Thursday, April 17, 2014

March Battles into April

You may have wondered what happened to my monthly blog post?
Or maybe you didn't.
But where did March go?
Well, we can blame it partly on this character... boyfriend a few years back. I'm writing a memoir about
my time with him tentatively entitled "Sex, Drugs and Rock and Roll."
It's in its second revision right now, nearly done, ready to rock and roll
as it were. All I have to do now is find an agent and publisher.
The first chapters are about the ill-fated Altamont concert and time spent
in a Minneapolis jail. But it gets better after that.

(internet photo)
Above, Mick, successfully conjuring up the forces of evil at Altamont.
Below, back to the garden.

(internet photo)
(internet photo)
Above, the Minneapolis Courthouse and Jail.

When the recent Pratt Administration, in its wisdom, ended
my Pratt seminar classes, I told myself I would put my empty Thursdays to good use
and write this book. I've written another book, a novel, 
but have set that one aside for the moment. Or maybe for a lot of moments. Who can say?

While I was writing, and doing a bunch of other stuff,
the world went from this: this... this.

March showers have brought us April flowers in Prospect Park. 
Note the little lens rainbow over the daffodils. Laaaaaaa!

Speaking of writing, a group of art writers got together recently 
to discuss the latest issue of d'ART Magazine  in the Chelsea studio of
Margaret Evangeline.

Left to right (with a backdrop of Margaret's paintings): Edward Rubin, Mary Hrbacek, 
Steve Rockwell (publisher & editor), 
Christopher Hart Chambers, John Mendelsohn, Dominique Nahas, Robert Curcio and myself.

Mr. Rockwell takes some time to explain complex things to us.

Below is one of Margaret Evangeline's signature gunshot and polished stainless steel works 
where she shoots into metal, and you can also see a detail of one in the above pic.
I love the sentence on her website that says 
"she depends upon 'the little thing that ruins it' to keep an artwork alive."
This is what I try to explain to my Kingsborough painting students, to no avail.
They think that what ruins a painting ruins it, instead of taking it to another level altogether.
They don't expect art to be a battle, which is what Margaret Evangeline knows well.
What artist hasn't wanted to shoot the damn thing at some point?

In her building is a hand-done down-sign - a nice DIY touch.

This is either a large art installation, or else the building is undergoing some renovation...

...perhaps overseen by the maven of all DIY,
Ms. Martha Stewart herself.
I don't dare take a picture of her as we come down the stairs
because of the evil eye she's aiming at us, we reprobates and derelicts and potential paparazzi's!
So I sneak a shot when I'm safely past and near the door to the street.

The dog's name is Genghis Khan, speaking of battles.
We next go to an opening at Mary Boone, and here she is, also in the flesh,
but giving us a big smile for the camera.

She's showing new work by Ross Bleckner, not easy to see in the crush.

Here's a better view from the gallery website, showing also the amazing Mary Boone
Chelsea ceiling with its complex vaulting.

The "New York Architecture" website labels this ceiling as "industrial" and "vernacular."
The latter refers to structures built to meet local needs using local materials and customs - 
in this case the building was a 1930's garage before it was a gallery
so I guess this was a common garage ceiling at the time.
The opposite of "Vernacular" is "polite" - ie. architecture done for
decorative or stylistic considerations rather than form-follows-function-ality.
However, as I see it, in its current incarnation
as gallery rather than garage, the ceiling has lost its vernacular-ness and become polite.

But it's not very polite in the way competes for attention with the art on the walls, and often wins!

Well, back to writing. Here is what I wrote for d'ART Magazine,
a review of Basquiat-we-hardly-knew-ye at Gagosian that took place 
a while ago...actually almost exactly a year ago...

...and a review of Jennifer Wynne Reeves succulent and strange artwork
at BravinLee Programs.

If it's hard to read the reviews here, you can try the website but they probably won't be on it yet...

Steve? Steve? Website? Website?

Besides art, there's plenty more happening in New York, like the new trash (no trash) policy in certain chosen subway stations, like 7th Avenue F stop in Park Slope. 
This is a pilot study where you take out what you take in,
just like when trekking through the wilderness where you would never think 
of leaving any of your stupid nasty human crap behind.
This sign is getting community input:

Here's a guy who has things down to a science.
He's ready for the last days.

As the snow melts: the anatomy of a frozen pile, an ice-leaf sandwich:

March 13th, above; March 29th, below.

More cheerfully, I have lunch in this place on 1st Avenue at 5th Street with my friend, the esteemed artist Jack Sal...

...who here contemplates the wonder of it all.
This is Milon Bangladesh Indian Restaurant, "where chili pepper lights meet Christmas lights."
The place next door is nearly identical.
It appears to be a competition, a battle if you will, for customers by hanging the most 
baubles, bangles and bright shiny beads... flowers do, their gaudy bright colors evolving to attract bees.
But flowers are going to have to think of something different now that 
bees are in the going, going, gone.
Or flowers can trust the corporations to save them, 
 like Monsanto, which is working with Harvard scientists to create robot bees to 
pollinate their GMO hell-crops because they've killed off all the real bees with their pesticides.
A nice tight circle of profit for Monsanto.

Well, onward and upward. I go to Bushwick for some art doin's and we are entertained by
a group of young men who do extremely agile things in the subway interior...

...flips and somersaults and complex maneuvers that manage to miss all of us on the sidelines.
It, too, seems to be a competition as one dancer tries to outdo all the others.

In Bushwick I see the imagery of Karl Erickson of his time in the Arctic regions on a tall ship.
This is his "Monotonic Surface: An Account of the Arctic Regions" video installation
at the Center for Strategic Art and Agriculture.

You may remember that Karl was one of the stars in my
last "Video By Night" event at CREON Gallery.
This video evokes the mysteries and beauties of this region with imagery and music
inspired the the environment.
It is a place that is undergoing vast changes as we speak, and seems to me
to be the very core of our world, the place that marks our ever more dire future drip by cumulative drip.

(photo from CSAA website of Erickson's "Monotonic Surface")

The Center for Strategic Art and Agriculture (CSAA) is a place of power.
It reminds me of the 1960's in the sense of
things fomenting, people doing whimsical, spontaneous
and generative things using the materials at hand - I get the same feeling of "life as clay, ours to shape"
that I sensed in the 60's and early seventies.

The green door, and the make out room with nail holes in the metal, not gunshots.

Free stuff!

I am tempted to take the acne medication, because you never know,
or the aluminum foil cook book for the same reason,
but I leave them for others to enjoy.

This very special refrigerator reminds me of the one in Pee Wee's Playhouse.

Outside, raised beds are waiting for spring,
when plants will flourish and hopefully some real bees will show up.

This place is more than the sum of its parts.

Oddly enough, I was going to Bushwick to see another show at Loft 594, and it turned out to be right across the street from
the CSAA, which I had also wanted to see.
It's a small world after all!

Susan Luss has hung a new piece at Loft 594 in "Material Disruptions"
made from her scavenging and re-purposing the entire New York City landscape.

Susan and I listen to the panel,
Aubrey Roemer, Mark Sengbusch, Kala Jerzy, Will Hutnick
talk about "Process vs. Concept" - in other words,
what the artist envisions may or may not be what actually results.
For various complex reasons.
Fortunately most artists don't end up shooting their work.
My favorite part of the panel discussion is Aubrey's impassioned oration about the ills
of the art auction houses.

These two pieces by Jen Shepard
weren't made for each other, yet they seem made for each other.
It's like a song on the wall.

Another project (besides the memoir) that I'm currently working on is "Video Fridge,"
part of the Fridge Art Fair that was slated to be in early May at the Angel Orensanz Foundation.

This awesome building began in 1849 as a Gothic-revival Jewish synagogue, and was bought and restored by Spanish artist Angel Orensanz in1986 as a studio and art space.

It was to be the home of Fridge Art Fair until last week when the fire department,
responding to a smoke alarm  in the Angel kitchen, noticed that floors seemed to be shaking,
and found some cracked beams.
They evacuated the huge gala for the SoHo Repertory which turned into an impromptu party on Norfolk Street with the likes of musician Steve Earle and a marching band.

(internet photo)

(internet photo)
The building is now closed until repairs are done.
But the Fridge Art Fair has found new digs, and will rise up in the environs
of Long Island City for three days in May at 5-25 46th Avenue, 
Friday - Sunday May 9 - 11, from 12 - 8.

The City Critters animal rescue gala is Thursday, May 8, 6-9
and there will be a presentation and panel discussion of "Video Fridge"
which I've curated, on Friday, May 9th, 6 - 8PM.

I've put together an amazing lineup of artists who do video, 
including Lee Arnold, Sean Capone, Graciela Cassel, Daria Dorosh, Victor Faccinto,
Dennis Hlynsky, Ken Cro-Ken, Chen Lin, Macklen Mayse, Creighton Michael, Danielle Orlowski, Julian Semilian, and last but not least (I hope) Jeanne Wilkinson.
More on this later.

In the meantime, back in Chelsea, Brazilian artist Eduardo Kobra
has done this vivid wall mural...

...based on this WWII photo by photographer Alfred Eisenstaedt...

...who, by the way, have been discovered to be this couple!

Kobra's mural is on the same corner where sheep used to roam.
In a manner of speaking.

These sheep by late French artist Francis Xavier Lalanne starred in a former blog post:

But they're gone now, as will the Getty gas station be soon, and
a new condo building will rise up on this corner proud and free. Well, maybe not free.

At Barbara Gladstone Gallery on this spring night, 
people contemplate the wonders of work by Sarah Lucas in her
show called "Nud Nob" - with a photo on the wall depicting a kind of dead plucked-chicken vagina,
surrounded by large phallic objects, reminding me of what strange, obsessed, ridiculous, dangerous creatures are we humans.
 Beyond that, not much to be said about it, really.

Nearby, at Mike Weiss Gallery, the Swedish artist Martin Wickström is showing paintings
in his "Perfume River" series.
Speaking of dangerous, obsessed creatures, he mentions Richard Nixon 
more than once in his work, which intrigues me because I've been writing about the Nixon era in my memoir and have recently spent
a bit of time with Vietnam war politics and pathologies.

There are a number of places where Nixon says these very words, such as in 
a conversation with Henry Kissinger about his upcoming speech on the situation in Vietnam,
April 6, 1971.

Wickström's work is like walking into another person's mind
where things follow a thought train not on your own familiar track.
Everything is recognizable but the connections and associations are 
eerily unfamiliar.
It's an amalgam of diverse images rooted in many sources including a recent trip to Vietnam.  
There are references to the war, oh, so long ago now, and
to the country's current state of beauty and glitz, and its ubiquitous plastic pails.

This is not to say that his work is "political" or even "anti-war."
It is much less straightforward than that, full of enigmas and overlappings, more like life itself
in its contradictions and odd conjunctions.

The war in Vietnam was extremely unpopular in Sweden in the sixties and seventies.
Sweden offered asylum to over 800 American war deserters, offered aid to the Vietcong
 and the Prime Minister at the time compared American bombing to Nazi war crimes.
The country has a history of neutrality, ever since the Napoleonic wars, and was one of the few
countries to maintain neutral status during WWII, when it 
became a haven for Danish and Norwegian Jews.
Wickström says that he thought that every country felt the same way about the Vietnam War
as Sweden, and was surprised to find out that the reality was much murkier.

Three of my four grandparents were full-blooded Swedes; my paternal grandmother
came over when she was a baby and her family settled in Minnesota which reminded them
of the home country with its cold and snow and its vast forests.
Which were quickly cut down, of course. 
She was a Democrat in her economic politics, being a great supporter
of unions and Social Security, but socially...well, not so liberal.
 One of her favorite hatreds was of Norwegians.
And don't even get her started with the Finns or the Catholics! 

Ah, the good old days.

In current times, May is going to be a busy month! 
Along with the Fridge Art Fair, I have a couple of shows coming up,
one at Mahlstadt Gallery in New Rochelle where the Painted People will ride in full force!
Opening May 1st, 6-9, 415 Huguenot Street.

"Night in the City 4"

And a one-day pop up installation on May 3rd of four of my video animations
in Yonkers, curated by Haifa Bint Kadi, one of my favorite people, will take place on May 3rd.

More information on these projects will follow
on the blog and on Facebook.

In the meantime, the April sun shines on people working their gardens and riding bikes
on Third Street in Brooklyn.

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