Monday, December 30, 2013

Things That Need to DIE in 2014

Just said, “oh god, it’s Monday,” realizing that it is another Monday and that’s the day this thing happens.  These past few weeks have been a blur, for real right? Holidays are the worst, it makes you have to shift your life and it makes things like remembering what day it is seem essential yet hard to grasp.  Anyways, they are about over, New Years is right up on us and I’m not sure about all of you but I can’t wait until we can get back to non-holiday schedules. 

I think we have all had enough of the year-in-review highlights, I don’t pay attention to them at all, but yes, this is a time for “reflection” and all that jazz.  I will not suffer you through another happy reminiscence of 2013 but will instead get all the grump out of me at once by giving you a list of things that I hope won’t be with us in 2014.  This is more like a vomit then a purge of negative juju but sometimes things have to be messy in order for it to be renewed.

Things That Need to DIE in 2014:

Graphic Tees – Not all graphic tees deserve the boot but most do.  You know what I’m talking about.  Anything that is big and black on white that has logos or all caps need to just STOP.

Museum Entrance Fees – WTF, just saw that PS1 charges for entry and heard buzz that The Met may get rid of its *suggested donation.  WTF?! Where are all the poor art kids supposed to go on dates?!

Most Art Magazines – They mean nothing.  They pay shit.

BHQF – It’s nice they do free classes and such but yeah…never understood why people fawned over them so much. Never. Ever.

Greek Revival – No more columns, busts, marble texture in anyone’s art/design for at least another 20 years please.

White Plaster – We get it, it’s white plaster. 

Pretending to be Liberal – This is for the art world at large.  You’re not, stop trying to co-opt everything.  Especially stop with your developing country fetishism and political asylum hero worship.

VIP – Haha. 

89 Plus – And basically anything/everything Hans does.

Whitney and Guggenheim Fails – You have so much money.  Why so many half-baked shows in a year? Why???

Klaus Biesenbach – Not like him as a person to actually DIE but yeah, all that other stuff he does. 

Public Radio Programs – It is getting soooooo bad.

Curators – Been dead, stay dead.

PRs that are emails/chats – Too boring, didn’t read.

Gowanus – Doing a studio visit there = taking up your whole night/day getting to and from.  #hate.

Performance Rap - :(

Girls who dress like strippers - :( :(

Logos – I think this past year did a very good job exhausting this.  Let’s all take a collective break.  Please.  I beg.

Group Shows – Unless a really (actually) good curator is organizing this, all else need to stop or just call it what it is, a room full of people’s friends that may or may not make art or make good art.

Downloadable PDFs – How do we not have another format?

Nike – The more Nike you wear the more… you probably are.

Vaping – It’s over kids.

Facebook – It’s over old people.

Being an “Artist” – You and the rest of this city.  

Monday, December 23, 2013

A Picture Show: Isa Genzken at MoMA, Anke Weyer at CANADA

Isa Genzken, Retrospective, MoMA, New York

Do you like a lot of things in a room?  If you so, you will like this show, nay retrospective at MoMA of Isa Genzken’s work.  I like Genzken, how can you not?!  But really, the first half of this ‘retrospective’ is so cluttered it makes you feel dizzy (not in a good way).   The first half is her early work.  Nice wall texts here and there give you background that may or may not mean much to you depending on how much things like studying with famous German males artists means to you.  Her early works look influenced and cautious to a degree but this is how things go most of the time.  Of the early works, her Weltemfänger (World Receiver), 1982, a ready made, was very nice to see as well as concrete repeats derived from this from 1988-89.  She apparently said that, “A sculpture must be at least as modern as the most modern hi-fi systems.” This backs the stage nicely for these pieces as well as others in the show.  

Proceeding along, there is another room full of columnar sculptures.  You think ‘up’ a lot looking at this show.  You are physically looking up at a lot of tall things and you understand that ‘architecture’ is key.  On a set of these tall pedestals there are funny sculptures that begin to reveal some of Genzken’s certified wit.  Wonderfully entitled, Fuck the Bauhaus, 2000, this series is rigged with red and yellow trash cum building structure and facades.  They are a literal F-U but in the most slap-dash obviously considered way.

In the next rooms, things feel better, well at least less cramped.  Here, there are more subtle, poetic, and personal moments that take center stage.  Her Speilautomat (Slot Machine), 1999-2000 is a shrine with a picture of herself on top and a variety of snap shots and Leonardo Di Caprio.  It is a miniature monument in some ways.  Also wonderful is a set of five columns that are stand-ins for people close to her at this time, Kai, Isa, Dan, Andy, Wolfgang, 2000.  Their surfaces, coloration and scale do some sort of magic thing in your brain. 

All in all, this is a must see if you want to know more about, or you want to see more of, Isa Genzken.  The cacophony of the installation seems somehow meaningful, she is and was a tsumani of creative overflow.  I must insist though, that perhaps some hint of the poetry, sadness and weight that is glimpsed in the second half of the show could have been honored a bit more with a little more square footage. 

Anke Weyer, Du, CANADA, New York, NY

The Lower East Side is and has been having a new phase for the past year or so.  Galleries that were once in small (sometimes very small) spaces and in odd cutouts in office or delinquent buildings in Chinatown have made it past puberty and are now full on grown-ups in new spaces with lots of bright lights, more space and an obvious architect’s touch.  One space is CANADA, a beloved of New York’s scrappy because it is smarter then most and has been making the wave it rides versus jumping onto one already going to the shore.  They have a fine new space on Broome Street and it makes me happy to see them so sparkly.

Currently on view is Anke Weyer.  Who’s that?  Most don’t know, nor did I very well, but the show is one to see.  The PR talks the talk of things but getting to the point of it, Weyer is a painter and that’s about all there is to say about that.  She works in large scale, human scale the PR says, and they are color and abstractions with subtle references that key in body parts and mind-visualized characters.  They are bright, crazy, screaming and they are very good.  What makes painting that looks like this sort of painting “good?”  It’s a quality, an assurance, a way of doing it that seems to be the only way possible to make it be done.  They are alive.  They seem like they painted themselves.  This equals something perfect or damn near to it.

With titles like, Out of My Hair, Gravity Idiot, Sweat Tears and Fire, how can you go wrong? The selection is very nice as well.  Not too much, not too little, just the right amount of crazy in one room to make it fun yet a bit scary.

Yes, there is a glut of art out there but coming upon a show like Weyer’s makes you think that somehow, everything will be okay.

Monday, December 16, 2013

Goodbye To All That

Joan Didion
New York.  You love it or you hate it.  Recently, New York and I have been a bit at odds.  All this traveling and being away from here has made my return full of rejuvenated vigor but it also reminds me that the world is big and that NYC is not all there is.  We tend to forget this, we New Yorkers.  We forget we are not the center of the universe.  We are, but we aren’t.  I am not the only one who feels estranged by this city from time to time (gawd if only I could afford a country home).  There have been slews and slews of great, good and just below average writers that have essayed, blogged and merely complained about this place, this city.  I am not at the breaking point they describe, far from it, but I have to say, all this busy-business here makes me suspicious.  Possibly (probably) this business is just one living life but perhaps it is also a symptom of something else. 

I love New York, I think New York loves me still and until we get sick of the sounds of each other's voices, the way we flick our hair, the way we laugh, the way we can see the magic in each other then I fear(love) that I am here until death do us part.

Below is a fantastic essay by the one and only Joan Didion on New York and her leaving it.  It’s pretty famous so most of you have probably read it but if not you are in for a reading treat.  It is from 1967, seems far but really that’s just a speck of time.  There are things remarked on and way of saying things that just hits things so squarely on the head.  For those who have been here for nearly ten years or more (like moi), it will strike you like a chord.

Goodbye To All That, Joan Didion, 1967

How many miles to Babylon?
Three score miles and and ten—
Can I get there by candlelight?
Yes, and back again—
If your feet are nimble and light
You can get there by candlelight.

            It is easy to see the beginnings of things, and harder to see the ends. I can remember now, with a clarity that makes the nerves in the back of my neck constrict, when New York began for me, but I cannot lay my finger upon the moment it ended, can never cut through the ambiguities and second starts and broken resolves to the exact place on the page where the heroine is no longer as optimistic as she once was. When I first saw New York I was twenty, and it was summertime, and I got off a DC-7 at the old Idlewild temporary terminal in a new dress which had seemed very smart in Sacramento but seemed less smart already, even in the old Idlewild temporary terminal, and the warm air smelled of mildew and some instinct, programmed by all the movies I had ever seen and all the songs I had ever read about New York, informed me that it would never be quite the same again. In fact it never was. Some time later there was a song in the jukeboxes on the Upper East Side that went “but where is the schoolgirl who used to be me,” and if it was late enough at night I used to wonder that. I know now that almost everyone wonders something like that, sooner or later and no matter what he or she is doing, but one of the mixed blessings of being twenty and twenty-one and even twenty-three is the conviction that nothing like this, all evidence to the contrary notwithstanding, has ever happened to anyone before.

            Of course it might have been some other city, had circumstances been different and the time been different and had I been different, might have been Paris or Chicago or even San Francisco, but because I am talking about myself I am talking here about New York. That first night I opened my window on the bus into town and watched for the skyline, but all I could see were the wastes of Queens and big signs that said MIDTOWN TUNNEL THIS LANE and then a flood of summer rain (even that seemed remarkable and exotic, for I had come out of the West where there was no summer rain), and for the next three days I sat wrapped in blankets in a hotel room air conditioned to 35 degrees and tried to get over a cold and a high fever. It did not occur to me to call a doctor, because I knew none, and although it did occur to me to call the desk and ask that the air conditioner be turned off, I never called, because I did not know how much to tip whoever might come—was anyone ever so young? I am here to tell you that someone was. All I could do during those years was talk long-distance to the boy I already knew I would never marry in the spring. I would stay in New York, I told him, just six months, and I could see the Brooklyn Bridge from my window. As it turned out the bridge was the Triborough, and I stayed eight years.

            In retrospect it seems to me that those days before I knew the names of all the bridges were happier than the ones that came later, but perhaps you will see that as we go along. Part of what I want to tell you is what it is like to be young in New York, how six months can become eight years with the deceptive ease of a film dissolve, for that is how those years appear to me now, in a long sequence of sentimental dissolves and old-fashioned trick shots—the Seagram Building fountains dissolve into snowflakes, I enter a revolving door at twenty and come out a good deal older, and on a different street. But most particularly I want to explain to you, and in the process perhaps to myself, why I no longer live in New York. It is often said that New York is a city for only the very rich and the very poor. It is less often said that New York is also, at least for those of us who came there from somewhere else, a city only for the very young.

            I remember once, one cold bright December evening in New York, suggesting a friend who complained of having been around too long that he come with me to a party where there would be, I assured him with the bright resourcefulness of twenty-three, “new faces.” He laughed literally until he choked, and I had to roll down the taxi window and hit him on the back. “New faces,” he said finally, “don’t tell me about new faces.” It seemed that the last time he had gone to a party where he had been promised “new faces,” there had been fifteen people in the room, and he had already spelt with five of the women and owed money to all but two of the men. I laughed with him, but the first snow had just begun to fall and the big Christmas trees glittered yellow and white as far as I could see up Park Avenue and I had a new dress and it would be a long while before I would come to understand the particular moral of the story.

            It would be a long while because, quite simply, I was in love with New York. I do not mean “love” in any colloquial way, I mean that I was in love with the city, the way you love the first person who ever touches you and you never love anyone quite that way again. I remember walking across Sixty-second Street one twilight that first spring, or the second spring, they were all alike for a while. I was late to meet someone but I stopped at Lexington Avenue and bought a peach and stood on the corner eating it and knew that I had come out of the West and reached the mirage. I could taste the peach and feel the soft air blowing from a subway grating on my legs and I could smell lilac and garbage and expensive perfume and I knew that it would cost something sooner or later—because I did not belong there, did not come from there—but when you are twenty-two or twenty-three, you figure that later you will have a high emotional balance, and be able to pay whatever it costs. I still believed in possibilities then, still had the sense, so peculiar to New York, that something extraordinary would happen any minute, any day, any month. I was making only $65 or $70 then a week then (“Put yourself in Hattie Carnegie’s hands,” I was advised without the slightest trace of irony by an editor of the magazine for which I worked), so little money that some weeks I had to charge food at Bloomingdale’s gourmet shop in order to eat, a fact which went unmentioned in the letters I wrote to California. I never told my father that I needed money because then he would have sent it, and I would never know if I could do it by myself. At that time making a living seemed a game to me, with arbitrary but quite inflexible rules. And except on a certain kind of winter evening—six-thirty in the Seventies, say, already dark and bitter with a wind off the river, when I would be walking very fast toward a bus and would look in the bright windows of brownstones and see cooks working in clean kitchens and imagine women lighting candles on the floor above and beautiful children being bathed on the floor above that—except on nights like those, I never felt poor; I had the feeling that if I needed money I could always get it. I could write a syndicated column for teenagers under the name “Debbi Lynn” or I could smuggle gold into India or I could become a $100 call girl, and none of would matter.

            Nothing was irrevocable; everything was within reach. Just around every corner lay something curious and interesting, something I had never before seen or done or known about. I could go to a party and meet someone who called himself Mr. Emotional Appeal and ran The Emotional Appeal Institute or Tina Onassis Blandford or a Florida cracker who was then a regular on what the called “the Big C,” the Southampton-El Morocco circuit (“I’m well connected on the Big C, honey,” he would tell me over collard greens on his vast borrowed terrace), or the widow of the celery king of the Harlem market or a piano salesman from Bonne Terre, Missouri, or someone who had already made and list two fortunes in Midland, Texas. I could make promises to myself and to other people and there would be all the time in the world to keep them. I could stay up all night and make mistakes, and none of them would count.

            You see I was in a curious position in New York: it never occurred to me that I was living a real life there. In my imagination I was always there for just another few months, just until Christmas or Easter or the first warm day in May. For that reason I was most comfortable with the company of Southerners. They seemed to be in New York as I was, on some indefinitely extended leave from wherever they belonged, disciplined to consider the future, temporary exiles who always knew when the flights left for New Orleans or Memphis or Richmond or, in my case, California. Someone who lives with a plane schedule in the drawer lives on a slightly different calendar. Christmas, for example, was a difficult season. Other people could take it in stride, going to Stowe or going abroad or going for the day to their mothers’ places in Connecticut; those of us who believed that we lived somewhere else would spend it making and canceling airline reservations, waiting for weather bound flights as if for the last plane out of Lisbon in 1940, and finally comforting one another, those of us who were left, with oranges and mementos and smoked-oyster stuffings of childhood, gathering close, colonials in a far country.

            Which is precisely what we were. I am not sure that it is possible for anyone brought up in the East to appreciate entirely what New York, the idea of New York, means to those of us who came out of the West and the South. To an Eastern child, particularly a child who has always has an uncle on Wall Street and who has spent several hundred Saturdays first at F.A.O. Schwarz and being fitted for shoes at Best’s and then waiting under the Biltmore clock and dancing to Lester Lanin, New York is just a city, albeit the city, a plausible place for people to live, But to those of us who came from places where no one had heard of Lester Lanin and Grand Central Station was a Saturday radio program, where Wall Street and Fifth Avenue and Madison Avenue were not places at all but abstractions (“Money,” and “High Fashion,” and “The Hucksters”), New York was no mere city. It was instead an infinitely romantic notion, the mysterious nexus of all love and money and power, the shining and perishable dream itself. To think of “living” there was to reduce the miraculous to the mundane; one does not “live” at Xanadu.

            In fact it was difficult in the extreme for me to understand those young women for whom New York was not simply an ephemeral Estoril but a real place, girls who bought toasters and installed new cabinets in their apartments and committed themselves to some reasonable furniture. I never bought any furniture in New York. For a year or so I lived in other people’s apartments; after that I lived in the Nineties in an apartment furnished entirely with things taken from storage by a friend whose wife had moved away. And when I left the apartment in the Nineties (that was when I was leaving everything, when it was all breaking up) I left everything in it, even my winter clothes and the map of Sacramento County I had hung on the bedroom wall to remind me who I was, and I moved into a monastic four-room floor-through on Seventy-fifth Street. “Monastic” is perhaps misleading here, implying some chic severity; until after I was married and my husband moved some furniture in, there was nothing at all in those four rooms except a cheap double mattress and box springs, ordered by telephone the day I decided to move, and two French garden chairs lent me by a friend who imported them. (It strikes me now that the people I knew in New York all had curious and self-defeating sidelines. They imported garden chairs which did not sell very well at Hammacher Schlemmer or they tried to market hair straighteners in Harlem or they ghosted exposés of Murder Incorporated for Sunday supplements. I think that perhaps none of us was very serious, engaged only about our most private lives.)

            All I ever did to that apartment was hang fifty yards of yellow theatrical silk across the bedroom windows, because I had some idea that the gold light would make me feel better, but I did not bother to weight the curtains correctly and all that summer the long panels of transparent golden silk would blow out  the windows and get tangled and drenched in afternoon thunderstorms. That was the year, my twenty-eight, when I was discovering that not all of the promises would be kept, that some things are in fact irrevocable and that it had counted after all, every evasion and ever procrastination, every word, all of it.

            That is what it was all about, wasn’t it? Promises? Now when New York comes back to me it comes in hallucinatory flashes, so clinically detailed that I sometimes wish that memory would effect the distortion with which it is commonly credited. For a lot of the time I was in New York I used a perfume called Fleurs de Rocaille, and then L’Air du Temps, and now the slightest trace of either can short-circuit my connections for the rest of the day. Nor can I smell Henri Bendel jasmine soap without falling back into the past, or the particular mixture of spices used for boiling crabs. There were barrels of crab boil in a Czech place in the Eighties where I once shopped. Smells, of course, are notorious memory stimuli, but there are other things which affect me the same way. Blue-and-white striped sheets. Vermouth cassis. Some faded nightgowns which were new in 1959 or 1960, and some chiffon scarves I bought about the same time.

            I suppose that a lot of us who have been very young in New York have the same scenes in our home screens. I remember sitting in a lot of apartments with a slight headache about five o’clock in the morning. I had a friend who could not sleep, and he knew a few other people who had the same trouble, and we would watch the sky lighten and have a last drink with no ice and then go home in the early morning, when the streets were clean and wet (had it rained in the night? we never knew) and the few cruising taxis still had their headlights on and the only color was the red and green of traffic signals. The White Rose bars opened very early in the morning; I recall waiting in one of them to watch an astronaut go into space, waiting so long that at the moment it actually happened I had my eyes not on the television screen but on a cockroach on the tile floor. I liked the bleak branches above Washington Square at dawn, and the monochromatic flatness of Second Avenue, the fire escapes and the grilled storefronts peculiar and empty in their perspective.

            It is relatively hard to fight at six-thirty or seven in the morning, without any sleep, which was perhaps one reason why we stayed up all night, and it seemed to me a pleasant time of day. The windows were shuttered in that apartment in the Nineties and I could sleep for a few hours and then go to work. I could work the on two or three hours’ sleep and a container of coffee from Chock Full O’ Nuts. I liked going to work, liked the soothing and satisfactory rhythm of getting out a magazine, liked the orderly progression of four-color closings and two-color closings and black-and-white closings and then The Product, no abstraction but something which looked effortlessly glossy and could be picked up on a newsstand and weighed in the hand. I liked all the minutiae of proofs and layouts, liked working late on the nights the magazines went to press, sitting and reading Variety and waiting for the copy desk to call. From my office, I could look across town to the weather signal on the Mutual of New York Building and the lights that alternately spelled TIME and LIFE above Rockeffeler Plaza; that pleased me obscurely, and so did walking uptown in the mauve eight o’clocks of early summer evenings and looking at things, Lowestoft tureens in Fifty-seventh Street windows, people in evening clothes trying to get taxis, the trees just coming into full leaf, the lambent air, all the sweet promises of money and summer.

            Some years passed, but I still did not lose that sense of wonder about New York. I began to cherish the loneliness of it, the sense that at any given time no one need know where I was or what I was doing. I liked walking, from the East River over to the Hudson and back on brisk days, down around the Village on warm days. A friend would leave me the key to her apartment in the West Village when she was out of town, and sometimes I would just move down there, because by that time the telephone was beginning to bother me (the canker, you see, was already in the rose) and not many people had that number. I remember one day when someone who did have the West Village number came to pick me up for lunch there, and we both had hangovers, and I cut my finger opening him a beer and burst into tears, and we walked to a Spanish restaurant and drank bloody Marys and gazpacho until we felt better. I was not then guilt-ridden about spending afternoons that way, because I still had all the afternoons in the world.

            And even that late in the game I still liked going to parties, all parties, bad parties, Saturday-afternoon parties given by recently married couples who lived in Stuyvesant Town, West Side parties given by unpublished or failed writers who served cheap red wine and talked about going to Guatalajara, Village parties where all the guests worked for advertising agencies and voted for Reform Democrats, press parties at Sardi’s, the worst kind of parties. You will have perceived by now that I was not one to profit by the experience of others, that it was a very long time indeed before I stopped believing in new faces and began to understand the lesson in that story, which was that it is distinctly possible to stay too long at the Fair.

            I could not tell you when I began to understand that. All I know is that it was very bad when I was twenty-eight. Everything that was said to me I seemed to have heard before, and I could no longer listen. I could no longer sit in little bars near Grand Central and listen to someone complaining of his wife’s inability to cope with the help while he missed another train to Connecticut. I no longer had any interest in hearing about the advances other people had received from their publishers, about plays which were having second-act trouble in Philadelphia, or about people I would like very much if only I would come out and meet them. I had already met them, always. There were certain parts of the city which I had to avoid. I could not bear upper Madison Avenue on weekday mornings (this was a particularly inconvenient aversion, since I then lived just fifty or sixty feet east of Madison), because I would see women walking Yorkshire terriers and shopping at Gristede’s, and some Veblenesque gorge would rise in my throat. I could not go to Times Square in the afternoon, or to the New York Public Library for any reason whatsoever. One day I could not go into a Schrafft’s; the next it would be the Bonwit Teller.

            I hurt the people I cared about, and insulted those I did not. I cut myself off from the one person who was closer to me than any other. I cried until I was not even aware when I was crying and when I was not, I cried in elevators and in taxis and in Chinese laundries, and when I went to the doctor, he said only that I seemed to be depressed, and that I should see a “specialist.” He wrote down a psychiatrist’s name and address for me, but I did not go.

            Instead I got married, which as it turned out was a very good thing to do but badly timed, since I still could not walk on upper Madison Avenue in the mornings and still could not talk to people and still cried in Chinese laundries. I had never before understood what “despair” meant, and I am not sure that I understand now, but I understood that year. Of course I could not work. I could not even get dinner with any degree of certainty, and I would sit in the apartment on Seventy-fifth Street paralyzed until my husband would call from his office and say gently that I did not have to get dinner, that I could meet him at Michael’s Pub or at Toots Shor’s or at Sardi’s East. And then one morning in April (we had been married in January) he called and told me that he wanted to get out of New York for a while, that he would take a six-month leave of absence, that we would go somewhere.

            It was three years ago he told me that, and we have lived in Los Angeles since. Many of the people we knew in New York think this a curious aberration, and in fact tell us so. There is no possible, no adequate answer to that, and so we give certain stock answers, the answers everyone gives. I talk about how difficult it would be for us to “afford” to live in New York right now, about how much “space” we need, All I mean is that I was very young in New York, and that at some point the golden rhythm was broken, and I am not that young anymore. The last time I was in New York was in a cold January, and everyone was ill and tired. Many of the people I used to know there had moved to Dallas or had gone on Antabuse or had bought a farm in New Hampshire. We stayed ten days, and then we took an afternoon flight back to Los Angeles, and on the way home from the airport that night I could see the moon on the Pacific and smell jasmine all around and we both knew that there was no longer any point in keeping the apartment we still kept in New York. There were years when I called Los Angeles “the Coast,” but they seem a long time ago.

Monday, December 9, 2013

Museums, The Perfect Date

Band of Outsiders, film still, Jean-Luc Godard, 1964
As I mentioned a few weeks ago there are a lot of amazing shows on view at the many museums in NYC.  I of course have been inundated with the act of living and haven’t been able to see any of them yet.  Embarrassing, yes, but I will make amends and plan to see all the below plus other shows about town in the coming weeks. 

December is a strange month, it is full of finishing things but things feel slowed down.  It’s a month for reflection, of summing up a year and to re-evaluate the big and little things.  As the New Year gets closer I can’t help but feel sentimental when it comes to friends and family.  In the end we live then die and all that life is, is a series of people and how you share your life with them.  Cheesy, yes, but hey, honesty is cheesy sometimes.

Below is a list of some shows that are must-sees and some suggestions on who to go with and other accessories to make it a perfect art day. 

Balthus at the Met

Go With: An old friend.  This show is a bit odd in subject matter, lots of pubescent girls and cats.  It may be a wee bit awkward to go with a parent.  It’s like watching movies that have sex scenes with them in the same room.  We are all adults but yes, cringe.  Going with an old friend to the Met is always the best because whether it is a long visit or a short one the Met always has a way of feeling exhaustive. 

Wear: Earth tones.  Possibly a beret or soft hat of some sort.  Comfortable shoes that don’t make loud sounds when you walk.  Wool, velvet, corduroy.

Eat: Eat after, never before, you don’t want to feel sluggish here.  Go to a café, someplace with omelets on the menu.  Mimosas, mussels, basically anything that starts with an M. 

Afterwards:  Walk around Central Park.  It’s strange how rarely one goes there if you don’t happen to be around the block from it.  Go see a movie.  New, old, it doesn’t matter.  It’s a nice way to sit and have a different sort of visual stimulation. 

Isa Genzken at MoMA

Go With:  A gal pal (or a boy if you are a boy).  This show is fresh and it is something you will want to talk about during and after.  Going with a friend that is the same gender will enduce perhaps a different sort of conversation as Genzken is ripe for debate on sex, politics and all else taboo (‘feminism’ might even be said!). 

Wear: Something cool, something comfy.  If you don’t know what that may be then I’m sorry, I can’t help you.  Lipstick.  Not a heavy coat.  Small bag.  Bag checking at MoMA is sooo annoying. 

Eat:  Bloody Marys.  Meat, French fries, anything Americana.  Cake.  Sushi. 

Afterwards: Go to a bar, talk and drink till you can’t do either anymore. 
Chris Burden at New Museum

Go With:  An art friend.  Burden has such a diverse practice and has created many contemporary art historical flash points.  Going with someone who knows this and can talk about it is key to fully appreciating this show.

Wear: Head to toe denim.  Seems weird but seems fitting somehow.

Eat:  Ramen.  Korean Food.  Anything steamy and spicy.

Afterwards:  Watch cartoons.  Drink two bottles of wine.  Walk across the Williamsburg Bridge.
Mike Kelly at MoMA PS1

Go With: Someone you just started to date/want to date.  Mike Kelley is hawt and cool.  Go with someone who you want to make think you are hawt and cool.  PS1 is free which also makes that whole who pays things easy to deal with.  It is also a place that is not overwhelming so it gives you enough time but it’s not an epic day.  Also, Mike Kelley’s work just oozes sex so that will be a nice subliminal to send out. 

Wear: Black.  Leather anything/everything.  Basically look super f-able but also like you just rolled out of bed looking that way. 

Eat:  I know PS1 has that restaurant people love to love but that’s not my thing at all.  Plus that would be weird to do on a date-date (hopefully date).  Instead go to a restaurant in LIC (Long Island City).  LIC is weird, you think it is a wasteland but there are actually some hidden gems there.  I like a Mexican restaurant there.  I forget what it is called but there is a dog in its logo.  It’s really good. 

Afterwards:  Hopefully make out.  If that doesn’t pan out then go to a bar and then hopefully after that you will make out.  Good luck. 

Christopher Wool at the Guggenheim

Go With:  A relative or friend visiting town.  Not hugely into Wool but this will be a nice show to see with someone who is in NYC for a wee bit.  Everyone from out of town likes going to the Gugg.  Plus, there is a Robert Motherwell exhibit on as well and I do like me some Motherwell.

Wear: All white.  Sneakers.  Something furry.

Eat:  With the Guggenheim you can eat before if you want.  Somehow that spiral makes you feel less full.  Lobster.  Indian food.  Granola.  Basically whatever.

Afterwards:  Again, go walk the park a bit.  Get fancy drinks at a fancy hotel bar.  This is a lot funner then one expects.  Watch football. 

Rene Magritte at MoMA

Go With: Parents.  If you have parents like most people’s parents and they are not arty this is the show to see with them.  They will like and appreciate it and you will also like it because it’s Magritte, who is basically the most likable artist out there. 

Wear: Turtleneck.  Blue jeans.  Loafers.  Beige.  Red. 

Eat:  Go somewhere with an art deco interior.  Oysters.  Red wine.  Whole Fish.

Afterwards:  Take a long bath. 

Monday, December 2, 2013

Dealer Fever – David Zwirner etc.

Bill Clinton, Ben Stiller, David Zwirner 

For those of you living under a rock (or in the real world), and you haven’t read the profile of David Zwirner in the current issue of The New Yorker go and do so now, or as soon as you can spare a few moments, or whenever really.  The profile is called Dealer’s Hand and it is written by Nick Paumgarten, a young, sharp-witted writer who has a wide swath of journalistic curiosities such as culture, sports, art, economics and anything else that any fine cosmopolitan may want insight on.  His lengthy, though briskly readable, piece on David Zwirner and the inner world of an art dealer, has art people in a froth, or at least me, and I consider myself very unfrothable so I can only imagine what it is doing to the rest of this petite bourgeoisie called the art world.
What makes this such a captivating read is that it gets to the thick of things and with the clarity of an outsider.  Paumgarten is not from this world and he writes that way and wants to be seen as such.  There is a reason why Peter Schjeldahl, the art critic emeritus at The New Yorker didn’t write this expose.  One, it’s not Schjeldahl’s style, it’s a form of journalism that just isn’t his deck of cards.  It would be like asking a cat to sing.  Possible, maybe, but not pleasant for anyone to witness or attempt.  Anyways, Paumgarten talks about Zwirner and the art world that is his empire in making in the same way any good journalist would on any subject chosen.  There are facts given, backgrounds placed and quotable insiders to back things up throughout.  What had me enthralled was how right Paumgarten got it, it being the art world and it’s apparatuses and recent histories.  Facts reveal, even in the most secretive of industries, and it is refreshing to see this possible.
The profile is about David Zwirner, who he is, how he got there and what he is doing to make himself so damn successful.  He is not the king, aka Gagosian, but there is something more cunning and subtle to him that makes him seem like old money while Gagosian is the gawdy nouveau riche.  The way that Zwirner comes off is carefully relayed with consideration but there is also stark reveals here and there from the words quoted out of Zwirner’s own mouth and others.  But it must be said, this is more then just a profile of David Zwirner, it also peels away some of workings of how things are on top and what is involved in staying there and rising. 
Things such as the importance of secondary market sales, auctions, the HR, PR of sales and how things are priced and sold, the meaning of a building, the meaning of an artist gained or lost are all divulged, even if only in discreet bites. 
Those that are in the art world know most of what is written in this piece.  This strata, that Zwirner exists in is only participated, in real degree, by a handful of top galleries but the emulation and the stratagems used there are being replicated down the gallery food chain.  This is a new type of art world.  It is a professional, market strategy driven world and it is wildly successful and becoming painfully formulaic.  This is not only Zwirner’s doing or fault.  In a way, after reading this you have to admire his ‘professionalization’ of this bananas art market.  He is attempting to make chaos reigned, bottled and corked for sophisticated consumption.  Everyone likes fancy, reserved, rare or at least the illusion of it.  Even with the knowing though it is another thing entirely to read/feel the avalanching snowball about to hit your face that is the art world of the now and future. 
There are a few dissenting voices, as any journalistic piece of this sort has to inject, but there is no hint of alternative, or a changing tide.  The saddest thing to see in print is another known truth.  “Meanwhile, many of the most established and esteemed gallerists (Marian Goodman, Barbara Gladstone, Paula Cooper) are over seventy.”  Pang in heart.  Notice they are all women besides.  Anyways, the truth is that there is a generational shift occurring and there are very few that have ability or merit to sweep up the artists left in the wake of the inevitable closings of such legends in this field.  Cringe at this thought, it’s like somehow the thing called ‘a soul’ will dissipate in the art world when this happens. 
The Zwirner profile was quite possibly the clearest paraphrase, profile, insight, what-have-you, on this bizarre, money obscene art world that we exist in.  In a corresponding audio conversation that Paumgarten has with Schjeldahl on this subject/article they talk of the art world in a big culture way and at one point they are talking about auction results and the record breaking bids of late.  They both say quickly that this money, these auctions, are not effecting the way artists are making work today.  This, I have to sort of disagree with.  I think that the auctions do affect art making today.  The game of art, the intention of art, the structure of art has definitely changed because of the impact of money.  There may not be a direct one to one but the way that money has made art an industry, a huge industry with programs, professions, and all else feeds off this potentiality.  This does effect the way an artist beings, enters, finds themselves in this world and also how they want to participate and be seen in this world. 
Another article that is related in a way but very different in tone and form is Joel Mesler’s (co-propieter of Untitled Gallery in New York) article in Gallerist, called The Art of Art Dealing.  It is a satire doing what satire does, tells the brutal truth with a twist of eye-rolling glad-handing.  It’s a post-it-note of another type of revelation to follow your epic de-Zwirnering of the art world read. 
Enjoy both.  Don’t fret, it is as bad as you think it is but isn’t that truth sometimes so surreal/insane that it seems beautiful in a way?

Monday, November 25, 2013

Tabor Robak, “Next-Gen Open Beta,” at Team Gallery, New York

Tabor Robak, 20XX, still, HD video, real time 3D, 10 minutes, dimensional variable

Being away from New York for two months is a funny thing.  You feel like you missed a lot but really you didn’t.  That’s the myth of New York, everyday it feels like there are all these must dos, but in the end you are really not missing out on anything.  This is true but there is something to be said about the amount and variety of so much art, good art, in one place.  I literally made a list of shows currently at galleries and museums as soon as I got back that I am just dying to see.   Never before has this list been so long and so full of potential visual/brain reward.  One of the top shows on this list is Tabor Robak’s Next-Gen Open Beta at Team Gallery, which I was able to see last night.  It is his debut there and it also signifies something else, a shift in what is and will be shown at top galleries in New York and elsewhere.

Robak works with computers and uses advanced programs, software and programming to make worlds and displays.  For this show, there are five discreet pieces that are essentially screens or a set of screens.  There is an overall dystopic tone to the show but each piece depicts something specific.  There is a two-channel video entitled Algos, which has you as the central player/eye, traveling on a never-ending roller coaster that zips and hurtles through abandoned cityscapes and a post-apocalyptic forest.  It is as nauseating as it is hypnotizing.  It visually stimulates the intended emotional response of this environment.  Another work is Xenix which has multiple screens placed in a way that recalls alter panel paintings.  The coloring and the prismatic detailing of imagined high tech weaponry is like a digital stain glass. 

A more abstracted work is his Free-to-Play, which is like those game apps like Bejewled.   Here, Robak has generated a set of icons and has them self playing, deleting and re-generating.  It is subtle and the shift of color and movement is like seeing an organism, or a slow moving colorful river.  It feels very alive somehow.

My favorite work was 20XX, which was alone in the back room.  It composites cityscapes and metropolis views in a strangely seamless way.  You believe it could be real even though you know that is impossible.  There are moments when there is a splash effect, as if you are seeing through a window and it is raining outside, you are moving but it all feels very calm and still. 

This might be the most impressive and surprising thing about this show and of Robak’s work.  One thinks that going to see a show with only screens and it being about the virtual, the future, technology etc. would result in visual cluster but it isn’t like that at all.  The works have this vibrant intensity but it is not harsh, nor does it feel like ‘new media.’  The word that I kept thinking about while looking at this is ‘painting.’  These feel like paintings to me.  Yes, of course there is a difference but the way that Robak treats color, form, space, and narrative cue is most definitely sourced from a same set of questions used by the traditional later.  This may be so successfully done because even with the animation or the movement, the idea and the place of the surface is key.  The way in which these works are constructed is masterful as well.  This is not so much about showing what technology can do but using technology as a tool to do what you want it to do.

I was nervous for Robak when I heard he would be showing with Team.  I was thrilled to hear it but I was nervous that maybe it was too soon.  Too soon for this form of art to be in this context.  I was foolish to ever be nervous after seeing this show and am excited to see other galleries of a certain caliber to step up to these new forms.  It is already happening, you can see it in the upcoming show announcements and in the conversations being had amongst friends.  Whether it is good, bad or ugly is still to be determined.  In the end though, as it always is, the cream rises to the top and Robak is most certainly one of the best of our generation.