Brian D.'s Profile
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Times is a bar that is technically a kunstverein. It always has one work of art hanging over the bar. I have been to Times quite a few times. I really liked a work they showed by Harm van den Dorpel, a print that looked like a modernist abstract collage from a hundred years ago but was composed of some blank digital files, semi-randomly arranged. Another piece I saw was by Simon Denny. He took the first bill that the bar earned (five euros or something) that had been pinned over the working area and moved it to the art-display place. Or did he put up a different bill, to double the original? I can't remember. Either way, it seemed like a cop-out. But in the end it doesn't really matter, because hanging artworks at the bar is less about making exhibitions than it is about fostering a community of regulars, a way of keeping artists and their friends coming back to Times. And it's too dark to get a very good look anyway.
The events that Times hosts are probably more interesting as artworks than the objects that hang over the bar. This summer there was a pole-dancing contest where performance artists competed, and a show of artworks that were painted on a model's nails. She was just chilling at the bar until you asked to see the show and then she'd put her fingers under the light. These days there are a lot of museums that are connecting performance art to parties. This keeps up with trends in "time-based" art, and it's also a way of getting people to visit the museum repeatedly and spend their money there. I don't necessarily have a problem with this, but a lot of times when I'm at a museum I'm not really in the mood to be drinking and dancing. It just feels weird! So I'm glad there is a place like Times where this connection can be made without feeling forced. I would give Times five stars but it gets really smoky inside. Sorry to be the prudish American but I just don't like super smoky bars.
There's no exhibition quite like an empty gallery.. and man is the gallery at Artists Space EMPTY. Not only is there no art in the space, they also got rid of the front desk, the little bookstore, the open office space, and even the people who work there. The plus to this is that there's easy access to the restrooms. I think they're generally available to public use if you ask but as long as the current show is up, you can just make a beeline for the john (it's the two white doors in the northeast corner), no questions asked.
Technically it wasn't totally empty--there were some machines that looked the ones that measure humidity in museums, and in one corner there was a copper tube embedded in glass, also suggestive of some kind of measuring device, measuring what I don't know. I identified one guy in the gallery as a gallery attedant because he was there when I arrived and was still there when I got out of the bathroom, and I tried to ask him some questions, but he shrugged and said he had no idea what the objects/machines were, and there were no statements or informational materials. he said "it's a show of aaron flint jamison" and I was like "yeah yeah" because I'd read that in the lobby.
Also in retrospect I wonder if the gallery had been painted a light shade of gray because something about it (other than the absence of everythign) made it seem different from other times I've been there--but probably my brain is just inventing thing from trying too hard to perceive something.
I'm giving Artists Space four stars because I've enjoyed some exhibitions there in the past and overall it's a good program. The current exhibit I don't know what to do with.
I live in a city and when I go to a suburban CVS I expect it to be vast and roomy. This one was, to be fair, in "downtown" Princeton, but it was long, narrow, and crowded-feeling. The aisles were cut in half and "stacked" in rows, so half the aisles were in the front, and the rest were behind them. So it took me a while to figure out where to go to find what I needed (pens, they were in the far back corner).
A weird thing about suburban CVS is that there are no humans at the register. There's a register counter but it's deserted. There is just one human, a greeter, and three automated self-check-out registers - this they don't have in the city because they don't trust people not to steal stuff, I guess. I'm not used to this set up and it really bothered me--the human greeter standing there to be this machine of emotion, just producing a good mood by uttering pleasantries, while the actual work of the transaction was done by the customers themselves at the terminals. I felt really bothered about what's happening with jobs and automation and when I finished paying for my pens and the greeter said "have a good day" I didn't even turn to look at him, I just turned to the exit and left. I just wanted to try pressing the wrong buttons on the emotion machine to make it feel bad.. it was mean, and I knew it was mean when I did it but I did it anyway. I'm sorry.
I come here for sushi at least once a week. One time while I was eating it in-store a middle-aged man walked up to me and asked, rather conspiratorially, like he didn't want the employees to hear: "is the sushi any good?" he siad. "be honest." I'm going to tell you what I told him: I'm not a sushi conoisseur by any means, but it tastes fine to me, I've never felt sick from eating it, and since whenever you buy one pack of sushi you get a second one ($6 or less value) free, it's a great deal.
Handsome Coffee is a good name for this place because all of the men who work at and patronize the café are exceptionally handsome. Damn.
That was my favorite thing about it. Second favorite was the bathroom, not only because it's big and clean but because it's THERE. In the week I've been in LA I've been to a few coffeehouses and I was very disturbed by their lack of restrooms for customers. Even the Starbucks that I popped into didn't have one, and I only ever pop into Starbucks for the toilet. Is it not known here that coffee makes people poop and pee? Handsome knows this, and that puts them in Los Angeles' coffee toilet avant-garde.
In other areas, though, Handsome is backwards. There is no wifi. It's 2014, people!! A coffee shop without wifi is like an outhouse without a seat.
Then there's the coffee. It's fine, but they charge $4 for a rather small mug. And there is no discount on refills! That would be justifiable if each cup was individually brewed (as is the case at most places where a cup costs $4), but at Handsome they charge four bucks for a refill dispensed from AN URN. wtf?!
Five stars for people-watching and going to the bathroom. Two stars for the rest.
I went to see the Tom Friedman show at Luhring Augustine and it had lots of fun trompe l'oeil conceptual art, which means familiar-looking things were made out of the wrong materials--like a pile of apples with bites taken out of them were all wood, and a TV camera was also made of wood. One guy tried to look through it but of course he couldn't see anything through the wood!
Tom Friedman is a real popular artist. There were a lot of people in the gallery and they were having a good time. When I walked past the gallery's office and the front desk the people who worked there were talking and laughing. That was nice to see because usually people who work at galleries look so somber that you feel bad for them. Maybe it was Tom Friedman's art that put them in a good mood!
Family Business is a new gallery. I wish I could say it looked promising. When I went in mid-April there were at least a hundred works on display in a tiny space, crammed so tightly that it was hard to look at anything. When I did manage to focus my attention on a single piece it was weak, undergrad-level work.
There are dozens of places in Chelsea to see decent art in favorable installation conditions. Don't waste your time here.
Paintings by Tatiana Berg at this gallery looked as if they were painted on a whiteboard--actually on a Japanese paper that's "basically plastic" according to the guy at the reception desk, but the end result was that the surface doesn't really soak in the paint, so the trick of painting them, I would imagine, is to get the paint to lie on the surface and dry there without just rolling of. The strokes therefore look quite forcefully and dramatically applied, yet nevertheless not that interesting, and the images that they're combined to make aren't memorable--some female figures, maybe a still life, I can't say what else. A couple of sculptural paintings were scattered across the floor--these were big buoys of raw canvas with paint applied in broad messy stripes. A pretty obvious way of stressing the strangeness of how the paint relates to the plasticky surface in the works on the wall, and it didn't make it any more compelling for me. I learned from reading the press release that this artist belongs to a "New Casualist" movement... but if you have an -ism, if you have all these blunt tricks, can you truly call yourself "casual"?
Also I really don't like the name of this gallery. When I saw it on the window I assumed it was the name of Tatiana Berg's exhibition (which is actually called "Bill Murray") and thought it was a bad name for a show. But for a gallery, even worse.
The MOCA building is squat and yellowish--totally unremarkable, but situated in the plastic RGB monstrosity that is the Pacific Design Center it manages to look stately and dignified. Entrance is free, which is nice.
The exhibition I went to paired Bob Mizer and Tom of Finland, the post-war purveyors of beefcake and phallus fantasy. The pairing was not particularly imaginative (Mizer hired Tom of Finland to illustrate the covers of his catalogs, and was actually the one who came up with the "Tom of Finland" nom de plume) nor did it tell any revelatory histories, or situate them in art history in an eye-opening way. A wall text in the Mizer gallery suggested that the way he laid out his catalogues, the grids of beefcake photos labeled with letters and numbers, was interesting in relation to the serial production of minimalist and pop art that would come after it--but if the curators really wanted to make that point, shouldn't they have included some of that art? and wasn't that art just responding to standard commercial practices, of which Mizer was just one example? In relation to modern art trends like appropriation and collage, there was a pair of Tom of Findland's "mood boards," with pictures he'd cut out of magazines and newspapers and porn rags, which were visually interesting, especially ones where he had drawn over the photographs to give the men the cartoonishly large buttocks and pecs that characterize his drawings, or the pic of three policemen where he'd drawn huge cocks coming out of their uniform flies. These details were rather small and easy to miss if you weren't paying attention so I wish the curators had done more to draw attention to these moments.
In terms of the history not of art but of erotica, you don't get the impression that either Mizer or Tom was influencing the other, they were both doing what they were doing at the same time. That, and the predominance of a handful of masculine archetypes--gladiators, sailors, cowboys, bikers, farmboys, mechanics--inscribed some fairly narrow contours for the mid-century homoerotic imagination. I had to wonder what Bob and Tom would make of mpreg, or furries, or World of Warcraft slash drawings with orcs fucking elves, or whatever else is polluting Tumblr and DeviantArt these days. You've come a long way, baby!
I should note that Mizer's imagery came off as slightly more diverse than Tom's, with some skinnier/less worked out bodies, and a couple of odd additions to the aforementioned Pantheon of Masculinity--there were a couple of guys dressed a wizards in capes, thongs, and pointy hats, waving their wands at walls of runes or holding skull-capped staves. I thought those were really funny. I also liked a sequence titled "The Doctor and The Demon"--one guy with a stethoscope was examining another guy with little horns glued to his temples. Hmm.
Overall it was a fun, light (and, arousing :3) exhibit. But there was an incident that spoiled my impression of MOCA. I was meeting a friend who was running late, and as I lingered there was a shift change for the security guards. The new one was holding a ruler. As she paced the galleries she'd tap it against the walls. FWAP-FWAP-FWAP-FWAP-FWAP. She'd bang it on the metal bars of the stairway's banister. CLANG-CLANG-CLANG-CLANG-CLANG-CLANG-CLANG. She would even (and this was what really FLOORED ME) bang it on the display cases that were holding Mizer's photos. DING-DING-DING-DING-DING. What a Racket!! I tried to just ignore her but at one point my friend shot her a Look of Death. You won't believe how she responded...
"Am I bothering you?"
Obviously there was no conceivable way to respond to this outrageous impudence.
If anyone at the Pacific Design Center is reading this, please Officially Reprimand her noisy rude ass. And confiscate the goddamn ruler
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
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