Culture: June 2006 Archives

Aaron Krach Enough #1 2006 R-print 8.75" x 13.25" [view of installation]

Aaron Krach You Can Make It Here 2006 neon on Plexiglas mirror 24" x 61.25" [view of installation, with reflected viewers]

Aaron Krach United Nations Gift Shop 2006 digital C-print mounted on Plexiglas 14.25" x 19.25" [detail view of installation]

Aaron Krach Performance #1 2006 DVD [still from video installation]

How much longer will we be able to [heart] NY?

What does New York mean to young artists today? Many of us who love the rich and raw exuberance of the creativity which brought us or kept us here are now very concerned about the future of [all of] the arts in a city which seems increasingly unable to accomodate those who don't already have, well . . . money.

But maybe all most of us can do is continue to wonder at the things that still make us [heart] NY.

Aaron Krach's beautiful exhibition in multiple media at DCKT Contemporary isn't ordered to address the real estate problem directly, but it does remind us, with sensitivity and great beauty, of some of the ordinary delights and extraordinary serendipities which have always inspired the neighbors we would miss the most if Luxurycondoland proves triumphant in the end.

From the gallery press release:

Aaron Krach stakes a claim to a piece of the rich and varied history of artists inspired by New York City. "My new work fits somewhere between late, jazzy Piet Mondrian and early, East Village Madonna," says Krach. "It's a genuine but perhaps futile attempt to capture the beauty of Manhattan streets and the sex appeal of pure, unadulterated pop culture."

Works in the exhibition include photographs of new and discarded consumer goods as well as the artist's own sculptures comprised of commercially manufactured objects. The raw materials of Krach's art are the overlooked and underappreciated parts of the cityscape-wheat-pasted advertising, steam that billows up from under the streets, and discarded kitsch.

Watch for larger or smaller bits of Krach's posters featuring bunches of fake flowers on billboards all around the city, starting with the outside west wall of the gallery building itself.

Scroll down inside this Bloggy post, and inside my own posts here and here for more of Krach.


In the last hours these two stories have appeared in the NYTimes:
"Cheney Assails Press on Report on Bank Data" and:
"Court Bars Info Request on NSA Wiretapping"

So, the engineer behind the systematic destruction of our liberties is outraged that the media might inform us of the fact, and in a related case our courts have once again ruled on the side of the rogue executive. Even the third branch of our government is paralyzed to resist these authoritarian depredations, fearing the accusation of being soft on terrorism (the new McCarthyism) while ignoring the terrorism at the top.

Wednesday evening we were privileged to attend a magnificent performance of Heinar Kipphardt's 1968 play, "In the Matter of J. Robert Oppenheimer" at the Connelly Theatre in the East Village. In the drama, which is based on actual transcripts from a 1954 hearing, Oppenhiemer has been summoned before a committee of the Atomic Energy Commission charged with determining whether his security clearance will be reinstated. In the first act he responds to one of the lawyers arguing against his case,

"There are people who are willing to protect freedom until there is nothing left of it".

Can anyone say the phrase, "police state"? Or are we going to wait until we are totally forbidden to do so?

[image from Micah Wright]

painting on manhole cover, most likely that of Reed Anderson [view of site-specific installation]

I didn't manage to get to Reed Anderson's show at Pierogi until this past weekend, so as much as I would like to I can't send anyone over to Brooklyn to see it now.

Especially since my own photographs came out very yellow, there's at least a small consolation in the fact that the gallery itself has a number of good images of the work shown [odd as it may seem, even now that's not always a given].

Judging from past experience, there should still be at least one of Anderson's works visible somewhere in the office area if you do stop by, but there is almost certainly one piece remaining outside. It's lying on the top of a manhole cover located just below and west of the building's stoop. When I descended the steps this past Saturday and spotted the tiny work I pointed out the silver medallion to several people sitting or standing around. It seemed to be a complete surprise to everyone, including at least one person connected with the gallery. It certainly looks like something Anderson would enjoy carrying off without announcing it to anybody.

[Somehow this announcement got lost in my email one week ago while I was distracted at home, but it's still worthy of a post, since we haven't heard the end of this story yet.]

Elizabeth Louise Vigée Le Brun Innocence seeking refuge in the Arms of Justice 1779

The eighteen students whose Master of Fine Arts thesis show was summarily shut down on May 4th by a parks official, with the work removed and damaged by their school shortly thereafter, filed suit this month against the City of New York, the NYC Parks Department and Brooklyn College, citing First Amendment violations and property damages.

I would expect this case to be a no-brainer for any court, but I no longer have the naive confidence in American justice with which I was brought up.

For details on the suit, see the PLAN C(ENSORED) site.

[this image from Bat Guano may be a bit melodramatic, but I love Le Brun as I love Justice; besides, we should give her some slack (if not a cheer), since she was still working here under the ancien regime]

Daniel McDonald Jesus Christ, Vampire 2006 pencil drawing 14.25" x 11.25" framed [installation view]

Andrea Fraser Um Monumonto As Fantasias Descartadas 2003 mixed media (Brazilian carnival costumes) dimensions variable [detail of installation]

Dennis Balk Untitled digital print on canvas 68.25" x 48" [installation view]

Rene Ricard Untitled (Boy Running) 2006 30" x 22" [installation view]

Tom Burr Christmas Collapse 2005 wood, latex paint, metal hardware. galss, paper [installation view]

Ivan Witenstein Help 2006 watercolor and graphite on paper 68.75" x 51.75" [installation view]

It's a terrific title for a show, and an even better excuse for a great press release, but best of all is the work itself. The artist Jack Pierson has curated one of the most arresting group shows of the year for Paul Kasmin's main space on 10th Avenue.

Pierson introduces his choices under the headline, "THE NAME OF THIS SHOW IS NOT GAY ART NOW":

It seems to me the notion of Gay Art is somewhat passé and this show is an ode to its passing. It includes work by over fifty artists, not all of whom are gay, identify as gay, and not all of whom are living. The name of this show is not Gay Art Now. Maybe the link being made is about sensibility, maybe it's about society. –Jack Pierson

The Atlantic Theater's "Spring Awakening", which I wrote about on June 10, has been extended through August 5, and the New Georges' "Dead City", which Barry wrote about on June 1, has been extended until June 30.

Helen Garber Young Americans 2004 oil on panel 35.5" x 29.5" [installation view]

31 Grand has come to Manhattan! No, the space is still anchored to its eponymous address, but the two gutsy Williamsburg gallerists in charge have been chosen to mount a show, "Love Will Tear Us Apart", in the 19th-century main, or Grand salon of the National Arts Club on Gramercy Park.

The "clean white space" was already a cliché decades ago, but there's still more than a little usefulness in being able to show art for the first time in a way which neutralizes its immediate environment.

Megan Bush and Heather Stephens made no compromises in introducing their aggressive aesthetic to the ancient club's dark brown walls, spaces which on Tuesday night seemed to be anxiously awaiting the return of familiar portraits and landscapes. Maybe I would have been more comfortable with how this odd room worked with this show if I had at least an ounce of the Goth in me [that is, other than my Germanic origins], but I think sometimes serious darkness needs some lightness to be seen. Having already come across the work of most of these artists inside white walls in Brooklyn, I have to say that much of what is being shown at the Arts Club this month would be a challenge anywhere.

That's of course what attracts me. This provocative show would be an eyestopper if it were hung on flowered wallpaper above textured wall-to-wall capeting and lit by bridge lamps. It shouldn't be missed as installed in the Tilden Mansion.

In addition to this and other paintings by Helen Garber, the installation includes exciting work in a number of media by Claudine Anrather, Maureen Cavanaugh, Mike Cockrill, John Copeland, Jan Dunning, Jon Elliott, Magalie Guerin, Jeph Gurecka, Carol "Riot" Kane, Jason Clay Lewis, Francesca Lo Russo, Vincent Skeltis, Adam Stennett, Barnaby Whitfield, and Jeff Wyckoff.

[the image shown above is from the artist's series, "Love Letters From Crawford"]

Gulnara Kasmalieva and Muratbek Djumaliev Into the Future 2005 video [still from installation]

Plus Ultra's current show may be introducing many New Yorkers to the contemporary art of Central Asia for the first time, but the quality of the work of Gulnara Kasmalieva and Muratbek Djumaliev should ensure the door will never be closed again. From the press release:

Collaborating for many years, the husband-wife artists are renowned for their documentary-style video installations and photography exploring the ramifications of political upheaval and modernization.

Working in their hometown of Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan, which has been the center of change and protest since the collapse of the Soviet Union and recent overthrow of the widely criticized administration of former Kyrgyz president, Askar Akayev, Kasmalieva and Djumaliev exhibit here their 2005 dual-channel video installation “Into the Future.” Filmed in Siberia, “Into the Future” offers a direct and thoughtful verification of the effects of change and transformation. Through the juxtaposition of slowly changing images of industrial wastelands and the matter-of-fact recording of people boarding a ferry, they offer a complex, non-ironic look into that ambiguous point at which the future becomes the present and how we cope with that.

In addition, Kasmalieva and Djumaliev present a selection of photographs from their “New Menhirs” series. Referencing the giant stone structures (or “menhirs”) that jut out of the ground, marking prehistoric burial grounds, throughout Central Asia, this series catalogs desolate, often destroyed landscapes of factories and their surroundings. Standing, like menhirs, as monuments to a lost epoch, the ghostly structures in these images symbolize the contemporary stagnation that has replaced the brighter future they once promised.

For a broader sample and an exciting look at the sophistication of what is being done in this part of the world page through the catalog lying on the counter, "In the Shadow of 'Heroes'". Djumaliev edited it for Art East and the 2nd Bishkek International in 1905.


Chad Silver Milkshake 2006 video [stills from installation]

My apologies to anyone who ran into me last night at the Affordable Art Fair reception: I was feeling a bit indisposed and I suspect I came off distracted at best.

I don't remember much but there are at least a few images I would have retained even if I hadn't been able to get my camera to capture them digitally. One of the works I would like to engage under better circumstances is this 4-minute sound video by Chad Silver shown by Gallery Boreas. The anxious young man pictured is listening to a disembodied voice whose aberrant yet harmless suggestion he eventually adopts shortly before the credits roll.

The Fair continues through Sunday.

[detail of gallery installation, including a portion of Hewitt and Keegan's shared "Desk Reflection", Hewitt's "Make it Plain (4 of 5)" and a portion of Keegan's "Skypocket"]

Wallspace has installed an inspired, minimal show of extraordinary elegance. In the gallery's two spaces, which together mount only nine works, the walls and floors are shared by Leslie Hewitt and Matt Keegan, and at least two or three of the pieces are likely to totally escape the notice of visitors not clued into their conceits.

I found that a cold call had its own rewards, but following it up with a look at the press release provided some enlightenment - and additional provocation. The first lines of the text:

"From You to Me and Back Again" is a project proposed to Wallspace by Leslie Hewitt and Matt Keegan that explores the "nature" of the photographic medium.

Incorporating the floors, walls, and the corners where they meet, Hewitt and Keegan use the gallery space as a site to continue a five-yearlong conversation about photography, its abstractions, politics and subjectivities.

This is the kind of show in the kind of space which just might save Chelsea from SOHOification. A lot of us want to be surprised and excited in between too many sessions nodding at the almost predictable and the pretty slick - even when much of the predictable and the slick is also very good.

Exit is an exciting and very young and very shy, skateboarding and bike-culture-centered, Chicago-graduate-art-school-dropout, Brooklyn artist interested in fashion and birds, with a particular and very fashionable obsession with bird flu. All of the beautiful drawings in the current show at Magnan Emrich Contemporary on 28th Street deal with the impact of the long-predicted epidemic upon a world dominated by Miuccia Prada, Anna Wintour and their peers.

Very cool stuff, and totally infectious.

[installation view of a portion of the gallery's East Wall]

[installation view of a portion of the gallery's East Wall]


Yasser Aggour.jpg
Yasser Aggour George and Abe 2003 C-print 30" x 38"

It's a wonderful riff. Frederieke Taylor Gallery has mounted a [is it ever going to be possible to write, "strangely compelling" again?] show with the title, "Paradise Lost". The press release explains that the installation was:

Curated by artist Dan Tague, one of many artists forced from their homes by Hurricane Katrina. Temporarily relocated to New York, Tague has put together a show in an attempt to process this disaster. Combining artists from the Gulf Coast with artists from New York, this exhibition seeks to establish a dialogue about the loss and recreation of a paradise. Artists include: Yasser Aggour, Christine Catsifas and Kyle Reidel, Michelle Elmore, Sarah Emerson, Amy Finkbeiner, Rebecca Fuchs, Daphne Loney, Mike Peter Smith, Dan Tague, and Letha Wilson.
The above image by Yasser Aggour appears on the announcements for the show, and it managed to mesmerize me in a smaller format even before I realized the conceit involved. Somehow I had missed the title and the clearly plastic heads. I had taken the picture literally, believeing that it recorded the affection sustained by an elderly couple, a bit eccentric to be sure, but obviously proud of their public nudity.

Barry and I acquired a magnificent piece by Aggour shortly after September 11. A brilliantly-transparent, chartreuse resin frame molded from a baroque form encloses a photograph of a Jewish Virgin and child in a creche found in officially-atheist Cuba; the artist's family is from Egypt. I would worry that I'm making too much of these things except for the fact that the piece was included in a shamefully under-subscribed benefit for the Palestine Ambulance Society at White Box. Apparently even the art world thought it was the "wrong" cause, but Aggour's work immediately became and remains one of our great treasures.

Yasser Aggour Untitled (Cuban Virgin) 2002 digital print with polyester resin frame [collectors' installation image]

[image at the top from Frederieke Taylor]


I know I'm supposed to call it a musical, but I hate musicals, and so at least for now, I'll call it opera. We were there because we have a subscription. This thing is at the Atlantic Theater (we never, ever miss one of their productions).

"Spring Awakening" is a wonderful new piece of musical theatre, a rich collaboration between Steven Sater, Duncan Sheik, Bill T. Jones, Michael Mayer, a briliant production team and an absolutely superb young cast. It opens, what, tomorrow? Okay, any day now.

I don't know; it may already be sold out, but if you can get a ticket you won't be sorry. Most of us will never be able to spring for the price they'll be charging once it gets to Broadway.

"Awakening" makes the plot of "Rent" look like a bourgeois distraction from the proper agenda of a progressive society, and yet the Benjamin Franklin Wedekind play on which it is based is 115 years old. The villains are the tyranny of the state, family, schools, religion and any authority which represents its establishment as the primary argument for its legitimacy.

Notes: The title of both the original play and the Atlantic's production is a euphemism for puberty, and Wedekind himself was only in his mid-twenties when he wrote it, his first major work. The notorious German playwright was also responsible for the story on which Alban Berg's magnificent, iconoclastic and very sexy opera "Lulu" was based.

The music of this new work is of an entirely different order from that of Berg, but it's dynamite, and that's both an emotional and a considered response from someone with no patience for the conventional banalities of a form which strangely persists in its rejection of real innovation - and life.

[image from the Atlantic Theater]

I wrote a little while back that I would show some of the damage the school had done to work created by Brooklyn College Masters degree students. While this small post can't show the full extent of the physical and psychological assault, it may help to show what New York really thinks about art where it's not attached to big money or some kind of celebrity.

Susan C. Dessel Texas Barrier 2006 cement, styrofoam, cheesecloth, rocks (barrier structure: 5'6" H x 10' W x 4'D, rocks 8' D around structure) [installation view of photograph in re-assembled show documenting the original site-specific installation; the photograph itself is by Robert Puglisi]

Susan C. Dessel Texas Barrier Post Mortem 2006 (elements of Texas Barrier) [large detail of installation in re-assembled show]

Even in photo reproduction, for me Dessel's original installation stood as a brutal monument to exclusion or "security"; in its damaged form, its shattered pieces reconfigured and squeezed into an alcove in something less than ideal lighting, the work sadly suggested something more like a wounded, defeated animal. I don't know how to sort out an irony through which an evil process can transfom a scary, inanimate object into a creature less the object of scorn than of pity, but I want to watch where Dessel goes from here.

jun Yejin's damaged sculpture (large sections broken off and removed, and large remaining areas of straight pins completely flattened)

Carrie Fucile's large wooden house sculpture, as totally flattened by workers sent by Brooklyn College, including her video documentation of men loading pickup trucks

Megan Piontkowski's Brooklyn College parrots were re-configured after their initial outing in the show's original venue: While these little guys suffered damage when they were taken from the War Memorial, the artist herself has altered their appearance further herself. Tiny dark hoods now cover their heads, in a reference to the violence of New York City's summary act of art censorship and the College's ready cooperation in it.

There are more photographs on the "PlanB Prevails" website, along with an open letter from Vito Acconci, one of the few artists to be heard from on this assault on the arts and on civil rights which exploded five weeks ago.

Last week while visiting the garden Philip Johnson designed in 1953 for the Museum of Modern Art I was charmed by the anthopomorphic postures of the Bertoia chairs, also just over fifty years old, which are found strewn (rather mysteriously drifting) about the elegant grounds.

untitled (Bertoia) 2006

Sometimes alone.


And, oh yeah, it is after all a sculpture garden, so I shouldn't, and couldn't, ignore the more formal installations.

Ellsworth Kelly Green Blue (1968) painted aluminum [view of installation]




Barry talking to his wonderful mother in MoMA's Sculpture Garden last week. The beautiful bright blue Impatiens crowded into their geometric beds looked quite jealous.


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

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