and the food, a great silent art auction, and guest DJs including Anna Kustera, Doug McClemont, and Kembra Pfahler.

But the occasion is also about the opportunity to help out, in at least a very modest way, one of the most interesting arts institutions in the city, an activist (and tenacious) DIY art, performance and community space on the Lower East Side (156 Rivington Street), a "collective of collectives," with an awesome past, a dynamic present, and an exciting future.

The current building is a monument, but it's pretty distressed structurally, and in a serious state of disrepair. Restoration would cost nearly as much as a creative new design offering more space and significantly-enhanced facilities, and it could be constructed on sustainable design principles. The decision was made: Start from scratch.

While I love a snappy new building as much as the next guy, it's going to be tough watching the old ABC No Rio go down. I think there will be an effort to salvage some of the bold murals created - in layers - over the last three decades: The image at the top of this post is just one of a number I captured last month on a tour of the old tenement on Rivington Street.

The institution is now well on its way toward realizing a handsome new Green home, designed by Paul Castrucci, to be built on the same site. Anyone can help it along by attending the party next Tuesday, or if unable to do so, by making a donation of any size.

Full disclosure: Barry and I are on the benefit committee. Details here. Tickets start at $50.

this clock has been stuck on nine for some time; I'm moving on to ten

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

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

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

[the image is that of a beautiful clock mounted high on the outside of the handsome bank located across the street from our apartment, the modernist West 23rd St. building constructed for The Broadway Savings Bank in 1948; the architect was Harold R. Sleeper]

real sunflower seeds waiting for fertile soil

There are all kinds of artists, millions of ways to create art, and all of them must be respected, but Ai Weiwei is The Compleat Artist, as much as anyone else now on earth, particularly because he is a social activist as well. I call him a saint.

I really haven't been able to completely stop thinking about this man since I first became aware of his art. I was almost immediately astonished by the signs of his courage and the size of his heart, and my admiration for the artist and the man has only grown with each report of his comings and goings. Six days ago the reports stopped. We know that the artist has been "disappeared," and that the man has been silenced, but ironically the frightened regime responsible has ensured by its cruelty and stupidity that an important part of the artist-activist's work continues, and his voice might actually now be louder than ever, thanks to his friends, millions of admiring strangers everywhere, and the power of the modern connectivity on which he doted - and thrived.

I cannot imagine a China, indeed a modern world, without his presence, his conscience and his art. If we deserve the art we get, the government we get, we will have to do everything in our power to see Ai Weiwei return to the people of China, and the world.

[image by An Xiao from anxiaostudio flickr]

show sidewalk shingle

I wanted to get this post published before it was too late to send anyone to see this wonderful short-run (only ten-days) group show of sculpture in Williamsburg. Barry and I stopped in at Vaudeville Park last Sunday to see "Anomalistic Urge." intrigued by the siren of a new space and a new curator. Some of the artists were very familiar to us; some of them were not (although maybe we should be embarrassed to admit that).

Courtney Tramposh, whose work we had not encountered before, gathered together gorgeous and exciting pieces by some 30 sculptors for this show. Tramposh is a sculptor herself and for this show she created the room environment as well as the unconventional but aesthetically sympathetic platforms on which the works are displayed. She describes the installation as "a tabletop sculpture show." For a large group sculpture show, it's contained within a fairly small space, but it all works. "Anomalistic Urge" is her first outing as a curator, and it's a doozy.

Courtney was anxious to point out all of the other artists's work, but never mentioned she had a piece of her own in the show. I thought we had already stayed past closing time, so unfortunately we didn't quite see everything, and I didn't snap an image of her own work (outside of its supporting roles).

The complete list of artists includes Justin Adian, Michael Berryhill, Shawn Bluechel, Strauss Borque-LaFrance, Sung Jin Choi, Tania Cross, Ben Dowell, Stacy Fisher, Jashin Friedrich, Joachim "YoYo" Friedrich, Gerald Giamportone, Susana Gaudencio, Hiroshi Tachibana, Rachel Higgins, James Hyde, Kristen Jensen, Michael Johnson, Tom Kotik, Denise, Kupferschmidt, Emily Noelle Lambert, Colin O'Con, Jonathan Peck, Courtney Puckett, Nathan See, Emma Spertus, Madeleine Stern, Jennifer Sullivan, Raphael Taylor, Courtney Tramposh, and Austin Willis.

Vaudeville Park is as much a (very interesting) music and performance space as anything else, and so we're not surprised to hear that there will be a closing party and "sound performance" this Sunday, April 10, from 6 to 9 (not to mention some quirky contemporary classical music tonight, and "feral chamber music" on Saturday).

James Hyde OR 2008 Parex on wood 24" x 12" x 12"

Jennifer Sullivan Borrowed Confidence 2008 gouache, ink, collage on cardboard 10" x 16"

Nathan See The Triumph of Logic 2011 clay figurine, wood, cardboard, paint, paper

Joachim "YoYo" Friedrich Untitled 1976 oil on wood 2' x 4'

Emily Noelle Lambert Flock 2010 paint on wood

Denise Kupferschmidt Vase, Bowl, Block 2011 cement, plaster, paint, string, plexiglass, wood

Hiroshi Tachibana untitled 2009 hand-cut plywood, latex paint and oil pastel 16" x 24" x 6"

Courtney Puckett Bug 2010 wood, wire, string 5' x 1' x 1' [with detail of Raphael Taylor's "Designer 737 02/21/11 13:11, #1"]

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