NYC: October 2008 Archives


I was hauling 30 pounds of gleanings from the Union Square Greenmarket this afternoon, but I still managed to hold up my camera and capture this smart trio on West 19th Street. The Papillon is wearing a colorful silk Pierrot suit with a high collar.

Gregg Evans Luis 10/06 2007 digital C-print 16" x 16"

Barry and I had a terrific time at the NURTUREart benefit Monday night, and we came home with the piece by Gregg Evans shown above.

Executive Director Karen Marston tells me that the staff is pleased and relieved that there was no major drop in either sales or enthusiasm this year, in spite of our current serious economic scare! She added that even if it hadn't been a financial success she herself would have thought all the work worthwhile for its incalculable value in energizing the volunteers, the artists (including the school kids in the Outreach Program), patrons both continuing and newly-arrived, and friends who can't live without art.

I can only say myself that the art displayed and available was very impressive, and that the room was filled with more happy and excited people - of all kinds - than I have ever seen at an arts benefit, and I've been to a lot.

I think the organizers are trying to arrange a way to make the works which did not walk out of the room that night visible on line and available for purchase. I know that if we had some fat in our own wallets right now the two of us would have reduced their number quite a bit further on our own. The exhibition had been selected from offerings by NURTUREart artists through the input of a curating team which included Koan Jeff-Baysa, Lowell Pettit, Amy Rosenblum Martin, and Lily Wei. Their excellent judgment was reflected in the quality of what we saw that night. If a system for the sale of the remaining works is set up, I will be reporting it here.

The picture at the top of this post?

We had purchased a ticket which entitled us to one artwork, but, since we were also on the benefit committee and had to get back to work, we had only a few seconds to make a pick from among 150 worthy pieces hanging on the walls of the James Cohan Gallery.

Quickly comparing notes when we could both take a break, Barry and I found we had each separately and immediately zoomed in on "Luis" without knowing anything about the artist or the series of work of which it is a part. It was enough that this beautiful big print suggested a mind and an aesthetic which seemed to be worth exploring further. It turns out that the image is part of body of work in which Evans investigates the home environments of a number of his friends.

I've searched on line for more information and I came across these two statements, on separate pages of an Arts in Bushwick preview/profile, about his work from the artist himself:

I have a friend who often talks about photographing the people he is close with as a way of maintaining relationships. I often wonder if I agree with his logic, if the power between photographer and subject creates connection or destroys it. Can one maintain a friendship with someone they are constantly observing? If, for example, I photograph the things which gather on bookshelves in a friend’s apartment is this photograph a testament to our friendship and existence, or is it really a marker of the beginning of the end? What happens to a relationship, or for that matter, a place, when it is suddenly acknowledged as important?

My work stems from day to day life; the seemingly banal objects and spaces we overlook in a given day or week, i.e. the books on one’s bookshelves or the newspapers we leave behind on the subway. I am interested in the remnants of consumer culture, archaeology, and what our products say about us.

There's more here, on the White Columns Registry site, and there are also two books documenting his work, one carrying the weight of the painfully-disconsolate title, "I Could Walk Away Now And You Wouldn’t Care", the other (a zine?) tagged with the more dispassionate, "The State of Upstate".

It's a great cause and a good party, and it's an excellent chance to acquire art by emerging artists with a pretty modest outlay. The 2008 NURTUREart benefit is this very evening, and it's in our own almost-totally-accessible (transit, that is) Chelsea, at James Cohan Gallery on West 26th Street.

Barry and I will be there early helping out. We hope to see you after 7, or even 6:30 if you're feeling generous, anxious or just VIPish (see the invitation below).


untitled (yellow riser) 2008

This grassy clump is growing at the top of the stairs of a subway entrance on Bowery.

Who says Manhattan's lost its edge? Ask any European or Japanese visitor what s/he thinks about the appearance of our infrastructure - after twenty years of killer prosperity for the city. I'm afraid of what may lie ahead, even if it could mean the return of affordable apartments for artists and those who love them.

In any case, it looks like we haven't lost our heart. I like the grafitto, "I love you", in the background.

the Radical Homosexual Agenda seen in Council this morning

The real argument is about competitive elections, not term limits. Of course we'd like to think that every vote counts, but the fact is that we've designed a system in which money really counts; the votes are essentially just for decoration.

If we had a real system of public financing of elections there would be no argument for term limits. New Yorkers have voted twice to establish a system of term limits, a clumsy and ineffective mechanism intended to help level the playing field for candidates seeking office. It doesn't really get us where we should be, but it's not preferential, and it's what we got.

While it's not entirely about money, it's about money. Wealth always attracts power and power attracts wealth. It's not just ironic that the billionaire who initiated and bankrolled, to the tune of $4 million, successful term limits referendums in 1993 and 1996 now wants to overturn the results without a referendum, in order to support another billionaire: In fact it's disgusting but it should surprise no one.

Supporters of Mayor Bloomberg's call for the Council to negate the twice-expressed will of the voters of the city for his benefit are acting as if victory would automatically mean a third term for their candidate. Unfortunately they're probably right. Bloomberg spent $100 million of his own money to buy and keep his first two elections; he is expected to spend another $80 million if we let him have his way with us a third time.

Supporters also argue that voters should have complete freedom to cast their ballots for whomever they wish. I agree, but it's not going to happen if this kind of money (whether coming from individuals or very interested corporations) is always going to be there to tell us who and what is best for us. Any other other "whomever" or "whatever" will always be kept out of both sight and sound by people with more money behind them.

I'd like to think that my city is not for sale, and yet of course we know it is.

But there's still hope, and some of it showed up at City Hall this morning. On the second day of hearings over the question of whether the Council should vote for another term for Bloomberg, the first statements were delivered by Queens Borough President Helen M. Marshall, Time Warner Chairman Richard D. Parsons, and Peter Vallone, Sr., who was Speaker of the City Council from 1986 until 2001. All three support Bloomberg, and all three spoke in his support today, but then something happened to throw a figurative wrench in their political works. I hope it might set the theme for the remainder of the day: Members of the Radical Homosexual Agenda [RHA website] got up from their seats and dropped the cloth banner shown above.

untitled (green siding) 2008

The elegantly-minimal Polish-language sign reads "haircutter, ladies and gentlemen". I saw it this afternoon mounted on this colorful blank wall near the extremely tidy intersection of Nassau and Humboldt streets in Greenpoint.

W.A.G.E. RAGE from the speakers' platform in the Armory Drill Hall

Creative Time's 2008 project, "Democracy in America: The National Campaign", was a remarkable achievement on a national scale, and it all came together in our town this past September. I wouldn't know where to start if I tried to address everything I saw on visits over two days, but I can say a few things about its general success, at least as I see it.

For starters, this is the kind of investment in public art that, unlike so many that are imposed upon us, could really make a difference to both a huge number of artists and a very large public. Also, it probably cost New York something less than the $15 million the Public Art Fund spent on Olafur Eliasson's surprisingly-lame "New York City Waterfalls". Thirdly, it involved the active and creative participation of thousands of people all over the country, from all sorts of backgrounds and they were exercising all kinds of talents. And finally, on a personal note, entirely aside from its undeniable intellectual and aesthetic appeal, I would say that any art project which can teach this art fan and political activist new things and radicalize him beyond his previous position must have gotten something very right.

Some of the liveliest elements of the entire Park Avenue Armory "Convergence Center" were to be found inside the Drill Hall. Throughout the week of the installation anyone could speak from a soapbox, but individuals and groups were also scheduled to perform or speak more formally at the east end of that magnificent vaulted shed. I heard parts of only a few segments in either format, but on the night of Saturday, September 27, I was there for addresses, in intense and reasoned argument, by some of the people of W.A.G.E. [Working Artists and the Greater Economy]. The words we heard then will some day be described as marking the moment when the gloves came off and artists in America began to be free.

Their website says that the group "works to draw attention to economic inequalities that exist in the arts and to resolve them", and their fundamental argument was expressed in some of the statements we heard that Saturday, beginning with these notes which I've made with the help of the video available by Creative Time on vimeo:

"It seems apt that W.A.G.E. is here [as the world's financial systems fall - Ed.] tonight to bring to light ongoing unjust fiscal practices in the art world"

[the speaker goes on to explain that institutions, should they choose to exhibit their work, don't pay artists the costs for the exhibition, don't pay their lecture fees, don't pay fees for the reproduction of their images in their advertising materials, just for starters]

"Does this list sound absurd? It's long. What is absurd is to exclude artists from payment for their labor and for the reproduction and exhibition of their work, within an economic climate where it is socially acknowledged that payment is granted for services rendered."

[she added that it's also not absurd because there are many examples of artist fees being covered in other countries, and then she continued, guessing some listeners might respond that those countries may be socialist, or that they must have more funding than our private institutions]

"If capitalism is you bag or priority, I can't think of anything more capitalist than getting paid for your labor [italics mine]."

I'm sure you'll be hearing more about this movement, even if you don't become a part of it, and even if you don't go to the site, where there's much more about W.A.G.E. and CARFAC, the Canadian artist-run organization which has been so successful.

We love creative time, and we love Creative Time.

untitled (red battens) 2008

Only, it isn't trompe-l'oeil. It is what it appears to be.

untitled (3) 2008

Ten days ago while I was in D.U.M.B.O. I casually snapped this detail of an old brick wall. I was intrigued by the weeds growing out of cracks in the worn masonry and rusted iron of the dignified mid-nineteenth-century former warehouse of which it was a part. The massive structure had long ago lost its purpose and it now hovered above a neat lawn on a Brooklyn shore being made safe for investors and young families.

Only as I looked at the picture just now while I was putting it up, remembering what the huge pattern of brick and shuttered openings looked like on that drizzly day, did it occur to me to relate it (the scene, not my photograph) to Piranesi's "Vedute di Roma", which described the weedier walls of a much more ancient city 250 years ago.

Arthur Russell (and 'phones) in photo booth

Matt Wolf's beautiful homage to Arthur Russell, "Wild Combination", has been showing at the IFC Center in the West Village, the former Waverly, since September 26. It also opened at the ICA Cinema in London that day. In New York it's currently scheduled to be shown through next Tuesday, October 7, but it might be extended, depending upon attendance. So go now.

It's a work of art, and a great joy.

I wrote about it after seeing the preview at The Kitchen last May. There are a number on links, including a short sound widget, on my earlier post, but you probably won't want to miss the film.

[image, credited to Audika Records, from Matt Wolf]

"Del Baldwin, Tence Massey and Anna Pope are preparing library books for circulation."

Apparently the first time around it was such a great success, and everybody had such a good time, that this Saturday Friends of the Greenpoint Library are repeating an event they held at the Library last September.

"Greenpoint 100" is a benefit art show of works donated by artists living or working in Greenpoint. One hundred pieces, in almost every medium, will be available for the astoundingly modest sum of $25. We're told that the money and the enthusiasm raised a year ago went toward acquiring new materials for this branch of the Brooklyn Public Library and toward creating a safer, more inviting library environment for the vibrant community it serves.

I'll say again what I said last year, when we were asked to help with the event: We love Greenpoint, and we love libraries. This time I can add that the work we saw in 2007 was very impressive. Oh, and I still love this photograph.


The Greenpoint 100: Friends of the Greenpoint Library Artists'

Saturday October 4, 2008
11:00 am to 2:30 pm

at the Greenpoint Library
107 Norman Ave. at Leonard St.
Brooklyn, NY 11222

for more information call the library at 718-349-8504 or email: [email protected]

[1878 image by unknown photographer, along with supplied caption, from]

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