Brian D.'s Profile
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Richard Phillips had a show here with paintings of Lindsay Lohan and Sasha Grey. They were very realistically done and sexy, no pretenses to the quality. Gagosian Gallery caters to guys with tons of money and I'm sure many of them would like to own huge paintings of starlets in bikinis. Why not? But I'm just a browser myself and my tastes lie elsewhere. There were also videos of the actresses that were too long to be music videos and not enough narrative to be short films. Just the girls moving around on beaches or mountains or nice houses. At the end of the video the titles said "Lindsay Lohan [or Sasha Grey, in the Sasha Grey video]," then "Gagosian Gallery," then "Richard Phillips." Maybe I got the order wrong but it was those three, fading from one to the next. So it was like a commercial but you couldn't tell what the commercial was for. That's what made it art, if not very good art.
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.
The Guggenheim is the best museum in New York to go to on a date. If you go to the Met then your date will want to look at the Egyptian galleries whereas you want to look at Dutch painting, or whatever, and eventually you'll reach a compromise that you both secretly resent. Same at MoMA and any other museum that has a diverse array of exhibits to see. The Guggenheim is good for a date because it doesn't give you a choice. There's nowhere to go but up the ramp. Of course, there's the Tannhauser galleries on the side, but you can always stop in those on the way back down (if you really need to see Kandinsky AGAIN). This is also good for tourists. Tourists don't care about art, they just want to visit a museum and feel like they've achieved something by visiting it, and the feeling of walking to the apex of a spiral ramp is a great simulation of achievement. That's why whenever you go to the Guggenheim pretty much everyone you see is either a couple on a date or tourists.
As for looking at art the Guggenheim is not so great. Everything is on a slant, the galleries are chopped up into little rectangular alcoves, there's the dull roar of everything that happens in the atrium echoing as permanent background noise, you feel like you're on the world's longest treadmill. The only way art looks good here is if it somehow takes the shape of the museum into account and responds to it. I'm not a big fan of Maurizio Cattelan but his retrospective here, where he hung all the sculptures from the roof so that as you went up the ramp you would see themes and imagery developing in his work over time, and get several various perspectives on them, was really brilliant. Also the Tino Sehgal piece where nothing was hung in the museum and you would just talk to people of increasing age as you went to the top was a great response to the physical feeling of progress you get from walking up the ramp--makes you wonder what "progress" really is in history or in life.
That said, I've seen some more conventional exhibitions at the Guggenheim that were really well put together and I learned a ton from them--the Richard Prince retrospective in 2008 and the recent Gutai show are two stand-outs for me. Even if the space wasn't so flattering to these exhibitions I appreciated the chance to see them.
This is a very small gallery that shows smart, handsome conceptual work, which is pretty standard for the neighborhood. When I went in April there was a show with pictures of buildings and newspapers clippings and other printed text. It all looked nice but I couldn't quite figure out what was going on, nor did I feel compelled to look close enough at the words to understand it. Fortunately a guy came out of the office and told me that it was about architecture of financial and retail spaces--how banks built neo-classical facades earlier in the twentieth-century to project an image of sturdiness and reliability but are now occupying light-and-mobile looking modernist spaces, while retail companies are taking over the old and weighty vaulted buildings. Very interesting, I was glad that this got explained to me. The artist's name was Jason Simon.
According to Yelp three stars is "A-OK" so this isn't a *bad* review. In fact I will start out by saying something positive: I am so happy that the Whitney's management has decided to move! They are opening a new location near the High Line in 2015, and that will be great for them. Maybe by now you can already guess what I don't like about the Whitney... it's that the building sucks. Every time I go there I feel depressed. It's a dark, heavy place, with the vibe (and smell) of a mid-century institutional building. When I'm on the stairwell between floors I have flashbacks to junior high and it's generally unpleasant.
But despite that I can't give the Whitney a bad review because they have (and especially lately they have had) so many great exhibitions! I'm always impressed when the artists manage to take the gross building they've been given a space in and turn it to their advantage. Last summer when Sharon Hayes was there the oppressive & somber atmosphere of the third floor--with its low brutalist ceiling--was actually a good accompaniment to her documentations of protests and interviews with ordinary people. The raised platforms that brought viewers even closer to the ceiling really emphasized that. Wade Guyton, who had a show on the same floor, made a series of mirrored U's in various sizes, and the cement squares that tile the ceiling turned into viscuously moving holes in the reflections. Plus the gallery was reorganized with temporary walls in a visually dynamic layout that made me forget about my surroundings. Also the recent Richard Artschwager exhibition was one of the best retrospectives I have ever seen, and his work is all about the psychology of interior spaces. It led me to think about how the Whitney's building has a bad effect on my psychology, which was better than just feeling it.
In short, there's almost always a couple of must-see shows at the Whitney and I hope that in 2015 when it moves seeing them won't be such a downer. I also hope they install working water fountains there. The water fountains here never eject more than a weak trickle and it's impossible to drink from them.
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.
Last month I went to Foxy Production to see a show by Michael Wang. I had read some of the articles he wrote for Artforum and other art magazines and he seemed like a smart and cool guy so I was curious to see his art. The show was called "Carbon Copies" and it was a series of sculptures. Each sculpture was made out of carbon and its dimensions were determined by the amount of CO2 that was emitted to create a certain artwork, the appearance of which was reflected by details in the sculpture. So, one of the big ones was based on Richard Serra Torqued Ellipse and it was a cube with a torqued ellipse cut out of the middle. I thought it was a great show. It combined two kinds of work that are super boring--art about art, art about environmental issues--and made a really interesting, good-looking show. Quite an achievement! When I looked at the checklist I saw the prices of the sculptures were in the low three figures, with a couple under $100. This was really exciting for me because I always go to Chelsea without expecting to see any art I can actually afford. I wanted to buy one of Michael Wang's sculptures! I asked if any were still available. The dealer said no--the whole series had been sold together as an installation, and the objects were never meant to be sold separately anyway. They were priced that way conceptually--each price is fixed at 1 dollar per 1.1 negative tons of carbon offset. Not sure exactly what that means, but in any case, the experience left me with a bad taste in my mouth. If that's the way the prices work, maybe they could be written with pen and ink on some nice paper and hung on the wall, so people would get that it's part of the installation. That way the gallery wouldn't confuse or let anyone down. Just a suggestion.
I was going to give Foxy Production three and a half stars but I guess there's no way to award a half star. So only three.
While Red Lobster is a familiar entity to diners in the United States, a global superpower and an aggressive exponent of neoliberal ideology, I had never dined there until a recent Sunday afternoon. My companion, who had only visited Red Lobster facilities in central Pennsylvania, immediately remarked on the "upscale" self-presentation of this urban Red Lobster relative to the more casual atmospheres of the Pennsylvanian habitus. The dark wooden paneling and navy banquettes articulated one of interior design's discourses of authority in order to enact the effect of a "special experience," so apt for this particular outlet of the Red Lobster chain, located as it is in the belly of an outer-borough temple of consumption.
Visitors to Red Lobster often comment on the delight produced by the complimentary cheese biscuits. A basic and omnipresent food--bread--is presented in an alternative form--the biscuit--elaborated further by Red Lobster with the addition of cheese, a dairy product popular for its combination of creaminess and saltiness. Served warm, the cheese biscuits exude a coziness that illusorily eradicates the sensation of alienation of consumer to food endemic to the mass-market restaurant experience. While the cheese biscuits are free, the cost of their production is in fact hidden in the prices of the menu's paid items. A gift without a gift economy (Reb Lobster's manager would be surprised indeed should a customer offer something in reciprocation), their distribution is in actuality an augmentation of the capitalist practice of concealing rent and labor in the commodity form.
We shared two appetizers and one entrée, playfully subverting the standards of individualized gluttony through the implementation of a communal dining praxis. The Coconut Shrimp comprised plump prawns fried in a batter so fruity and sweet it may have passed for a dessert at a more avant-garde eatery rather than a starter at Red Lobster, especially when dipped in the accompanying pina-colada sauce. (The flavor was nearly indistinguishable from that of my beverage--a Malibu Hurricane--highlighting the transversal of gustatory stimulators across solid and liquid forms of nourishment.) The dish interrogated first-course conventions even while following them, a contradiction intensifying the appetizer experience: a frivolously crunchy fried finger-food whetting the appetite for more substantial fare as well as a cloying flavor experience that induces an immediate craving for a subsequent savory dish. We also ordered the Lobster Pizza, where chunks of shellfish swim in a creamy pool atop a crisp crust. The fusion of two cuisines--seafood and Italian-American--so popular in the New England dining milieu in which Red Lobster's branding strategy finds its genealogy was a clever move on Red Lobster's part, yet without vegetables or notable seasonings the blend was bland. The internal flaw undermining the fusion was revealed as the Lobster Pizza deconstructed itself on my tongue.
Our Signature Combination was comprised by barbecued shrimp, grilled scallops, and a bisected lobster tail. The trio of now-defunct crustaceans reconstituted life on the sea floor in a colorful array, jauntily organized in a loose triangle upon a broad oval platter. The lobster, a metonym of the institution itself, was suitably succulent, the bites of meat clinging to the edges of the shell much like the bodies of patrons lodged in the restaurant's booths. It showed us, with horrible vividness, how we consume lobster and how lobster consumes us. The garden salad, the cost of which was included in that of the Signature Combination, was utilized by me as palate cleanser, the tasteless iceberg lettuce offering a tepid respite from bites of butter-drenched fish flesh, but otherwise it was unworthy of comment.
All of these dishes were not only served but pictured on the menu, photographed with such glossy flair that, when the menu is placed beside a plate and opened to the page on which the dish is pictured, a passer-by could be forgiven for failing to distinguish the two with a quick glance. When the menu is on the table, the diner's gaze is bifurcated as it meets its objects of desire: the physical food and its photographic reproduction, an auratic potential meal that is just as--if not more--appealing than the real nourishment that sits before the diner. Thus Red Lobster maintains its customers in the gears of the engine of desire, inciting an appetite that can only be extinguished by death; the customer--always between yearning and satisfaction, hunger and satiety--wants to eternally return to ShrimpFests, CrabFests, and LobsterFests. Saddeningly, many Yelpers have succumbed to this spectacle, failing to adapt a truly critical optical in their reviews; they fixate on the centrality of the lobster itself rather than confronting it as a repertoire of practices and effects that increasingly lodges Red Lobster within the body.
Another Kay Rosen show here, and I must say my impression this time was much improved. This time the texture of the wordplay drawings was more unified, and all of the letters in them were starker and more architectural which gave the exhibition an overall feel that relieved the sense of monotony I has previously experienced. Great to see a more continuous relationship between work and space though it's still not my favorite artI was eager to visit the Kay Rosen show at Sikkema Jenkins & Co because I had seen a couple works by… Read more
I saw a summer group show here and it was basically the ideal summer group show: very smartly put together with works in all sorts of mediums. One or maybe two works were "outsider-ish" (i.e. hard to sell), and all of them could be related to a single keyword (in this case, PLANTS) that has a loose relationship to a broader issue (ecology) and also a buzzy philosophical trend (object-oriented ontology). Shows like this are great if you are looking for stuff to buy but otherwise they don't bring a lot of insight into the work. Overall I had an average gallery experience here, not very exciting but not bad either.
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