Culture: February 2008 Archives

Louis C. Tiffany window in the Library of the Armory

I've been walking through the front doors of the Administration Building of the Seventh Regiment Armory on Park Avenue for decades, but until this past Monday I had never had a glimpse of that late-nineteenth-century monument's most elaborate rooms, in the wing north of the monumental entrance hall. They are just about as vigorous an expression of the American Aesthetic Movement to be found anywhere, but they have been pretty much hidden from the public, their beauties increasingly neglected for the lack of funds to maintain them. Today they are being restored to their original glory by the Seventh Regiment Armory Conservancy.

I was taken by surprise that we were permitted access that during The Art Show of the ADAA, and Barry and I were also in something of a hurry that afternoon, so I didn't have a chance to get more than a few images before having to rush out. Fortunately it was a beautiful sunny day, so the Tiffany windows and much of the rooms' other, largely-undisturbed, ornament probably looked their best - at least for now.

When the restoration is completed these rooms will look even richer, as much of the original color and detail had been watered down or replaced by alterations over the years. For instance, the panels to the left of the window in the picture below are now covered with a dull velvet fabric, but were originally painted with a blue field behind a stenciled silver and copper chain mail [it was an armory, after all] pattern.

detail of the musicians' gallery in the Veterans Room

Filip Noterdaeme ISM (The Incredible Shrinking Museum) 2004-2006 model (glycerin soap) [view of installation at HoMu]

When I wrote about Filip Noterdaeme's Homeless Museum (HoMu) just about a year ago, I included the picture above and copied the artist's own description of a project, The Incredible Shrinking Museum (ISE), which he had begun some time earlier. It was one of my best memories of the HoMu tour:

"ISM (The Incredible Shrinking Museum)" is a project for an interactive museum consisting of a sixteen-foot cube of glycerin soap. The cube is subject to constant change through exposure to the elements. In addition, visitors will be invited to exploit the structure like a mine until is it is used up, the goal being to reach out to a new audience and challenge visitors to think about their role as active participants in the shaping and destruction of culture through direct participation in the realization and, ultimately, the deconstruction of a museum.
Yesterday I heard that a model of the ISE had been installed inside the Guggenheim Museum as part of an exhibition by Cai Guo-Qiang, "Everything is Museum". In spite of my huge delight in Noterdaeme's museum-critique concept, I thought his announcement was merely another of his excellent projects; the email seemed especially suspect because the setting was the Guggenheim, a museum criticized by many in the art world for its franchising history and its unsubtle relationships with corporations and commodities. But as his subject line, read, "You Can't Make This Up": When I replied asking him for clarification, I found out the news was both good and true.

Oh, by the way, yesterday the Guggenheim announced the resignation of its director, Thomas Krens. This news is also good and true.

Art Fag City has more, including an image of a different model, one representing the ISE already under deconstruction.

fourteen floors, most of them condos, to be built on top of our park

I admit that I've known about this building for some time. I've been quietly fuming about it (something I don't do often - the quietly part, that is) for perhaps a year; it's just that getting an email from the developers boasting essentially about how clever they are to have arranged this public scam put me over the top.

This isn't the first instance in which the city has sold a part of the High Line to developers, and it may not be the worst, but it's just about the most egregious.

Has New York been able to reverse nature's own law, that plants need sun, even in parks? And, more importantly, are we going to have parks in this city or are we just going to have developers' opportunities?

This text is copied directly from the press release I received today:

Denari's HL23 will rise fourteen stories from a singularly challenging site: a 40-foot wide footprint located at 515-517 West 33rd Street, just steps from Tenth Avenue and half covered by the High Line, the historic elevated railway bed slated for transformation into one of the nation's most lyrical urban parks. Overcoming this through-block site's inherited restrictions while exploiting them with boldness [and the power of money and influence], Denari has conceived a building that will dramatically increase in size as it rises from its slender footing to cantilever gracefully over the rails. Made possible by a Special Authorization, comprising of seven waivers granted by the New York City Department of City Planning [my emphasis] in support of the building's unique contribution to the cityscape, HL23's reverse-tapering form [absolutely the reverse of New York's historical and progressive setback zoning] will make it a local landmark while creating cinematic views and unrivaled intimacy with the High Line for residents inside.
Why not call it the Highline Tunnel? Construction is supposed to begin in a few days.

CORRECTION: I originally described it as a thirteen-story building in this post, but apparently a penthouse will comprise a fourteenth floor.

[image from triplemint]

Marsden Hartley Finnish-Yankee Wrestler ca. 1938-1939 oil on board 24" x 18"

This small painting by Marsden Hartley was one of the reasons I headed up to the Park Avenue Armory on the last day of the ADAA show this past Monday, having been alerted to it by Karen Rosenberg's article in the NYTimes on Friday.

It was in the Babcock Galleries booth, imprisoned inside an embarassingly-humdrum, molded gold frame. It did absolutely nothing for Hartley's subject, or his gentle love for the robust New England to which he had returned toward the end of his life.

Joy Garnett Night oil on canvas 60" x 78"

Joy Garnett has four large canvases installed at Winkleman until March 15. You probably already know how I feel about the artist's work, so I'm just posting an image this time. It's probably the least representational of the works in the current show, but that doesn't say anything about my preferences, since I'm crazy about "Molotov" and I think Garnett is terrific at everything she does.

Rodney Graham Rheinmetall/Victoria 8 2003 installation: 35mm film (color, silent), Cinemeccanica Victoria 8 film projector [large detail of still from film image projected within installation]

[large detail of installation]

Maybe it's partly my aspirations as both writer and photographer, since this extremely elegant work intersects both of those arts, but I was fascinated by this Rodney Graham piece when I wandered right into it the other day. It's part of the current contemporary galleries show at the Museum of Modern Art, "Multiplex: Directions in Art, 1970 to Now".

There was also the impact of the profound, endless "silence" produced by that huge projector's rapid click, clack, click, clack inside a darkened room.

The gallery label included this text:

This film depicts a 1930s German typewriter made by Rheinmetall that Graham found in a junk shop. "It was just this incredibly beautifully made, solidly designed typewriter. Not one key had ever been pressed on it," he has said. His filmed homage is projected with a 1961 Victoria 8 projector issued by the Italian company Cinemeccanica, a mechanical wonder that Graham has described as "very beautiful, kind of overly powerful." "It's these two objects confronting one another," the artist has said of the installation. "Two obsolete technologies facing off."



Two views of "ZOBOP!" (2006), Jim Lambie's floor installation, being installed by a very industrious crew on the low steps to the Museum of Modern Art's sculpture garden while we were there this afternoon.

Visitors Advisory: Be careful navigating the grade change, especially if you're in the habit of wearing bifocals.

Mairead O'hEocha Springtime, Truck Museum, Wexford 2007 oil on board 15.5" x 20.25"


Munro Galloway Country Life 2007 oil on canvas 24" x 20"

Actually, the full title of the show at Hudson Franklin is "A Loaf of Bread, a Carton of Milk, and a Stick of Butter" but I had to sacrifice a few words up at the top of this entry because I want to keep my own blog titles to one line of text.

Not a thing however has been sacrificed in this wonderful little show of real paintings. The canvases are all fairly modest in size, but they perform their very different roles extremely well. It was Allison Schulnik's sculptural extravagance with oil, "Big Fish Head", (the image on the invitations) that brought me into the gallery, but I stayed to enjoy Mairead O'hEocha's clean, fanciful Irish landscape, the endless curved road of Munro Galloway's rounded cubism and the other works by Anders Oinonen and Anna Bjerger.

The show, curated by Andreas Fischer and Nicole Francis, continues until March 15.

Mark Bradford Mississippi Gottdam mixed media collage on canvas 102" x 144"


It took me a few minutes. I don't know, maybe I was already tired from an afternoon wandering between galleries in the wind and the cold on the edge of the North River. I also didn't remember who the artist was, that I had written about him before, and that his work had been one of my favorite things at the last Whitney Biennial (I like it when an artist changes, even if it often taxes a memory already straining to keep up with my passions). I also didn't know that two nights later, entirely by coincidence, I would be watching a recording at home of his segment of the Art: 21 series, "Art in the Twenty-First Century".

In any event, last Tuesday when I walked into Mark Bradford's show, "Nobody Jones", at Sikkema Jenkins, I first felt like, well . . . , like show me why these big canvases are special. Had I finally had enough of art-ing? I wasn't really into the work, even though when I was back at the front desk I found myself going back to check out the map-like features of at least one piece (I love maps). Now looking at it again it no longer seemed important what the lines were, or even whether they represented anything at all (they do). And when I rounded the corner and walked into Sikkema's west gallery, where "Mississippi Gottdam" was hanging all by itself, my jaw must have dropped. If it had been a spaceship hanging from the ceiling it couldn't have been more exciting. The big sculptural collage was breathtaking. I studied it for some time and then I turned back into the main gallery. All the other stuff now looked really awesome as well, and I was still thinking I knew little about the artist, or the process which produced these works.


Thanks to Art: 21 and its visit with the brilliant and engaging Bradford, both inside and outside of his Los Angeles studio, I now remember everything, even my own 2006 post. The permanent-wave end papers and the bright Whitney paper collages. I had first seen his work at Lombard Freid back in 2001. It was a solo show called "I Don't Think You Ready For This Jelly". Lea Freid spoke to Barry and I at the gallery and helped us fall in love with the artist's work - for its beauty, its medium and its rootedness.

The image at the top can only hint at the brillance of the original, much of which floats on a silvery foundation. I thought Rudolf Stingel's shimmering Whitney installation of last fall was pretty magical, but right now I'm thinking about what it would look like with a hands-on color intervention from Bradford.

view of the gallery installation, with art suspended from bamboo poles and marine rigging in a reference to the innovative poles inside Peggy Guggenheim's gallery, Art of This Century [Stephen Ellis's 2000 untitled oil and alkyd canvas is in the center of the image; James Hyde's new "Chunk Chair" sits below and behind it; Sherrie Levine's "Untitled (after Henri Matisse)", from 1985, hangs on the right; and a good bit of Tony Feher's suspended bottles can be seen in the right foreground]

view of dinner with, and below, the stars [Mateo Tannatt's "[email protected]*BLUE ONION LATEO", built for the project, performing as the round table for the evenings]

It was the darndest thing. The email was from "New York is Dead", the subject line read "Rose Colored Glasses", and the message was signed by Joe Montgomery and Jesse Willenbring. It was an invitation from two people whose names I didn't recognize at the time, inviting me to participate in a "potluck dinner party group [designed to] show homage to Rirkrit Tiravanija and the breakthrough 1942 modern gallery, Art of This Century.

The evening suggested for my participation was described as one of the dinners they were holding at Gavin Brown's Chelsea space during the first two weeks of February. The email went on to say they had curated a group show of artists but they were also attempting to assemble a group of 11 guests to eat together in the gallery on each of the 11 nights the show would be up. We were told there would be spectators, and that there would be no fourth wall. We were being encouraged to share food and conversation, "and not just about art", for an entire evening, but other than being assigned a specific food theme (different for each evening) almost everything else would be up to our imagination.

It read as a pretty bold and ambitious concept, and I was immediately attracted to the references to art and food, but it was probably the connection with Brown, the bar Passerby and the evocation of Rirkrit and Peggy Guggenheim that pulled me in. I accepted the invitation, replying on my own and Barry's behalf before I realized it had actually come just to me. I was embarrassed when I realized my presumption, but my hosts immediately made it clear that my dual rsvp was totally in order - if not actually a huge improvement over the specificity of the original invite.

Barry and I still thought we might be taking a chance, especially since we balance a pretty full calendar and are jealous of our time off, but it sounded just quirky enough for me to want to make the commitment which, as it happened, included a little work in the kitchen for me.

It turned out to be a delight. I brought my pot, . . . er, bowl, and it became one of the dishes served to the guests at an sculptural round wooden table constructed for our sit-down dinner. We met some great people (unfortunately a flu condition kept co-host Joe Montgomery from making it the night we were there). We saw some really good art imaginatively installed, and were totally charmed by the situation, by our fellow guests and by the generosity of our very-hardworking hosts.

For more on the concept and the experience, and images from the first night's dinner, see the ArtForum Diary post.

There were works by almost three dozen artists surrounding us and at the table itself. What follows are images of just a sampling.

Red Grooms Queen Peggy 2004 painted aluminum 45" x 43" x 32" [detail of installation]

Charlotte Beckett Pit 2008 black mylar, aluminum, motor [installation view]

Tony Feher Untitled 2008 60" x 7" x 4" [large detail of installation]

John Finneran Nose 2007 oil and stainless staples on aluminum 9" x 7"

Nancy Shaver Fruit Box #1 2005 cardboard box, paper-covered boxes 16" x 22" x 5" [installation view]

A list (probably not totally complete) of artists included in the project's environment whose work is not represented in any of the images would include Varda Caivano, Brian Calvin, Nancy de Holl, Aaron Freeman, Wolf Kahn, Jake Keeler, Alex Kwartler, Virginia Lee Smith, Joshua Light Show & Pig Light Show, Emily Mason, Carter Mull, Dominic Neitz, Jesse Pearson, Amanda Ross-Ho, Cary Smith, Jennifer West, Yuh-Shioh Wong, Betty Woodman and Michael Zahn.

. . . and would like everyone else to be able to do the same

Justin Marshall Baby, I wanna make-out 2006 C-print

This was one of the works in the artist's show in Chicago's excellent Thomas Robertello Gallery last fall. Barry came across a different image by the artist from the same series, and had shown it to me. I looked at some of its mates and found this one, which managed to charm both of us on this special day.

An artist friend who is also an academic recently referred to our own collection as being at least partly "whimsical" in character. Whatever did she mean?

Brian Belott Trinity Insurance Sales Blob 2007 acrylic, glitter, foil, spray paint, oil marker, led clocks on plexi-glass in plastic frame 25.25" x 38.5" [installation view of diptych]

Brian Belott Untitled (small geometric) 2007 glitter, foil, acrylic, spray paint, oil marker on plexi-glass in found frame 13" x 11" [installation view, with detail of artist's idiosyncratic musical clothespin and key gallery garnish to the left]

Brian Belott Blue Tin Balls with Keyboard 2007 acrylic, glitter, foil, spray paint, oil marker on plexi-glass in metal frame 29" x 26"

You won't see these images if you head over to Canada now (unless they've somehow escaped getting picked up by savvy collectors, and in that case you might want to ask to see them). The show, Brian Belott's "Swirly Music", was extended a week, making it possible for Barry and I to catch it, but it's definitely gone now.

Three weeks later however these images are still swirling in my head, and that's why I'm uploading them here today. They've waited long enough.

See Brent Burket, in the ArtCal Zine, for more on this seriously-whimsical show.

Anna Von Mertens Dawn (the first U.S. sighting of Sputnik October 6, 1957, Fairbanks, ALaska) 2008 hand-dyed, hand-stitched cotton 54" x 100" [installation view]

What a great show! The ISE Cultural Foudnation is currently hosting "In the Private Eye", a group exhibition of six artists who, in the words of the press release:

. . . adopt an investigative approach to give form to matters that are either inherently obscured or altogether overwritten by time. Aided by modern technology that affords them unlimited access to information—they seek to unearth truths that illuminate various aspects of our current reality.
The curator is Yaelle Amir, and the experience of Barry and I with the show, "Quote Unquote", she curated at NURTUREart last fall was probably the big draw for both of us. We also already knew enough about some of the artists at the ISE installation to bring us south of Houston this past Friday anyway. We were deeply disappointed we had to miss a performance by Nin Brudermann scheduled for that evening, especially after brushing up against some of its drama during a rehearsal that afternoon.

Nin Brudermann, Carlos Motta, Trevor Paglen, Dannielle Tegeder, Anna Von Mertens, and Amy Westpfahl are the artists. All of the work is very good, all of it is hot button, and all of it is very beautiful. Even beyond that, it seems my camera thought the two "quilts" of Anna Von Mertens were also exquisite simply as objects, and I quickly found myself lost in the stars. One of these hangings just had to end up here.

Philip Simmons's "Study for High Noon", one of the works included in tomorrow's benefit

Barry and I both love art, Williamsburg and Greenpoint, Williamsburg and Greenpoint artists, Williamsburg and Greenpoint galleries, and WAGMAG, that invaluable guide to Williamsburg and Greenpoint galleries.

But like most of the best arts institutions (where "non-profit" is always an understatement) WAGMAG can't survive on its virtues alone. Once a year the rest of us have a chance to help fund it. At the annual benefit (this year is the third) we can feel very good about ourselves, party with some terrific people, and then go home with some exciting art - created by some of our favorite friends and neighbors.

Oh, and I can't say enough about Daniel Aycock, the generous artist host.


tomorrow, February 8
at The Front Room
147 Roebling St. (corner of Roebling & Metropolitan)
admission is free
but tickets for artwork drawing are $150 (purchase at the gallery or online)
final viewing tomorrow from 1-6 (or on line)
We stopped by several days ago to see the work which had already come in, and now we're definitely psyched.

Cody Trepte This is how I cope with my neuroses 2004 cross-stitch 6.5" x 6.5"

Guy Ambrosino Abu Ghraib #1 2006 watercolor 14" x 10"

[detail showing artist's text]

NURTUREart has been mounting some great shows lately, and "At Arm's Length", which closes next Sunday, is one of the best.

This creative non-profit institution is as stimulating as it is, well . . . , yes, nurturing to artists, curators, and the public beyond. Its directors have assembled a remarkable curatorial program mechanism which was described to us only yesterday afternoon. Judging from what Barry and I have been seeing in their gallery space lately, it's really working.

The current show, curated by Lauren Schell Dickens and Julie McKim, was assembled around the idea of the reintroduction of the hand in creative work, in opposition to its increasing displacement within the arts as in most of contemporary life. The exhibition's excellent small brochure describes it further:

With laborious and time-consuming manual processses perfprmed over and over, [the seven artists included in the show] obsessively attempt to bring experience back within arms reach.
Each of these works included is as beautiful as it is intellectually engaging.

Cody Trepte's last show was inspired by the mathematical genius Alan Turing, which helps explain why I can't describe what he's doing here in a few words. No, it's about much more than needlepoint.

There isn't a weak spot in the roster of seven artists, which includes Molly Springfield, David A Faust, Christina Christina Gundersen, Helen Dennis, Jessica Mein and Guy Ambrosino.

They're all very good, but Ambrosino's contribution introduces a "political" element into this excellent company (can we survive a world in which we have reduced torture to merely a political topic?) and his treatment, in elegant watercolors, of four monstrous, excruciatingly-familiar photo images with a rare balance of grace and rage serves both the art and the show particularly well.

[image of Ambrosino's piece from NurtureART]

Chris Martin Glitter Painting 2007 oil, spray paint, gel medium, collage on canvas 54" x 45"


Chris Martin Broom Painting 2007 oil on polyester 48" x 38"


Chris Martin Untitled oil and spray paint on canvas 45" x 54"

I don't know how much more I can say about my love for Chris Martin's paintings, but his latest show, now installed at Mitchell-Innes & Nash until March 1, did not disappoint. There are a few canvases which relate to images and materials done just before this body of work (all of which is from 2007), but there was much that moved into new territory, the kinds of territory Martin is so good at discovering or creating fresh.

I have but one cavil, but it takes absolutely nothing away from my admiration for this show: None of the paintings is particularly large, especially considering the scale of this gallery, and we know the artist is an extraordinary master with canvases executed on a monumental scale. Maybe he's waiting for the next time; I know I am, whatever it brings.

The first Martin images I ever saw were of some very large black and white paintings reproduced inside a thin catalog I picked up at Pierogi 2000 early in 1997. Unfortunately it was the week after the show had closed. I didn't know I'd have to wait four years before I saw the real thing. But the reward was great, and only partly because of the great size of two of the canvases shown at Malca Fine Art (one three-panelled work was 36 feet wide) in the spring of 2001. I think I could live with the aura of either of them for the rest of my life.

This page is an archive of entries in the Culture category from February 2008.

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