Brian D.'s Profile
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I went here to see the work of Jon Rafman--an interesting exhibition about loss and obsolescence and grief, presented in connection with media and gaming and a pre-internet childhood. The most outstanding work was an installation in the back--set up like a teen guy's bedroom that had been abandoned, blown out into a ruin, everything covered with a thick coating of gray dust that made the posters on the wall unreadable, the monster and superhero figurines on the shelves indistinct. Viewers are welcome to sit on the beanbag chair or the desk chair in the installation (don't worry, you won't get dust on your pants, even though the dust looks fresh and real) and watch two videos--the monitor by the beanbag shows footage from a Street Fighter tournament, with internet comments on a running line at the bottom of the screen, and another one with a short film about the nostalgia of a former teen gaming champion that mixes animation of a Blade Runner-type world with old documentary footage of kids at arcades. Very moving, and the installation fit the two videos together nicely. I also liked the series of busts in the front gallery: heads that were misshapen, in a kind of plastic; like the gaming-related works they allude to a kind of heroism that has been obscured and distorted.
What I thought were the weakest pieces were the area around the front desk, with racks full of empty DVD cases--a rather obvious gesture toward the phenomenon of media obsolecense, and the prints made for the covers were not particularly compelling (not sure if the artist made them or if they were found)--and the row of big anime-babe pillows on the back wall of the front gallery, which seemed like a non-sequitur, lacking the elegiac grace that distinguishes other works on display. Just tacky "art fair art".
Printed matter accompanying the exhibition was a deft compromise between an expensive catalogue and a throwaway one-page press release--a free newspaper containing some stories about the closing of the City of Heroes and Everquest MMORPG gameworlds and memories about defunct malls sourced from deadmalls.com. The recollections of past fun complement the main themes of the exhibition, and the newspaper format, related to but separate from any work in the gallery, emphasizes how this is about feelings that can be evoked by media but aren't restricted in any single object--they can be attached to certain things temporarily but they're mobile. I disagreed however with the introductory essay in the newspaper (which was written by one Sandra Rafman... the artist's mom? lol) which was about "The Archival Impulse" in Jon Rafman's work. This suggests that Rafman is interested in how information is collected and stored. But while he uses searches and the frameworks of online forums and databases for his research, I think of his work as actually having an anti-archival impulse, because he doesn't end up displaying the data systems but rather stories about them, or memories about the loss of them, etc. The archive (like the mall, or the arcade machine, or the DVD) is a technology for organizing information that can become obsolete, and I think what Rafman is interested in is the feelings that outlast them.
A rubbery, tepid and overspiced chicken cutlet, a sad stripe of orange cheese half-melted on (that they apparently added another dollar to the price for), two handfuls of hot jalapenos (when I asked for hot peppers I thought I'd give the yellow banana peppers?), a mouthful of chewy white bread--everything about the chicken sandwich there I got was gross. It was supposedly a hot sandwich but there was nothing hot about it. Shouldn't that mean they throw it in the oven for two minutes to get the bread crisp? Anyway I threw it out after one bite, what a waste of $6.50. It was full of people sitting at the tables, who either know something I don't about this place or know jack about sandwich.
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!
Very fancy. Have you seen Elysium? I just watched it last week on my flight to LA so it was hard not to think of it while walking around the Getty campus--this pristine, verdant paradise of beauty and leisure perched high above the swarming world below, like the satellite nation in the movie. The nice thing about the Getty (unlike Elysium) is its openness to we plebes. It welcomes anyone who can pay $15 for parking, or take the bus.
The panoramic views of LA, from downtown to the Pacific, are spectacular, and the gardens a delight. A friend said he thought the gardens didn't have enough natural messiness for him. But I thought the sequences of contrastive geometries to the flower beds, and the spilling of certain plant species from one area to another, gave a sufficient sense of spontaneity in its perpetual struggle with harmony. Just like in the materials of the buildings of the campus--the alternation of synthetic, smooth beige cubes and the rough-hewn blocks of rock, also beige. Hmm.. now that I make this comparison I'm starting to wonder, are the gardens too overdetermined after all?
Strolling around the campus and enjoying the serenity is the highlight of a visit to the Getty. The art collections are not quite so spectacular. I did enjoy a temporary exhibit in the galleries of the Research Institute, featuring old books with maps of the world, and detailed drawings of ancient Greco-Roman structures in the Middle East, or etchings of Egyptian mummies by 18th century French explorers. The grand size of the books and the exploratory nature of their contents conveyed a sense of wonder at a planet that hadn't yet been entirely photographed and GPSed. But nothing wow'ed me that much in the galleries of the permanent collections. They are fine, but seeing as how this is a relatively young museum they just don't have the treasures of the Met or the Hermitage or what have you. However, seeing all the paintings of Italianate landscapes, the rolling hills, the rocky slopes, the villas standing in for Palestinian houses in Renaissance religious paintings and the fragments of Roman edificies dotting the landscapes of the Romantics, gave me a sense of how the Getty imagines itself with regards to the past, and even a speculative glimpse of its future... it'll make a beautiful ruin someday.
As I begin to write this I'm thinking about all the things I've seen and heard at Issue Project Room, both in their old location at the old can factory in Gowanus and their new digs in a stately bank building in downtown Brooklyn.. and the sheer diversity of the offerings here boggles the mind. I can remember a quartet of electric guitars playing incredibly loud experimental contrapuntal pieces, installations of drone-making devices, extremely rude and dirty performance art, a marathon performance of a Milton Friedman string quartet.. if it's live and edgy and and electronic and weird, Issue Project Room is a good home for it.
I went there last night for the first time in a while (I heard they had problems securing the vaulted roof of the bank, and were closed for renovations) for an evening of "internet as poetry." I wasn't in the best disposition for it.. there was a torrential downpour outside, and my feet were totally drenched, what's more because I'm about to leave the country for two weeks I stopped buying groceries a week ago and I've been trying more restaurants in my neighborhood, last night I tried a Chinese place, New Peking, that looks totally run of the mill but had great reviews on Yelp--I'm not sure what these people were thinking, my sesame chicken was totally normal, which means heavy with sweetness and stickiness and fat, not in a great way, so I felt bloated and dazed when I arrived at Issue Project Room all wet. I tried to mitigate the effect with a large can of grapefruit radler ($6) but I think that just made it worse. The first act was Bunny Rogers, who was not only reading from her poems but singing and dancing and displaying a sculpture, two pastel wicker chairs that were woven kitty-corner to each other. There were dramatic costume changes--from Disney princess get-ups to a lounge lizard white leisure suit. Plus, a live piano player on a baby grand! Certainly not your average poetry reading. The poems were good too, though I wonder if all the drama of the performance distracted from the reading part, rather than enriching it. After a brief intermission, during which I guzzled water but still felt like garbage, was Kevin Bewersdorf, who is notorious, apparently, for not using the internet for five years. But now he's back on it, and read some poems--a slammed a few, freestyle--contrasting the ideas of the web (soft) and the net (hard). "babies are perfect. babies are on the web" I noted on my phone, transcribing his words, and I still don't know what they mean, but it sounded cool. He didn't really seem to know how to read into a microphone well and a lot of his words got lost, in fact I think my favorite part was the very beginning when, un-amplified, he made a Santa Claus "ho ho ho" that boomed in the old bank's vault. Christmas in July!
Speaking of which.. the space doesn't have any ventilation or AC that I could discern which makes for some sweaty summer nights.. so i might wait til yuletide to return.
p.s. I love the multicolored stretched fabric parallelograms hung around the room.. it's just for acoustic purposes, but it looks like a cool show of monochrome paintings!
I saw an exhibition here by Jutta Koether, a painter who likes to apply fluorescent colors with an expressionistic/primitivistic brushstroke. She mixes in some strange material once in a while, too--one painting had pools of clear gelatinous liquid that looked like it had been spilled on there to harden. Also the floor of the gallery was covered wall to wall with gravel the color of dried blood or cedar chips. The contrast of the rusty rocks and the paintings' fluorescent pinks and oranges from a totally different part of the "hot" palette created the kind of visceral gross-out effect that a lot of artists are using these days to try to make painting seem like a relevant and compelling medium. Works for me! Four stars.
I don't want to sound snobby but I have to say what I feel: Espresso 77 would be a hip local coffee shop in most American cities. In New York it feels suburban to the point of being quaint. I can't think of how to say this without sounding like a snob, which is a shame because I really don't want to sound condescending. i love Espresso 77 and the atmosphere around it is what makes living in Jackson heights so great--the slow, suburban, neighborly atmosphere in the midst of a vibrant urban area.
I'm not picky about coffee but I drink it enough to know what's good, and the coffee here isn't amazing but it's fine. As other reviewers have noted, service isn't amazing either but you get what your order and that's what counts. It's popular, but whevener I want to have a seat to read or work I find one. Espresso 77 has a subscription to Artforum so usually near the beginning of the month I'll come in to leaf through the magazine and see what's up. At night they serve beer and wine, so it's a chill place to have a drink in an area with a dearth of bars (excluding the gay bars and the straight ones where you pay a few dollars to slow-dance with a senorita). There's live music, and though I've never attended I concert I often walk by (I live on the street a block up) and see a crowd enjoying it.
In keeping with the small-city coffeeshop tradition Espresso 77 has changing exhibitions of works by local artists. And to be frank a lot of them aren't that good. I remember a show in the fall of paintings where the people held umbrellas and the rain flowed around them--they were corny in their obsession with the perfect shape of the umbrellas, the unmuddy hues of skies and coats despite the rain. A simplistic fantasia on the umbrella's bouncing rim and round crown. But a more recent exhibit my Pascal Jalabert really impressed me. I'm pretty sure it was the first time I've seen an art show in a coffee shop that responded to the whole space--a total installation that took everything into account. There were landscape/architectural drawings--contour maps from a bird's-eye view of forests and cities, rendered in soft pencil colors, with red bridges in them. They were hung in the wall in a gently sloping arc, like the span of a bridge. And then there was a cardboard-and-foil red bridge spanning the coffeeshop itself, from one wall to the other reaching over the heads of patrons. Exhibitions have changed several times, but the bridge is still there.
I also like the row of exotic theatrical masks that are permanently installed above the window, and the funny art in the bathroom
This might be my favorite restaurant in the world? As other reviewers have noted, the ambience is nothing special, and like them, I am not the kind of guy who cares about that. I like robust flavors, low prices, generous portions, and--because 90% of the time I'm eating out alone--fast service. And Lali Guras has all those things in ample quantity. And they always come out when you're 3/4 done and give you a second helping!! I tend to get the veg thali--thali because it's a curry so you get a well rounded meal on one big plate, and veg because the meat ones are good but the meat chunks tend to be a little bony, so veg is just easier to wolf down, which I appreciate. But all the appetizers and soups are great too.
Modernbook shares a floor of a building downtown with several other galleries. I was walking down the corridor when I passed it and decided to poke my head in. I didn't stay long--but it was long enough to tell that this gallery was not worth a longer visit. For starters, it was very cluttered. Works by several artists were on display simultaneously, and it looked more like a showroom than a group show, with several works by each artist clustered closely. Apparently because they ran out of wall space, there was one series of four works laid out in a square grid on the floor. The lower parts of the walls were used as a lean-to storage space: wrapped up prints of all sizes were propped up and facing the wall. I'm no construction expert, but I don't think it would be so hard to put up some drywall and make a storage area SEPARATE from the display area. To top it all off, the gallery was playing bad muzak--the sort of saccharine house you hear in Europe's cheesiest cafes. If you're passing through the building and you're in the mood, you might as well pop your head in and see if anything catches your eye. But don't expect much.
I can't say anything about the food because I didn't eat here. I went for the performance art! The second floor has recently become an experimental theater/performance/cabaret space, which I'm guessing is the initiative of the "new management" mentioned in other reviews. The night I went the offering was "Two Towel Margarita: A Performance by Travis Boyer." It happened three times during the night, at 9, 10, and 11. (Between and during the performance it was just a party, with people standing around, drinking, and dancing. The music was really fun.) I thought from the title that it was going to involve serving some weird margaritas but it turned out to be body shots. What Travis Boyer did was he took his shirt off and lay back on a table, and an assistant held a plastic bag over his head, and people stood in line to take turns drinking tequila off his chest. Like I said, this was not what I was expecting and it did not sound appealing, but I came for the experience so I had to do it! When it got closer to being my turn I could get a better view of what was happening. Travis Boyer has a weird-looking torso. Not fat and not skinny but with fleshy lumps around the midsection and bony up at the shoulders, as well as an unusually deep chest cavity. As people walked up to slurp tequila out of the gully in his chest, his weird torso was jerking and writhing this way and that, as if he couldn't breathe (because of the plastic over his head) and he hated being there. It made me feel uncomfortable and a little nauseous. But it was too late to turn back. My turn. His cavity got refilled and I bent down to drink. Wow!! It was so disgusting! I don't even like tequila to begin with, and this was cheap stuff, mixed with the artist's rank sweat. When I was drinking my lips and tongue touched his clammy flesh a little bit. I was trying to avoid this but with him writhing around like he was my attempts were futile! Damn it was gross. But performance art is supposed to move you out of your comfort zone so in that sense it was definitely a success. I drank two beers after that but I couldn't wash away the flavor of sweaty tequila. And even though I brushed my teeth super-thoroughly that night I was still thinking about it in the morning. ISA left me with a horrible taste in my mouth AND a satisfyingly memorable experience. That's not something you can say about every restaurant!
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