Brian D.'s Profile
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I actually lol'ed when I entered this gallery. Raw concrete floors, exposed pipes and other utilities--I'd just entered from a corridor in a very nice Upper East Side office building but suddenly I could have been in Bushwick. Apparently that's the feeling that this gallery is going for, trying to import some grunge style to Madison Ave for cool points.
Unfortunately I can't even remember what the art here was, except that it involved the kind of big messy painting that you would expect to see in such a space. It was like the art was made for the brand of the place and beyond that it's unremarkable. Two stars is "meh" and that was how I felt about this gallery. First lol, then meh
Midtown never ceases to amaze me. I tend to avoid it but when I do go there I always come across some weird surprise. Granted, this time it wasn't such a surprise because it was what I was looking for--but surprising nonetheless. In a nondescript building on Madison Ave., on the fourth floor (up a very large stairwell that could only have been built before WWII, and had the wooden bannisters to match, but also some hideous burgundy carpeting from the 70s) is a small art gallery called Front Desk Apparatus, which has apparently been there since 2006, though I'd never heard of it until recently, when it had an exhibition of work by Carissa Rodriguez that I wanted to see.
The works were all small things or small gestures made in the space of the gallery, like a set of four slender fluorescent bulbs installed in a square around an empty light fixture. A rack of post cards featured (among other cards) photos of the works on display in other places. One shelf had a few unevenly shaped ceramic cylinders, the kind of thing you'd make in seventh-grade art class when you're supposed to produce a mug, but they were studded with rows of razor blades. So it's humble and threatening at once. One was upside down (or right-side up, if it's a cup), so you could see it was hollow. I gently tilted another one just to see if it was light as I expected, and it was, so it was surely hollow too. The way the shelf was set up made--the one glimpse into the unglazed belly of the ceramics, and the prickly garden of razors that were just barely planted into the glaze of the clay on the outside--really made me curious about the inside and the outside of the things, and left me with a sense that boundaries between the surface and interior aren't necessarily where I'd think they would be.
Art installed in a gallery office can be an awkward situation, and usually I just won't bother going up for a close look unless I know someone who is working there. Otherwise it's like you're intruding in their personal space and interrupting their work. But at Front Desk Apparatus I glimpsed a big print of a tongue on the office's back wall and decided to venture in for a look. I was glad I did. After passing the partition that blocked off the work area on my way toward the print I discovered that the guy working there was really hot (but not in an intimidating way) and he was happy to answer my questions and offer more information about the work. The print was a big photo of the artist's tongue, and she'd had her dermatologist write on it in a marker about the various health problems that aspects of the tongue indicated--the raw white and red spots that showed she'd been eating poorly, etc. What really blew my mind was the note that these scalloped ridges around the tongue's edge indicate problems with the spleen. This lump of flesh in the gateway to the inside of our bodies is relatively far away from the internal organs of the gut yet it is totally connected to them and the shape of it changes dependent on their condition. Bodies are wild.
Great gallery. I recently learned that on Saturdays, members of the gallery's staff (and even Andrea Rosen herself) stand in the gallery and talk to visitors about the work. It's very generous--I got a full tour of a fascinating show, "Counter Forms," with works by Tetsumi Kudo, Alina Szapocznikow, Paul Thek and Hannah Wilke, all of whom worked in different parts of them world, died youngish and were forgotten in the 90s but making a comeback now. And they deserve it: weird materials and biomorphic forms, industrail waste and synthetic pigments, intriguing use of slightly sickening colors and textures--a fertile mix of mad-science lab and contemplative poetry that seems to speak to the ways in which artists are dealing with the relationship between bodies and technologies now.
Usually Andrea Rosen has a few shows up at once - a big one in the front, medium in the middle, and a selection of works by different artists in the showroom in the far rear, which means you're guaranteed to find SOMEthing to like on any given visit. For 'Counter Forms," however, the whole gallery was devoted to this single group exhibition. But it's definitely worth it! so much to see.
There is also a small appendix across the street. I feel like the narrowness of this space makes it slightly awkward. It's smaller than any of the spaces across the street, even the little showroom in the back. I haven't felt really impressed or moved by a show here yet but, it's new so maybe they'll get the hang of it (no pun intended!).
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.
Light Industry calls itself a venue for "film and electronic art" which is something of a misnomer. To my knowledge there hasn't been any of the latter since 2009, maybe early 2010. When it first opened six or seven years ago they would show new work by young artists working with electronics but at some point they decided that 16mm film is the bee's knees and since then every event at Light Industry is some kind of structural or conceptual reel from the 60s or 70s. I made an effort to get into it but honestly, pretty much everything they show is really boring to me, or just plain bad. There are people who love bad old art films though, and if you're one of them Light Industry is great for you.
I like this bar but I could never give it five stars as it's too damn narrow. I like some elbow room and at Beverly's once the crowd at the bar is one man deep it's hard to walk from one end of the bar to the other without being like "scuse me" "pardon me" and shoving your way past everybody. So it's a nice place to meet up with friends on a week night but I would steer clear on weekends, unless I manage to park myself at one of the lounging areas in the front or back (probably the back, since that's where the bathroom is and I will have to go there at some point anyway). But otherwise I like the design of the place. It's newly built but it's not slick or pretentious, yet at the same time it's not divey either--the furniture is in pretty good shape and it's clean. It strikes a nice balance, like an art gallery with concrete floors and some utilities showing but still neat enough for showing art. I make this analogy on purpose because Beverly's does display some art works. Up front there's a relief panel in styrofoam, backlit with blue and rose LCD bulbs. I'd seen the piece elsewhere and thought it had this effect of otherworldly alien menace yet in the bar context it evoked a timeless downtown neon coolness, with a strange twist--and I liked it more than I had before. The rear lounge area in the back has a giant backwards 2, hewn from wood, under a little canopy of icicle lights. The je ne sais quoi of art pieces like these makes Beverly's feel like a place where you should always be poised for an interesting, open-ended conversation.
Soak or stroke? Stroke or soak? This is the question that continuously, but pleasurably, bedeviled me as I viewed the exhibition of paintings by Matt Connors at Canada gallery. Many of them had thick stripes that looked like the trail of a broad brush drawn briefly along the surface of the canvas but on closer inspection they revealed no trace of brushhair or the direct application of a hand, instead having a wet look suggesting that the canvas had been dipped in wet paint so as to leave a stain. But in some the approximation of a brushstroke shape was so close I could almost see the ahirs tingling at the pigment's edges like hairs on an excited neck! Here and there I would see drips lefts by a splash yet they were so rich and saturated I imagined the paint falling on the canvas in slo-mo like in a commercial for absorbent paper towels. In my favorite painting of the lot the strange soak/stroke stripes--in soft shades of the primaries, red, yellow and blue--danced in a configuration that was architectural but also like a quilt, somewhere between a map's legend and patchwork. Connors' paintings more than any others I've seen lately remind me of mid-century abstraction and its jazzy play of paint on the surface, and yet it's not like the old expressionism at all because it doesn't have that aggressive approach to the plane, instead there's a tender treatment of the canvas saying that the painting isn't just a surface, it's a depth, and I felt my eyes sinking into it, drowning in love for these paintings.
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
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.
It wasn't so long ago when the Lower East Side galleries were the place to see delicate and minor works--drawings, photo collage, or little assemblages of whatever with garbage dangling off. But those days are quickly receding into the past as LES galleries move into bigger digs and put on more ambitious shows to hold onto the yougn artists they've been working with who want to make granger gestures. "More weight" by Sam Moyer at Rachel Uffner is exemplary of this trend. This is a heavy show indeed. I felt like I was at Paula Cooper!! Maybe it was even too heavy for me--Sam moyer's studies of stony textures is so cold, but tactile touches warmed it up. The main gallery is impressively vast and cave-like in its current dimly lit state, a great rock slab taking up most of the floor and a warm off-white luminescence from a stately marbled lightbox of commensurate size on the ceiling. It should be said that the architecture of the gallery itself, which is beautiful, lends a lot to the effects of the art, with white wooden beams, dark floors, a rich lived-in old feel to all the walls and materials. But what I liked best were the smaller works on the upper level, the unevenly cut small rock slabs jointed with textiles stretched on uneven frames. The ancient grooves of geological movement improvised with the quicker, newer lodes of dye in fabric, and what I liked best was how this play of texture and surface continued through the slanting skylight above, which showed the rise of the building next door and the winding paths of vines and cracks as if an extension of the works on view. Made me feel small, and light, in a good way.
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