Archives for the month of: January, 2009

“For Mary Roy,
who grew me up.
Who taught me to say “Excuse me”
before interrupting her in Public.
Who loved me enough to let me go.

For LKC, who, like me, survived.” [Arundhati Roy‘s dedication of The God of Small Things.]

“For MPS., in gratitude for more than a half century of love and friendship, and to the friends we were both blessed by.” [Wallace Stegner‘s dedication of Crossing to Safety.]

Why are dedications, so commonly seen for books, films, and even dance and performing arts so rarely seen in the visual art world?  I love reading those coded, heartfelt thanks that personalize the work and bring with it the appreciation that the creative person behind it could not have done it on their own.  As much dedication as one has to one’s creative pursuits, there are lovers, parents, mentors, patrons and a host of others who inhabit the artist’s world, shape his or her life, and help in the achievement of incredibly difficult dreams.

This is no less true for dedicated visual artists, so why no dedications?  Is it the moldy myth that the artist is a lone being, toiling in solitude, neither helped nor influenced by others, sprung fully formed from the head of Zeus?

I dedicated Keening, a book of drawings about illness, loss, and grief to my late sister. As far as exhibitions go, I have only dedicated one of my solo shows — to the memory of my father, who died quite suddenly about two weeks before the opening.  Why have I failed to do this again? It seems strange that the absence of dedications never caught my attention before, and I am going to make a note of it for my next major exhibition.

I believe a brief expression of gratitude is never inappropriate.  What would be your reaction to seeing an artist’s dedication of an exhibition, perhaps noted in press materials and/or the invitation and gallery write-up?  Have you come across this before?


The next gallery crawl is slated for Friday, February 13th.  All are welcome.  As things are shaping up so far, among the shows we’ll go see are: Jack Sal at Zone Contemporary Art, 41 W 57th St., and  Judy Pfaff at Ameringer & Yohe, 20 W 57th St.  We’ll throw a few more things in between and end up at MoMA to see Rebus, a show curated by artist Vik Muniz of pieces from the museum’s collection.  I have scored a bunch of free passes to MoMA, so admission will be free or cheap, depending on how many we number.

And now it’s off to the studio.  As Merlin Mann notes (and what a great name is Merlin Mann!)  “Creative work only seems like a magic trick to people who don’t understand that it’s ultimately still work.[via Amplesanity]

It was the actual election that was the big deal, when we shouted and laughed and cried with joy and relief.  Yes we did! I didn’t think the pomp of the inaugural ceremony would tug at my emotions so much but in fact, a hanky the size of a flag would have come in handy.  It brought to mind a piece by Stephen Beveridge called Choose Again, which I’ve often thought about since seeing his show last year.  It’s a starkly graphic piece in black and white, with a reminder that decisions aren’t necessarily so.  A reminder that wrong paths can be redirected, and wounds can be healed.  And not that I believe our country actually chose George W. Bush and Dick Cheney, but we did reconsider the fallout of those last elections, and we did choose Barack Obama and Joe Biden.  We did choose hope over fear this time, and my high hopes are that we can live up to some big responsibilities, and that Obama will be well, and lead well.

Beveridge wrote, “I need to be reminded I can choose again. Love or fear, peace or anger, right or happy, awake or asleep. I am not a victim of circumstance, birth, or disease. Deep within there is a place where I have never been or never can be hurt, harmed, or endangered in any way. This place is where I want my art to come from. I want my art to be a vehicle to that place. A vehicle to that place for me and, incredibly, for you too.”

We have the ability to right many of our mistakes, to see things through the focusing lens of experience, to approach our problems differently, to release our grip on grudges and bitterness, to reach out again for the ideal.

Yes, we can.

[above: Choose Again, © Stephen Beveridge]

Sure enough, people were lined up down the block on January 10th, waiting for Metro Pictures to open their doors.  If I were Bill Cunningham of The New York Times, I would have had lots of material for a feature on stylish glasses and fabulous winter hats.  Just marvelous! There was an idea floated out that there was a small fortune to be made if one were prepared to back up the offer of “Cocoa! Get your hot cocoa here!”  But at that moment, the crowd began to flood into the gallery for Postcards from the Edge, the benefit for Visual AIDS.  Obviously, at the preview party the night before, many savvy collectors had pinpointed the pieces they were intent on buying.  In a nonstop blur of activity, things flew off the walls.  My little drawing was purchased before I even located it myself.  This annual benefit not only presents work of surprisingly high quality, but it tends to be managed extremely well thanks to smart staff and va-va-voom volunteers.  The atmosphere is like a big party, and there really does seem to be something for everyone.  My hope is that Visual AIDS raked in scads of dough, and I’ll look forward to the recurrence of this event next year.

Our next stop was just down 24th St at Fredericks and Freiser, for John Wesley‘s show A Question of Women (through Feb 7).   My biggest exposure to Wesley‘s work in person was at the Chinati Foundation in Marfa, and perhaps then my mind was just too caught up with the overwhelming presences of Donald Judd and Dan Flavin to be able to fully appreciate him.  This well-curated show was my Wesley moment of enlightenment.  It brings together a number of canvases from private collections that have not shown in New York before and some from the artist’s studio that have never before been exhibited.  Their collective impact is disarming, disturbing, and delightfully captivating.  Painted between 1992 and 2004, these paintings should be considered in context from an artist who, born in 1928, has been perfecting this style for over 50 years.  As cool and controlled as they may be, given the tightly drawn lines, the flat application of paint and the specificity of palette, they are startlingly dramatic.  Naughty and erotic in a slightly Betty Boop kind of way, the abstract elements of the canvases — the colors, the quirky shapes (those eyelashes!), the negative spaces — hold powerful sway in the overall experience of the paintings.  It is tempting to think that the simplicity of art employing a comic-book style makes it easy for digital images on the web to adequately stand in for the in-person experience.  That notion is particularly false with Wesley’s paintings and although I’ve included links, I would strongly urge you to go see the show before viewing all the images on the gallery’s website.  With 65 solo shows under his belt, this may be one of Wesley’s best yet, and that’s saying something.

The next stop was BravinLee Programs on 26th Street, where John Lee treated us to a fascinating walk-through of Bhakti Baxter’s exhibition After Certain Amounts of Breath (through Feb 14).   In order to enter the main room of the gallery, you must detour around the remaining fragments of sheetrock and metal studs that once comprised a dividing wall.  There’s a short, vicariously cathartic Youtube video of the artist creating (or should I say deconstructing?) it.  The wall, and all the pieces in this show, relate to themes of temporality, mortality, and the pure energy of matter as it relates to existence.  The featured work in the main gallery is a sequential series of large drawings on mylar depicting the gradual dissolution of the skeletal remains of a human couple, and their transformation or return to a kind of cosmic energy.  The back gallery continues the idea, but on a more conceptual level.  It has the makings of an intimate, yet spare, living room, in which one can sit and reflect a while.  The decor of the room is subtle, yet purposeful:  an Eames rocker invites the visitor with a possible reference to Charles and Ray Eames’ film “The Powers of Ten”, a film that looks at similarities of macro- and microcosmic views (Baxter offers another way to rock as well: there’s a cassette deck playing, for those of you who remember what cassettes are); wall murals channel Albers’ extensive series Homage to the Square, and ideas of harmonious proportions; there’s even a drawing of an agave plant to bring to mind the wonders of the Fibonacci sequence (a plus for this Fibonacci fan).  The references may be a bit obscure, but the ambition to coalesce themes of love, life, death, decay, harmony, scientific phenomena, art history, and even some gentle humor, is heartening, particularly in that cynicism and fear are nowhere to be found here.

Beating me to it, the New Yorker just highlighted Emna Zghal‘s exhibition at M.Y. Art Prospects. Emna’s work may have been under your radar, but not long ago, she won a coveted purchase award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters. This was her first solo show here of oils on canvas (as opposed to works on paper), and in the dead of winter, it gives you hope that Spring will indeed return. Without sticking to earthen tones or expected shapes, the bold colors and non-representational marks, lines, and gestures of these poetic canvases convey a love of nature: The rustling of leaves, the flow of water, the movement of a creature not quite seen, but sensed. They feel like fresh air and the outdoors without being sentimental or sweet. They express an energetic and layered space in a way that would have been impossible without Pollock, but which in no way seems derivative of him. This selection of work, finely done but never fussy, feels as refined and carefully edited as a sonnet.

Upstairs in the same building at Aperture Gallery (3rd floor) we saw It’s beautiful here, isn’t it…, photographs by Luigi Ghirri (through Jan 29).  This show views like a romantic symphony in several movements.  It is breathtaking to see the breadth of work by this important yet under-known photographer who died in 1992 at the age of 49.  The show is extensive with too much varied content to cover here, but if perhaps you’ve recently been to see the Morandi show at the Met Muse, Ghirri’s photos of the artist’s studio will likely seem especially poignant.  It’s beautiful here?  Yes, Ghirri shows us how true that is.

We braved on through the snow and weren’t disappointed when we arrived at Sean Kelly for Ressonância Resonance Resonanz, a three-artist exhibition by Iran do Espírito Santo, Callum Innes, and Wolfgang Laib (through January 31).  Missing from the show’s press release is a curatorial credit, and the pieces here have been selected and installed so successfully that credit is certainly due to the people behind the scenes as well.  The exhibition brings together paintings, drawings, sculptures, and installation pieces from three accomplished artists whose approaches, as the press release states, “…whilst seemingly very different, share many conceptual, intellectual, formal and emotional resonances.”  All three artists, whether using paint, granite, glass, crystal, beeswax, rice, or hand-collected pollen display an almost reverent love and sensitivity to their materials that emanates from the completed works.  The gallery seems transformed by this resonant exhibition into a sanctuary for contemplation.

It will be difficult to follow-up such a winning line-up of shows with the next gallery crawl, but I’ll see what I can come up with for February.  Advance notice of next month’s crawl will be posted here, and as always, all are welcome to come along!

[images starting at top: John Wesley, Question of Women, 1993, Acrylic on canvas: 42 x 49 inches; Bhakti Baxter, left to right: After certain amounts of breath 2008 india ink and dirt on mylar 59.25 x42 inches; Residual bodies 2008 india ink and dirt on mylar 61×42 inches; A dispersed way of being 2008 india ink enamel and dirt on mylar 61 x 42 inches; Emna Zghal Tree Threads, 2008, oil on canvas, 25 x 37 inches; Photograph by Luigi Ghirri at Aperture Gallery; Gallery view of Sean Kelly Gallery, detail of Wolfgang Laib’s piece The Rice Meals, 1983, 33 brass plates, rice and hazelnut pollen approximate length: 640 inches (on floor), and two Callum Innes paintings Untitled No 13, 2008, oil on linen 81 1/2 x 79 1/2 inches and Untitled No 30, 2008,oil on canvas, 81 1/2 x 79 1/2 inches.]

The Secret of Drawing: From the BBC, “This four part series, presented by Andrew Graham-Dixon, explores how drawing has shaped our lives. Join him to discover the history of drawing and its relevance to the modern world.”

Watch them via the links below (thanks to the Blog of Marvelous Things)

Episode 1: The Line of Enquiry.  “Andrew looks at artists who have chosen the natural world as their subject matter and explores how drawing has helped man to understand his place in the universe. The programme covers the Rennaissance, the Eastern way, Turner, Constable and contemporary artists Anthony Gormley and Richard Long.”

Episode 2: Storylines. “Drawing has always been an essential tool for the telling of stories. Andrew looks at the satire of Gillray, Goya and Hogarth and its influence on photojournalism, American comics, Japanese Manga and Hollywood storyboards today.”

Episode 3: All in the Mind. “Andrew investigates drawing as a primal human instinct and a learned discipline, looking at the earliest cave drawings and the work of David Hockney and Picasso. The programme uses the latest developments in cognitive science to examine why we draw the way we do.”

Episode 4: Drawing by Design. “Andrew explores the role drawing has played in technical design and architecture, studying complex structures such as the Guggenheim and Boeing 777. From Leonardo to Libeskind, he shows how drawing has been a crucial tool in the history of scientific and technological discovery.”


Yes, ’89 was a good one, and 2009 is going to be full of the unexpected!

This is hilarious.  I swear I may need to get my head examined.

For two hours this Wednesday morning, I’ll be in a sound booth at David Zwirner gallery in Chelsea (519 W19 St) with some random guy [update: “random guy” was a fellow obsessive drawer, Will Brovelli*] doing this:

“David Zwirner is pleased to present One Million Years by On Kawara.  The ongoing project began with the leather-bound twenty-volume set of books One Million Years [Past] and One Million Years [Future] created by the artist in 1969.

For the artwork, a male and a female reader sit in a recording booth in the center of the gallery and alternate reciting the numbered years collected in these volumes (ahem…4136 pages!). For the first time, a live recording of the reading will happen in real time. CDs will be recorded and edited on-site. The CDs will later be produced in limited edition wooden boxed set.”

Seriously…You can come by and laugh at me.  Just don’t make me laugh.  I wonder if I will be instructed to read in a monotone voice, and if not, whether I will be able to suppress the temptation to throw in some variation in my recitation, say in an Alvin the Chipmunk or Jimmy Durante voice. It would certainly be a highlight for anyone who actually listened to the CDs!  I can see it now: “Fast forward to the track with 495602 BC, where that lady gets all wacky!”

Goal: To find out if obsessive compulsive repetition = art, and why.

*My co-reader Will Brovelli’s work is on view until February 14th at Kim Foster Gallery in a group show called DrawingPainting.  Will and I mellifluously intoned the years 967800 BC through 967148 BC, and I don’t feel a day older.  In fact, we could have gone on for centuries!  We were, in fact instructed to read in a steady, regular speaking voice, although I forgot to ask if that was just for ease of recording or whether those were Kawara’s specific instructions.  I’ll see if I can find out…

By the way, NOT TO BE MISSED: The Fred Sandback exhibition at David Zwirner.  It’s nothing less than phenomenal.

UPDATE: I was asked to come in and read again, which I did, on January 29th.  I think I’ve finally got On Kawara out of my system!  New York Magazine has a funny article about critic Jerry Saltz’s experience reading for the same piece.

Only two days left, and your voice matters. We need to send a POWERFUL MESSAGE to Albany before January 13 describing the potentially devastating impact of the Governor’s proposed $7 million cut to the NY state arts budget.

Click here to send an email to your legislator.  For more information, click here.

And once you’ve done your do-good thing for the day, treat yourself to some visual fun with a visit to Doodlers Anonymous [via Amplesanity].

Here’s the line-up for Saturday’s gallery crawl.  We’ll meet at Metro Pictures at 11 a.m. when the doors open for the Postcards from the Edge benefit show for Visual AIDS (see my previous post, below).  It will be a madhouse as people run around trying to figure out which amazing artist contributed which piece, so be prepared.  You’re guaranteed to be tempted by something, so you might want to have your credit cards, checkbook, or 75 American dollars readily available. [FYI, check payments require photo ID.]

Postcards from the Edge at Metro Pictures, 519 W 24 St.

Question of Women, John Wesley at Fredericks & Freiser, 536 W 24 St

After Certain Amounts of Breath, Bhakti Baxter at BravinLee Programs, 526 W 26 Suite 211

Against Reason, Emna Zghal at M.Y. Art Prospects, 547 W 27, Floor 2

Ressonância Resonance Resonanz, Iran do Espírito Santo, Callum Innes, Wolfgang Laib at Sean Kelly, 528 W 29 St.

The gallery crawl tends to be an organic thing.  There may be some random stops thrown in depending on time, energy, mood and whim.  If you want to join us midway, just call me at 917-992-4001 to find out where we are.

After Chelsea, I’ll head down to Soho to see Marking Time, a showing of Douglas Navarra’s works at OK Harris, 383 West Broadway.  The artist will be at the gallery today from 3-5pm.  This show is up through February 7th, and worth a visit if you’re in the vicinity and craving an eyeful of fine work that will feed your vision and make you think.

“In these drawings the artist starts with found paper documents and responds by adding his own marks, as “interventions” that set up a dialogue with the linear quality of the penmanship, original marginalia, and the stains and tears that have accumulated over the centuries. When his own personal history is added to a 200 year-old piece of paper, it transforms the context of the page from a minor historical record into a work of contemporary, visual documentation.”

[above image: Douglas Navarra, Palimpsest – 2004, gouache and pencil on found paper, 14.5 x 12 inches, copyright Douglas Navarra, all rights reserved. Courtesy OK Harris Gallery.]

January 9-10, 2009: Save the dates!

Postcards From the Edge
A Benefit for Visual AIDS
If you never thought $75 could get you one of my drawings, think again. Here’s an opportunity to buy one or more original pieces of postcard-sized art, ramp up your collection and support an excellent cause all at once!  I am very proud to have donated a piece to this benefit once again. What a great way to start the year!

Hosted by Metro Pictures
519 West 24th Street, NYC

Benefit SaleONE DAY ONLY!
Saturday, January 10, 2009 from 11:00 – 7:00
Over 1,600 original postcard-sized works of art.  Works are signed on the back and displayed anonymously.  Artists’ name revealed only after purchase.  First-come, first served. $75 EACH. Buy 4 cards and get 1 free! $5 suggested admission

Along with yours truly, participating artists include heaps of heavy hitters: Vito Acconci, Ida Applebroog, John Baldessari, Nayland Blake, Ross Bleckner,  Jeff Koons, Louise Lawler, Glenn Ligon, Robert Longo, McDermott & McGough, Julie Mehretu, Marilyn Minter, Yoko Ono, Catherine Opie, Jack Pierson, Cindy Sherman, Kiki Smith, Annie Sprinkle, Rirkrit Tiravanija, Kara Walker, John Waters, Carrie Mae Weems, William Wegman, Fred Wilson, and many MORE!

For answers to some Frequently Asked Questions click HERE

Preview Party
Friday, January 9, 2009 from 6:00 – 8:00 PM
Your only chance to get a sneak peek at the entire show! No sales but one lucky raffle winner will select any postcard that night – plus other raffle prizes including the new Keith Haring book, artists multiples from ARTWARE editions and Tulip Enterprises! Also a silent auction of selected artworks.  Appearances by the Imperial Court of New York.  Wine courtesy of Wine & Spirits Magazine. Participating artists attend free. $75 admission includes one raffle ticket. Additional raffle tickets $20.

One of the best pieces of advice I ever came across was a reminder about doing something for someone instead of to be someone.