Culture: September 2009 Archives



It's beautiful (I love the blue logo), and it's very smart. That's exactly how I wish I could describe everything in the world. Unfortunately I can't always arrange it. But Barry and I are going to have a lot to do with this new thing we're putting together, along with some very beautiful and awesome-smart people, so we're certainly going to be working on that beautiful and smart thing.

We're hoping our efforts will please visitors as well.

Idiom is our collaboration with a few other arts fanatics in the creation of a digital magazine, which we're describing as an online publication of urban artistic practice. As announced in today's press release, we will be asking creative and articulate "emerging artists, writers and arts professionals to report on, review, and otherwise cover overlooked or under-thought aspects of the larger creative community, Idiom offers a local, engaged counterpoint to the prevailing discourse of contemporary art."

That means all the arts, although we anticipate a heavy emphasis on the visual arts.

Stephen Squibb will be the editor, and the senior editor is B. Blagojevic.


This year's NURTUREart benefit will be on October 12th, at Claire Oliver in Chelsea. Barry and I will be there. It's one our favorite non-profits and one of the most fun events of the year (okay, they like us too, and the price is right). It's also a terrific opportunity to acquire some great stuff while at the same time supporting both emerging artists and emerging curators.

Raising money for the arts is obviously tougher than ever this year, but this event offers a precious opportunity to forget for a night that not everyone believes that great art can exist even when it hasn't been bought by the right people.

For the first time ever, all of the works which will be available at the benefit can be viewed on line. Have a sneak preview here, and join us on West 26th Street less on Día de la Raz.

Also, note that tomorrow, Wednesday will be the last day to take advantage of the early bird admission price, so hurry down to your local internet line.

SOSka Group Barter 2007 digital print

We weren't in DUMBO long enough for the judgment to mean an awful lot, but for both Barry and I the highlights of our visit on Saturday to the "Art Under the Bridge Festival" were several of the pieces shown in the video_dumbo space and the Cardboard Gallery down the block, which hosted "Barter", an installation of a work by the Ukrainian art collective SOSka Group.

In another world, how many eggs would you trade for an image created by Lichtenstein? How many buckets of potatoes for that Komar and Melamid? Which of your laying hens would you give for the Cindy Sherman?


From the Cardboard Gallery's announcement:

In SOSka's video Barter (2007) the artists arrive at a local village and set up a display of artistic reproductions by Chuck Close, Cindy Sherman and others in hopes of trading them for food with the local farmers. While the video offers a playful glimpse into the perceived value of art, it also provides a telling social commentary about conditions in post-soviet Ukraine from the point of view of those who are insulated from the geo-politics of the western cannons and from the contemporary art world, including the artists themselves. The video will be accompanied by a series of photographs that document of the farmers posing with their selections and interior shots of where and how they have chosen to display these works in their homes.

The video itself is totally compelling on a number of levels. Its conceptual question, addressing the commodity value of iconic contemporary art images once they have been removed from their cultural origins, is hardly more riveting than its documentation of some compelling people inhabiting a very different culture, to whom these images are introduced as "pictures". Notice how carefully these people think about the art; they tell us why they like it, and even where they're going to put it.

I wanted the grainy moving pictures to go on and on, and more than that, having traveled in other countries through rural villages not unlike Velyki Prokhody, I envied the artists their opportunity for engagement.

You can watch the entire video here, but you'll miss out on the ambiance inside the cardboard box where we saw it projected.



There's more information on SOSka here, and you can find the home page of the Cardboard Gallery here.

[initial image from newcityart]

Jeff Koons Ushering in Banality 1988 polychromed wood sculpture

Jeff Koons seems to have said it himself, years ago.*


Many of us have been worrying about the New Museum for some time, including fans who were around at the time of its founding, but I'm not talking about money worries. The institution was founded by Marcia Tucker in 1977, who conceived of it, in a description published on its own web site, as "a place with a scope lying somewhere between grassroots alternative spaces for contemporary art and major museums that show only artists of proven historical value."

The New York Times reports today that in February the zigzag Bowery tower will host a show of work from the collection of Dakis Joannou, one of its own trustees, chosen by Jeff Koons, who is a close friend of the Greek billionnaire. The article tell us that Joannou's collection includes, other than work by Jeff Koons, art by other celebrated artists, and mentions Maurizio Cattelan, Urs Fischer, Robert Gober, Chris Ofili, Charles Ray and Kiki Smith.


Is this even legal? I mean, this is supposedly a non-profit, and aside from the self-serving aspect, it looks a lot like insider-trading; I see lots of money flying around, and I'm wondering why we shouldn't ask, cui bono?

I don't think Marcia would consider a show of work by established artists, curated by one of the country's most-established artists, and selected exclusively from the collection of one of its own wealthiest, and fully-established trustees to fit the dream - or the reality - which once described the New Museum.

The outrage doesn't stop with the Joannou takeover. The same Times piece tells us that the cozy NM/Joannou/Koons project will "inaugurate an exhibition series called 'The Imaginary Museum,' which will showcase the best private collections of contemporary art from around the world that are rarely seen by the public."

Those contemplated museums may be imaginary, but the real institution we used to look to for excitement is fast disappearing, if not already gone.

If the New Museum had to fit something into their calendar at the last minute, why not pick some emerging curators to pick some emerging artists and fill all those floors with excited visitors who won't stop thinking and talking about art. (In fact, the directors should be doing this anyway, with deliberate planning, and not as a desperate solution.) The art they're inviting into Marcia's rooms belongs in the older museums she critiqued for their cowardice, and if big collectors can't yet part with their stashes, but still want a larger public to see it, let them invite that public into their homes, as so many have done for years in Miami, Berlin or elsewhere. If they're afraid the carpets will get messed up, tell them to rent a hall. We'll all come - after touring my fantasy show of emerging art at the New Museum.

ADDENDUM: I had originally wanted to make this a very short post, not trusting my anger, but now I can't resist linking to this publicity piece which appeared in Artforum last summer. I already knew about the Koons-styled Joannou yacht, but it was through seeing this beautiful, satirical flyer/poster piece by Pedro Velez that I was directed to the article which had inspired it. Velez says that we can each use his image as we please, adding: "it's a public piece of art..." Now there's a concept.

It helps to have seen the Artforum images first (if you have the stomach for them), but here's Velez's poster:

poster by Pedro Velez from "Dakis Joannou and the Yacht that Conquers" (2008)

I just had this thought: Maybe it's all a joke, that the whole project could be a way for Koons to have a laugh with us all. If so, I doubt the Museum is in on it.

[top image from joeren's blog; bottom image from the artist]

Tracey Baran Ivy 2001

UPDATE: The silent auction for the SVA Tracey Baran Memorial grant has been extended through Friday, October 2nd, for all unsold lots. The fine works which remain are being offered with reduced reserve prices, and can be seen here.

It's a celebration, not a retrospective, but it's enough to show how much we will miss her, and of course her remarkable art.

Leslie Tonkonow is currently hosting an installation of the late artist Tracey Baran's work. It supports the only slightly ambiguous title, "Pictures of Tracey". But there's so much more that couldn't possibly be fitted into one space, in one show; I'm sure it's not going to disappear.

Roughly concurrent with the exhibition, the School of Visual Arts is hosting a benefit auction for an annual grant given in Tracey's name. The silent auction, of works donated by other artists, except for one painfully-beautiful photograph by Baran herself, will continue through September 30th on Proceeds will fund the grant, which is open to emerging female photographers from the United States.

[image from Leslie Tonkonow]




Lately Franklin Evans has, as the Sue Scott Gallery press release says, "used his studio as his primary subject", wowing any visitors lucky enough to have been able to stop by. Fortunately for many more, he had weeks to install his current show, "2008/2009 < 2009/2010", since it meant he could extend and enlarge what has become a spectacular studio practice, one which employs watercolor, wallboard, paper, tape, bubble wrap, thread, Mylar, press releases, parts of the gallery (inside and out), the occasional found object, and art monographs.

sign outside the gallery [am I reading a flag?]



spotted as I left MoMA yesterday afternoon: the Presidential truck speeding east on 53rd Street with the Obama party securely ensconced, heading back to the Waldorf from the David Letterman taping

At the UN climate summit today, Obama told the General Assembly that the U.S. is "determined to act" on climate change. Last night at home, in an unplanned salute to the summit, Barry and I watched "Save the Green Planet".

Right now I'm thinking that while we were enjoying that film we probably contributed as much toward toward averting the worst fate of the earth as anything promised by our President.

That just doesn't make me feel so good, so I hope I'm wrong.

We've been on a Korean film binge lately, all knockouts, and most by the director Bong Joon-ho. Although we were unprepared for the violence in Joon-Hwan Jang's hybrid comedy/drama/horror/sci-fi/thriller, we ended up watching most of the DVD's long list of extra features and I still have "Jigureul jikyeora!" rolling around inside my head.

Jason Hanasik Steven Two-Faced 2007 digital C-print

Jason Hanasik Steven's self-portrait #2 2008 digital C-print

Jason Hanasik Steven's photograph of a man carrying two bottles of piss 2008 digital C-print

Jason Hanasik Patrick (Welcome) 2005 digital C-print

Jason Hanasik Steven (turn) 2008 digital C-print

I think it's about the fact that guys often have trouble functioning as full human beings, but sometimes they're offered an opportunity and they grab it; and then sometimes they lose it. I'd say this is true of both hets and homos.

The artist himself describes his project as


. . a photography, video, and installation project which engages image making as a platform to intervene inside Western culture's traditions and expectations as they relate to masculinity, sexuality, and class.

We, the men of these images and me, might not sit at an equal distance from the center, but we all have a complicated relationship to what is considered normal -- to our benefit and our destruction.

Jason Hanasik's show at +Kris Graves in DUMBO, with the (not quite) enigmatic title, "He Opened Up Somewhere Along the Eastern Shore", is an extremely moving exercise in storytelling with photographs, mostly the artist's own and some (not quite) "found".

Nine images are hung along one wall of the gallery and two more hang on a section of another wall to the left, with a final object, a hand-written letter reproduced as an inkjet print, at the near edge of a third wall on the right. Most of the photographs are dominated by the figure of a young male; some of the subjects appear several times. They are all marines.

Partly because the size of the prints varies and because they are each mounted at a different height, they appear to dance in front of the visitor, but without a real beginning - or an end; this is not going to be a simple narrative.

The images in the photographs bounce around in time and in space, and touch many emotions as they do so, as does their "story" itself; it's a story which could be written in many ways, and we can each find our own. Hanasik's materials provide a documentation of some intense, probably under-expressed, male friendships. They remind us of the difficulty we all have in characterizing the more heartfelt qualities of these friendships, whether we are parties to them or only observers.

The men photographed by the artist are brothers. Jason Hanasik grew up in Virginia knowing both Steven and Patrick, but he became a very close friend of Patrick, the older (his BFF, in fact). Jason and Patrick played football together in High School. Jason at first hardly knew Steven, who had his own best friend. His name was Josh, and he does not appear in these images. Their relationships, especially that of Jason and Patrick, were made more complicated as they grew older and each of them gradually became aware of Jason's homosexuality (including Jason himself), but Jason and Patrick's friendship survived, survived even the nightmares of Iraq, from which Patrick described this affectionate daydream in a letter to Jason:

Jason Hanasik 11Mar04 2009 inkjet print 10" x 8"

Jason was the only one of the four who did not join the marines and so was the only one who did not go to Iraq, where Steven was a part of a tragedy (the death in combat of his friend Josh on what had been the first "tour" for both of them) he was unable to share with his comrades. Then, on the first leg of an impulsive road trip with Steven something happened that changed Jason's relationship to his best friend's more taciturn sibling.

The title of the gallery exhibition refers to the catharsis Steven experienced while Jason and he were driving from Virginia to visit Patrick and his wife in upstate New York, Steven opened up, and it made possible a real friendship between the two for the first time. Like that shared by Jason and Patrick its emotional intimacy didn't fit the simple antithetical forms we're told are the only ones we can expect from male relationships.

Three of the photographs in the show were taken by the straight-identifying Steven while he was in Iraq. The two that are not self-portraits, in particular, are witness of just how inscrutable male emotions, and male sexuality, still remain to the understanding of all of us, male or female, straight or queer.

The installation also includes a video taken with a pocket camera or cellphone. It appears on the gallery wall as a smallish, faint, projected image, a short loop, and it shows two beautiful, smiling young marines dancing a tango, complete with dips, on the balcony of a barracks courtyard inside Baghdad. There is no sound.


Jason Hanasik In the Green Zone: November 2007 digital video 2008 [two stills]

The video too is by Steven.

I remember, but only as someone who was able to watch from a safe distance, the horror of Vietnam, and what it did to the men and women of my generation: And the silence; all kinds of silence. It's excruciating to see it happening all over again.

After only a few minutes inside the gallery last week, I was already almost in tears, and at the time I had even less information than I am able to share in this post. Barry and I were fortunate to be able to hear more about the work in two conversations with the artist himself. Although at first I was somewhat reluctant to ask about the context of the project, Hanasik was generous in his replies.

I found that the images stand up either with or without much of a "background". Having seen them on line before talking to Hanasik and before we visited the gallery I know they can pretty much speak for themselves. That's why I had to get to the gallery: I wanted to hear them up close.

ADDENDUM: There is now a loop of the video, "In the Green Zone: November 2007" imbedded on the artist's site here.

[images provided by the artist]



three stills from the installation for the screening of Bruce High Quality's "L'eau De Vie"

Barry and I had seen the film several years ago, through the good offices of Filip Noterdaeme, but last Thursday we both jumped at the chance of seeing "L'eau De Vie Un Film De Jean Luc Godard" again, especially since it meant lounging about on the roof of the X Initiative with other fans of The Bruce High Quality Foundation on a beautiful summer evening above the Hudson River.

It was even better than I had expected - both the film and the ambiance we found on the roof of the former Dia space on West 22nd Street. I think "L'eau" is a small masterpiece; well, maybe not so small. The soundtrack was really, really brilliant, and I think I noticed just how brilliant for the first time, thanks to the terrific rooftop sound system. I also appreciated the additional edge provided by the wavy, "silver screen" on which it was projected. No, really!

The video was shot in December, 2005 on location in Miami during the annual Art Basel tradeshow, on sound-synched black and white super 8. It's an homage to Jean-Luc Godard, a cri de coeur for real community, and a paean to a simpler world before the invention of art fairs.

urban drive-in






Most of the art and the clinic equipment had been removed or pushed aside last Wednesday evening at Zach Feuer Gallery when Jacques Vidal and Noel Anderson began their performance in the now-darkened space of the show, "Blood Drive"; It was the end of the first day of a real two-day blood drive which the curator, the artist Kate Levant, had included as a part of the installation which was closing later that week.

The performance seemed to delight in its serious component of improvisation and it's unpredictability managed to briefly frighten both the audience and at least one of the players/creators. Its oddness, and its odd power, seemed to have come out of the artists' profoundly metaphysical understanding of love, friendship or community, so it wasn't unrelated to Levant's fundamental concept for the gallery show itself.

Vidal certainly hasn't lost his edge, and Anderson was clearly a match for him in what appears to be the artist's ongoing pursuit of a splendid new and perverse artistic form.

Nathan Dilworth's monster-size cut-out photo prints address the architecture

Molly Lowe's video of compulsive consumption, "K-mart shopping", is in the former chapel

Julio Cesar Gonzalez's thin cables of light are strung between ceiling laths

Aaron Frank sculpts found windshield glass into fluid forms

Brian Kain's room installation includes an abstract video on a vintage TV (seen in reflection)

There's no need to go to the islands this weekend for some fresh air, as Barry and I learned on a sunny afternoon last weekend. We arrived in the big-sky country of middling-far Greenpoint when we emerged from the Graham Ave. station of the L line and we found fresh art after we made our way to "Room Tones" installed inside the four floors of the now-emptied rooms which once described Saint Cecilia Convent.

The participating artists are Rebecca Adams, Paolo Arao, Jason Bartell, Nathan Dilworth, Brock Enright, Aaron Frank, Chris Georges, Julio Cesar Gonzalez, Colt Hausman, Adam Henry, Colin Hunt, Brian Kain, William Latta, Qing Liu, Molly Lowe, Owen McAuley, Susan Sabiston, William Sabiston, Mike Schreiber, Emily Mae Smith, Nathan Spondike, Ryan Sullivan, Kristina Williamson, Leah Wolff and Katherine Wolkoff.

The website describes the environment of the temporary space which hosts the show:

An exhibition reflective of our contemporary atmosphere, Room Tones is also a return to an early and influential site of western art. The Catholic convent of St. Cecilia in Greenpoint was once a robust institution, home to a steady then slowly decreasing number of nuns until it was closed and vacated in 2008. Like many empty storefronts throughout New York City, the situation of this particular convent is a barometer of the complex social and economic changes taking place in Greenpoint and its neighboring L train enclaves. Spiritual views and orientations aside, Father Krische, pastor of St. Cecilia, has generously worked with organizer Nathan Spondike and his team making Room Tones an event that will reinvigorate this unique 97-year-old building into a testament of the new thoughts and ideas emerging from artists around it.

I just found out the show has been extended through Thursday, Friday and Saturday of next week (and can also be seen by appointment), so if your feet are already buried in the sand miles away from the City you'll still have a chance to tune in to this fresh, scrappy show in one of the neatest neighborhoods of Brooklyn.

Check the site for days and exact times.

NOTE: The convent continues to function on at least one level: We noted the presence of a neighborhood "emergency food pantry" inside, and now I learn here that "Gifts of Love" had recently been opened by volunteers from St. Cecilia's parish "as a means of offering a few days sustenance to those who are unable to stretch their funds".

I almost forgot to upload one more image. It was taken from within a room formerly occupied by one of the nuns. It may be a part of the work installed inside there now, or it may just be a casually-placed window prop.

UPDATE: I've learned that the image is of "7 of hearts", a part of a much larger installation by Kristina Williamson.

Christina Williamson's installation included these seven hearts



This time it wasn't an eruv, for the line enclosed nothing and went nowhere - nowhere, that is, but diagonally across 23rd Street. It started high up the lamppost in front of the Gotham Comedy Club and ended, at that same height, on the one standing outside the Muhlenberg Branch Library. There was a slight downward bow all along the way, but even the tallest trucks managed to avoid it while I was there.

It was only an inch or so wide, but it was a very bright day-glow orange-pink color. I spotted it as soon as I started to cross the street a couple hundred feet west. At first I thought some fool had stung an electrical cord across the street, and then I noticed it was just tape.

I still don't know who did it (or how). I see a part of Sam Bassett's work on the sidewalk shed across the street in the first photo above and there may be some correspondence in the lines of the work he designates on his site as sculpture and the single line of tape linking the two sides of the street, but I've not usually excited by the former and I'm much taken by the latter. I think it's pretty cool, for its extraordinary minimalism, although it occupies and addresses a very large public space. It's also (almost) intrusive and (almost) invisible at the same time. Is it a nod or a bow to community?

While I was looking into the identity of the artist, Vartanian wrote back that for him part of the appeal of the image I showed him is that it is "location conscious".

Elbow-Toe Divine Hammer 2009

I spotted this curious image on my way to the Union Square Greenmarket this afternoon. It appears to be a monkish hare coupling with another (boy?) hare in the middle of some scattered groceries. It's about two feet wide and the medium is that of a tinted b&w sticker attached to the concrete base of a lamp pole at the northwest corner of the square. I know I should recognize the indecorous artist, but I don't.

UPDATE: Hrag Vartanian infoms me the artist is Elbow-Toe, and that the Wooster Collective has a post about the piece here, indicating that its inspiration is Rembrandt's "The Monk in the Cornfield" (with farmer or milkmaid?)

An image of another, more sylvan, installation, this one in Brooklyn, appears on myloveforyou.


Klaus von Nichtssagend is putting on a show tonight, three in fact. Actually the show is being mounted by Ryan McNamara and "his accomplished troupe of actors, singers and dancers", in the gallery's description. They will be describing the story behind the legendary Klaus von Nichtssagend, answering the questions, "Why did he open this space? And why are we all singing?", in "Klaus von Nichtssagend: The Musical".

But all three performances, at 7, 8 and 9 tonight in Williamsburg, are already sold out (actually, they are free), so unless you've already reserved, you're out of luck. For fans of the growing phenomenon of arts performance, Jacques Vidal and Noel Anderson offer an alternative in Chelsea. Unfortunately it's going to be impossible to make both.

We're definitely in the midst of a period of transition in the visual arts, and it's only partly related to the economy going belly up. Plenty of institutions have survived, and there probably aren't a lot more people creating things this year than the last, but artists aren't waiting for galleries, museums or curators to find them and let them in.

They are creating art which is not just composed of objects - or even mere concepts. I don't know what to call it but it's not just "performance art", because while it owes much to the breakthrough phenomenon associated with the 1960s, it often goes much further. It's definitely not minimal; it loves props; it's virtually a given that recycling of some kind is involved; it will go almost anywhere to put on a show; it sometimes involves large numbers of people who may not be aware of their participation; it doesn't mind leaving behind some objects which, yes, can treated as commodities (product); and it almost always incorporates real humor, even riotous fun. This time around the younger artists are also a much larger genuine community, and they have killer communication tools.

Most lovely for all of us, as in the 60s, this art is free - in every respect.

I love it. I love the energy, the intelligence, the courage, and the infectious wit. I love the community. We may only be passing through a cultural corridor; what will follow is unimaginable to us today, but in the meantime we have these shows - and their enigmatic constructions and relics, the remnants, (and their documentation on gazillions of tiny cameras) to guide us.

[image from Klaus]

Michael E. Smith Untitled 2009 digital print on paper with latex and television screen 8.75" x 11.5" [installation view]

Jacques Vidal FORCED FRIENDSHIP, WITH COLLABORATIVE BASE WITH KATE 2009 wood, plastic, pipe, black caulking 61" x 53" x 50" [installation view]

Elaine Stocki Nelson platinum print 22" x 22"

Brian Faucette Blood Drive Flyers inkjet print on paper 11" x 8.5" each [detail of installation]

Kate Levant Waiting Area 2009 mixed media, dimensions variable [installation view]

CORRECTION: The blood collection is today (Wednesday) and Thursday, not Thursday and Friday. The show comes down at the end of the day on Friday.

Kate Levant appears to have pulled off a pretty amazing stunt at Zach Feuer with her exhibition, and performance, "Blood Drive", what the artist describes as the product of "an open platform invitation towards a commission to produce promotional material for a blood donation drive."

Not your usual late summer art show.

The visuals have already been assembled in the gallery for some time, but the art all comes together over the next three days, beginning with a performance tomorrow night at eight by Jacques Vidal and Noel Anderson, "a glue that will stick anything together forever". A real-time community blood drive will follow from 1:30 until 7 on both Wednesday and Thursday, with the show wrapping at the end of the day on Friday, September 4. You can sign up by emailing the gallery at [email protected] I have no idea how it's going to go off, but this last act will be as interactive as the crowd wants it to be, and I trust these artists to make it more than interesting.

The artists "commissioned" for the installation itself are Noel Anderson, BOBO, Brian Faucette, Michael E. Smith, Elaine Stocki and Jacques Vidal.

Levant already has an auspicious triumph, but this is hardly a surprise to anyone who has had the privilege of encountering her before.

We first met Levant in October, 2006, when she arrived to help Vidal install his large light box, "The Holy Art Project", while we were installing the show we curated at Dam, Stuhltrager, "Dangling Between The Real Thing And The Sign In The Window". Just two months later we were delighted to learn that her art was as impressive as her ability to pitch in for a friend and charm the pants off two strangers. We saw her work in a wonderful installation, "Attic", inside Anton Kern's 21st street annex for a couple of weeks in the middle of December. That show, which was curated by Erin Somerville, also included work by Smith, who is represented in "Blood Drive". Barry put together a small slide show of images from "Attic" on Bloggy.

There are more images of this show on 16 miles of string, and documention of other work by Levant and Smith at Detroit Arts and tryharder.

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

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