Culture: July 2004 Archives



We drove around Sauvie Island this afternoon, just outside the city of Portland. These two photographs are of landscapes approximately two miles from the city limits, and only twelve miles fom the very center of town. They are totally representative of an island which has no gas stations and no visible commercial life outside of its pick-them-yourself farms.

Dreamy. Even Gerhard Richter would be impressed.

Actually, much of the island looks like the kind of arcadia which could have inspired Capability Brown. See Bloggy for more beautiful images.



I couldn't imagine it would come together so well. Hearing or reading about it ahead of time, the concept seemed mad. It is (and I mean that in the very best way), but its execution was absolutely brilliant.

Foxy Production announces The Infinite Fill Show, a group exhibition of dazzling black and white patterns, curated by brother and sister team Cory and Jamie Arcangel. The exhibition includes new and historical, readymade and handcrafted works in a range of media. The curators sent out an open call to artists for found or made objects which had to adhere to two basic rules: they must be black and white, and they must contain repeating patterns. The curatorial concept was inspired by MAC Paint, the 1984 software application with varied 16-bit monochrome patterning that could be picked and dropped into areas of the screen to denote color and depth. For Cory and Jamie Arcangel, this rudimentary precursor to Photoshop's draw and paint functions provides a creative tool to explore multiple perspectives within a unifying aesthetic.
Last night black and white patterns contributed by more than 50 artists danced, inside my head in color and in more than three dimensions, throughout the hot little cool gallery on 27th Street.



I remember now why galleries used to just close altogether in July and August. On Tuesday afternoon I wandered into the Dearraindrop show, "Riddle of the Spinx," in the large Wooster St. space of Deitch Projects [no website!]. It was very warm out, the garage door was open in welcome, and of course there was no air conditioning. Even before I had passed through the door cut into a paper pyramid to enter the exhibition space I had noticed what appeared to be a complementary installation directly across the street, but I was intent on the purpose of my visit.

The multi-media Dearraindrop installation will definitely reward the time I myself was unable to give it that afternoon; there appear to be scores of drawings and collage works hosting the larger constructions, and they are small only in their scale.

I had forgotten to bring my fan with me however, and so, since I'm famously impatient with heat and humidity, I left sooner than I would otherwise have wanted to.

I noticed that there seemed to be only one person babysitting the gallery, a smiling, very young man behind a table at the entrance. But then there was also the interesting more mature man seated just next to him, who was stretched out in his chair and appeared to be dozing. Only after I took the photograph at the top of this post did I suspect that he was the artist I should have engaged that afternoon. I regret I didn't have the nerve to interrupt his rest to ask about the great work he had placed on the sidewalk outside, opposite the sassy pyramid in the garage.

And yes, as if in a salute to the broad talents of the collective installed across the street, there was music coming from his work as well.

Dearraindrop, Deitch Projects installation detail

detail from Julia Scher's video, "Guard"

The third of White Box's planned nine weekly curated (RNC-oriented) shows opened tonight with a video and window installation by Julia Scher curated by Michael Rush.

Everything is on the outside of the gallery for these summer shows. This week the window reveals a real chain link fence topped with the ubiquitous razor wire, but this time everything is in pink, the whole threaded with a blue text welcoming the Republican National Convention to New York. The video installation next to the window is composed of two looped tapes (43 minutes total) each showing a solitary pink-uniformed security guard stationed, presumably, in front of a bank of monitors showing images of the viewer.

Scher has worked with surveillance issues for years. In 1991 she wrote, "The monitors of surveillance are the eyes of a social body gone berserk." Today we cannot even imagine an escape from that insanity.

It's a very good show. It'll be there for only six more days, but the real surveillance is only getting started.


Spotted on the way home from Williamsburg, on the uptown platform of the 14th Street IND station around midnight one rainy evening earlier this week: An attractive and serious young man, comfortably slouched on the bench, reading a copy of Ernst Cassirer's "The Myth of the State," small headphones holding his thoughts in place. At his feet rested a beautiful, wet, Winnie-the-Pooh folding umbrella.

Unfortunately I didn't have the nerve to use my camera; this time I had to just squeeze my eyes and record it without mechanical assistance.

Lovely, New York.

[image from Umbrella-Shoppe.Com]


moving party

The quote is from Bloggy, reference is to the smart Brooklyn gallery we are about to lose to Los Angeles, and the occasion for this post is this Sunday's "moving party" benefit.

Champion Fine Art is nearing the end of the New York half of their two year exhibition series of artist-curated group shows.

Drew and Flora are asking a modest $25 donation for the party, but you can walk home with part of their Williamsburg history if you can spring for another $75. The $100 entitles guests to participate in a drawing of works by artists Champion has exhibited or by the curators who brought them to the space. Since the curators are all artists, it looks like a chance for a double indemnity.

See the gallery site for details.



I had never seen Brian Ulrich's photographs before he sent me an email commenting on my site. He's going to be included in a group show, "Unframed First Look," hosted by Sean Kelly Gallery beginning the 28th of this month. The show is described as "A juried salon for photographers without New York representation." All sales wil benefit ACRIA, and the jurors are Adam Fuss, Jack Person and Cindy Sherman. I'm sure we're now going to be hearing a lot about Ulrich.

His own site includes countless wonderfully-nuanced images related, in his own words, to [the peculiarly American?] "shopping and consumer culture since 2001."

I take photographs with the hope to show how we appear caught within the excesses of a consumer-dominated culture. In 2001, consumer culture was redefined to include larger political and global implications: post 9-11, citizens were admonished to take to the malls to boost our economy through shopping. My photographs of excessive, corporate, and sometimes hyper-real retail spaces document the everyday activities of consumption. By scrutinizing these rituals - ones we often take for granted - I hope to help us evaluate the increasing complexities of our contemporary world. As world events grow beyond our control, is this how we will cope?
Most of the photographs seem to capture the environment centering on his adopted home, Chicago. The technique is stunning, but it's the melancholy beauty of his subjects and the tenderness of his own gaze which holds the eye and the soul of the viewer. In spite of the project's description, this is not a cold social commentary.

Two more previews from, and then you can go look on your own:



[images from]

Julianne Swartz Can You Hear Me (2004) installation view, PVC pipe, mirror, Plexiglas, existing architecture and participants

I like what the New Museum is doing this summer. The plucky, real estate-blessed institution has sold its building and closed its doors while it re-builds itself on the Bowery. Although the images that street name has evoked for more than a century are dissolving rapidly, those blocks still wear their history and the Museum seems to want to slip into the neighborhood with some grace and respect.

Its perambulatory exhibition, "Counter Culture," opened last night in a number of venues on and just off the Bowery. We braved the party, which commandeered a local bar, only long enough to grab the map of the installation locations, and then we were off. Because of another commitment in Williamsburg however, that night we were only able to have a quick look at what two of the artists were doing.

Marion Wilson has set up a snappy little pushcart in front of the Bowery Mission, and in this conception, called "This Store Too," she was showing and selling merchandise that was a collaboration between herself and the men who are served by the Mission's programs.

With "Can You Hear Me," Julianne Swartz has constructed a bright yellow sculptural system of pipes and mirrors outside and entering into the facade of the building which houses the Sunshine Hotel. The result is an opportunity for interaction between residents of the hotel and passersby.

Ivan Navarro You Sit You Die (2000) installation view, fluorescent tubes, electric cables, and list of people executed by electric chair in Florida 33" x 24.5" x 48"

Who still doubts the power or the aesthetic of so-called political art? All art is political by definition, especially in this culture, but when it's as good as what we saw in Brooklyn later last night it should not be scorned - or missed.

We had ended the artier part of the evening in Williamsburg at Roebling Hall, where there was a lively opening reception for their group show, "Bush League." We will have to go back for a better experience of the individual works, even though we had already seen some of them bedfore. I believe most are by artists who have shown in the gallery. Especially if the curators had to work with a limited number of names, the results are pretty impressive.

Dr. Lakra, detail of installation

Matthew Marks on 24th Street opened its doors Wednesday on night to a gem of a show, "Deliver Us From Evil," curated by Matthew himself. I includes the work of four bodies of artists who seemed to be working out of territory carved a century and a half earlier by their fifth colleague, Honore daumier. It was a masterly selection in every sense.

The contemporary artists include R. Crumb, Jake and Dinos Chapman, Dr. Lakra and Keegan McChargue. The names we recognize right off the bat betray the theme of societal caricature which runs through all the work shown, most of them executed on paper.

In the center of the gallery space are several plinths displaying exquisite small sculptures, including the pieces by the inventive young Mexican artist which are shown in the image above. The Chapman Brothers meanwhile had made a standard McDonalds Happy Meal their very own, as seen in the image below.

Jake and Dinos Chapman, installation view

The crowd was almost as diverting as the art, even aside from our pleasure in running into our friend Hiroshi Sunairi, who introduced us to Yuh-Shioh Wong, whose work we have been excited about for some time, and Yukie Kamiya, newly-appointed as an assistant curator with the New Museum. Here is part of the scene on opening night, standing in front of the one wall which included a mix of the work of all the artists included in the show:


“Good artists borrow; great artists steal”

This Saturday the Public Radio show, "Studio 360," will include a segment by Matthew Schuerman on the "Bootlegs" project of the artist, Eric Doeringer.

“Good artists borrow; great artists steal” – the old saying has been attributed to Picasso but he may have stolen it as well. This week on Studio 360, Kurt Andersen and his guest, the writer and musician Greg Tate, talk about the artistic need to take other people’s work.
We delight in collecting his work and Barry and I have both written about him in the past. It's likely we will be heard in the edited sound picture, and I have the same concern expressed on Bloggy: "I hope I didn't embarass myself too badly."

In New York, the program will air on 93.9 FM at 10 AM Saturday, July 10 and on 820 AM at 7 PM on Sunday, July 11. You can also listen online to WNYC.

To find broadcast times/stations in other areas, you can visit Studio 360. The program will also be archived for one week after the broadcast here (after that you have to pay to listen).

[image from Eric Doeringer's site]


I know it's been a while since the shows opened, but I've been busy with I don't know what, and, after all, the stuff is still there. The picture above is from a June 30 reception at the Whitney Museum. The guests are tripping through the pages of 16 of Ed Ruscha's artist books from the 60's and 70's. The show? It bears the quite obvious title, "Cotton Puffs, Q-tips®, Smoke and Mirrors: The Drawings of Ed Ruscha."


A pretty substantial review of the sculpture and performance art of the Cuban artist, Ana Mendieta, from the 70's and early 80's is also been unfolded in the museum's galleries this summer. Called "Ana Mendieta: Earth Body," the installation is an extraordinaryily sensitive presentation of this difficult body of work. I believe the image above is that of a detail from the "Maroya (sculpture) Platform."

Normally I just don't expect to be able to be able to properly register the work itself in the midst of the buzz of an opening, but the Ruscha and Mendieta shows were exceptions. Both exhibitions are superb shows, and I can only now begin to appreciate, on both an intellectual and an aesthetic level, what my artist friends have been talking about for years.

The Ruscha walls smiled, smartly or broadly, and the Mendieta rooms had the feel either of an ancient religious site or of a world from the future which had yet to find its place of rest. Both are terrific shows, and they oddly complement each other, at least from the position of a visitor to the Museum.

where will your vote go when you leave the booth?

We observed the 4th of July holiday yesterday by watching Michael Moore's "Fahrenheit 9/11." [I just can't imagine how anything traditionally celebratory could be appropriate just now.]

Because I haven't been tied up in a cellar for four years, I think I can say I did not learn anything new during those two hours, but when the film's chronological sequence reached the moment that the United States bombed Baghdad I just lost it.

My only thought then was that if we were being watched by a wrathful, Old Testament god he would have instantly crushed our nation for its selfishness, its stupidity and its cruelty. More privileged than any people which has ever enjoyed the bounty of this planet, we have no excuse for the evil we have unleashed upon others. [And no, since we have absolutely chosen ignorance (we have the media we want) there will be no absolution there.]

We are very lucky that old god isn't out there. It now appears that we're waking up and don't like what we have done. I really believe most of us will not vote for Bush in November, but I also firmly believe Bush will be declared winner of the election. They aren't going to let go.

How will this happen? Nothing has been done in Florida to repair the system responsible for that state's abominations in the 2000 election, and meanwhile the possibilities for mischief have expanded elsewhere. But the decisive assault to our voting rights is the introduction in many jurisdictions of electronic voting machines which leave absolutely no paper trail and whose programming remains secret to all but their large Republican-dominated corporate makers. Sophisticated push-button control of the ballot box: the dream of every modern tyranny.

Why are we trying to raise millions of dollars and raise up millions of people, if in the end the election can be fixed? Especially after what happened four years ago, why aren't we hearing about this horrible threat? Even the most energetic opponents of the Administration are not pointing out the danger. Other than to suggest the most cynical of possibilities, I don't have an explanation for that silence.

Because of his film's brilliance and because of its huge popular success, Michael Moore seems to have awakened his audience in time, and he should soon enjoy the highest honors available from a grateful nation. But I'm afraid he has one more job to do, and I say it is his because I cannot imagine anyone else who could get the voters' attention, anyone else who could save us from another, even bigger fix in November.

We're going to have to ask him to help, and we're also going to have to talk it up with anyone else who might make a difference.

Everything depends on it.

It's no longer enough just to pick the right candidate in the voting booth. We have keep our eyes on what happens afterwards.

[image from Dangerous Citizen]


Herds of Republicans in New York?

Can't wait for the excitement of the Republican Convention, still eight long weeks away? Start celebrating this coming Wednesday, and again on each of the next eight Wednesdays, with the people at White Box. They're putting together more than two months' worth of creative events in recognition of the extraordinary significance of this . . . this thing coming to New York. There will be a new curator and a new art installation each week.

The Republicans of course have only one installation, it's hardly art, it's definitely not a hit and the whole set will be struck later this fall.

MAKE NICE will be the theme of the fifth edition of White Box's annual summer series, Six Feet Under. As in previous years, MAKE NICE will consist of exhibitions mounted by critics and curators who will take possession of White Box's exhibition space for the duration of one week each. This year the topic specifically addresses the Republican National Convention, to be staged in New York from August 29 through September 2, 2004. The premise is that the curators, and the artists they select, respond to an ad-campaign featuring Ed Koch in which he tells New Yorkers: "The Republicans are coming, Make Nice."
Meanwhile, it looks like Koch has had real trouble finding New Yorkers to volunteer holding Republican hands. Are we surprised?
Many of the tour guides for this summer's Republican National Convention will be tourists.

The nonprofit committee in charge of making Gotham hospitable to the 4,000-plus delegates has hit its benchmark of recruiting 10,000 volunteers.

But only 42 percent of the unpaid convention guides are New York City residents. The rest are from other areas, including upstate, New Jersey, Connecticut, Pennsylvania and Virginia, according to statistics released yesterday by NYC Host Committee 2004.

10,000 guides for only 4,000 delegates? They should be able to spare at least a few of those volunteers for work toward a cause worthy of a human being. I expect that some of those 4,200 or so New Yorkers are in fact spies or moles, so this could get more interesting than the event planners might have imagined.

[image is logo from White Box site]

This page is an archive of entries in the Culture category from July 2004.

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