Monday, November 24, 2014

The Art of Fall and the Fall of Everything Else, or Not.

(Cameron Gray, You are Happy and Fulfilled, 2014) 

 Crystal explores the Mike Weiss Gallery in Chelsea, awed by the
crazy cacophony of ordered chaos presented by the irrepressible Cameron Gray.
(To see more of the Painted People/Gray connection, scroll to the end of the post.)

In fact, the Painted People are having a fabulous fall season, with much more good stuff to come
like a show of their very own in January! (More details below.)
But me, on the other hand, here it is nearly Thanksgiving and I'm way behind
the eight ball.
I guess I've been suffering from election day blues...

...where a bunch of people who fiddle around while the world burns
are taking over the US government
 to stop us from lifting a finger to combat the coming droughts and floods and dying seas
and millions of refugees streaming away from the world's islands and coastlines.
It's so bad, they won't even do basic nuts and bolts stuff
like fix the thousands of crumbling bridges (63,000 to be exact) and roads, waiting, it appears,
 for more people to fall to their deaths into the rivers and highways below.

My grandfather was a Republican, and I wonder what he would make of these
current crazies who want to do away with the government so big money can run rampant
over the rest of us, (like maybe privatize all the roads and bridges and charge huge tolls)...

...well, maybe there can be just a little bit of government left to set up a special
armed task force to monitor our bedrooms and reproductive organs,
and another one to keep the "illegal" aliens in a constant state of terror 
so they can be exploited to work in toxic conditions for super-low wages.
My mother, who watches FOX News to charge up her anger batteries,
has been told
by the FOX-iers that Obama is the threat, and so that's what she thinks.

I hear her talking to the TV in the morning during my visits, sputtering away.
 Obama is less than perfect, obviously, but there are bigger threats around than him.
And he's been stepping up to the plate a bit lately re. immigration and Keystone...

Well, time to catch up on some art 'cause I'm way behind in all my sputterings.

So let's travel back to September, and proceed in chronological order (sort of)... where Frank had a show of his prescient "Sea Level" series
where he painted before and after pictures of water inundating the coastline
as if the Greenland Ice Sheet had melted.
Then came Sandy to inundate the coastline, fortunately only a temporary situation...this time...
leaving the buildings at Ft. Tilden inundated with former dunes,
and leaving the land utterly unprotected.

The show was at OPUS Project Space in Chelsea on 26th Street.
Left to right, Tom Schutte, esteemed President of Pratt Institute, Frank
and Anthony Caradonna, director of the gallery.

And below is the esteemed gentleman and scholar Stephen Mansbach with Frank,
both sporting haloes of light.

And here is Frank wheeling and dealing, straightening a few people out.

Wednesday, September 17th, saw the
opening and panel discussion of "Sensory Impact" at the Morgan Stanley Global Headquarters
in Purchase, NY to which I trained from Grand Central
and passed by these men of iron as we whipped through the Hartsdale station...

...called "Workers" by Tom Nussbaum, 2006

Wonder if they were unionized?

Always on the lookout for the so called "mile-a-minute" alien vine that's taking over the east coast
like kudzu in the south, I find it getting a firm purchase in Purchase.
Soon all the trees will be in a uniform slumped, strangled position, gasping under the onslaught.

Sorry, back to art.
"Sensory Impact" was curated by Sarah Campbell and Creighton Michael
of works by members of the American Abstract Artists.
It was a lovely and posh opening.
(The artists are the ones not in suits and pearls.)

This is my piece, "iPad 5" made from (you guessed it!) an iPad program, 
manifesting my continuing concern with merging the technics of current pop-electronic culture with
the tenets of abstract expressionism by using the computer as a painterly tool.

In case you were wondering.

I'm in good company, here with Susan Bonfils, Screwed and Glued #1, 2013; top far right  
James Gross, Tondo (to Ilya +Esphyr), 2010, and Martin Ball with Untitled, 2009.

The esteemed panel was composed of art historian Max Weintraub (moderator), Phyllis Ideal (artist) Alice Adams (sculptor), 
Stephen Westfall (artist and writer), Christine Berry (gallerist), and
Stephen Maine (painter and critic).

On September 29th
there was another panel discussion, this one part of a wonderful event
sponsored by TRANSBORDER ART
at Anthology Film Archives...

...presenting videos from international artists that address identity, alienation, the environment,
and creating new places and planes of experience,
along with a related panel discussion featuring, from left to right:
 Graciela Cassel (artist and organizer of event), Gerald Pryor (artist and NYU prof), 
Kathleen McQueen, (artist and writer)
Alejandro Schianchi (artist), Marlen Jiminez (translator), and Hakan Topol (artist).

Here I am in an audience of girls in glasses, avidly watching.

Thanks to Graciela for all her work on this presentation and panel
both live and later on Brooklyn Public TV.
Yes, my Accelerating Decline video was on TV and
I saw it in my own living room!
Not that I haven't seen it here before via my own devices, but this was different and special
because it was via someone else's devices!

In her blog, Shifting Connections, 
Kathleen McQueen wrote
expressively and astutely about all the video work, including my piece:

Yet insight, as we see in Jeanne Wilkinson’s Accelerating Decline (2012) is often gained by a loss of clarity: an empathic or engaged insight, by which we recognize our participation is at stake.
Wilkinson creates an interface between her own image and that of the natural world in a fluid, womb-like vision that holds within it the inter-dependency of all life forms to the fate of the earth.

Thanks, Kathleen!

October began on the 8th with the third annual "Video By Night" event!

It took place, as ever, in Norm Hinsey's most excellent back yard on East 24th St. in Manhattan
with the added attraction of a dark and moody autumn wind that gusted every so often, 
lifting the screen and turning the videos into truly moving pictures!
This year's program stars Jiwon Choi, Patrick Derivaz and Michael Lisnet, Matthew Laszewski, 
Sasha Sumner and myself!

Sasha, below, is enjoying the ambience of the CREON experience.

where I emptied out da Vinci's Last Supper 
 and invited the Painted People in.

On October 12th I traveled from Grand Central on a beautiful fall Sunday
to Peekskill on the Hudson River... attend an opening at Hudson Valley Center for Contemporary Art:

Here is esteemed curator Marcy B. Freedman enjoying the opening!

A few highlights:

Doesn't much of life seem just like this?
Trying to move the immovable while you're having a bad hair day?

By Rona Yefman & Tanja Schlander, 2006.

This is a story of a woman at the waning edge of a life marked by war and hunger and lost family, 
yet she still continues to soldier on, here under the attentions of a younger woman who
is dressing her hair, an act that resonates with human affection and comfort.

In Alex McQuilkin's Joan of Arc the act of shearing off one's long hair becomes a metaphor for
sacrifice, whether done voluntarily or at the behest of an oppressor who would rather see you dead
than offer you basic human rights.

And among the HVCCA's permanent collection are gems like the following:

Someone with a Remote in a Mirror, 1982, is by Justen Lassa,
where your perception of the piece all depends on where you stand.

Below, the quirky and canny 
Gilbert and George are lurking behind fellow Brit Phyllida Barlow's Crushed Boxes, 2012

Next stop, Queen's College where I moderated a conversation
about the significance of the recent "People's Climate March" 
in New York City, which I attended and made a short film about.
It took place in the clock-towered Rosenthal Library wherein one will find the
 Queen's College Art Center.

Arranged by graduate student Francisco Kermelic (below) with the assistance of Suzanna Simor
and Alexandra de Luise,
this was an energizing event with much discussion of the
state of the world and what can be done about it
(something? nothing? voting? marching? donating? activist-ing? internetting?)
with students and professors from various Queen's College classes attending.

(photo by Suzanna Simor with additions by JW)

Time out for some fall color courtesy of Prospect Park in Brooklyn, enjoyed
by people from all walks of life.

It's a very late and long fall this year - the colors are hanging around for a long time.
Thank you, global warming, for this fabulous fall!

While there, I noticed a Prospect Park hole matched by its exact opposite, a pile:

Isn't there a science experiment where depending on the hour or year or moon phase
or some other arcane factor,
the removed soil will or will not refill the hole?

Below, I remove the pile via photoshop and subsequently fill the hole with it, 
and voila, a perfect fit!
Ha! Must be the right time of the month. Or something.

Here's another hole, as seen from the East Hudson line train.

However, in this case photoshop doesn't deliver such a good fit.
Obviously too many variables to fit into my A = B experiment.
I need a better equation.

Maybe it's really A - B = A + B 
No, wait, I think there should be some C in there, too. And maybe a little wedge of Pi.

Well, with that uncertainty principle, here endeth your science lesson for the day.
(We all need a little science every so often so we know what God is up to, 
that crafty old devil.)

Here's some science that's gone awry,
according to artist Essam.
He presented this sidewalk drone at the recent Art For Progress "Deja Vu" exhibition
at NoOsphere Gallery on Houston St.,

...his premise being that drones are surveilling us, or will be soon, 
without our knowledge or permission.
His experience in the military for three years as a geospacial analyst greatly informs his
analysis of this potential danger.
he discusses what led him to mount a fake poster and sign campaign about
the NYPD using drones to keep an eye on us...

...for which he was arrested and charged on several felony counts in 2012, 
which have recently been dismissed.
A victory for free speech and for educating the public! Go Essam!
Art, canny and uncanny, beats the legal system this time.

About drones, he says in the interview:
"It’s only a matter of time before New York has them.  Whether they’re armed or not, you know, who knows. But we see this trend throughout history of military technology always coming to the civilian world.  It’s that age old philosophy of fear controls people.  They’re able to do whatever they want as long as we’re afraid."

Didn't Dwight D. Eisenhower, that conservative moderate Republican, 
 warn us about the military industrial complex
way back in the fifties?
Ah, yes, here it is, although it was from a speech in 1961:
In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the militaryindustrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist.
We must never let the weight of this combination endanger our liberties or democratic processes. We should take nothing for granted. Only an alert and knowledgeable citizenry can compel the proper meshing of the huge industrial and military machinery of defense with our peaceful methods and goals, so that security and liberty may prosper together.

It will invade our lives whether we see it or not.

Above is artist/designer Declan Zimmermann trying to avoid the street drone, to no avail. 


 In Zimmermann's own work, he uses his fearsome animation skills for projects like
this one for the Council on Foreign Relations where an amorphous cloud of 
symbols becomes a coherent structure of light.

The "Deja Vu" exhibition at NoOSPHERE
 was another Art For Progress wonder, courtesy of the tireless efforts of
Frank Jackson who steers the AFP ship ever onward, 
enriching the world with art, music, fashion, arts education, and much, much more.
To see more and/or become part of the growing AFP world, check out

Above is "Honfleur" by Tony DiBella, one of the "Deja Vu" artists, 
who uses his camera as a painting tool, a concept I totally grok.
In the picture below, the head form appeared mysteriously as a kind of
afterimage with no deliberate placement by the artist, so what could he do but
 develop the idea further?

The NoOSPHERE opening was standing room only.
 I liked this fellow's duct tape fashion statement - excellent way to give new life
to your 

My contribution to "Deja Vu" is my Climate March film, 
which truly is a deja vu moment for me - haven't we been talking about
these issues for decades now, ever since President Jimmy Carter tried to 
figure out alternative ways to get our energy needs taken care of back in the '70's? 
Not that he was addressing global warming, but maybe
if we'd gotten on the stick then, nobody would have had to address it.
Not that they are.
If "they" refers to the government, that is.

Well, finally we have reached November and I am on the road again, or the tracks.
 I once again train up from Grand Central, a pleasant half-hour ride up the Hudson
 to visit this beautiful downtown Yonkers 
sight/site where my friend Haifa Bint-Kadi has orchestrated and designed the placement of this extraordinary mosaic, "The Eel's Journey" with the help of several 
Riverside- and Yonkers-High-School interns.
Who knew that the eel is an important and (of course) threatened migratory fish
along the entire East Coast?

Haifa knew!

She is now the curator at the Riverfront Public Library Art Gallery
where the Painted People will be hanging out in January and February, 2015!
They are in the clouds about this adventure!
They can't wait for the films and stills and the Cloud Tunnel
and an installation of themselves in the flesh!
Please save the date - there will be an opening on the second Thursday in January.

On my way back to the train in Yonkers, I see traces of Haifa and her helpers' work in 
sidewalk cracks here and there. They always strike me as small but meaningful messages of hope.

Back in Manhattan, I walk over to the Museum of Modern Art and see that St. Patrick's Cathedral
is under renovation.

I love scaffolding on any structure - here it creates a lacy grid to counterpoint the complexities
of the church's exterior.

Speaking of grids, I'm attracted to this display across from museum at the Uniqlo store.
The figures remind me of Henri Matisse's cut-outs that are on exhibition,
no mistake there, I'm sure. 

No pics are allowed in the exhibition, but here's a display that give you an idea of what's inside.

I personally like his paintings better. 
I spend a lot of time staring at the drawn lines
in one of the cut-outs, wondering why those slightly wavery lines draw me in (sorry) 
more than all the scissored edges.

 (Photos from the internet MoMA website)

Why do I like the above better than the below?

Something about the immediacy,
the subtle awkwardness of the drawing that becomes stylized and just a bit pat in the cutout?
This is a mystery I will have to ponder.

Below, I ponder this colorful arrangement of form and color, 
wondering whether it's part of the new MoMA installation.
Apparently not, as the show will be of paintings,
but perhaps this piece was left there because the installers saw the art in it also.

I get lost in the Pollocks for a while, as is my wont...

...and I'm liking the juxtapositioning of flower to city backdrop.

German artist Isa Genzken, Rose II, 2007

The tall Park Avenue building on to the right of the flower is actually
higher (1396 feet) than the "Freedom Tower" if you don't count the latter's "spire."
Which I don't.
This new tower is all private living spaces, and the top floor suites are going for...

...a cool $95 million!
Aw, I hope they'll be okay when the power goes out!

In the lower realms, I see this sign embedded in the street in front of a posh building
with a mysterious pile of dirt not far away.

Are they trying to keep people like this man - who's established himself
about half a block down the street - from parking on their doorstep?

Over his bowed and homeless head sit Jesus and his companions enjoying a gilded last supper.

Speaking of homeless, you may remember a recent post where I talked about my visit to Karen Heagle's studio and 
subsequent article about it for d'ART International Magazine?
 Well, I visited Karen at Matthew Marks in Chelsea,
and she's still smiling despite the fact that she's been priced out of her studio,
and her gallery is in it's last month, closing its doors in the new year.
Such is the life of the New York artist.

Shea Hembry is making work under the auspices of four different "artists" - 
each evoking the world in a different way.

Work by "Pawnee Calhoun":
Untitled (supercollider anomaly), 2014, Altered hornet nests
28 x 35 x 21 inches

Work by "Elgin Rivers":
 Brink, 2014, Wood, acrylic paint and mica
30 x 24 x 17 inches
Droplet, 2014, Wood, glass, resin and acrylic paint
32 x 9 x 6 inches
Depot, 2014, Wood, acrylic paint, iron and mica
19 x 18 x 14 inches

Work by "Harvey Lee"

I totally get the impulse to split apart one's artist-personas.
I have a couple of diverse styles of my own, ranging from the abstract explorations
of pure color, form, line, all that visual language business, then I have the PP's
and their adventures, then I have my digital collages and films that incorporate stuff from everywhere, 
and then I have my various writing identities of 
blogger and novelist and memoirist and short-storyist and reviewer...
perhaps I should give all those me's different names, too...

Or not. Maybe if they had separate name they would all start to 
take up arms and fight amongst themselves... 

...rather than exist in a state of mildly uneasy, 
even bitter and resentful but still quiet competition...

Speaking of pure visual language,
Dana Gordon's new work at the estimable Andre Zarre Gallery in Chelsea,
is more airy and light than the work I saw a while back at Sideshow.
Almost sculptural.

Dana Gordon, Endless Painting 4, 2014

Dana Gordon, Endless Painting 1, 2014

His sense of the clarities and multiplicities of color, of push and pull, of organic shape counterpointed
with a stricter geometry, all add up to an experience that is more than the sum of its parts.
I'm thinking of Mozart. And Artie Shaw. And Donovan.
And the jackal-headed Egyptian god Anubis.

Maybe there is an equation for this...

Dana Gordon, Endless Painting 10, 2014

This show is up until Dec. 6th - go see it at 529 W. 20th in Chelsea!
And also stop by Mike Weiss Gallery at 520 W. 24th St. in Chelsea where the current 
show is on until January 3!

 As was promised at the beginning of the blog, this is where the Painted People
came upon
Cameron Gray's amazing display...

...that drew them in as if by some kind of magnetic force.
Once inside, they were absolutely awed and gawked by
the wonder of it all.

And the babies liked it, too.
As did Stan, below, who raises an arm in solidarity.

(Gymnasty's Guide to FitnASS,  2014)

Ronni has a bit of trouble keeping her excited horse in line, but no harm is done,
and no animals were injured in the course of their visit.

If we can only keep alive the spirit of wonder, exploration and sacred mischief evinced by both
the Painted People and Cameron Gray, maybe we'll get through it all.

So I've turned my blues into more than the sum of its parts also, 
into an album of sorts, courtesy of my friend Brian Hack
who graciously came up with this amazing album cover!!!
Soon my royalties will be rolling in!
Well, once I come up with the songs, that is.

Thanks to all the artists and creative folk who have added to this blog post!
Without you the world would be so much less than the sum of its parts.

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