Culture: January 2009 Archives


I've become totally enchanted by this piece through several years of F train transfers. This is a large detail, taken from the other side of the tracks, of one of the glorious mammoth glass mosaic murals installed inside the Delancey Street Station. Created by Ming Fay, this one is entitled "Shad Crossing".

Andy Piedilato Engine 2009 industrial enamels and oil on canvas 99" x 96"

Andy Piedilato Notebook Paper 2009 industrial enamels and oil on canvas 99" x 96"

Andy Piedilato Steamship 2009 industrial enamels and oil on canvas 99" x 96"

I've written about Andy Piedilato's paintings more than once before, so I don't have to include much text here. These are just three of the nine or ten mostly huge (up to 12 or 14 feet square) oil canvases in his current solo show at English Kills.

They don't disappoint.

James Turrell Meeting 1986 [detail of installation]

It was cloudless, yes, but just a mite hazy - and freezing cold. Still, sitting inside that quiet, perfect room at PS1 (quiet once the voluble little kids had left) while it was still light outside, and looking up through the open roof was, . . . ineffable.



(look closely at the borders within the drawing above)

NOTE: Yesterday I wrote a hurried and perfunctory post on the work Michael Mandiberg has produced while he has been associated with Eyebeam, because I had been told he would have an open studio last night. The information proved to be mistaken; the date of the formal viewing is instead going to be next Tuesday, January 27, at Eyebeam, from 2 to 4, or by appointment [michael at mandiberg dot com] through the end of that week, until January 30.

Mandiberg has assembled a body of work in a range of various mostly-paper forms using elements of both the old technology and the new. He's addressing the rapidly accelerating obsolescence of our established information systems; our experience of history and language; what we do with time; our direct participation in changing social structures and the disappearance of old political certainties; and old art subsumed in the new. He does it sometimes with ordinary words, and sometimes with the line of the artist. His tool in expressing both of these languages is the modern laser cutter.

His sitter may be the OED, the New York Times, the World Book, the National Geographic Society or Josef Albers. For these portraits he has cut through variously somewhere between one and several hundred pages of "dated" printed texts to produce dramatic, even ravishing negative spaces, words, which symbolize or articulate the contemporary, cutting-edge approach to words and information, and he carefully scorches surfaces of the artist's traditional paper medium to reconfigure for today some of the aesthetic icons and arguments of the past.

As modern as they are, these pieces are hardly accomplished just by push button. The mark of the artist's hand is in each. I don't know how much of it is a consequence of the process and the nature of the materials and how much of it comes from Mandiberg trying calculatedly to show imperfections; he may not know the answer himself.

Sometimes the machine itself fails to produce a perfect effect, and the artist has gone back to reproduce its desired machine perfection by hand. Sometimes Mandiberg seems to be trying to get rid of imperfections in the machine's work (to remove the hand), and elsewhere he is trying to make the work of the machine look slightly imperfect (to introduce the hand).

If it is anything like what I describe, this approach registers on this individual, personal scale the complex relationship with our machines which we have all shared - not just the artists among us - since the beginnings of industrialization.

I don't have the space to describe the individual work displayed, especially because they are all so conceptual, and because much of the work is still incomplete, but if you visit far West 21st Street during the next week, you'll find the artist is totally up to that task.

Mandiberg is currently a senior fellow in Eyebeam's R&D OpenLab facility. In a conversation Barry and I had with him there yesterday, we were discussing his art and his process when he avowed that, yes, "all of the work here lives in both the arts sphere and the nerd sphere". Yum. Members of both communities will find much to their tastes if they are able to check out his installation.

[final image from the artist's Flickr set]

the supplanter will be coming soon in a medium near you

CORRECTION: The announcement of an open studio on Thursday evening was a misunderstanding. The formal viewing is instead going to be next Tuesday, January 27, at Eyebeam, from 2 to 4, or by appointment [michael at mandiberg dot com] through the end of that week, until January 30.

It seems like it was only yesterday that we were calling out happy new year to every one we encountered, but I'm suddenly realizing that time's already a wasting; 2009's baby is already talking, and will soon begin to walk: What I mean is that I've just realized I have to rush this one out before midnight.

Michael Mandiberg is hosting an installation of his latest work at Eyebeam tomorrow night, Friday, January 22, from 5 to 7 pm, and I haven't written a thing about it.

I've already checked it out, and I'm hoping to expand this blog tomorrow with more images and a few additional words, but I wanted to give a heads up right now to people who might be able to stop by for the reception. For others who might still able to haunt our rich streets this month, the work will be assembled there in its own space through January 30.


I have little idea what this is about, but it's the piece I remember best from all the work I saw in a very interesting show of sculpture, "Without Walls", at Museum 52. I don't know if it tells us anything about the artist himself; maybe Michael just found this stack somewhere on the street, with or without the needle lying on top, and decided to mark it with his signature. And then maybe not.

For me the important thing is that I'm preternaturally attracted to it, and would be even if Roman Ragazzi were not staring up from the floor. It also reminds me of the happy happenstance that Mahalchick has another solo show opening at CANADA on Friday, titled, "For What It's Worth".

Björn Meyer-Ebrecht

Björn Meyer-Ebrecht Untitled (D) 2008-2009 laser prints, wood, paint, spray paint, 4 panels, each 69" x 32" x 21" [two details of installation, photographed during opening reception]

Björn Meyer-Ebrecht Untitled (red/yellow/blue) 2009 collage, laser print, spray paint, transparent tape 10.75" x 16.75" [installation view]

Among my many other passions, some disclosed here in the past, I'm a sucker for mid-century architecture and design. In work being shown at Pocket Utopia through the middle of next month, and in images available on his own site, Björn Meyer-Ebrecht presses that button and a few more besides. In Bushwick, in a gallery installation he shares with Elissa Levy and Kay Thomas, he has installed a single four-part sculpture down the center of the narrow gallery and hung several small collages on one side wall.

Today we are all children of the Bauhaus, with the signal exception of the American suburban family, which even in the twenty-first century almost unfailingly chooses neo-whatever for its domestic shelters, er . . . castles.

German-born Meyer-Ebrecht's work might include an element of (sophisticated) nostalgia, but his affections are not wasted on garrsion colonials, or even Alpine cottages. He "constructs" drawings, collages and sculptures from found black-and-white images of the interiors and exteriors of modernist buildings, most of them built in a post-war Germany rising phoenix-like from its ashes and its shame, struggling to make good its pre-1933 promise. They generally betray a kind of modest optimism largely absent from the architecture of today.

Some of the images depict the clean minimal spaces which were designed to house the "architects" of a new representative democracy in Germany. Some are of buildings designed by German architects, refugees or exiles, but constructed elsewhere in the world. All seem to be images of virginal spaces, in specific environments. They are yet to be occupied by people, although a human presence is suggested by the tools of habitation that architects must provide.

The images, if not the buildings they depict, are all historical artifacts. The artist cuts and paints, and sometimes saws; he adds abstract "windows" and (sometimes) translucent panels of color to make them his own, to make them ours.

They are utopian. They seem to be the labor of a love he shares with us. They thrill me.

This is the last paragraph of the statement which Meyer-Ebrecht has included on his own site:

I see my drawings in many ways as portraits. The buildings often look at me like human figures that at the same time seem to both hide and reveal their inner lives. I see them also as portraits of the architects with their very particular historic experiences of emigration and their individual new beginnings after World War II. And finally these drawings are also portraying a particular time period. In my imagery of this time I find a particular atmosphere that interest me, maybe the feeling of soberness, of something absent or hidden. I am especially intrigued by the absence of history, I could call it a form of collective amnesia, which reverberates in these images.

Joan Jonas in the 2003 production of "Celestial Excursions" at The Kitchen

Almost six years ago I wrote these words about the artist who may be my favorite living composer:

For a taste of what people will be talking about and, yes, singing, twenty years from now, not unlike the way that the music of Donizetti or Verdi was popularly enjoyed in nineteenth-century Italy, head for The Kitchen tomorrow evening (Saturday). Robert Ashley is the prophet of modern opera, even if he is still not properly honored in his own country.

I'm reminding myself of that post even as I recall that when I once asked the composer about what he thought of older composed music, Ashley told Barry and I, and David Behrman standing with us, that people should only listen to music from living composers; as soon as a composer dies, we should throw the records out the window. We asked, even Beethoven? he replied: "Toss them out!" We were taken aback, and Behrman seemed just as shocked. I understand what Ashley meant, but should I outlive him I don't intend to follow his advice, at least in the case of his own music.

In the meantime I am counting us all very fortunate indeed to be still alive and able to see and hear a cycle of Ashley's three latest operas - "Dust" (1998), "Celestial Excursions" (2003), and "Made Out of Concrete" (2007/09), in newly designed productions to be presented at La MaMa from January 15th through the 25th.

I wouldn't miss these performances for anything you could throw at me from the Met.

For more information, see Ashley's own site, where there is a link to an extended press release (PDF).

[image by Mimi Johnson provided by Performing Artservices]

Philip Taaffe Calligraphic Study 1997-2008 mixed media on canvas 35.5" x 30.25"

Aaron Sinift* As Yet, No Title 2008 hydrocal and bone infusion, sandalwood powder, poppies and felt 13" x 8.5" x 8.5" [installation view]

Mary Heilmann The Pink Cup 1983 glazed ceramic 4.25" x 8.5" x 3.5" [lying on a shelf attached to a section of] Rob Wynne Snakepaper 2008 hand-screened ink on paper, dimensions variable [installation view]

The current show at Dinter Fine Art, “How To Cook A Wolf: Part One”, has been extended through January 31. It's definitely worth taking advantage of the extended lease of this sexy, rich bricolage of work created over the last several decades (with one 19th-century exception) by dozens of artists of all ages, both familiar and new.

The list, in the order of the gallery handout, includes David Dupuis, Nicolas Rule, Donald Baechler, Rob Wynne, Judith Bernstein, George Condo, Aaron Sinift, Martin Kruck, Mary Heilmann, George Horner, Jack Pierson, Phillip Taaffe, Mia Brownell, Elizabeth Lennard, unknown artist, Michael Byron, Chris Hmmerlein, Judith Hudson, Donald Traver, Betty Tompkins, Dinne Blell, Julie Ryan, Jason Osborne, Paula Collery, Karen Hesse FLatow, Tracy Nakayama and Konstantin Kakanias.

I'm thinking as I'm typing them just now, wow, that's an amazing number of names, and several artists had more than one piece in the exhibition. Yet while Barry and I were in the space the show didn't feel like it was particularly chockablock with stuff. I think that was at least partly because of the clever use of Rob Wynne's wallpaper.

I'm looking forward to "Part Two".

for a look at another piece by Sinift, scroll 1/3 down on this post I did last May

Andrew Guenther Horse Face 2006 and Water in the Planet I 2007 enamel, oil and wood on panels 17" x 11" each [installation view]*

I know I just recently did a post on this artist's show at another gallery, but I couldn't resist snapping up this image of two of his works I saw at BUIA today. They are the 20th century looking out at the 21st. These two extraordinarily-compelling faces are in an interesting group show on the theme of portraiture (the word interpreted pretty broadly). "In Your Face" will be up through this Saturday.

The other artists represented, by wonderfully quirky works which seem to have nothing in common but their difference, are Rico Anderson, Ion Birch, Brent Birnbaum, Holly Coulis, Dana Frankfort, Daniel Heidkamp, Ridley Howard, Erik Lindman, Matt Jones, Shay Kun, Federico Pietrella, Tom Sanford, Peter Saul, Rachel Schmidhofer and Barnaby Whitfield.

ADDENDUM: It's now the next morning, and as I look at the image at the top I realize that I should probably have noted two things: One, that the dimensions shown for the two pieces, taken from the gallery's checklist, may be slightly off, as they don't appear to be quite the same size; two, and more importantly, that it would have been better to indicate that there is yet a third dimension, since the unpainted, carved wooden eyes and lips hover at least two inches above the planes of the painted panels (each feature is attached with two hand-whittled sticks).

This page is an archive of entries in the Culture category from January 2009.

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