Monday, December 22, 2014

The Christmas Spirit

Airport, delayed flight, what better to do than begin a blog post.
Full of Christmas spirit!
Or is it?

Here are the Painted People's wishes for you:
Wish one:

Wish two.

Actually the same wish in different colors. You choose.

Earlier, on my way to Laguardia, the cab passed by the street where our studio lives – 

...and I noted the ominous presence of huge cranes - not of the bird variety, alas,
but those that signify the insane amount of construction
going on in “Downtown Brooklyn."
We continue to wonder how long will our three story walk-up...

 ...will hold on in the midst of the behemoths going up all around us.

And where will we go when the inevitable happens?
Not that we're in any immediate danger (knock on wood) but inevitably the day
will come when we leave our studio for one reason or another.

It will be a crossroads,
perhaps of the kind that so many New York artists face when their neighborhoods
are pulled out from underneath them by the forces of progress, gentrification and rabid greed.
Unless they’ve been able to buy in and reap some benefits themselves,
which doesn’t happen often for artists. So what will we do with all our stuff?

My side of the studio, left, Frank's side, right. 
(This was when it was all cleaned up for the "Brooklyn GO" event.)

Where will I screen my videos
inside the Cloud Tunnel scrims?

Where will we have fabulous parties?

Where will the Painted People hang out?

These are questions for the ages.
Well, onward and upward, as they say.

At the aiport, I go on my usual vision quest for a good book to read. Light reading, vacation-ese.
This one I pass over:

Speaking of rabid greed, I don’t want to hear right now about how the “Americans” put the Nazis to shame in their genocidal attacks from all quarters on those who happened to be here before they were. And not only on the people, but the creatures also.
Think buffalo. Think bear and puma and wolf.  Think passenger pigeon, a species which just celebrated
a hundred years of its extinction this very year.
Empire of the Summer Moon is about the Comanches who held the deadly invaders at bay
for quite a while before succumbing.
Maybe the Comanches should have had a stricter immigrant policy. Maybe they should have built a giant fence around their territory and had their warriors protect it. Oh, wait, they weren’t into fences. Alas.
Well, maybe I’ll get the book later, when the lights of Christmas spirit aren’t shining
so brightly in my eyes.

So I get this book, which looks like fun, about a 60-year old woman who is forced to leave Manhattan
because her book royalties are dwindling and subsequently finds a new life in
upstate New York watching birds with a roofer.

And a little Pynchon should rev up my holiday spirit also!

This is about the sixties, well, actually 1970, which makes sense because what we think of as the sixties was actually from about 1965 - 1975.  Inherent Vice, about drugs and decadence in LA, is now a major motion picture starring Joaquin Phoenix and Owen Wilson, all of it good research for me since I'm also writing a book about the year 1970, a memoir about drugs and well, not exactly decadence, but something close to it, and my story is in San Francisco, not that pit of iniquity, LA.

It's called, Ticket to Ride: My Year with a San Francisco Drug Dealer.
Soon to be a major motion picture starring Joaquin Phoenix as Val and Owen Wilson as his partner.
Not sure who will play me.
After it gets published, of course.

Back to the airport, I go crazy and purchase a magazine, too.
I need to bone up on what’s happening in the business world,
so I pick up a Bloomberg Businessweek,
which I could have easily stolen at the coffee stand where the distracted
servers aren't noticing the magazine in my hand.
But I dutifully bring it to their attention and pay for it.
I got away - accidentally!!! - with a bunch of xeroxing at the local copy/shipping place
the other day in the Christmas rush, and I don't want any more bad karma building up.
So, okay, I owe them about three dollars, but it's
nothing compared to what the Chinese government is making on cigarettes!

With their massive problems with air pollution, it appears that they’re, in a way,
 genociding their own people...well, perhaps I'm being a little harsh here - it's more like they're decimating their people...
...oh, wait, there's only 2000 people per day dying from cigarettes...a drop in the bucket, really, which is probably what the Chinese government figures. Who needs people when you can make money off them up until their last gasping, dying breath?
They even have signs in the schools that inform young people that cigarettes will make them more intelligent, according to this article.
Hmm, maybe I should go light up...

Ah, here’s something more fun:

It's Mitch from Baywatch!
But these Bloomberg people are a bit five minutes ago if you know what I mean –
does anyone even recognize David Hasselhoff as Mitch any more?
Well, somebody must because they're selling his shorts online from the show for nearly $1000!

Anyway, this entertaining article is about a new electronic  phenomenon
called “spoofing” where clever folk
drive up stock prices by using algorithms...

 to "place and cancel orders to buy and sell futures orders"
 making others think that there’s interest in a particular stock
and then, ho, ho ho! - they profit hugely on the rising prices before the inevitable downward slide!
But hey, it was just a spoof!
And it’s kind of in a gray area regarding illegality, so why rob a bank or a gas station or convenience store like some kind of low class buffoon when you can rake in big bucks and
never see the inside of any crummy privatized jail?
(Heck, you can build your own jail with your profits
and make money from the government who will pay to warehouse all the buffoons still holding up gas stations and selling street drugs!
Plus they'll work for twenty-five cents an hour and they can't go on strike!

So I guess the article is saying they need Mitch and his crew... come in and keep all those spoofers off the beach so they won’t pretend to be drowning and then when all the lifeguards
are busy with spoofs the real drowning people really drown.
I find it interesting that for many centuries women have been accused of being overly emotional
and vacillating and illogical and unreliable,
which is why the flighty little things didn't get to vote before 1920...

(internet photo with Susan B. Anthony)

...because why should they have to
worry their pretty little heads over things like regulating the stock market,
 that bastion of male power ruled by logic and mathematical certainties...hmmm...
 or would that be overly emotional and vacillating and unreliable and illogical and flighty?

Well, it’s good to see Mitch getting some well deserved respect, anyway.
Lifeguards rule!

Speaking of waves, there's a front moving across the country
that I notice while flying high...

So much like the sea! These waves look surfable.
And, wow, a beautiful rainbow-halo floats over the clouds above New York State!

Could it be a harbinger of good things to come, like Governor Cuomo stepping up and
actually banning tracking in the state because of potential health issues?
The Wall Street Journal, that male bastion of efficient logic and mathematical certainties,
says he's hiding behind "bad science" and then they go on to say.
"The truth is that fracking has been taking place around the country for many years without evidence of environmental harm."
Tell that to the people in Pennsylvania who are sick and have contaminated wells.

Handy for them not to have to bother with all those flighty laws about keeping water from being turned
into killer sludge.

Speaking of water, here are Frank and Aaron
gazing moodily out to sea on Aaron's recent Thanksgiving trek to NYC.

We are at Fort Tilden in the Rockaways where the former Army barracks are put to excellent
use as canvasses for some awesome graffiti!

And not just graffiti, but real "ART."

And some deep thoughts.

The ladies invite Aaron in...

Above, truer words were never written;
below...not so much.

I know what you're thinking:
Enough of all these fun and games, where's the real real ART!
Well, here's an installation by Paul Kolker
in his space on 26th Street in Chelsea,
from an exhibition thoughtfully curated by Diana Buckley.

This series derives from his study of Mandelbrot geometry, which describes natural forms
from macro to micro realms. In these pieces with their clear pure colors and seemingly random shapes
and arrangements, we are continually trying to make "sense" of them
but our eye is continually bounced off of an edge, sent sliding down a diagonal, caught by an indentation, launched off onto another tangent of meaning and dimension, emptiness and fullness,
a world in flux.

And next to this installation is a convex mirror that changes everything yet again.

Paul Kolker
Jigsaws and Scumbles 1-­‐18, 2014 Mirrored aluminum, mica, plywood 

The polyptych, below, by Erik Gonzalez, also plays with our sense of in and out - it is actually flat, but so subtly painted that we're convinced of a third dimension.
(For those of you who have never taken my art history class, a polyptych is a many-paneled painting.)

Erick GonzalezUntitled, 2011
Oil & acrylic on canvas & burlap, four sections 243 x 88 in (10’3” x 7’4”)

Brent Birnbaum's painted treadmills
bring to life an unusual bit of space, one that is normally unnoticed, utilitarian to an extreme degree,
that now becomes a kinetic arena of flowing color.

Foreground, Brent Birnbaum, 16.02014
Paint on Treadmills, diptych, 57 x 56 x 124 inches.

Middle ground: Birnbaum's Weslo,
and Vince Contarino's Field, 2014 Acrylic on canvas 48 x 36 inches. 

Serry Park
XO Pale White No. 19, 2010 Photograph, 40 x 50 in 

Conversely, Serry Park's large photographs contain a kind of brilliant stillness,
a place where light seems to be taking a deep breath and letting it out slowly, softly,
showing us a peace and clarity rarely found in our turbulent world.

Joe Ballweg's St. Julian seems whimsical at first glance,
with its floating bowling-pin-shapes supporting two blank white orbs,
like giant purple ice cream cones.
But the whimsy gives way to a feeling of discomfort as we try to figure out why these blankly
staring "eyes" are floating over a golden ground while "dressed" in
purple like the royal robes of a Byzantine icon -  are they in "heaven"?
Have they come to judge us?
The beautiful painterly qualities of the golden ground distract us momentarily,
but it always comes back to those eyes.

Joe Ballweg
Saint Julian, 2014 Oil on linen
96 x 72 in 

(Photo from Diana Buckley's Facebook page,
with artwork by Paul Kolker, Brent Birnbaum and Jeffrey Kessel.)

Above, Diana Buckley takes a break from her curatorial labors, andbelow, Bill Carroll, curator of the this year's "Small Works" exhibition at the 
440 Gallery in Brooklyn, expounds upon his curating process at the opening of the show,
with the Painted People on the left and Nancy Lunsford, one of the founders of the 
440 Gallery, upper right.

The Painted People have been riding again like crazy! Wow!
Here they are shining in the lights of the 440 show...

Jeanne Wilkinson, Storm Garden: Beans

My artwork has also been shown this month in the A.I.R. Gallery in DUMBO,
Brooklyn, at their Biennial exhibition,
which was curated by the esteemed Nancy Princenthal, who writes:

This biennial results from an open invitation to female artists “investigating the intersection of hand produced and photographic pictures”...I found, in (the artwork selected), a widely shared pleasure in mixing the digital and the analog and in violating technical protocols; in reversals, inversions, and shadows, and the representation of things that are not quite there. Photography, for these artists, is often a tool of introspection and of memory; painting a way of gorging on photography, of chewing it up and spitting it back out.
Nancy Princenthal is a New York-based critic and former Senior Editor of Art in America; other publications include Artforum, Parkett, the Village Voice, and the New York Times.

My piece, a short film called "The Skater and the Superbowl" was chosen from more than 800 applicants!
(You can see it here if you didn't make it to the show.)

The opening was a jam!

And in the new year, the Painted People will be having their very own show at the
fabulous Yonker’s Art Gallery in the Riverfront Library in beautiful downtown Yonkers,
which is becoming quite the art hub!

The People are super excited and ready to party!
There’s going to be a Cloud Tunnel on the premises where they will fly and soar –
opening Thursday, January 8th!

The gallery is just steps from the Yonkers Metro North Train Station, which is a scant
half hour from Grand Central.

Well, speaking of travel, the plane has flown, I'm on the ground and
finally I get to hang with my favorite little guy!

Now the Christmas spirit can begin in earnest, with best wishes
from Christmas Dude, created by Aaron!

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