Culture: December 2008 Archives

Andrew Guenther Skull Pile 2006 oil on canvas 68" x 48"

view of one wall of installation, including both paintings and objects

Andrew Guenther's show at Freight + Volume, "Looking For Culture Part III: Back to My Old Ways", includes some terrific oils, acrylics and sketches, and a number of indefinable objects. Many of the pieces assume both individual and compelling shared identities, since they've been placed on, above or below simple wooden shelves. The drawings and paintings are incredibly fresh, even sweet (don't let the skulls put you off), and the gallery's small "cabinet", boasting as it does so many curious, wonderful, handmade doohickeys, looks something like a collection marshaled by a particularly-inventive Prospero.

Lily Ludlow Lovers 2008 graphite, gesso and acrylic on canvas 48" x 48"


Canada gallery is showing some beautiful erotic paintings by Lily Ludlow along with a multi-channel video, "Sewing Circle", in which she collaborated with Allen Cordell. I love the paintings.

When I started this entry, because I was also so charmed by the beauty of the detail's abstraction, the clarity of the lines and the subtlety of the colors it revealed (the rich textures can really only be seen if you're right there), I was tempted to do something I rarely do, reverse the order of the two images you see here, making the larger one into a thumbnail and showing the detail shot first, and full size. I guess it's an old publishing trick. I like the way it sometimes gingers things up, but I decided that the full painting, although it was very dimly lit in the gallery, was just too beautiful to diminish or underplay. It also displays some of its own ginger.


Paddy Johnson is having a year-end fundraiser for her increasingly indispensible cultural blog, Art Fag City. Contributions are tax-deductible, through the generous support of another of New York's precious resources, Momenta Art. Go here to Paddy's site for more information and an easy contribution form.

Tom Moody has assembled, on his own site, an impressive, but unassailable description of what her site means to the arts community it serves:

Johnson's blog is a necessary counterweight to the institutional writing that constitutes current criticism: magazines chasing ad dollars, 501c(3) organizations that have to say nice things about everyone, and museum curators at the beck and call of powerful board members. Johnson produces a staggering amount of original content each year, including interviews, essay series, and reportage. Her comment boards are moderated in a civilized fashion and are a good place to hash out issues that aren't being discussed elsewhere. Plus she is that rare writer that can cover both the art gallery scene and the online scene with equal knowledge and confidence.

In J.M. Barrie's "Peter Pan", the play, the novel and the film, children are urged to clap to show that they believe in fairies, lest Tinkerbell die. I feel a bit like when we were first asked to save that little sprite, but this time we'll need to do more than clap if we're going to help keep Art Fag City alive.

[1915 image, by Francis Donkin Bedford, from Project Gutenberg]

R.H. Quaytman Chapter 12: iamb (Fresnell lens) 2008 diamond dust, silkscreen, gesso on wood 32.5" x 52.5"

R.H. Quaytman Chapter 12: iamb 2008 silkscreen, gesso on wood 40" x 24.75"


R.H. Quaytman Chapter 12: iamb silkscreen, gesso on wood 32.5" x 20"

The gallery press release tells us that the subject of "Chapter 12: iamb", R.H. Quaytman's exquisite and very brainy solo show which opened recently at Miguel Abreu, is "painting itself and, specifically, its relationship to the blind spot." The notes go on:

Like actual vision, Quaytman’s paintings have a blind spot, whether it be from a light source in the picture, an optical illusion, a trompe l’œil effect, the absence of color in a black and white photograph, or the picture in plan. This recurring ‘absence’ enables the works to activate one another, yet it also often shifts the axis of legibility between neighboring paintings.

About the images I've uploaded here: Since her show is about ‘absence’, I suppose I should consider that I had fair warning. Color is always a problem, and the pixels on a screen can play havoc with reproduction under the best of circumstances, but the first two images above are, more than usually, only an approximation of what you will see unmediated when you stand in the gallery itself. For example, the detail I show here, of a section located one third of the way from the right edge of the painting, actually includes parts of two color fields (this is more apparent if you move back from the computer screen).

Fortunately, since it's a part of the work being shown (each piece is intended to be viewed both by itself and in the context of its neighbors) the installation is also a triumph. It's museum quality, and I mean that in a good way: I felt like keeping my voice down, I suppose out of awe or respect, and that's not my usual approach to new art.

Kate Gilmore Higher Horse 2008 single channel video [large detail still from installation video]

Kate Gilmore's current installation at Smith Stewart is even more gripping than I'd expected, and I've grown to expect a lot from this smart artist.

While you pass through the debris left over from one of the performances documented on the monitors inside the gallery, Gilmore can also be seen in three other recent videos, equally and typically engaging, and very physical. Her face is often obscured in her work, as it is here. But in these four pieces, dressed in high heels and skirts, Gilmore's costume at least is a star, neatly color-coordinated with some element of her artist-built sculptural props. In each case she is, as usual, totally involved in half-goofy challenges presented by her sets, but in the video installed furthest from the door, "Higher Horse", where she introduces two husky males armed with sledge hammers, she appears more as frightened, cornered prey than as the wild, ransacker encountered elsewhere in the room.

Gilmore's work, regularly evokes responses like horror, frustration, pity, anger, compassion, empathy, fear, love and admiration, and certainly bemusement, humor and delight. None of these appear alone, instead they're all tangled together in my experience of the pleasures of her art.

And I'm not alone.

Kate Gilmore Walk this Way 2008 single channel video [large detail still from installation video]

Kate Gilmore Between a Hard Place 2008 single channel video [large detail still from installation video]

Kate Gilmore Down the House 2008 single channel video [large detail from installation video]

Maureen Cavanaugh Black Flowers 2008 oil on canvas 9" x 12"

Maureen Cavanaugh Old Room 2008 oil on canvas 10" x 10"

I liked these paintings when I first looked at them, and I find they've only grown more beautiful each time I've returned to them (in photos). Maureen Cavanaugh's solo show at 31 Grand, "Stay With Me", which closed one week ago, was terrific, but unfortunately it proved to be the final regularly-scheduled exhibition in the gallery's space on Ludlow Street.

And then last night we were excited to be able to drop by the gallery for one last blow-out show, "Death Is Not The End". It was a one-night only thing, a retrospective group exhibition of artists who had made appearances in 31 Grand's spaces in Williamsburg and Manhattan over the nine years of its very full life.

The strength of this last brilliant flare of an installation, and the crowd which poured into the space one last time last night, should attest to what I read as prophecy in its title: It's not over. I know nothing more about the future of the art world than anyone else, and less than many, but I expect Heather Stephens and Megan Bush will be back, either together or separately; the love and the respect both have earned for the work they have done over the past decade should foretoken as much, and more.

The artists included in the show last night were:

Adam Stennett, Alessandra Exposito, Eric White, Barnaby Whitfield, Carol "Riot" Kane, Fanny Bostrom, Randy Polumbo, Francesca Lo Russo, Helen Garber, Mike Cockrill, Jade Dylan, Jason Clay Lewis, Jason Cole Mager, Jason Weatherspoon, Jeff Wyckoff, Joel Adas, Jon Elliott, Karen Heagle, Kristen Schiele, Kyle Simon, Lauren Gibbes, Magalie Guérin, Maureen Cavanaugh, Megan Leborious, Michael Anderson, Michael Cambre, Michael Pope, MTAA/Michael Sarff, Nelson Loskamp/Electric Chaircut, Orly Cogan, Paul Brainard, Rebecca Chamberlain, Sean McDevitt, Spencer Tunnick, Tim Wilson, Tom Sanford, Ursula Brookbank and Claudine Anrather

why, . . . it was just yesterday, and now it looks like tomorrow

DO NOT miss it, if you're any where around Chelsea today, Friday or Satruday. There are still three more nights to see a (sorta) revival of David Gordon and the Pick Up Performance Company's 1982 "Trying Times (remembered)" at Dance Theater Workshop, and Barry and I both recommend it highly. You don't really have to bring any special equipment with you to enjoy this beautiful piece, but, especially if you're unfamiliar with the choreographer and the company, it wouldn't hurt to see it after: 1.) a quick study of its history, here [Gia Kourlas for Time Out] or here [Claudia La Rocco for the NYTimes]; 2.) a look at David Gordon; 3.) a peek at the phenomenal Valda Setterfield; and 4.) some background on Stravinsky's gorgeous 1928 "Apollo".

Deborah Jowitt (sadly, one of the only reasons still left for picking up a copy of that once-indispensable Downtown rag, The Village Voice) will also help with her review, whether you read it before or after experiencing this wonderful work.

[Steve Gunther image, of Pick Up Performance Company dancers together with dancers from the Sharon Disney Lund School of Dance at CalArts, taken from Pick UP and supplied by DTW]


Ann Lislegaard Crystal World (after J.G.Ballard) 2006 two-screen video [two large-detailed stills from the double-screen installation]

Murray Guy is showing two beautiful projected animations by Ann Lislegaard in its space on 17th Street. They're both seriously conceptual, but the looping double-screen animation, "Crystal World (After J.G. Ballard)", sections of which are seen in the two images above, is incredibly exquisite to boot.

Aside from its virtues as art, for those who already feel they're being force-fed a surfeit of holiday color: This frozen minimalist world is the perfect antitoxin.


I know it from the very personal relationships the man enjoyed with good friends of mine who regularly hosted this sweet man in their homes. Van Johnson was quite queer, even if he didn't seem to want it broadcast everywhere.

It's too bad the obituaries in the NYTimes and other MSM outlets I've just looked at on line still seem to think that queer is, well, . . . too disgusting to talk about in public, thus perpetuating the climate of fear and loathing in which Johnson grew up and which continues to waste and destroy lives even today.

ADDENDUM: By way of media corroboration, I just found this copy of a 2004 obituary of Evie Wynn Johnson, the woman the star married in 1947, It appeared in the The Independent.

[image from ioffer]

Larissa Bates Sleeping MotherMan with Lazer Beams after Poussin's Narcissus 2008 acryla gouache on canvas 8" x 10"

I neglected to post anything about Larissa Bates's wonderful show at Monya Rowe, "Just Hustle and Muscle", while it was installed this past September and October. I was reminded of its excitement, and my own failings (just now I was also shocked to find that I have never done a separate post on Bates), when I visited the show of works by the gallery's artists installed in a new space on 22nd Street. I've decided to begin making up for lost time and opportunities.

Almost as soon as I started uploading images for this post I realized I had bitten off more than I could chew. Bates's work had hit me, both alarming and charming me, over a period of several years before I was able to learn much about either her inspirations or her anomalous iconography. Even now, after having seen and read things which provide more narrative context for this very beautiful work, I find that I can't give a compact written account of what I've learned. Instead I'll show several more images than I had originally planned. They were assembled from visits to several shows at Monya Rowe and one LMCC studio tour. I also can refer the curious to this Beautiful/Decay interview with the artist. They're all there; The wrestlers, the Cry-Baby MotherMen, the Lederhosen Boys, the Napoleons/Head Honchos and a lot more.

a relatively large piece, from the series "Man Power", shown in the artist's LMCC studio in April


the first of three panels of an instructive legend shown by the artist in her LMCC studio


Lederhosen Boys Electric Shock Séance 2008 acryla gouache and ink on canvas 8" x 6"

Larissa Bates MotherMen Birthing Scene at Bingham Bluff 2008 acryla gouache and ink on canvas 16" x 20" [installation view]


Lee* inside Fred's work

Fred's Lee thing** [detail]

Utopia, with Fred's Lee, and artists

The title of the installation, "Love To Fred From Lee Lozano", comes from the inscription on a graph-paper notebook given to the artist Fred Gutzeit by Lozano, who died in 1999. Gutzeit used its pages to plot his 60-foot printed mural, its imagery inspired by Lozano's own work, mounted along one wall of the narrow Bushwick gallery, Pocket Utopia.

If the current show is a generous homage to an artist who had once almost disappeared, Austin Thomas's remarkable Bushwick space itself is a generous and continuing homage to all those who make art.

Jerry Saltz, in a piece in this week's New York Magazine headlined, "Art on a Shoestring: That’s where creativity really thrives", points readers to four Bushwick galleries, including Pocket Utopia, ". . . where you’ll likely be greeted by the ball-of-energy artist known as Austin Thomas, who, in the year and a half she’s been open for business, hasn’t sold a single work to a collector—only to artists."

It sounds shocking, but it almost doesn't surprise me. Maybe it's actually just the way things have come together up to now on Flushing Avenue, but having hung around there from its very beginnings, I can't think of any words which might better describe the inventive direction and magnanimous motivation of Thomas's space on Flushing Avenue. Austin is an artist first, and the organic, collective process behind the works which pass through this tenement-building's former hair salon shop always takes on the aspect of a creative work itself, of artists both individual and collaborative. This kind of sensitivity and generosity is understood and appreciated by artists first.

NOTE: The image of Lee Lozano's face is only fully visible if the side of the viewer's head is almost touching the mural as it faces toward it from several feet away.

the billboard installation inside the gallery

Lisa Sanditz Pearl Farm Underwater II 2007 acrylic with pearl on canvas 70" x 90" x .75"

Lisa Standitz New Mall in Shoe City IV study 2007 acrylic on paper 18.75" x 25.5"

I had already started to write this blog this afternopn when I looked it up: Lisa Standitz's show at CRG has closed already. I was really surprised. Of course I'm now looking back at the ArtCal listing and see that the exhibition had been up since the end of October. But even if I didn't get to the gallery until a month after that, it still seems weird that it's no longer there: Damn, and don't I still miss having the DIA Center located just down the street, with its many-months-long installations of work which was almost always interesting on many levels.

I'm also somewhat abashed, since Sanditz's paintings on canvas and paper were among the finest I've seen this season; I would like to have been able to share my pleasure in them by sending at least a few more people over to 22nd Street with this post. If they haven't all been snatched up, maybe you can stop by the gallery and ask someone to give you a peek. The large stretched canvases were pretty spectacular, but the smaller, jewel-like works in the second room were just as amazing - and much easier to pull out off a shelf in the back.

The title of the show, "Sock City" threw me off at first since I was thinking of a regular open-air market with that name from years back. Was it the one located on a lot in SoHo next to Tower Records?

I learned however that with this body of work Standitz is continuing with her long term interest in "the various forms in which the marketplace and wilderness intersect, overlap, and inform each other", according to a very useful press release, only this time she has turned to "the Chinese commercial landscape". All of the images represent aspects of single-industry towns in China which she visited two winters back. The names of these places reflect the products they produce, and Sanditz's paintings borrow those names.

It was very, very warm in the gallery that afternoon, and I had almost decided I'd have to leave after taking only a quick look at the first room, when the various elements of these large acrylics started to coalesce, and the abstractions began to sing along with the dramatic shapes of the the buildings and landscapes they revealed.

I ended up staying for some time, and the paintings came with me when I finally left.

Ali Banisadr untitled (Black 2) 2008 oil on linen 22" x 32"


Ali Banisadr Prisoners of the Sun (TV) 2008 oil on linen 54" x 72"

Ali Banisadr currently has a show of his latest paintings at Leslie Tonkonow. I can't throw out enough superlatives about this work, for it attributes, both separately and together, of its great beauty, its extraordinary skill, its staggering concept, and its remarkable genesis.

The beauty is dazzling; the skill is only fully evident upon closer examination of the small images on these canvases, when it can be seen that they are composed of what are essentially abstract paint strokes and not really figures; the concept behind their splendor is that they represent (and not quite hide) some pretty horrible scenes of human cruelty; their genesis begins with the artist's childhood in war-time Iran.

The gallery press release has much more:

[the paintings] combine stylistic idioms from the history of western art with references to Persian miniature painting. Underlying the seductive beauty of Banisadr’s richly interwoven imagery is the apocalyptic nature of his subject matter. In these works, memory and history collide, inspired by his childhood recollections of the Iran-Iraq War.

"No Border Camps" members dramatize how goods cross borders freely, people don't (1998)

Queen Mother Moore radicalizing much younger Green Haven Prison inmates in 1973

Barry and I spent almost two hours at the current Exit Art show, "Signs of Change: Social Movement Cultures 1960s to Now", on what may have been our last beautiful late fall Saturday afternoon. Let me just explain that it was several times more compelling than even this old activist had expected. I'll add this caution: It closes at the end of the week, on December 6th.

There are colorful posters, photographs, broadsheets, banners, sound documentations and videos. In addition to the two images above I can show captures of a small selection of some of the more provocative posters below. I'm including only minimal captions since a proper context for the posters generally requires more information than I can supply here.

The single greatest thing about the show may be less its lavish size than its enormous geographical compass. It covers modern social movements just about everywhere on the planet. The video documentaries are particularly intense.

So I hope this short tease works. If you read this blog with any frequency you probably should see this exhibition, especially if you're the sort who is inclined to muck about in the street, or maybe especially if you're not yet that sort. Tell your friends, in any event.

I suppose it was not part of the project's scope, but I noticed that there were virtually no artifacts in the exhibition which were not printed, that is, there were no hand-made "signs of change". And I'm sure that anyone looking for specific content could find something to say about the curatorial choices, but after I left this rather dense survey of the use of art in social movements I recalled that I had seen very little material devoted to AIDS or homosexuality. That really surprised me, as it's not as if these two issues, AIDS in particular, did not attract artists of all kinds, or that their response had no aesthetic resonance.

anonymous poster from the 1970s

poster using cover from 1980s UK newspaper, Class War

poster from Chicago feminist collective, "SisterSerpents" (1989) [blue is a reflection on plexi]

poster from "Dirty Linen Corp" (1969)

1970 poster from Amsterdam absurdist theatrical party, "Kabouterbeweging" [gnome movement]

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

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