Culture: May 2006 Archives

Augusto Marin's notorious provocation

This is just one of five sculptures by Augusto Marin which is included in the Brooklyn College MFA thesis show shut down three weeks ago by the Brooklyn Parks Commissioner. This self-appointed guardian of New York's public morals was outraged by the small image of a hand holding a penis and declared it not appropriate for families.

The show has finally been re-assembled elsewhere by the artists, and last night visitors at the opening reception, including members of families representing all ages and genders, were clearly at a loss at locating any provocation in a beautiful piece of molded resin lighted behind a beautiful stretched blue scrim. The work is one of four mixed media pieces in which the artist gently references traditional devotional objects both sacred and profane.

The damage done to much of the work when it was carted out of the War Memorial gallery was clearly evident however even in Marin's own piece, which had suffered a tear when it was pulled from the wall. More here later about other, more serious damage and about some works in the current show which specifically address New York City government censorship and its destructive handmaiden Brooklyn College. We're hosting Barry's Mother this week so posting will have to be minimal for the next few days.

Oh, and as for all those editorials and letters referring to these graduate students as spoiled "kids", maybe some people should do some fact checking. I know that several artists within this MFA group are old enough to have college-age kids themselves, and last night I spoke to one of them who had been absolutely shocked to hear the school's own lawyer describe her class as "young kids". Susan C. Dessel let the attorney know she herself was 60.

Xavier Deshoulieres Saint Georges 2006 oil on canvas 51" x 77" [installation view]


Virgil de Voldere is showing new work by gallery artist Xavier Deshoulieres. This French painter working in Cologne has developed a stunning technique which may well be unique to him. Deshoulieres paints on both sides of the canvas with his hands and his tools. Ultimately however his subjects and the images with which he chooses to represent them must also be credited for the work striking both the eye and the head of the observer.

These are, literally, painfully beautiful canvases.

"Saint Georges" describes the Beirut site of the February 2005 assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri. The Saint Georges was a legendary hotel during the golden age of Lebanon prior to the 1970's civil war. Saint George was born in Beirut, according to Christian Lebanese myth. Obviously the dragons were not eliminated altogether.


Robert Mapplethorpe Louise Bourgeois 1982 [image of Bourgeois holding her "Fillette"]

Now it's official. Er, maybe I should write "anti-official": The Brooklyn College 2006 MFA thesis show is re-opening, mostly. It was shut down by the City of New York for not being "appropriate for families" on May 6, the day after it opened. Shortly after that everything was hauled away by the school which sponsored it, and in the process some of the work was damaged or lost. Tomorrow night the exhibition is finally going to re-open in DUMBO - this time on private property. The opening reception is from 6 to 9 pm and it will include a live performance.

The reassembled and necessarily reworked show will include new pieces made in response to the censorship and thuggish trashing of the original installation. The students, who re-gained posession of their work only four days ago, are calling the new exhibition, "Plan B Prevails".

One of the works included in the original MFA show was a sculpture by Augusto Marin which included a representation of a phallus.


The artists are: Carla Aspenberg, Jill Auckenthaler, John Avelluto, Zoe Cohen, David Davron, Susan C. Dessel, Carl James Ferrero, Carrie Fucile, Pamela Gordon, Yejin Jun, Diane Kosup, Marni Kotak, Augusto Marin, Akiko Mori, Christopher Moss, Sarah Phillips, Megan Piontkowski and Tamas Veszi. The show will occupy 6,000 square feet of space donated by Two Trees Development.

Plan B Prevails is located at 70 Washington Street, Brooklyn, in 6,000 square feet of space donated by Two Trees Development. The entrance is located on Front Street. The exhibit is free to the public and is open Wednesday through Sunday from May 24 to June 16, 2006 from 12 to 6 pm or by appointment at [email protected] Take the F to York Street or the A/C to High Street.

[image from Georgetown]

UPDATE: In a comment which appears below Chris Moss points out that Louise Bourgeois used to teach at Brooklyn College herself! No, I can't pretend I knew just how appropriate the image was!

I've just gotten word that the Brooklyn College MFA Press Conference originally scheduled for 1 pm today has been POSTPONED. Details to follow.

I'm not going to speculate here, but I find this last-minute change very interesting.

On a related note, I've attended at least dozens of press conferences involving civil rights issues in New York, many of them enjoying the participation of Norman Siegel. They are very often if not usually held on the steps of City Hall, and not [never?] inside a law office. Even though access to the people's house in New York is not free, and even if groups sometimes have to take a number to reserve a spot, those columns make a good visual if you can get in and the media knows exactly where you'll be.

My understanding is that this particular conference relates to a civil rights suit against the City of New York as one of the defendents. Any reason why City Hall might be off-limits this time? Perhaps someone should ask the Mayor's office.


Jack Pierson Roses Roses Roses 2005 metal, plastic, wood, found letters, as floor piece 30" x 87" x 70" [view of installation]

Maybe I'm just feeling competitive, Barry having uploaded such a great image of a great piece two days ago, but I also really like Jack Pierson's work. So here's another shot from the show at Cheim & Read which closed May 6.

and I also have a bridge you can buy

Gee willikers, Uncle Sam! It's as if up to now we've only had to worry about the civil rights of our native Al Qaedans!

Why is it we don't hardly hear a peep from our politicians or our media, even from the few progressive elements that remain on the outskirts, about the real reason for this administration's interest in our converstions and our associations? I'm talking about our government's five-year-plus orgy of domestic wiretapping and the tracing of tens of millions of phone records. Hint: It's not because the Bushies are just nosy, and it's certainly not because they're trying to protect us from anything.

This evening Douglas Kelly breaks the media silence with a note which precedes his visual arts newsletter, the the "Douglas Kelley Show List". I'm copying the note's entire text, but it's the last paragraph [with my italics] that shatters the let's-just-continue-to-play-nice game:

May 18th, 2006, NEW YORK- Years ago during the Reagan era when the late Senator Daniel P. Moynihan quit as head of the Senate Select Committee on Foreign Intelligence he said to the effect, "Why should I waste my time, they only they only come here and lie over and over again, what is the point?" The ability to sincerely lie to Congress and the American people on national TV has been a career qualification for head of C.I.A. since I've been watching and on the basis of what I've heard so far, he's qualified, I don't believe a word he said.

Our new four-star chief spook looks like what members of The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles must look like these days down at the Children's Memorial Saturday Morning TV Retirement Home in Boca Raton Florida? General Turtle looks a little hungry, will somebody please put a leaf of lettuce in this guy's cage?

Why would the N.S.A. go for everybody's phone records in the U.S.A.? Great Caesar Nixon's Ghost! What a stupid question? To go get after those pesky untrustworthy troublemakers; the press, the leakers, the whistle blowers, the protesters, the gays, women, mothers, Democrats, Lib-ber-rals, artists, any of those terror enablers who question an open ended war beyond the realm of oversight or accountability? (Besides the political intelligence from an analysis of such lists could be very helpful in the next election.) "Thank you General Bobble J. Turtle Head, sir! You're doing a heck of a job!"

It's not enough to control every branch of government; you gotta make sure it's permanent, especially if your players would all be subject to criminal prosecution under any responsible Department of Justice and Congress.

Why doesn't anyone seem to understand what's going on? The stakes could not be higher, yet what passes for the opposition plays the game as if the other side had any interest in the rules.

Uncle Sam is leaving.

[image from Micah Wright]

UPDATE: [noon, Friday, May 19] The Brooklyn College MFA Press Conference originally scheduled for 1 pm today has been POSTPONED. Details to follow.


Brooklyn College MFA students, members of the faculty and attorneys Norman Siegel and Steven Hyman will hold a press conference tomorrow afternoon announcing the filing of a lawsuit against the City of New York, the New York City Parks Department and Brooklyn College.

The location is the Law Offices of McLaughlin & Stern at 260 Madison Avenue (Betw. 38th and 39th) on the 20th Floor. The time is 1 pm.

I'll be there.

For the background, see this blog and my six subsequent posts linked there at the bottom of the text.


Gedi Sibony Untitled 2004 mixed media [installation view]

A group of overly-designed empty boutiques on West Broadway may not be the best space to show new work, unless perhaps that's how the targeted shopper lives, but much of it the art Simon Watson and Craig Hensala brought to the Campari exhibition, "25 Bold Moves - An Exhibition of Contemporary Art", managed to shine through the glitz of the spaces and the glamour of the opening night crowd. This smallish piece by Gedi Sibony, in spite of its great beauty, managed to look positively shy on the wall of one of the back alcoves.

Lately we've been doubting our diligence, but maybe we really do get out a lot. This show is billed as an exhibition of the work of 25 "emerging" visual artists, but the biggest surprise for us was that were no surprises there for us. Just rewards for the eyes.

The 24 other artists are:

Tim Barber, Carter, Yi Chen, Matt Connors, Chris Dorland, Bendix Harms, Valerie Hegarty, Matthew Day Jackson, Anthony James, Jennie C. Jones, Justin Lieberman, Bradley McCallum & Jacqueline Tarry, Wardell Milan, Wangechi Mutu, David Noonan, Os Gemeos, Adam Pendleton, Mika Rottenberg, Shinique Smith, Saeko Takagi, Scott Treleaven, Aya Uekawa, Helen Verhoeven, Zachary Wollard.


Olafur ELiasson The uncertain museum 2004 steel, projection foil, wave mechanism, HMI lamp, rubber, water, wood 9' 8" high x 14' 7 " diameter [exterior detail of installation]

Olafur ELiasson Inverted mirror sphere 2005 stainless steel, mirror, wire, cable, bulb, dimmer 63" diameter [interior detail of installation]

Very beautiful and lots of fun, the four large, gently-kinetic sculptures Olafur ELiasson has installed at Tanya Bonakdar do not hide their magic: The visitor is invited to pay attention to the wizard behind the curtain.


Jennifer Coates Grotto 2005 acrylic on canvas [detail from installation]

[full view]

Jennifer Coates is showing fanciful "landscapes" figured with extravagant abstractions in the front gallery at Feigen. Can an abstraction be surreal? Regardless of tags, they're absolutely terrific.

Jenny Holzer WHITE 2006 Nichia white LED's mounted on PCB with aluminum housing 192.25" x 216.5" x 5.25" [capture from moving light of installation]

Jenny Holzer HAND yellow white 2006 oil on linen in eight panels 33" x 25.5" each panel [detail of installation]

Jenny Holzer BIG CONTAINER yellow white 2006 oil on linen triptych 103.5" x 80" each panel [detail of installation]

Jenny Holzer shows us what "freedom of information" looks like in a show at Cheim & Read. It's not pretty, but its more compelling than a car wreck. The installation is part of a collaboration with Yvon Lambert, across 25th Street, where "Night Feed", a series of very different text-based works has been installed.

From the Cheim & Read press release:

In her newest work, Holzer negotiates the political landscape after 9/11 and traces the debate over covert operations, ghost detainees, prisoner abuse, and war tragedies in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Guantanamo Bay through the directives, emails, and testimonies of policy makers, soldiers, and prisoners. The documents, many of which were classified at the time they were written, originated in United States government and military agencies and have been made part of the public record through the landmark Freedom of Information Act.
It's almost impossible to imagine how banal, or how horrible, are the parts which our government will not let us see.

Holzer's art will not let us stop trying - to imagine, yes, but more importantly, to free the information.

going through the debris

Eighteen Brooklyn College MFA students were not only dispossessed of a graduate thesis exhibition when the New York City shut it down and padlocked the doors in downtown Brooklyn. On Saturday, five days after their school itself had precipitously, foolishly and cowardly removed all of their art from the gallery, hauled it away in open trucks and dumped it back on the campus, they were permitted to enter the hall where it had been unceremoniously dropped by campus workmen.

There they discovered that much of the art, the product of months of work and the focus and culmination of their graduate studies, was missing and a good percentage of the work that was there had been damaged or destroyed irreparably.

This is a large excerpt from the press release which appears on the students' site:

At 9am yesterday [Saturday, May 13] students arrived at Roosevelt Hall on the Brooklyn College campus prepared to inspect their work together. The students were surprised to find that Mr. Little had ordered the officers to allow students access only one at a time. This caused the process to last until 6pm yesterday afternoon.

Under the supervision of Brooklyn College CUNY security officers and with the aid of Graduate Deputy Karen Giusti, students found their work improperly packaged in garbage bags, much of it irreparably damaged and some pieces missing.

Carrie Fucile, who built a 7' x 8' x 10' wooden house as part of an installation, could find barely a trace of the large structure among the two rooms in which the work was stowed. A few pieces of the dismantled installation were used as packaging for other works of art, others were later located out by the loading dock for raw materials and trash.

Marni Kotak could not find over 10 original drawings, the video documentation of her live performance at the show opening, and most of the elements of her 10' x 20' site-specific installation. She found two chalkboard drawings irreparably destroyed. Tamas Veszi could not find his entire site-specific installation, and could only find two damaged paintings and three destroyed sculptures. Neither Fucile, Kotak nor Veszi were allowed to adequately document their site-specific works prior to their demolition.

Augusto Marin's large folding chair and wall sculpture and Yejin Jun's foam and pins sculpture were found in pieces, and the work of John Aveluto, Megan Piontkowski, Susan Dessel, Carla Aspenberg, Pamela Gordon, and other artists suffered damages. Most of the approximately $20,000 worth of digital equipment utilized for the exhibition was found jumbled together in large boxes or trash bags without the proper carrying cases. Several artists also reported missing personal items such as a video camera, DVD players, and original personal documents.

I know that at least one of the students has very recently removed all his work and materials from his Brookly College studio, "because the school is starting to scare me".

This college is sounding more and more like the school from hell. Anyone who has an interest in exorcising its demons should get involved before the damage becomes irreversible. An academic institution cannot survive on a formal accreditation certificate alone, and when enough incompetence is involved, even a valuable piece of paper can be lost.

There are additional pictures on the Plan C site.

[image, which I believe is of Augusto Marin looking at his work, from Plan C]



Glen Fogel is showing a new magical video [no title given] at Momenta which sort of documents Christian rock warm-up bands at the Billy Graham Crusade in Flushing Meadows Park last summer. There is absolutely no sound, but the imagery which he assembles, in sandwiching layers of waving believers between himself and a giant screen projecting the acts, produces a mesmerizing music of its own, complete with the unavoidable creepy ostinato of zealotry.

Two points of information unrelated to each other: One, the ghost image in the still shown above is in the moving video itself; and two, I thought it more than curious, considering Graham's own racism, that his [acolytes?] all appear here to be people of color.



Lèse majesté? Was sex the beard for political censorship?

From a story in the Fine Arts section of the NYTimes on Friday:

In addition to the hand-and-penis sculpture, works in the show included a video with sexual overtones in which women are dressed as nuns, and a watercolor of a man's torso, with an accompanying narrative about a sexual encounter between two men, one of whom used the computer screen name Dick Cheney.
I don't know about you, but I suspect what really might have done it for our self-appointed middle-aged, white male Parks Department guardian of public morals and social orthodoxy wasn't the penis or the nuns (I can doubt whether Julius Spiegel cares much about either); it was more likely the combination of homosex and the Vice President of the United States.

We love Carl Ferrero's art. Everything I've seen him do is mighty fine, when it's not actually breathtaking.

I still don't know exactly which offending image or images of Ferrero's is/are in the show summarily shut down on May 4, but the entire world will be able to see his work and that of all the Brooklyn College MFA candidates when it re-opens in DUMBO; there will certainly be a media presence. The [second] reception will be on Wednesday May 24th from 6 to 9 at 70 Washington St. (down under the manhattan bridge overpass) in Brooklyn.

ADDENDUM: See this related story which appeared on the last page of today's print edition of the NYTimes:

China Orders Art Galleries to Remove Paintings With Political Themes

Several galleries in this city's thriving arts district were recently ordered by government officials to remove more than 20 paintings, apparently because they dealt with political themes, artists and gallery directors here said.

[images from Carl Ferrero]

Elise Engler Rapture 2005 pencil, colored pencil, gouache, watercolor on paper 22" x 30" [installation view]


It's been a good five-week run, but "Tax-onomies", Elise Engler's show at Cynthia Broan closes tomorrow. Unfortunately however the actual "rapture" of our sophisticated fighting machines and and somewhat less sophisticated wars will continue.

Engler's inspiration for the title of this show of beautiful, painstakingly-crafted drawings is an accounting of the materials the government purchases with our tax dollars, but there is much more than hard weaponry in her inventories. From the press release:

Larger works in progress are symbolic depictions, with names and ages, of each of the over 2500 Iraq War coalition casualties and over 13,000 Iraqi civilian casualties, a small fraction of the unknown actual number.
The image at the top is one of a number of more recent drawings:
The exhibition also includes a new series of works on paper that portray newspaper clippings, internet flyers and other sources of information, with related drawn and painted elements. Articles from New York Times are meticulously recreated in pencil and gouache, the surrounding painting portraying a more editorial, depiction of stories such as funding for jet fighters, Rudy Giuliani dancing in drag, NYC Emergency Preparedness advice, and arrests made around Times Square during the Republican Convention.
The truly obscene caption below the pencilled reproduction of a NYTimes photograph reads: "The Raptor, the most expensive fighter jet in history at $259 million per plane, may be scaled down as the Pentagon tries to offset Iraq war costs."

[The price of the [F-22] Raptor has since gone up. At the moment the estimates are closer to $350 million per plane. Somewhere I just saw a reference to the Air Force asking for 339 of them. As they say, pretty soon we'll be talking about real money.]


Mark Schubert Penguin Pusher 2006 mixed media 47" x 24" x 26" [installation view]

Mark Schubert Wheelbarrow Rose 2006 mixed media 63" x 21" x 22" [installation view]

Monya Rowe is showing five "life-size" [my phrase] sculptures by Mark Schubert in a show titled, "Yard Work". Delicious, even without what felt to me like a visual reference to ice cream. In fact the media the artist uses is somewhat less digestible: the press release tells us that "Most of the materials can be seen in a suburban yard: wheelbarrows, plastic lawn chairs and lawn ornaments."

A really smart lawn wouldn't want to live with these ornaments.

[this editorial is too good to stay in the Bronx; Barry reformatted it from a PDF so I could upload it here]

THE RIVERDALE PRESS Thursday, May 11, 2006 ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

The return of the censors

In 1988, Chicago police arrested a painting; last week, New York City jailed an entire art exhibit.

In both cases, the offending art was student work on display in the year-end show that is a college art department’s equivalent of a thesis.

In both cases, the authorities acted precipitately and in violation of the fundamental right of artists to express themselves and of our fundamental right to make up our own minds.

In both cases the academic institutions that should have defended their students and the faculty that mentored them instead beat a craven retreat.

It took a federal court to rebuke the Chicago authorities for confiscating David Nelson’s mocking portrait of the city’s late mayor Harold Washington clad only in a bra and panties.

Will it take a court to stand up for the students of Brooklyn College, who, shortly after celebrating what they thought was a successful opening, saw months of work sequestered?

Last Thursday, Brooklyn Parks Commissioner Julius Spiegel abruptly locked up the war memorial in Cadman Plaza Park, which for the last five years has served as an art gallery and the venue for Brooklyn College’s year-end art exhibit.

The commissioner-turned-critic apparently didn’t like the image of a penis with homoerotic overtones or a video on Biblical themes that included sexually-charged footage of Eve in the garden. Next thing the students knew, a locksmith was changing the locks on the gallery, effectively impounding their work.

It took the college the better part of a day to decide how to respond. Then it issued a statement trying to have it both ways: “In keeping with the public nature of the space, as well as its position as an honored war memorial, Brooklyn College has respectfully decided to move the entire student exhibit to our campus. Brooklyn College has a long tradition of educating fine artists. Throughout, the administration of the College has supported our students’ rights to freedom of artistic expression. We are proud to display our student art here at the College.”

Not good enough, said the students. Told the exhibit would be moved to the college library, Marni Kotak, the students’ spokeswoman, noted that many of the 18 works were site-specific and others were too large to be exhibited effectively in the library.

“Clearly the administration of BC is thinking only of covering themselves 
 rather than taking any kind of stand at all to defend the hard work of us students,” she wrote in an e-mail. “We are generally infuriated by this tactic and are determined to either have our show reopened at the War Memorial or hold BC responsible for covering all costs for moving and reinstalling such an exhibition in another appropriate venue.”

According to city Parks Department spokesman Warner Johnston, the city had an “explicit agreement with the college that because it’s a war memorial and public space, it had to be appropriate for families.” Asked for a copy, he paused, then said there was no written agreement, but a verbal understanding. Colleen Roche, the head of a public relations firm hired by the college, refused to answer questions about the agreement and whether, if it existed, the art department or anyone in the current administration knew of it. The students say no one ever told them about it.

In any event, it is sad to see an institution of higher learning forget the lessons of the past. Only seven years ago, the city was rebuked for trying to intimidate and punish another Brooklyn institution, when a federal judge told Mayor Rudolph Giuliani that he couldn’t force the Brooklyn Museum to abandon the “Sensation” show.

The Giuliani administration then made an argument much like the one the Bloomberg administration is making now. Rejecting the contention that the museum broke its contract with the city to educate school children by showing work not fit for children to see, Judge Nina Gershon wrote, “There is no federal constitutional issue more grave than the effort by government officials to censor works of expression and to threaten the vitality of a major cultural institution as punishment for failing to abide by governmental demands for orthodoxy.”

The job of a university is to educate not only its students but the society it serves. In failing to stand up for its students’ exhibit, Brooklyn College lost an opportunity to explain the role and the nature of art. And it failed in an even more important task: to tell New Yorkers that it’s their job as citizens to judge public expression, and that no matter how provocative or potentially offensive it may be, the government has no business intruding on our ability to do so.

Donald Judd's Untitled, 1990 (90-2b Menziken) left, and Untitled, 1991 (91-5 Donaldson) right

We really had intended to see the display at Christie's of the 26 Donald Judd works which the Judd Foundation had decided to de-accession, but we had completely forgotten about going until we ran into Tony Feher just as we arrived at ART ROCK yesterday. He told us we had a few minutes before the doors closed, in a certain way and for all practical purposes, forever. We thanked him and ran off towards 6th Avenue.

We passed on last night's auction itself, but only because the current configuration of our walls (works competing with each other salon-style) just wouldn't be able to offer a proper setting for the work. Oh, and were those estimates in the six and seven figures? Where are people putting this stuff?

I had captured this one image before a guard politely asked me not to take pictures. I was then so intimidated that I didn't even point my camera toward the (sparkling-clean) 21st-story windows to bring back images of the many roof gardens still decorating the higher planes of Rockefeller Center three quarters of a century after it was begun.

This stuff has now been sold, so I didn't think a peek at some of the merchandise could do any harm now.


"WERSUPPOSEDTOACTIMPRESSED" is Wayne White's cheeky contribution to ART ROCK 2006, which opened on the plaza above the golden Prometheus in Rockefeller Center last night. The sign hovers just in front of and above the central pavillion of an art fair which is more than a match for its elegant surroundings. There's great comfort in knowing that White was chosen to represent Clementine, the gallery which is behind this wonderful midtown visitation, now in its second incarnation. Presumably Abbie and Elizabeth are cool with their artist's delicious sarcasm.

But the show is impressive, both for the fact that they've pulled it off - again, and for the quality and frequently the great fun of the art which awaits the huge variety of people who pass through the plaza at Rockefeller Center each day.

The show continues through May 21.

Here are some more installation images, adding up to only about half of the sixteen artists shown:

Kristof Kintera on the right and Susan Giles on the left, both details

David Noonan

Stephen G. Rhodes detail

Sanford Biggers detail

Shannon Ebner detail

Larry Mantello detail

Brody Condon detail of video still

Karin Weiner detail

outraged students try to retrieve their art from a truck bed before being stopped by NYC police: Is this how a real school treats its graduate students? Is this the role of a real city?

The show of Brooklyn College students' MFA thesis work was supposed to have continued for another few weeks, so there was obviously no scheduling urgency for the space inside the Parks Department building in downtown Brooklyn, but in a surprise, cynical and totally dishonorable move early this morning school authorities rushed over some open trucks and ordinary workers (not art handlers) to haul away the original art created by its own students. This was going on at the moment the students were supposed to be meeting with the school Provost, Roberta Matthews. Much of the artwork was damaged, some of it apparently beyond repair.

Plainclothes police officers were on hand for the operation, apparently to ensure that the use of force would remain the monopoly of the college and the city.

Meanwhile our mayor, who likes to consider himself a conoisseur of art but who plays the role of philistine as well as any Wall Street bonus boy, seem to believe that art is only for museums - or for billionaires looking for an expensive hobby. "Nobody's suggesting that anybody shouldn't be allowed to exhibit art," Mr. Bloomberg said, mimicing the nonsense disconnect of words uttered last Friday* by the College's own Provost. Bloomberg continued, "The issue here is this is not a museum." Is he being serious, or just cowardly?

The NYTimes has a story today, but the graduate art students themselves have added some pictures and another statement to their dedicated site.

Pictures supplied by the artists:

Statement issued by the artists:

As per the Press Release listed in a post below, yesterday Brooklyn College removed our work from the War Memorial without our consent.

We were set to meet with Provost Roberta Matthews at 9am. As we were about to go to the meeting, we got calls from fellow students who were guarding the space saying that Brooklyn College trucks were there and had begun dismantling and taking out the artwork. We had to turn around and rush down there.

When the professors who are supporting us got to the Provost's door they were told the meeting was cancelled.

The PR for Brooklyn College has spun this as if we agreed to this and as if it was a benevolent gesture. Unfortunately some of the press has picked up on this and is sending out inaccurate information. We never agreed for them to move this work and were never given a chance to discuss anything with the college. We have agreed to nothing regading [sic] this space they have proposed to us.

No one can describe how it feels to see the fruits of all of your labors taken down and dismantled in the span of hours.

I confess to an honest but naive sense of disbelief that this thing could have gone this far, but my fear now is that even in New York we have become so inured to the idea and practice of unresponsive government that no one [except Norman Siegel] cares enough to resist anything any more. Small-town moralist and Brooklyn parks commissioner Julius Spiegel should have been overruled immediately, Provost Roberta Matthews should have been removed days ago, and Mayor Michael Bloomberg should at least be ridiculed without mercy for the remainder of his days on earth.

Where at least are all the other arts institutions in a city which loves to bask in a golden aura of the illusion of culture? And where are all those bloggers who now are, who think they are, who are said to be, so important? How rich or how famous an artist do you have to be to deserve freedom, or at least the claim to freedom? Okay, at the very least, when can you begin to get some attention if the custodians of the institutions of higher education and of the government of great cities physically trash your art - your own property (to use the only word which some will understand)?

"Brooklyn College has a long tradition of educating fine artists. Throughout, the administration of the College has supported our students' rights to freedom of artistic expression." [excerpt from her statement announcing the removal of the exhibit]

[first image, Robert Stolarik from the NYTimes; others from PLAN C(ENSORED)]

Paul McCarthy's mixed-media installation "Bang-Bang Room" (1992) in the former Jewish School for Girls.

Now I wish we were there. Barry and I don't like travelling in the pursuit of art fairs and I was going to try not to think about the Berlin Biennial too much, but Roberta Smith's report makes it very hard to do so.

They have come up with something that perhaps shouldn't work but does: an unusually poetic show that forms a kind of rebus about the arc and tumult of life itself. Its humanistic content makes it almost old-fashioned, evoking some of the Sturm und Drang of postwar figuration. Yet the art on view actually moves back and forth between Conceptual and more Romantic and Expressionist sonorities.
Even under normal circumstances Berlin is a big temptation for both of us, so missing out on the [fourth] Biennial now feels like a big mistake. Besides this fair seems to be as comfortable in its scale as it is lively in its components and inventive in its venues.

Maybe we'll catch it some other year, when we have to leave New York for our Berlin exile.

[NYTimes caption below image from Paul McCarthy/Hauser & Wirth via NYTimes]


the long view

the day unfolds

The erotic frisson of much of the work in his earlier walls is missing in the installation Joe Ovelman completed early this morning. Ovelman has been spending a lot of time in São Paulo and it seems to agree with him.

The photography is almost painfully beautiful, but his work is always beautiful and very often there's some pain too. These photographs are also, well, very happy, but they are not dull. There is nothing casual about their composition and they are clearly the work of a master. They are also intensely personal and they reveal a private world which is, while not quite exotic, warmly exceptional and pretty inaccessible even to those who may be privileged to travel a lot.

It's very interesting to me that many of the images are of walls, but these walls seem to shelter more than they exclude. Ovelman lives in these spaces in more ways than one, and we can wish we did too.

Actually, until these fragile paper bills disappear this world really is a little bit of ours as well.

The following thunbnails are only samples from the rank of images.











UPDATE: the wall remains almost entirely intact (as of last night, May 10)


It was a very small piece of paper on the back of a traffic signal. I couldn't read the words from down on the sidewalk, so I held the camera high above my head and aimed. I took the image home and enlarge the text area.

"Bozack Nation" is more than a sign.

In the last 24 hours I've heard or read comments from several people suggesting that the Brooklyn College MFA thesis show difficulties [see also] might have been avoided had the gallery posted a "warning label". I'm also dismayed by the recent sighting of these labels outside some Chelsea galleries.

I totally disagree with the idea that we have to warn people - anywhere - when human sexuality is addressed. Only in America would such a suggestion be met with anything but ridicule.

I think "warnings" are particulary inappropriate where art is concerned. Nothing interesting ever happens when people encounter only what they expect.

Is it necessary to point out that if you can find your way into an exhibition you can find your way out?

And I cannot accept the argument that it's for the sake of the children. Kids will only be traumatized if their parents make a scene.

I would add that this country has already become far too "infantilized" if I didn't have so much respect for Les Enfants we think we are protecting to use that word. Let's just agree we do no service to people of any age by dumbing-down an entire culture.


We visited the two floors of the School of Visual Arts MFA open studios event last weekend where Sarah Schich was projecting a small moving image onto one wall of her darkened studio. The walls were all shingled with seriously-blank sheets of white typewriter paper. Across from the "screen" and also just above the floor, lit by one dim bare bulb hanging from the ceiling, was a typed list of names pinned to the wall.

Sylvia Plath

Edgar Allen Poe

Anne Sexton

Michel Foucault

Edna St. Vincent Millay

Yukio Mishima

The little lantern relayed a looped series of six short animated videos illustrating the story of the deaths of six famous writers.

The image above is a still from the story, by the author's own account, of the social circumstances in which Michel Foucault contracted the disease, HIV, which eventually caused his death.

I know this may sound weird and probably disrespectful, but the animations are graceful, beautiful, and absolutely charming.

Crain's reports that Brooklyn College has opted to move their school MFA exhibit rather than fight the City's shutdown.

"In keeping with the public nature of the space, as well as its position as an honored war memorial, Brooklyn College has respectfully decided to move the entire student exhibit to our campus," said [president and Brooklyn College Provost Roberta] Matthews in a statement.
Lesson: Art is best kept locked up unless it's really old or pretty much dead otherwise. Or: Don't scare the horses' asses in a tinhorn town.

[tip on follow-up story comes from Bloggy]

maybe our guardians now plan a special exhibition of their own

Don't they ever learn? NYC Parks authorities have abruptly shut down the MFA thesis exhibit for the art school of Brooklyn College/CUNY.

It will be interesting to see how the art collector successor to Giuliani deals with this one. See Barry for the story up to now. There you will learn that this dedicated blog has been set up to provide continuously-updated information.

Pictured is the cover of the catalog for the Nazi's 1937 "Degenerate Art" exhibition. I have a copy here at home, a very precious and tragic relic of a product of what I once thought was an alien mind.

UPDATES: See follow-up posts done as the story developedhere and here and here and here and here and here and here and still again and again and now the suit

[image from Deutsches Historisches Museum]

Joe Ovelman (São Paulo wall)

Joe Ovelman will be doing another of his huge photo installations on a very fortunate Chelsea wall early Saturday morning. This will essentially be the first street project to include work done while he has been living in Brazil. I'm assuming all of the images we will see this weekend were captured in the southern hemisphere.

Joe in Brazil with his camera. This is certain to be a great ride. Other than the possibility that there may be more than one dimension to the idea of wall this time, I know almost nothing else about the new piece.

Papered along the west side of 10th Avenue between 22nd and 23rd Streets, the work should be whole and complete by about 6 am, but don't wait too long to check it out. There's never any way to know how quickly the images may be destroyed or removed; ironically their mortality, and especially the uncertainty of the number of their days (hours?), contributes to the incredible vitality of every one of Ovelman's wall projects.

I hope to have pictures of the piece here later in the day on Saturday.

[image from Joe Ovelman]

Judy Glantzman Untitled 2004 oil on canvas 90" x 80" [installation view]


We've lived with two drawings by Judy Glantzman for years, one of them quite small. We've also seen her small paintings over even a longer period, but until now I don't think we've seen anything as monumental as the large canvases included in her current show at Betty Cunningham.

The madly-re-worked facial and body gestures work on every scale, but they're definitely not the same on every scale. Scary wonderful is much easier to hold onto when there's only one figure to contemplate. These ghostly crowds are of a different order altogether. They are as beautiful as the best renaisance altarpieces, and they may oddly serve a similar purpose in spite of their profaneness.

Judy Glantzman Untitled 1996 Super Sculpey 6.25" x 8" x 10" [installation view]

And then there are the sculptures, which almost no one has seen until now. Perhaps its only because of their full dimensional form, but these pieces speak to something perhaps even more elemental than whatever it is that is claimed by the paintings and drawings.



Downtown at the Lower Manhattan Cultural Council artist studio program the New Orleans artist Christy Speakman had installed a number of works relating to environments where materials are in transition, with or without borders. I stopped by on Sunday, the last day of an open studio weekend.

The first image above is only vaguely related to the geography of her native city, but on the top of a painted floor in her studio, which suggests sharp black and white shorelines, she has built diked islands within which cut-out photographs of land- or skyscapes are flooded with clear water.

In the second image, the two photographs mounted to a wall are unmanipulated shots, of rain puddles enriched by errant drops of oil, which Speakman captured on New York City streets.

Thirteen of the fourteen artists transplanted from the Gulf Coast and settled temporarily in LMCC studios will be together in a show at The Bronx River Art Center opening May 12.



The exception, Bernard Pearce, works as a composer and performer of experimental music rather more than in the visual arts, but I can say that his studio was one of the most interesting spaces I saw Sunday afternoon. A little later in the day I heard him performing in LMCC's 120 Broadway workspace. If he's been doing that at the same time the rest of them have been doing their thing, it must have been a very pleasant few months. No, it's not Dixieland.

This page is an archive of entries in the Culture category from May 2006.

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