Culture: September 2005 Archives

at ease

The memorial for Bill Bartman will be celebrated at 2 pm on Saturday, November 5 in the Society of Friends Meeting House. The beautiful, very simple brick 1860 building is located off the western boundary of Stuyvesant Square. See directions and map.

Everyone is welcome, and yes, there will be cookies.

NOTE: Anyone who might have one or more good photo images of Bill, and especially if they are of Bill with a group of people, is asked to call the Art Resources Transfer (A.R.T.) office at 212 564-2262. A slide show loop is being assembled by his friends.

and eventually, when interest in them flags, we can use the two big footprints for parking

So, after watching four years of people fighting over the big hole, we're now to have nothing more than some dreary architecture sheltering a theme park for the dead, a high-rise corporate office park and a Wal-Mart.

The World Trade Center is back in business.

I'd weep, if I could care any longer.

[image from thinkandask]

Jonathan Podwil Huey 2001 Super 8, digitally animated, continuous loop [still from projection]

Jonathan Podwil Meeting, 1983 2005 oil on linen 2 panels, each 36" x 42" [detail]

Jonathan Podwil LA Palms, Baghdad Palms 2004 oil on linen 2 panels, each 10" x 12" [detail]

Sometimes you see a single work by an artist and even if it doesn't tell you a lot about the oeuvre, it's enough to make you want to see more. When you do see more your appetite may only have begun to be wetted. If you are lucky enough you may eventually see an entire show devoted to her or his work or, even better, you may be invited into the artist's studio, where the magic starts.

I thought I knew something about the work of Jonathan Podwil after seeing it here and there across the city, or occasionally on line. I was intrigued by his paintings from the very beginning in spite of, or perhaps because of, the fact that they were representational. They weren't representional in any obviously eccentric way, but I sensed that here there was much more going on than just a surface standing in for an airplane, an automobile or a figure.

I knew that he was also known for his hand-made videos, but I had not really been able to see enough of that work to understand what it was all about, and I certainly didn't suspect that it was really closely related to the paintings.

Then we visited his studio and for the first time I saw everything come together. He does paintings and he does films, and while sometimes a particular inspiration will inhabit only one discipline, at other times what is essentially the same image is treated in both of these two related but very different mediums.

Podwil has recently begun to work with much larger canvases than he had in the past, and his strong brushwork is definitely very happy with this bolder scale and it loses none of the subtleties of the earlier work. Interestingly, I think the videos would be just as successful in larger projection as they are in the relatively miniature, exquisite scale I've seen until now.

The paintings, perhaps because they are paintings, require less information about process for an understanding of their appearance - and their success - than do the films. The oils are worked over and over before they are left to themselves. Sometimes he cannibalizes his own paintings, and this means the surface drama may have started long before the painting we're looking at was even begun.

For the moving pictures, Podwil sometimes uses found 8 mm film, sometimes images he finds on line or almost anywhere else, and sometimes footage he's filmed himself (sometimes including the use as his subjects small model planes held in his hand or suspended from above his camera). He then scans individual frames of the 8 mm or his own Super 8 film in order to create digital files. Finally he manipulates the images and assembles them into a digital video. The video artifacts are a natural product of this entire process.

I suppose many if not most people would find Podwil's choices of subject fairly idiosyncratic, yet somehow they all seem pretty natural to me. As much as I'd like to believe it's because I'm weird, I think it's because of the strength of his conception and its execution.

But for many people the appearance of this stuff may be deceptive: I was hooked early on, and my enthusiasm for these paintings, and now the films as well, has continued to grow. Some people however might still have to be encouraged to stop and smell the paint and the acetate.

I usually hate making comparisons or even suggesting similitude, but if Goya were still painting today he too would probably enjoy a visit to Podwil's studio.

Full images of the dyptichs whose details are shown above can be seen by clicking onto these thumbnails:

Podwilmeeting_1983_(2 large).jpg
Podwil Meeting

Podwil2LA palms_baghdad palms-1.jpg
Podwil Palms

For a look at a few more paintings and to see four videos, go to his website.

[images in the thumbnails from Jonathan Podwil]

Adam Cvijanovic Love Poem (10 Minutes After the End of Gravity) 2005 Flashe and house paint on Tyvek [detail of large room-size installation]

Adam Cvijanovic Love Poem (10 Minutes After the End of Gravity) 2005 Flashe and house paint on Tyvek [detail of large room-size installation]

I snapped these images on the fifteenth, so it's taken me over two weeks to get them up onto this site. I blame it on Katrina.

I love Adam Cvijanovic's latest show at Bellwether, but then I think eyes which wouldn't have yet to be born. The fact that his murals are absolutely crazy about the camera is only a wonderful bonus.

I wish I could introduce him and a patron to some deserving performance space with the bare surfaces of its foyer, hall, stair hall or ceiling dying to be brought to life. I'd buy a subscription for life. I now understand why Tiepolo was so popular with his contemporaries.

The show is titled "Love Poem (10 Minutes After the End of Gravity)" and it's up until October 15.

There will be a memorial for Bill Bartman at 2 pm on Saturday, November 5, at the Society of Friends Meeting House off Stuyvesant Square, and everyone is welcome.

There will be cookies.

bookish Bill

A full week after it was reported to the rest of the world the NYTimes finally got around to including the news of Bill Bartman's death, at the very bottom of its page of obituaries.

Many will be dismayed over what they will find there. It will be a shock to his friends, admirers and co-workers, and even to those who were often put off by his brusqueness. It will confound the thousands of people from every walk of life who have been touched by and encouraged by his love and respect for the arts, especially the visual arts, and above all the artists themselves.

This short factual account of his birth and the places of his residences, the names of the unique institutions he created and guided, the cause and location of his death and the names of family survivors will not satisfy those who survive him and continue to take joy in the art he encouraged and nurtured so selflessly.

The contracted text of the paper's obituary reads like the paid death notices typeset on the page to the right in the print edition. It would not even challenge the resources of a small-town weekly shopping rag.

The Bill Bartman left on that page today is not the irrepressible genius I was privileged to know and who persuaded me against my every inclination and better judgment to become a part of his foundation's board. I would never have said yes, or been so devoted to "William S. Bartman, 58, Art Patron", in the words of the Times headline.

Bill could be incredibly charming and absolutely impossible almost at the same moment. His many art books and his "bookstore-gallery" were totally unique. No one who happens across any of these beautiful published tributes to one or more artists, and especially to art itself, or who ever wandered into the eccentric, cookie-stocked Chelsea space he dominated will ever forget his work.

This dynamo doesn't fit into five column inches. It will take an artist and a great editor to tell his story. I'm sorry the NYTimes wasn't up to it this morning.

See the warm tributes, the giggles and the stories which have been accumulating as comments to my post of September 25.

UPDATE: There will be a memorial for Bill Bartman at 2 pm on Saturday, November 5, at the Society of Friends Meeting House off Stuyvesant Square. Everyone is welcome. There will be cookies.

[image furnished by A.R.T.]

Michael St. John In a daze 'cause I found god 2003 plaster, spray paint on wood, atlas, collage, pencil, paper, tape on canvas, pom poms and enamel on wood 98" x 96" [installation view with Barry]

Rachel Rampleman A Glimpse of a Thursday afternoon 2005 UltraChrome ink on canvas 30" x 64" [detail]

Champneys Taylor Still Life with Apple 2004 mini DV 1:55 minutes [still from installation]

"I'm a child of divorce, Gimme a break" is the rummy title of the current show at Cynthia Broan. The artists and the works were chosen for their affinity with the artmaking of the curator himself, Michael St. John. Not surprisingly, given its particularly ebullient character, all of them seem to be having a good time, and this writer was almost all smiles as he shared in it.

A very good, smart show, with no redundancies in spite of the risks of its conceptualization.


I was walking with Barry and some friends along 11th Avenue just above 24th Street when I spotted a birdhouse shape on the far side of a tree [by coincidence one of my most favorite trees in the entire city]. I went to investigate and discovered the entrance hole blocked by something constructed of wood and painted black. Concerned for any potential occupants, I poked the obstruction with the end of my umbrella and what looked like water flowed out of the perch/spigot below. The "water" turned out to be vodka.

I don't know this fairytale at all.





It was already early Saturday evening. We were walking down through Hudson River Park with a destination in mind, but we had started to assume that we would arrive too late to see the posthumous [performance?] of Robert Smithson's 1970 sculptural concept, "Floating Island", an homage to Manhattan and Olmsted's Central Park.

I stopped at the shore railing for a moment with my camera in order to capture a golden lining on the last clouds to witness a sun which had probably already set.

Then I caught up with Karen and Barry and we soon spotted downriver what the world had only seen as a child-like sketch until that afternoon: a little tugboat pulling a small barge along the shoreline, the barge filled with what looked like a chunk of landscape from the park itself, complete with shrubs, grass and boulders [the rocks borrowed from the park for the occasion].

The excellent skipper of the "Little Toot"-like tug had amazing control of his charges, and none of the spectators were disappointed, whether they stood on the shore or on the piers, as he passed by with his chunk of Manhattan in tow, then turned and passed again and again and again along the edges of both.

The three of us weren't even disappointed that we had forgotten about invitations to receptions which had promised food and drink. We had lingered too long among the temptations offered by Chelsea galleries that afternoon. By the time we arrived at the scene by the piers further downtown black-garbed, white-aproned caterers were emptying lots of unused bags of ice into the Hudson.

But the chase and the catch (here, the art, a delightful late-summer gift to the people of New York) was the thing, we reminded ourselves, especially if we couldn't picnic on the barge. It was now almost totally dark, so we crossed the highway and headed into the West Village to track down what turned out to be a fine dinner with excellent company.

One last thought: At what age did we first learn that most islands don't float?

not everything's in the French Quarter

I obviously haven't seen everything being written about the reconstruction (or, gasp, "urban renewal") of New Orleans, but I know I haven't read a single word about who actually owns all those unique, traditional/vernacular style houses we've seen throughout the flooded older, poorer neighborhoods. I suspect they are mostly owner-occupied or rented from people who live in the neighborhood.

I certainly don't think Halliburton or the developers own them - yet. Why are we talking about these neighborhoods as if their ownership had evaporated, as if the governments which failed them can now decide their disposition in a vacuum?

[image of two shotgun houses from Ingolf Vogeler]

with Elizabeth Murray

Bill Bartman died this morning

An often messy, quirky, ornery bastard, but otherwise (and often at the same time) great company and a great friend with a great heart, Bill Bartman was also a selfless, totally-committed patron of the arts and an enemy of the morally and spiritually-dead who currently control the larger American public landscape and dialogue.

A dogged defender of women in the arts, an enemy of elitist institutions of any kind, but especially those which seek to prevent easy access to literature and the visual arts, Bill never lost touch with the smaller lives around him: He was unapologetic about his exuberant affection for kids and animals; I've watched him read to both.

Bill worked tirelessly to get books, especially art books, into the hands of people who did not have them, including many who would know they wanted them only once they became his beneficiaries.

His gallery space survived until the money finally ran out (including much of his own capital, and the gradual de-accessioning of his own art collection) and throughout those years Bill refused to compromise his principle that the artist was the real curator, and the artist must not have to share the receipts of any sales.

Bill Bartman died this morning after a truly heroic struggle with the multiple fiends which had been assaulting his body for years. Most of his friends have been so impressed with his awesome survival story that this latest news will be no less a shock than a report that he had been run over by a truck. He was a great soul.

Gosh, we're going to miss him.

William S. Bartman was the founder and continuing head of Art Resources Transfer, Inc., A.R.T. Press and the Distribution to Underserved Communities (DUC) Library Program

UPDATE: There will be a memorial for Bill Bartman at 2 pm on Saturday, November 5, at the Society of Friends Meeting House off Stuyvesant Square, and everyone is welcome. There will be cookies

[image by Bill Zules from A.R.T. Press]

Farley Post Office Building [at the top of the front steps]


Years ago they tore down the magnificent old Pennsylvania Station and replaced it with the current monstrous obscenity which became the latest incarnation of the peripatetic Madison Square Garden. The existing arena is the fourth location of what was originally the home of an earlier, somewhat less athletic freak show assembled by P.T. Barnum in 1874. The buildings in each of the previous locations have been destroyed. As the city grew, the land on which they were located was determined to be too valuable to be devoted to popular entertainment.

The word is out today that they're threatening to tear down another monumental building in order to move the Garden once again. Okay, it's only half of the building, but it's a half which would do honor to any city in the world.

When I told Barry about the story in today's NYTimes he said they're going to keep on moving until there aren't any decent buildings left in New York.

Some initial and random thoughts of my own:


Now can we have Penn Station back?

Nah, whadaya think this is, Germany?

What's a station?

Barnum would be proud of his heirs. Remember the sucker birth rate?

How much of a deal will they get from taxpayers this time?

Maybe they'll name it Bloomberg Garden.

The obsession with sports stadiums is gonna kill this city dead.


[image from]

I've uploaded two new sketches into the "Free the Art" gallery, both by W. Craghead, and they're pretty wonderful.

Carol Bove's Adventures in Poetry by W. Craghead

Jason Fox's Peaceful Warrier by W. Craghead

Once again, For anyone only joining this conversation now, this "Free the Art" project is about helping to make visible hundreds of pieces of contemporary art to which the Museum of Modern Art seems to have been doing its best to limit viewing access. The works in the current show at PS1, which is MoMA's child, are not even listed, either at the museum itself or on its website; of course that also means there are no images on line either, and visitors are forbidden to photograph anything whatsoever. Oh yes, a big museum book has been promised, but it's not here now, and it's certainly not going to be free.

Mike Paré Ditch Dance 2005 egg tempera and graphite on paper 22" x 30" [large detail]

We celebrated Super Thursday a few days ago with a relatively low-key tour of only a few of the new shows opening in Chelsea that night. Douglas Kelly had announced some fourscore gallery receptions, and even ArtCal's less democratic listings numbered a little over thirty.

Regardless of which guide was consulted, a complete tour of the openings that night, beside the point anyway, would have been impossible within the two hour window available. Huge crowds created the additional obstacle of, yes, some real lines and waits, so we distracted ourselves with the friends we ran into, but we did manage to see a few neat things.

One of our first stops was ATM, where Mike Paré has a beautiful show, "Blissed Out", with work which straddles an [almost] no man's land located between sensitive documentary photography and traditional genre painting, sometimes dressed up in black light.

Some enlightenment on the show's title, from the gallery:

Expanding beyond the communal, counter-culture themes he explored in his Black Light Folk Festival exhibition in 2003, Paré now focuses his attention on moments of individual spiritual inwardness that made up, and continue to make up, the building blocks of “the movement.”




Barry and I were a part of this afternoon's New Orleans Jazz Funeral March in Washington Square Park, where I managed to weave through an extraordinarily-diverse crowd to get a few decent images, even while encumbered by half of a sandwich board around my neck. My sign bore my simple conclusion:

The woman carrying on her shoulder a red velvet-lined case in which lay a shiny bent-up trumpet told me that some man she didn't know had handed it to her, asking if she would carry it in the procession. For me that was the defining moment of the march and protest.


When we left and headed toward the West Village we had to squeeze through the phalanx of police motor scooters which had trailed this very peaceful group around the park for an hour.


Seconds after I took a picture of this solitary flautist they swarmed into the open ground in front of him and faced the "mourners".

Then the real surprise: Barely ten feet beyond this disturbing display of obsessively-focused armed law enforcement we found ourselves parties to the familiar, repeated pitch, "smoke"? "smoke"?

Ahhh. Still maybe the people's park after all.

Robert Boyd Heaven's Little Helper (from the series Xanadu) 2005 video still (Manson Girls)

News flash! ArtCal now has pictures as well as information. Well, it is all about the visual arts, so offering some images along with direction only seemed [more than] appropriate.

Marking the unofficial end of summer, there are gazillions of art openings this week, and most of them are on Thursday (see "Opening Soon" on the home page). The site's convenient geographical and, in the case of Chelsea, even sub-geographical arrangement of listings will help all you fanatics find your way through the rich offerings. Press the print button and you're halfway there.

Maye we'll all bump into each other. Say hi.

[image of a "Featured Opening" from ArtCal]

Jim Hodges Look and See painted stainless steel 11.5'x 50' x 1" [detail of installation]

It appears light as a feather in spite of its medium, but I think Jim Hodges's enormous sculpture is more effective when viewed close up, at least while it's located in its current visually-busy environment. Yes, I know it was supposedly created for the space at the base of this hotel, but I'd love to see it in a large, active public plaza.





Federico Solmi is in the midst of assembling a stack of a thousand drawings for his newest project, an ambitious hand-colored videoanimation based on the 1933 "King Kong" movie, sort of updated for the twenty-first century, but filled with the kind of anachronisms which fire the imaginations of film buffs everywhere.

In addition to the cast of characters familiar to several generations the world over, the new film will feature the Statue of Libery, McDonald's golden arches, Charles Lindberg and the Spirit of St. Louis, Gucci, Prada, the Guggenheim and the Gagosian gallery on 24th Street. Solmi and his beautiful wife Jennifer have the staring roles, but this time Solmi's idol Rocco Sifreddi will be confined to a billboard in Times Square.

We had a peek at some of the gorgeous drawings and a lot of the background magic inside his studio on Thursday, but Solmi will first be showing the film itself in a gallery in Cologne and a museum in Naples this fall. He has also been invited to Miami in early December by a curator with the Pulse Art Fair, and Barry and I will be able to see the finished work there.

I can't imagine it won't be shown somewhere in New York this season as well, especially since Solmi promises to add larger-scale drawings, and sculptures reproducing some of its most memorable characters. Ask your local gallerists about their schedules.

[images are jpegs furnished by the artist]

Jonathan Podwil Assassinated (112263) #3 2005 oil on linen 22" x 30" [large detail]

Brooklyn's DUMBO is still packed with artist studios, even if the gallery numbers have declined in the last few years. d.u.m.b.o. arts center (dac) is one of the very few still around, and it's been even lonelier than usual down under the bridge during the time Smack Mellon has been closed (they will be opening in a new space in mid-October).

(dac) is currently showing the work of ten young artists in the wonderfully-spooky exhibition, "Nimbi and Penumbrae." The show's title explains why much of the art cannot be easily reproduced in an on-line photograph. This helps explain why I'm including only one image from the installation with this post, Jonathan Podwil's reworking, in a very traditional medium, of iconic photo stills attached to an American catharsis* from another era. But actually I'm very fond of Podwil's work, and these newest paintings are stunning.

they seem to be piling up faster these days

the author's home, before the flood

I have a stack of neglected newspapers on my right as I sit here at my laptop looking at the staggering reports of human tragedy flowing in from Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama. I saved yesterday's NYTimes "House & Home" section for later, mostly because of this article [with another, very different picture] which appeared at the top of the front page. A few minutes ago, while looking for something else, I saw it for the third time on Tyler Green's site.* I decided I had to read it now, and I'm glad I did. In the midst of so much reason for despair, the writer, Frederick Starr, recalls a community which has been all but destroyed this week, but he also offers some hope for its survival.

My home is there, a West Indian-style plantation house built in 1826, standing as an ancient relic amid a maze of wooden houses a century younger. Some are classic bungalows, but most are distinctly New Orleans building types, with fanciful names like shotguns and camelbacks. I watch as a neighbor is rescued from his rooftop. Dazed, he has emerged from his attic, wriggling through a hole he hacked in the roof, swooped up by a Guardsman on a swinging rope. He is safe. Scores of others aren't. Bodies float through the streets of the Ninth Ward. Presumably they are from the diverse group that inhabits this deepest-dyed old New Orleans neighborhood: poorer blacks and whites, Creoles of color and a sprinkling of artists.

My neighbor Miss Marie is also one of the lucky ones. Born on the ground floor of what is now my house, she is 81, residing in a shotgun house that her husband, now deceased, built 60 years ago. She has spent most of her life within a perimeter of barely 30 yards. Both her speech and her cooking were formed right there. A painted plaster statue of the Virgin has protected her through all previous storms. But this time she pleaded with my friend John White to take her as he left town. Satellite photos show the shadow of her roof beneath the filthy water. Her house is gone, but John saved her life, driving to Atlanta, sleeping on benches at rest stops.

. . . .

We are just beginning to appreciate the human disaster occurring in New Orleans and the Gulf Coast. Hundreds, maybe thousands, have already perished. Hundreds of thousands will lose their homes and all their worldly possessions. Untold numbers of businesses will close their doors, throwing huge numbers of people out of work. New Orleans, its population already in decline, now faces economic and social collapse.

It also faces the loss of some of America's most notable historic architecture. Maybe not in the French Quarter, which may emerge relatively intact, or the Garden District, which was spared most of the flooding. The dangers lie in neighborhoods like Tremé and Mid-City, which extend along Bayou Road toward Lake Pontchartrain and are rich in 18th- and 19th-century homes, shops, churches and social halls. They have been badly hit by the violent winds or torrents of water. And so have hundreds of other important buildings and vernacular structures throughout the city and across the breadth of South Louisiana and the Gulf Coast.

. . . .

Louisiana, especially South Louisiana, is a living archive of American social and cultural history, and not just in its buildings. In no other state is the proportion of people born and raised within its borders so high. As a consequence, they are something that is ever more rare in a homogenized and suburbanized America: the living bearers and transmitters of their own history and culture. Katrina, and those fateful levee breaks in New Orleans, put this all at risk.

. . . .

Now [my own house] is under water. If it survives at all, it will need massive rehabilitation. Just as likely, it will go the way of Miss Marie's house and of hundreds of other pieces of the region's heritage.

But I do not intend to give up easily. Why? Because I am absolutely convinced that New Orleanians will not allow their city to become a ghost town. And I intend to be part of the renewal that springs from this determination.

Go to Green's site, "Modern Art Notes," for regular updates on cultural loss in the Gulf area, and suggestions on how to help, along with very helpful links.

[image from the NYTimes]


[spotted this flock on York Street in the new DUMBO late this afternoon, just steps from a large pack of black Town Cars waiting for their masters to leave the office]

This page is an archive of entries in the Culture category from September 2005.

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