Brian D.'s Profile
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This is a special museum. The first time I came here, which was in 2006, I was really excited about a collection that combined contemporary art, folk art and applied art from different parts of the world, and painting from the first half of American history. It almost exoticizes painting and "the fine arts" by featuring paintings from when the medium was still developing in America while making the work from the southern hemispheres and Native American societies that is usually exoticized feel like the mainstream tradition of the world's art.
On a recent visit, in September, I didn't enjoy myself as much. Maybe it was because the composition of the collection was less of a surprise or a novelty, or maybe it was because some of my favorite pieces had been rotated out of the permanent display. One thing that really bothered me was a temporary exhibition of the Paley collection--a private collection assembled in the mid-twentieth century that belongs to the Museum of Modern Art in New York. MoMA is a good place for it: it includes works by Matisse, Picasso, Gauguin, Cezanne, Derain... all the big names who figure in the standard history of modern painting and sculpture. Seeing it at the DeYoung felt weird, because this is a history that the museum's permanent collection ignores. The fact that these works were assembled by a private collector, the large-format photographs of the paintings hanging in the Paleys' home, and the exhibition's title, "A Taste for Modernism," made it seem like an exhibition about interior design--an appropriate theme for the De Young, given its focus on applied art, but it seems like the wrong way to handle these masterworks. In general, I don't like exhibitions of private collections because it becomes about the collectors--not the work of the painters but the money that bought all of it. Sometimes when I'm at major museums I find myself thinking about the structure of the art market and its influence on museum displays, and I like the De Young because it engages a wider variety of art's social contexts and economies. The exhibition of a private collection of modernist masterpieces makes me concerned about the direction the museum is taking, and this is a fairly young museum so it's vulnerable to missteps.
It was hard for me to choose between three and four stars for me personally, but I wouldn't want to discourage anyone from coming for at least one visit, so I'll give it four.
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.
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 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!
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.
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.
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
This is a good space. I went during the Art Walk and they had a Quisqueya Henriquez show will collages and prints: op-art lenticular effects, shimmery pixelated screen shots, digital renders of architectural fragments, sticky Rorschach-test paintings laid on top of some of the prints. She is taking some interesting ideas that other artists have explored in greater depth and putting them together in her own way. This isn't incredibly exciting but, honestly, that's what most art is and at least Quisqueya Henriquez has a nose for what's relevant.
Tip: Don't even look at the press releases. The pretention is over-the-top. You will gag.
On my last visit to this location of Gagosian Gallery in October the best thing was the cables. They were draped across the floor in long, slender coils that got smaller and accumulated in little piles near the display equipment. Very nice. The videos they were powering, not so much. They were by Douglas Gordon and were shot in the Scottish highlands: views of a lone grand piano in the hills, set on fire and burning. A wannabe-lyrical platitudinous parable about nature and culture.
This is a good gallery, for Miami. The front room had some elegant furniture pieces with glass and mirror tops resting on rounded zigzag legs. The smaller back room had a group show of works on paper and small objects that included pieces from the furniture designer as well as like-minded artists. Separating the two shows kept the works in the back from looking like props in an interior-design magazine shoot, which was a wise move.
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