Brian D.'s Profile
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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
The big advantage that LA museums have over New York Museums in terms of architecture is the weather, which makes it possible to have all the gorgeous outdoor spaces--the courtyards, the gardens, the promenades--featured at the Getty, the Hammer, and of course, at LACMA as well. These really improve the museum-going experience, in my opinion. (But weather alone doesn't excuse all the terrible designs of NYC museums... get it together, New York!)
So that was one thing I really liked about LACMA. Another part of it is the variety of buildings on the campus, and of the approaches to installation found inside them. I loved the 1980s feel of the Japan building, with its ponderous gold-and-black elevator and the bonsai angles of the vitrines and the pale greenish tinge of the light in it, which complemented the objects on display therein, ranging from chunky medieval vases to delicate miniatures and inked assemblages on paper from the late 20th century. Other noteworthy displays are the pre-Columbian artifacts, where the walls are undulating stacks of thin wooden slats, and short curtains bordering the tops of the walls work with the colors of the vitrines' interiors to modulate a rainbow as you pass through the galleries, and also the South Pacific galleries, where the graceful curves of the wooden totems and tools are replicated in the benches and the arcs in which the objects themselves are positioned.
So yeah. I like the separation of the buildings and the variety that goes with them, but LACMA needs a ticketing system to go with it! They give you a paper ticket which you have to show every time you enter one of the galleries on the campus, which is a hassle, and what if you lose it? I got really annoyed when I went to the fourth floor of the American building and the security guard demanded to see my ticket. Look buddy, I showed it when I entered on the plaza level!! How did he think I got in?? I don't like a museum to make me feel like I'm in a police state where I constantly have to affirm my right to be there. This could be easily solved if they just gave people stickers to wear, like at some other museums. Please look into it LACMA.
Also I'm sorry but the Broad contemporary building at LACMA is really bad. Just a stack of huge galleries showing huge installations that have nothing to do with each other. Because of the galleries' size there are lots of stairs between each level, and the gigantic elevator is incredibly slow, so I feel like I spent more time moving among floors than I did looking at the art (exaggeration, but still). And I thought about the construction site for another Broad museum downtown, where the ads named a litany of the most famous artists: Damien Hirst! Takashi Murakami! Jeff Koons! YAWN!! How many Broad Museums does a city need??!? I think LA would be fine with none.
Yelp is useful. When I'm in a new neighborhood and need a bite to eat I always open my Yelp app and search for a good local spot. I've found great places through Yelp that I'd never have found by accident--a Himalayan restaurant above a nail salon in Queens, a homey mom-and-pop café in a LA business center. But even more than the useful of Yelp I like its funny and cool. Yelp will publish anything, and people write some really weird stuff. Once I came across a Yelp page for a subway station where one girl had written "I like this station because it's right near my house." Good for you. I also like to read reviews of places like Burger King or CVS. why would anyone yelp them? No one goes to BK without already knowing what to expect. The brand managers of a big chain make sure the customer experience is consistent and predictable no matter what location you're in. That's what we expect of them--sameness. And yet for all the apparent sameness a Yelp review of Dunkin Donuts can be really fun and interesting to read. Because the reality of life is that every experience is unique. And Yelp--as a place where any brand that isn't Yelp has no power to manage the consistency of its image--reveals that truth.
I'm into art, so even though I've been using Yelp for years I didn't start my own Yelp account until I happened upon a Yelp page of a gallery while googling and it occurred to me that I too could Yelp about art. I hadn't thought it through at the time but since then I've come to realize what appealed to me is this expression of subjective experience rubbing against the sameness of the art world. The Guggenheim is like Burger King. You don't go there because it got good reviews on Yelp. You go there because you know the brand. You've been to museums before, if not the Guggnheim, and you know what it will be like. The Gugg is similar to what you get at the Whitney, and though all the galleries in Chelsea have their own name they all belong to the global brand of "contemporary art." And that brand strives for consistency as much as BK. How galleries show art is totally standardized, white walls purifying space around the art, and how they talk about art is standard too. Museum wall texts or gallery press releases have a uniform scholastic style that can be unreadable. And they don't account for all the ways art can be in the world--the way art looks in a studio or a home is very different from a museum and the way people experience it there is different too. Going to galleries you come to assume that that's the only way art can be--but its not true! I like reading art reviews on Yelp to be reminded of this and I write them for the same reason.
The weird thing about Yelp is that even though it's a platform for a diversity of voices it also obscures them by averaging them out in one rating and just publishing an unreadable number. if I'm trying to choose a satisfying restaurant I'll look at some positive reviews and some negative ones to see what vibes with my own tastes and judge based on that. But the vast majority I'll never read. So visibility of difference ends up as invisibility. It's not a person's opinion that matters but Yelp's aggregation. People have tastes, Yelp has authority. It's not enough for a business to say "People love us." It's "People love us ON YELP." Yelp's the critic. Which is interesting because the critic--of art or of food or whatever--has traditionally been a human with feelings like any other but a superior skill for articulating these feelings through rational argument. That's what public discourse of newspapers holds in esteem--reason. But Yelp as a corporate entity or software app takes the burden of reason away from us humans. It calculates value for us, leaving us with our subjective human feelings. And it needs us to have them. It's not enough for a business to say "Yelp says we are good." It's "People LOVE us on Yelp."
Maybe I'm taking this too far but I see this as a reflection of what's happening politically. The critic appeared around the same time as representative democracy and the appearance of Yelp as a critic seems to coincide with a post-democratic governance, or whatever you'd call it. "Corporations are people" now and the government serves those corporate people with the nominal default approval of the humans born on its land who don't bother to leave. There are polls for measuring how people FEEL about govt performance but no real means of DOING anything with those feelings. Measurements of public opinion have nothing to do with real power--citizenship is the same kind of visible invisibility available on Yelp. As citizens we're like users, powerless even when active or "elite," giving the corporate people license to do what they want just by continuing to live. So I see Yelp as a model for how society works now. And that's what makes Yelp interesting If a little frightening/depressing. As a tool for understanding how things are in the world, it's useful.
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!
My favorite thing in the Jonas Wood exhibition that's currently on view at Anton Kern is a gray dog at the bottom of a big painting--a schnauzer? not good with breeds here--that looked so funnily uneven and odd, not only because its head was cocked to one side, its eyes looking directly out of the painting at the viewer in that inquisitive, expectant way that dogs do--but also the way its face was painted was split in half, making its expression not just searching but also insane. Some dogs really have expressions like that! The split in the face was mainly caused by the way Wood paints--making strips of paint with ragged edges, as if he's dragging the brush downward in a very tense zig-zag, leaving these skinny tight tiretracks of paint. The dog is made of these stripes. In Wood's paintings lots of different things--animals, furniture, whatever--are made of these strips. But not everything is, so there is a variety of texture to his surfaces that I find appealing, and it nudges against the repetitive pleasure of the stripe patterns.
Jonas Wood's paintings are mostly interiors, and when they're not they are the kind of paintings you'd expect to find in a normal home--a portrait of a pretty peacock, some flowers, a portrait of a couple--and he underscores the fact that he's making "paintings of paintings" by cleverly inserting them in his interiors. So in the one with the dog at the bottom, you can see the peacock painting (which hangs separately in the same gallery) IN that painting. There's a painting of a poker tournament, the one thing in the show that might be thought of as happening in a public space, but you can tell from lettering on it that it's a painting of a TV screen, so again the perspective is domestic. And the television studio where the poker game is being played is made up of the same stripes that the dog is.
I wouldn't say Jonas Wood is a mind-blowing painter but I certainly enjoyed myself looking at his work.
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.
A lovely museum in a bucolic setting. Hessel makes a great stop on a day trip from the city, easy to combine with visits to DIA Beacon or the Storm King sculpture park if you've got a car. If not--then you can't do them all in one day, but be advised that the Hessel runs complimentary shuttles from Manhattan when they have openings. Beer, wine, soft drinks and pretzels at the opening are complimentary as well.
All in all, a great place. But couldn't give it five stars because I'm not into the new shows. One is Haim Steinbach, an artist who never really got my juices running. His work is about shelving, display, minimalist art, the museum retail, etc.--a kind of third-wave pop/appropriation art (if you just read that and you were like "so what?" you feel me). What makes this show interesting--perhaps more so than others of his that I've seen--is what he did with the Hessel's permanent collection. A cool thing about the Hessel is that it's endowed with a small collection of important works of contemporary art but rather than put them up in the standard museum display they let invited artists and curators incorporate them in their shows, using unconventional and experimental display methods, the likes of which you would never see in your run-of-the-mill museum. Steinbach put up this construction-site scaffolding in the big gallery and arranged works above and below it, so you could glimpse the pieces (both museum works, Steinbach's own stuff, design objects, knickknacks etc.) in horizontal and vertical layers, that made you think about the status of each thing as an object or artwork.
The other exhibition was Helen Marten, a young British artist. It was a smart pairing with Steinbach, though I like her work even less. It's also about objects and display, and coming up with quirky convoluted relations between things. Everything is about weight, balance, and borders, and everything is solid and in tension. There are papery woodcuts that look flimsy but hold up to the weight of loaded key rings hanging off of them, for instance. The paintings have stuff attached to the bottom of the frames, so they don't end with the canvas. It's about surfaces and repetition, too--there are cans of olive oil positioned on the floor around the galleries, and the olives and vines from the logo are repeated on the wall--yet nowhere in the show do you find the mess of the oil itself. This is also true in her videos. Digital media can be slippery, glitchy, pixelly, liquid--but when Helen Marten gets her hands on it she makes everything robust and shiny and glossy, crafting digits into beautiful perfect objects, just as hard and solid as the commodities she appropriates in her sculptures. Yawn.
Great museum though!
Franklin Evans' show here is called paintingassupermodel which could mean painting gets photographed, looked at, admired, airburshed, photoshopped, has its pores removed and so on. But painting here is still a mess: thick, complex, riddled with rough textures, covered with masking tape and confused with print. When it's photographed it's distorted, stretched into wallpaper, blown up too big so the pixels show, or the editing tools otherwise show in ways that aren't pretty. But maybe I'll never understand what Franklin Evans was thinking when he chose this title for this epic installation and that's ok, the title doesn't really matter anyway. What I liked about it was how it shook up perceptions of two-dimensional space, creating a variety of ways of looking at and relating to images on a wall, by mixing prints and collage and painting, inverting one through the other and mashing them all up. It's a fun journey through the artist's process of looking at paintings and making them, with some references to data and web pages and excel spreadsheets in the form of wallpaper that reminds you of computers and offices and networks and markets, the numerical atmosphere that art is made in and exhibitions are organized in, but not in a way that's boringly archival or demands calculating examination on the viewer's part. As I approached the desk to check out the press release a man behind it, barrel-chested in a pink oxford shirt, said "hey how's it going" in a gruff but amicable way that made me feel welcomed.
Very classy. With wooden floors, gray walls, and low lighting, it's set up more like a small private museum than the average photography gallery.
The exhibition up when I visited juxtaposed paintings and pastels by Charles Burchfield and photographs by Ralph Eugene Meatyard from the 60s and 70s. I really enjoyed the pairing--they were two idiosyncratic takes on the pastoral genre, and Burchfield's washy brushstrokes and folk-art compositions were tempered by the eerie effects of splintering and shattering in Meatyard's prints.
In the back there is a showroom, which on my visit had a selection of works by Lee Friedlander, Nan Goldin, Hiroshi Sugimoto. Fraenkel shares a floor of an office building with several other photography galleries but clearly stands far above the crowd.
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.
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