Monday, September 30, 2013

Bas Jan Ader, Death is Elsewhere by Alexander Dumbadze, 2013, The University of Chicago Press

There are very few books written about Bas Jan Ader, the Dutch artist who is considered to have died while attempting to sail across the Atlantic for his piece, In Search of the Miraculous in 1975.  Alexander Dumbadze has lit another torch to Ader’s life and art with his book, Bas Jan Ader, Death is Elsewhere.  There is awkwardness to the book at times especially at the start but by the end, Dumbadze presents detail and context to Ader’s work that enlightens, if not completely reveals.  This will always be the situation faced by anyone who writes of Ader. Ader was a different type of artist, even in his time.  There is not an abundance of work or archived evidence of those works or the thought processes behind those works.  There are little trails left that Dumbadze zooms into and wets in order to expand context. 

Through this investigation of these crumbs, Dumbadze gives setting to Ader’s work.  His peers and friends and those that were making work at the time that may have influenced him.  Learning about Allen Ruppersberg and his Al’s Café and Al’s Grand Hotel was a sheer delight. And having Ader contextualized with the work of Chris Burden and Jack Goldstein shifted the ways in seeing the works of all these artists.  The book is about Ader but it is also heavily an art historical reflection, which at times may seem a grasp, but overall creates a foundation, albeit perhaps by Dumdabze’s design. 

There is a lot to be learned about Ader in this book.  There are no equivocations and that seems the necessary thing to do.  The idea of an artist living life, the idea of retreat, of privacy, of solitude, of reacting to the idea that “everything could be art”, of representation, and of disappearing are all tapped at and feel somehow new and specific when through the lens of Ader’s works and life. 

This book is a labor of love.  You can feel that when you read it.  I only wish that there was more.  I am not sure how much more there is, but somehow this book seems like a codex for something bigger to come.  This want of more had me reading through all the notes, something done for an instance of two usually but for this book it was a captive page-turner. 

If you like Bas Jan Ader’s work, you always will.  His work sticks to you and becomes a part of you in a way few artists do.  If you do not know about his work or his story then read this.  It will dip you into this puzzle and magnet that is art. 

* also recommended reading on Ader: Bas Jan Ader : In Search of the Miraculous by Jan Verwoert, Afterall 2006

Monday, September 23, 2013

Food 1972 at Sunview Luncheonette

Last night I went to the best thing ever.  It was at Sunview Luncheonette and it consisted of four readings, food and a conviviality that made me say aloud at numerous points, “this is why I love art.”  What made this so special was the venue and the structure of the participants.  Sunview Luncheonette is in Greenpoint Brooklyn on a corner facing McGolrick Park.  It used to be just that, a luncheonette and was operating as such for about fifty years until 2008.  Since February of this year, it has been used as a social club by artists, writers and like-minded people.  There are about thirty members to date and it currently costs $50 a month per member.  This fee includes three dinners per week (cooking done by rotating members), access to a risograph to print books on site and the ability to use the space for various events, parties and general gatherings.  The luncheonette is freeze framed in the state it was left with all of its the charm and slight deterioration.  What makes it even more charming, if that is even possible, is that the former proprietor, B (Demetria) lives in the building still.  She is 84, if I recall correctly when speaking with her, and she just melted my heart with her sharpness and hospitality. 

The evening last night was organized by Kendra Sullivan and it was focused around FOOD, the restaurant co-founded in 1971 by Gordon Matta-Clark and Carol Goodden.   There was a projection playing the film FOOD 1972 (by Robert Frank, Suzanne Harris, Gordon Matta-Clark), above of the long counter.  As well, Human Events an audio recording read by Ted Greenwald and Gordon Matta-Clark also added ambient context.

In the open kitchen, members of Sunview Luncheonette served an array of delicious foods, many items from the original FOOD menu.  It was buffet self serve and there was a bucket that you could give what you wanted as payment for what you ate.  

The readings were also selected to reflect the theme.  The readers were Kandra Sullivan (Time Well), Ramya Tegegne (Version #9 Kristin Lucas/VVORK), Zachary German (excerpts from Eat When You Feel Sad and a new work) and Quentin Lannes (In-Achievement). All the readers did a fantastic job and Lannes’ reading was outstandingly good and a totally new type of experience. 

After the readings everyone mingled and talked and new friends were made and the wonderful feelings of this event carried on into an impromptu extended gathering that lasted until 3:30am. 

Things such as Sunview Luncheonette are so rare these days.  There is absolutely no pretense.  There is only a shared desire to gather and to think of and to talk of art and to interact with people in a very intimate way.

Below is a menu from the original FOOD that was printed out and also made available as a poster for sale as a means to have a memento of an evening and to support the continuation of Sunview Luncheonette and for B.


Duck Gumbo – 2.00
Boiled Crabs – 25 ea.
Cold Borscht – 85 cents
Miso Soup – 65 cents
Fresh Chicken Salad – 1.25
Roast Beef – 1.45
Peanut Butter & Honey – 50 cents
Ham & Swiss – 1.35
Extra Bread 15 cents per slice
Yogurt, fruit, nuts – 84 cents
Marinated Chic Peas – 50 cents
Marinated Bean Salad – 75 cents
Garden Salad – 75 cents
Collage cheese w/ Apricots & Nuts – 60 cents
Carrot juice – 45 or 85 cents
Milk – 30 cents
Coffee or Tea – 20 cents
Cider or OJ – 25 or 45 cents
Lemon Bread – 35 cents
Bavarian Cream – 50 cents
Syrian Coffee Cake – 45 cents

Monday, September 16, 2013

Hate List

Sometimes you just have a lot of hate in you.  Negative energy is not good.  Not good at all.  It makes you age faster and repels people and life force in general.  Sometimes though, one can’t help but just feel like things are b.a.d.  Is mercury in retrograde (?) cause I have been feeling a lot of ugggggg about a lot of things these past few days.  One of the best things one can do to relieve, purge, expel, the hate ball that is wading up one’s inner feng shui is to get it all out.  Below is my attempt to cleanse the inner me so that I can stop being a hater and again be a mildly skeptical lover of life.   Sorry to do this to you my lovely readers, I don’t mean to pass on the negative juju.  I hope maybe this will also lessen your hate load.

Smoking – Real, electronic, gross, gross, gross. (why can’t I stoppppp?!)

Anime girls – The idea that youth, like puberty age, is somehow sexy.

Stripper clothing – If I have to see one more mesh or strap outfit I might just…

Texting – I do it, we all do it. 

Sugar – It tastes so good but it makes you feel like sludge after. 

Social Drinking – Need to do it to get through life but seems…

Openings – Room full of people, chitchat, sharing each other’s breath air.

Bagels – Sometimes too much of something is just too much of something.

Fashion Week – Do you think I care?!

Websites – They all look the same. Why?

Bro Artists – Yeah yeah yeah.

Rhetorical Discourse – Blah blah blah. 

Events – Please. No more.

Things at Hotels – Cheesy.

Apps – If boring after a week I delete you.

Sriracha – It’s not even that good people.

Insomnia – You aren’t thinking, you are just tired and mad at yourself the whole time.

Bad Book Fonts – Clever never wins.

Bodega Flowers – They Die-e-i-i in like 2 days.

“Net Art” – Seriously?

Youth Obsession – Why does it seem like every guy over 27 wants to be a 13-year-old girl?

“Alt Lit” – A group of unstylish people saying how sad they feel.

Babies with crazy names – My pick is “Lolz”

Girl Bros – Come On!

Football as Lifestyle – Football is great. Stop acting like you have no life though.

Foodie – The more you talk about food the boring-er your life probably is.

Casual Sex – Tried it, it’s pretty boring.

Online Dating Platforms – I would rather die alone (which is probably going to happen).

Scene Queens – One day you will wake up and be 50.

Trying Hard to be a Freak – Coolness should always be easy. 

Cultural Arbiters – We need them but currently most are self-feeding redundancies.

Money – Always need more of it.

The Internet – Sometimes a giver of life, sometimes a ball and chain.

Waking Up – My inner clock starts at 4pm.

Being Cool – I’m too honest to ever be cool.  Sucks to be me.

The Art Industrial Complex – Beg to be in it, takes one’s soul. 

Monday, September 9, 2013

Openings - Josh Kline (47 Canal) Korakrit Arunanondchi, Greg Parma-Smith, Ben Wolf Noam (Suzanne Geiss) Matthew Higgs, James Hoff, Margaret Lee, Georgia Sagri (Team) David Adamo, James Castle (Peter Freeman) Jeanette Mundt (Clifton Benevento) 3D Notion (Bruce High Quality Foundation)

Josh Kline at 47 Canal

Josh Kline’s, QUALITY OF LIFE, is a must see if you want to know what the new trajectories in video and 3D printing are and also if you have an interest in the body and reflecting on youth.  There are two videos, one of Kurt Cobain the other of Whitney Houston and they are being interviewed as if they are alive today.  It is well done and there is a strange mash-up, mix-up, glitchy delay of composite rendering of said dead celebrities.  These hover heads are over real life people that are body vessels for this act of suspended disbelief.  These videos are very interesting to watch and the content of what is being said is just as interesting as the visuals, perhaps more so.  In addition there is a brand illumination that spills red and blue pills over a “Forever 21” logo and to get even more pill like there are also IV drip bags filled with such health preserving things like spirulina and Emergen-C.  There are sculptures as well.  I have always found Kline’s molded heads and the plinths they reside on to be a bit lacking in something but it is a thing he seems to enjoy doing and one can understand their place within this larger show.  Overall, this show is very tight, very actualized and worth a viewing or two. QUALITY OF LIFE gets to the point of the first line of its press release, “Youth is the ultimate commodity in a society of dying people.”  Macabre in an embracive sort of way.

Korakrit Arunanondchi, Greg Parma-Smith, Ben Wolf Noam at The Suzanne Geiss Company

Digital Expression is the title of this show.  It presents just this but there is a slight curve here as the works are very much about texture, nay fabric.  This results in an exhibit that is not just another iteration of ‘things that have been happening for a while now.’ Arunanondchi is like so very hip right now, I don’t really get it, but I can understand why people do(?)  I have to admit the Parma-Smith works sort of recessed back while being installed with these other two artists.  Not his fault.  Wolf Noam, organized the show and he did a good job in his contribution of works.  They are very large columns that fill the space and are as impressive as they are interesting as object and as surface.  This show feels a bit like a favor somehow though… But hey, isn’t that how this whole art thing works now a days?

Matthew Higgs, James Hoff, Margaret Lee, Georgia Sagri at Team Gallery

Miriam Katzeff organized this group show entitled, Parasitic Dreams which, “…explores the ways in which textual elements can be used to prop up, destabilize and misdirect meaning in the realm of visual art.  Katzeff knows what she is doing and the works in the show are well selected and placed.  James Hoff’s towers of floppy disks were very fun to see.  Columns, even mini ones, are so in and make one think, “body!” so quickly.  The pairing of Higgs and Lee, as they are wanton to do often, was very tight and well done but had a removed feeling in a way with the rest of the show. Parasitic Dreams takes a lot of what is current; technology, words, still life as joke, and presents them in a chin rubbing way.  I must note that Higgs is really showing himself to be a true blue artist.  Some of the things that I reacted to the most were by him, to my genuine surprise.

David Adamo, James Castle at Peter Freeman Inc.

Okay, so this show is like the best thing I saw all week.  Adamo selected works by James Castle, a self taught artist (deceased) who was a rural farmer, and also has new works by himself on view at this surprising but captive space.  Adamo’s selection of Castle’s works are refreshing, even for one who adores and has sought to view as many Castle works in real life as possible.  There is a suite of small figures that runs the length of the gallery’s main space, a selection of sticks/pencils, a series of letter drawings, vases downstairs and more by Castle.  Most are drawings and all of them are so alive with charm and visual freshness it makes the heart ache a bit.  Adamo went all out as well.  There are his well-known columns of wood chopped to almost fall down sticks.  These are made interesting by his lovely white tile flooring made out of chalk sticks.  Adamo links himself with Castle in direct ways, like a collection of erasers which fooled me into thinking they were Castle’s at first, but also makes clear he is contemporary like his bronze M&Ms. This show’s success does not lie only in that fact that I like both artist’s works respectively, this helps, but because the combination of what is shown and how it is shown makes both of their works stronger in their shared binds. 

Jeanette Mundt at Clifton Benevento

I like Clifton Benevento programming a lot and not only that, they are very classy yet highly professional.  Rare these days.  Sadly, the current show with Jeanette Mundt, I know I am when you make me, is a bit of a safety.  There are landscape like paintings, a love of diptyches, mini walls with posters and other elements that make you think “prop” but there is something lacking.  Maybe I just don’t get it.  Probably, but yeah, this was a bit surprising to see in it’s feeling of quickness. 

3D Notion at Bruce High Quality Foundation

A show with a lot of artists that use 3D technologies to make work, mostly sculpturally actualized.  Wow.  This show.  Wow.  Really bad.  Like gamer flea market meets very bad street art.  So many artists on this list are very very very good artists.  How this failed is beyond me.  Ah well.   Live and learn?

Monday, September 2, 2013

Goodbye Summer

Duhn-dun-dunnn… summer is over everyone.  Well, sorta, we still have some weeks/days where summer-like activities can be enjoyed but September is the start of the art cycle. This past summer was jammed packed with art things, so how could it be more insane!? Well, brace yourselves for the fall madness that is about to ensue.  It’s good in a way, it helps you fade into the coldness and dark days that will be winter in New York and going to openings, events, parties, and other things of that sort are usually the only thing that get you out of the sheets.  I will be away for some of this, the peaked insanity of getting back into gear, but I will roil in these upcoming weeks of September with eyes rolling, a nonplussed facial expression but also with a hippity hopped stepping to the plate of this never ending game of art.  I look forward to it even though I say I don’t at times.

In expectation of the future art to come, I will take today’s post to reflect on the things from this past summer.  Enjoy the calm before the storm.

Charles Burchfield – The Whitney has hung a selection of works by American artists from the first half of the twentieth century entitled, American Legends: From Calder to O’Keefe, a bit much of a title I know, but even in this staid show there is a room of Charles Burchfield paintings paired, or more like placed, with Edward Hooper paintings that are just so fantastic.  Burchfield is one of those artists that slip my mind more often then he should but every time I see him I go, “gah” inside.  He is just splendid and refreshing to see.  The sharing of space with Hopper also works well, probably the best thing about the whole show.  Burchfield is so very good and he reminds one so much of seasons. 

EXPO1: New York, MoMA PS1 – I saw this show because it had people involved in it that I know and I like to see things that people I know do.  I saw this soon after it opened and I thought perhaps my feelings for it would change.  This was a disappointment of a show overall though and that has stuck with me since seeing it.  It is so idea specific that it somehow seems limiting, or too reliant, on the seriousness/prescience/coolness of the idea that some of the actual installations, artists selected, and works selected felt a bit checked off.  Some things were good though, of course, in a big show like this, there are always good takeaways.  The work that stuck out the most was the Olafur Eliasson’s Your Waste of Time (2013), which has remnants of the glacier, Vatnajökull from Iceland in a freezing room in which you can walk around.  There were other things that I really wanted to love like Josh Kline’s ProBio contribution but sadly I have to say that things felt a bit off somehow even though singular works were good.  I especially was eager to see Ian Chang’s work (who I think is probably one of the best artists around) but sadly the day I went it was not working, which is a part of things but yeah, a bit disappointed in the whole she-bang.  EXPO1: New York does register a bigger thing though, this mix of doom-climate-future-tech-diaspora-survival-physic-shifts that seems to be a focal point for many artists.

China Chalet – I went here for more things then I ever needed to.  Will it continue to be the place things are hosted or will there be somewhere new for the fall?  Things always, always change.

Small rooms, lots of art – This summer I went to a lot of shows in basements, garages, and tiny things up flights of stairs that were stuffed with art and people.  I know I went to many more things in Brooklyn and Lower Manhattan then I did in Chelsea this summer, by more then double.  This is a thing that will keep happening.  It takes longer to get to these places since space costs much more then it did in the art world of the 70s and 80s but yes, it is a good sign that artists, art organizers and entrepreneurs will still make new things happen even if for a night, a day, or in between their work shifts. 

Book bags and baseball caps – Every girl is wearing them.  All of them.  All. Of. Them.

Dinner Parties – Hosting and going to private, intimate dinners and their likes is like a studio visit for peers and friends.  It gets you to the point of things and lets you talk deeply or vaguely about things, as you prefer, but the duration, the smallness and the directness of being able to converse and share a night, a meal with a few others is possibly my favorite thing to do.  It is different then being at a party where senses are heightened and watching and being watched is central.  It is different then going to a bar and just unraveling before each other.  It is slower, safer and in a way relieves façade.  It is about everyone wanting the other person there and that let’s people be open and relaxed which is the best way to be. 

Tall Boys – So many tall boys this summer.  I love it!

20ish year olds – Yes, there is this annoying young fetish thing that the art world is really riding on that’s dumb to me.  Not towards the young artists that may be participating but to the people/organizations that should know how obvious and mildly(very) lecherous it looks.  Anyways, youth is youth.  It will always be the best thing ever and there is a reason why it is treasured.  I think youth is great and more then that this summer I have met a lot of interesting artists, art practioners and characters in general that are 22-23-24 years old and they are like sparkles to me.  Not in a shiny object sort of way but in a, ‘wholly shit you are how young and doing what?!’ They are bringing it and they deserve to be treated as peers.  Yes, being like almost ten years older then them and being a generally maternal person anyways does make me say things like, “oh my god, you are how young?” and “oh my god, you are so adorably un-jaded” but yeah, I think most of these young ones (the good ones) will save some of the things that should be saved or perhaps to preserve the weirdness and add to the intelligence needed in the art world and its communities.  P.S. Everyone who is not 20-24, STOP ACTING LIKE IT.  It’s embarrassing.  Really.  Stop it.