Brian D.'s Profile
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apexart is the only non-profit exhibition space in New York that doesn't let visitors use the restroom. Artists Space, White Columns, Art in General, the museums--they all have places where people can relieve themselves. But not apexart! If you ask at the desk they will send you across the street to the Tribeca Grand hotel. (Does the hotel know about this, I wonder?) So their behavior in that respect is more like a commercial gallery, which tends to be very guarded about its private spaces. All over New York people's bodily needs only are recognized when those people are paying customers--"restroom for customers only," except for like, White Columns and Starbucks. Apexart is weird because there's no way to be a paying customer (they don't sell anything) but they don't want to imagine their viewers as having bodies either. If you have a digestive system, go to the Tribeca Grand!!
So that's a general commentary about the space and its attitude toward visitors, but what's funny about it is that the last show I saw here was called "Private Matters," an exhibition that purported to explore issues of privacy in contemporary life. But all of the works in it were about public space, and how information circulates in them. An installation by Stephanie Syjuco was tiled with sheets of paper featuring the names of books and essays of leftist thought and art criticism with scissored fringes of urls that you can tear off, like on the DIY ads found on bulliten boards and bus stops, so you could take them from titles of books that interested you to look them up later when you get home. (I tore off a bunch but then forgot to download the pdfs and then I think I lost them, oops.) Then there was a big installation of T-shirts with emails printed on them, all about activists trying to protest at EU buildings with slogans on T-shirts but being removed because of some EU laws about protests, and the emails had the ensuing discussions about what was allowed under free speech protections. It was boring to look at, also like the PDF url installation it had nothing to do with privacy! Isn't privacy all the things that have been kept out of public--secrets of bodies, faiths, personal problems, etc.? It's not about copyright and free speech, which are part of the public sphere. But if figures that apexart, for the reasons discussed in the first paragraph, would be totally clueless about this. The only work included that had something to do with private life was a vitrine of garbage collected by Kathleen Hanna (!!) and someone else. This junk that was discarded on the street, while it had a past connection to inner or indoor existence, had already been ejected outside, however, and anything concerning the people who had touched it was gone.
What a wonderful small museum! The name of their show of new acquisitions made me laugh--"Initial Public Offering," a nod to San Jose's status as the capital of Silicon Valley and a tech industry center, but there was nothing funny about the show itself--a remarkable group of works, each one an exciting use of materials and allowed room in the spacious first-floor galleries to have its charms felt from all sides. Two of the most memorable pieces for me were a totemic figure by Tim Hawkinson, woven from cardboard with enormous mitts and no head, its crinkly stuffed body both forbidding and inviting to touch, and a large photograph by John Chiara, who as I learned drives around in a van that he converts into a camera and does long exposures, so some of the traces of the developing process appear as blurs and imperfections on the surface, which he cuts in irregular shapes. it was a shot of the ocean, dappled and sparkling with sunlight, huge and awkward and gorgeous. I had never heard of Hawkinson or Chiara before (or many of the artists in the collection) but I will keep an eye out for their work in the future! Appreciated the chance the San Jose museum gave me to learn about them.
The upper floor galleries had an exhibit about food an art--there were some nice pieces here too, and the school group touring there made me realize that the topic was a great one for public engagement and educational opportunities. On that note, a lot of signage encourages people to post to social media about their experiences, and use the San Jose musem's branded hashtags. When I searched for them I didn't find that much activity--so it's like they were trying to hard, and social media discussions are something that happen on their own and feel weird when forced from the top, so my one suggestion would be to tone that down a bit. Otherwise, fantastic museum that any American city would be fortunate to have!
I've never been a major lover of Donald Judd's work and learning more about it on a tour of the recently opened Judd Foundation (such as, he based many of his sculptures on mathematical formulas) didn't do much to curry him favor with me. I just don't think there should be that much math in art! But nevertheless I really enjoyed touring the space and would recommend it to anyone who can get a reservation (it's by appointment only, and tours are booked far in advance). What's great about it is seeing some of the pieces in Judd's personal art collection, works by his friends who can be found in any big museum of modern art, but here they've been lived with. The art has grown into the house, which makes looking at it a very different experience than a museum. The huge geometric paintings by Frank Stella, an orderly puzzle of angles and curves, where the fruity kitchen colors of the 70s--avocado, oatmeal, lemon, peach--had faded into a lighter, odder palette, or in the bedroom, Dan Flavin's serially off-center array of fluorescent arches, whose red and blue light extended endlessly in the glass dorr on the elevator shaft and yellowed the picture windows with their shine. Curiously, the walk-in closet/dressing room had a caricature by Daumier about the 19th century art salons of Paris, not the kind of thing one would normaly associate with Judd! Also interesting to see the artist's obsession with order domestically applied to his kitchen counters, where all the forks and spoon lay out in a lengthy series.
Soak or stroke? Stroke or soak? This is the question that continuously, but pleasurably, bedeviled me as I viewed the exhibition of paintings by Matt Connors at Canada gallery. Many of them had thick stripes that looked like the trail of a broad brush drawn briefly along the surface of the canvas but on closer inspection they revealed no trace of brushhair or the direct application of a hand, instead having a wet look suggesting that the canvas had been dipped in wet paint so as to leave a stain. But in some the approximation of a brushstroke shape was so close I could almost see the ahirs tingling at the pigment's edges like hairs on an excited neck! Here and there I would see drips lefts by a splash yet they were so rich and saturated I imagined the paint falling on the canvas in slo-mo like in a commercial for absorbent paper towels. In my favorite painting of the lot the strange soak/stroke stripes--in soft shades of the primaries, red, yellow and blue--danced in a configuration that was architectural but also like a quilt, somewhere between a map's legend and patchwork. Connors' paintings more than any others I've seen lately remind me of mid-century abstraction and its jazzy play of paint on the surface, and yet it's not like the old expressionism at all because it doesn't have that aggressive approach to the plane, instead there's a tender treatment of the canvas saying that the painting isn't just a surface, it's a depth, and I felt my eyes sinking into it, drowning in love for these paintings.
I've lived in NYC for six years but I only made it to the Bronx Museum a couple weeks ago, and wow. What a great little museum! I feel guilty admitting this but I was not expecting to enjoy it so much. After visiting I really feel certain that the "neighborhood" museums (Studio Museum in Harlem, Queens Museum, and this one) are the best places to see art in New York--not as sterile or predictable as the famous ones in uptown and downtown Manhattan.
There were three exhibitions up when I visited. One was of a Brazilian artist, Paulo Bruscky, in two galleries. The first one featured works where the artist inserted himself in maps, urban space, and the postal system with his drawings, collages, and performances. I really liked one piece called "I'm Pickling Myself (1974) where he put a photo of himself in a pickle jar, as well as his experiments putting his head and body parts in a copy machine, a new office technology at the time. It all had a do-whatever, anything-goes spirit. The second gallery was more somber: about the artist's use of medical technologies to record his existence as a biological organism, shuffling through the qualities of life and archives. I liked the work in the first gallery better but the shift in tone was a smart way to highlight the range of the artist's work.
The big galleries had sculptures by Tony Fehrer, which were colorful, simple, ingenious, and delightful. He's the kind of artist who looks at the properties of ordinary things and finds beauty in them. The walls were almost bare, except for some small pieces of cardboard torn off boxes, and so viewers ended up navigating the space by encountering all sorts of assemblages on the floor or hanging from the ceiling, which animated the gallery. Tables of colored glass bottles, filled with various levels of liquid, doodads and washers arranged in a circle--there was a shamanistic aura around this dollar-store detritus. I noticed that several visitors seemed particularly enchanted by a collection of colored mop sticks laid out like a sunburst or a blooming flower.
The last gallery featured photographs taken at a beach in the Bronx. They were large-format, high-quality photojournalistic images. I personally preferred the other exhibits but this was a cool thing to have at a community museum and rounded out the experience with another kind of art-making. Everybody takes photos at the beach so in a way, like the Paulo Bruscky and Tony Fehrer, the photo exhibit is encouraging viewers to find (and make) art in everyday life and that's great.
Three-word review: L. O. L.
I don't think I've ever laughed so hard in a gallery as I did at Joel Holmberg's exhibit here. This is a good thing. The gallery just had seven monitors with video, plainer than a display aisle at BestBuy, but the content on them was something else.
One of my favorites was "Unattended Macbook Airs in Juice Store, 2013." It's just what the title says it is. Through the storefront window we see a Macbook Air, its screen black from disuse, unattended on a small round table without seating, where one would drink juice standing. The camera zooms in for a closer look--it is indeed a Macbook. A few steps further, past the door, and on the ledge is ANOTHER Macbook, similarly abandoned, black-screened. The camera pans up for a long view of the first computer, from behind, zooming in and then swinging around rapidly for another view back where it started. I think what I found so funny about this video is the voyeuristic quality of peering into windows but without any attention to people, who are usually the object of peeping. (Where are the humans anyway? Drinking juice?) Instead you have the machine eye of the camera scoping other machines. Of course there's a person (Joel Holmberg) behind the camera, but except for the part where he walks past the store door and you glimpse his shoe he's invisible, and the flourish of movement at the end swooping from one window to the next is so fast it seems inhuman. So it's funny to think that machines want to study each other when no one is around. Also, it's crazy that there are two computers just sitting there.
I could go on and on describing all seven videos in the show but I'd run out of space, so I'll just talk about the piece de resistance, which is a collection of shots of people talking on CNN and the labels that say who they are. Some examples I wrote down: "Pete Wilson: Car Hit By Boulder" "Deziray Chick: Filmed Owls" "Amy Corey: Banned from McDonalds" "Nilly Mauck: Condo Trashed" The grammar of how they are described doesn't always matched. It's like dangling modifiers. That, plus the stories people are telling, if you listen (it was kind of hard to hear in the gallery--but I was there at the opening when people were talking) are very ordinary and boring, and that gets you thinking about how CNN is trying to create and sort through so much info, how pointing the camera is one way to get people to talk about themselves, and the person back in the studios writing the descriptions is working from the other side to figure out what to do with it. And the descriptions, when seen one after the other, are just so funny. "Cathy Wunschel: Found Pearl" "Marc Rosenthal: Was Lost In Apple Orchard" Like the juice store video, and the rest of the ones in this show, the collage of CNN footage approached the way humans and technology participate in communication from a fresh and fun perspective and I loved it.
The Queens Museum recently opened an expanded space and it looks fantastic. The old galleries had an awkward shape. The panorama totally dominated everything, being so much bigger and taller than everything else, and the main galleries were just filling it out in a square. The exaggerated height and curved walls tapering into narrow corners were just completing the building, not serving the interests of displaying artwork.
But the new galleries, in a former ice rink, are spacious and rectangular and very amenable to displaying all kinds of art. The NYC watershed map and tiffany glass collection (which always seemed like somewhat odd companions for the contemporary art that the museum usually shows) are still around but separated from the other exhibits in a more coherent fashion. Now there's a permanent display of memorabilia from the World's Fair, which maybe had been in the museum before, but I had never noticed it in the old configuration. The old, oddly shaped galleries are still in use, but the way movement flows into them from the central court feels elegant and now the variety of spaces that they contribute to spices up the experience of the museum visit. On my last visit a rounded wedge-shaped gallery featured works by Cuban artists, highlighting the diversity of artistic communities on display at QMA that you don't always find at the big NYC museums. Upstairs in the education area there was a small collection of unlabeled works--a project that encourages people to look at art without consideration of names, a gesture I appreciated. There was a denim jacket with punk stuff painted all over the back that held my interest for a while, and a painting that I'm pretty sure was made by Philip Guston (not that it matters).
One of the exhibitions in the main space was the Queens International, a biennial exhibition featuring artists who live or work in Queens. There was a lot of good stuff here, and great variety. I won't go into detail about it but I remember one video piece with a hip hop soundtrack and a women shimmying around a kitchen in their underwear with hands duct-taped behind their backs that made my friend say "Art is the best!"
The real highlight for me though was the exhibition "Peter Schumann: The Shatterer," which is about the activity of the Bread and Puppet theater, which has been doing performances and participating in activist demonstrations since the 1960s. There are larger-than-life paper-mache puppets, masks, books... It's so richly textured and full material - i felt like I would walk around, take a look from another perspective, and see a whole other layer of drawings and objects that I hadn't noticed before. From nonsense words and stories to grotesque body shapes, pointed renderings of expressive gestures and wistfully dashed-off ephemeral fragments, the two big galleries are packed floor to ceiling with details that are all worth stopping and pondering. It's up through March 30, 2014, and I would urge any art lover to check it out.
All in all, the Queens Museum is great and keeps getting better. I feel proud to live in its borough.
I like this bar but I could never give it five stars as it's too damn narrow. I like some elbow room and at Beverly's once the crowd at the bar is one man deep it's hard to walk from one end of the bar to the other without being like "scuse me" "pardon me" and shoving your way past everybody. So it's a nice place to meet up with friends on a week night but I would steer clear on weekends, unless I manage to park myself at one of the lounging areas in the front or back (probably the back, since that's where the bathroom is and I will have to go there at some point anyway). But otherwise I like the design of the place. It's newly built but it's not slick or pretentious, yet at the same time it's not divey either--the furniture is in pretty good shape and it's clean. It strikes a nice balance, like an art gallery with concrete floors and some utilities showing but still neat enough for showing art. I make this analogy on purpose because Beverly's does display some art works. Up front there's a relief panel in styrofoam, backlit with blue and rose LCD bulbs. I'd seen the piece elsewhere and thought it had this effect of otherworldly alien menace yet in the bar context it evoked a timeless downtown neon coolness, with a strange twist--and I liked it more than I had before. The rear lounge area in the back has a giant backwards 2, hewn from wood, under a little canopy of icicle lights. The je ne sais quoi of art pieces like these makes Beverly's feel like a place where you should always be poised for an interesting, open-ended conversation.
I went to the Raqib Shaw show.
This is... some of THE tackiest shit I have ever seen in Chelsea.
Where to begin?
How about the butts. There is a fake cherry-blossom crawling with nude guys, well not exactly nude--their packages are tastefully (not) covered by these little brown thongs that frame their butts. And they all have animal faces, with maws open in squawks or yowlings.
The weird thing about this is that it is obviously going to sell for a lot of money and it took a lot of work by a whole studio of people, and some fabricators, and yet it's not even that good. It's not polished and doesn't wow me with craftsmanship. It reminds me of a diorama of cavemen I saw at a museum of natural history in Azerbaijan (not lying), with a bunch of blotchy pink half-naked guys chasing after some mammals. At Pace, as in Azerbaijan, the figures' skin is a crayola-peach hue, their butts have a grim dull glow. Is this supposed to be sexy?
In another room a mural covers a whole wall. Same garbage as in the other room but now it's flat and bedazzled--another sex-battle of bird head men. Again, this totemic animal imagery is probably supposed to come off as referential to myth and a cosmos of ancient archetypes. And yet, it just ends up being gross. The city walls that make the backdrop for the inaction sparkle with rhinestone and a palette straight out of a Thomas Kinkade store, or maybe a Hot Topic. Either way it belongs in a mall. Boo
Light Industry calls itself a venue for "film and electronic art" which is something of a misnomer. To my knowledge there hasn't been any of the latter since 2009, maybe early 2010. When it first opened six or seven years ago they would show new work by young artists working with electronics but at some point they decided that 16mm film is the bee's knees and since then every event at Light Industry is some kind of structural or conceptual reel from the 60s or 70s. I made an effort to get into it but honestly, pretty much everything they show is really boring to me, or just plain bad. There are people who love bad old art films though, and if you're one of them Light Industry is great for you.
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