Thursday, December 10, 2009

Walton Ford: new work, Nov12-Dec 23

Paul Kasmin Gallery, 293 10th ave

I think Walton Ford is a pretty interesting artist. This is the second show of his I've seen at the Kasmin Gallery, and the work may not be for everyone, but it's definitely memorable. Ford makes large highly detailed watercolor and ink paintings on paper. There are only 6 works in the show, but because of their size and their nuanced intricacy any more would be overkill. I hesitate a little in calling them paintings, because they clearly reference natural history and wildlife illustrations, like those of John James Audubon. He even uses the same kind of captions describing the animals and events in the margins around the images used in those wildlife illustrations, complete with (I assume) fictional dates. Ford's art is, however much more violent and nightmarish in subject matter than the work he's referencing. He appears to be trying to expand this tradition of painting to include human fears and fantasies of the natural world.

What is most immediately engaging about the work is the contrast between Ford's meticulous, virtuosic rendering, and the horrific and absurdist nature of the things being rendered. As a painter I can't help but be drawn to how Ford has mastered a certain genre of cool scientific illustration, and distorted it in such a way that he can apply it to this fantastically disturbing world where animals are tearing each other and in some cases humans apart. In "The Island" a huge pile of wolf like thylacines sink into the ocean, while devouring dozens of sheep. In another image two bengal tigers attack a lion in what turns into a bloody massacre. In some cases the animals appear prepared to commit suicide. A guerilla stands at the foot of a dead hunter holding his twisted rifle at its own head. Is it trying to blow its brains out, or just playing with a new toy? A baboon looks prepared to hang itself next to a rather stylish outdoor breakfast table. Or, is it auto erotic asphyxiation? As best I can tell, the content of Ford's work is the relationship between human culture and animal nature. Or maybe it's the other way around.

Mary Ryan Gallery, 527 West 26st Josh Dorman: new paintings, Dec 3-Jan 23

Josh Dorman paints what I think can best be described as mixed media collage paintings. His paintings are done on antique maps that have been affixed to wooden panels. These maps are mostly obscured by the paint and other collage elements, but can still be identified as such. Those other elements are clippings of illustrations from a wide variety of sources, and consists of contrasting images of nature and industry coexisting in a wildly chaotic, Bosch-like universe. Dorman delicately interweaves the hand painted, and cut and glued images in a way where it's frequently hard to tell which is which.

There's one wall that contains about six unframed pencil drawings. These, while depicting some seemingly horrific events have a lighter, more spontaneous and doodle-like quality. They're consistent with the paintings, but are in some ways more successful. Maybe it's because they're more conventional in terms of materials, which makes the images more direct. Maybe it's because they're free of the wooden supports, which seems to me a little too heavy for Dorman's light handed treatment of the paper and paint.

While the relationship between the people, animals, buildings, machines, etc. that inhabit Dorman's paintings is very intriguing, the images are not really narrative driven. What I mean is that I don't feel the need to figure out the specific relationships of these elements, so much as to appreciate how they interact as a whole. That may be because the images work so well on an abstract level. It's the elegance in depiction of the images that also keeps them from seeming either labored or folksy. They seem to be both apocalyptic in nature and have a paper doll playfulness. Something of a cross between Pieter Bruegel and Terry Gilliam. But, what I find really interesting about his work is Dorman's ability to take so many intimate, fragmented images that function on a one to one level, and successfully tie them into a unified whole. It's a neat trick, and I'm not quite sure how he does it.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

New Years 2010 Survival Guide/ part 2

When I think of the holidays, of Christmas, Hanukkah, and Kwanzaa, I think of Rockefeller Center with its Christmas tree, and of shopping. I think of family, and of children. I think of ice skating and the holiday spectaculars. This holiday here are a
few things that I recommend when in Midtown.

1. Seeing the Christmas Tree at Rockefeller Center
3. Seeing the city from the Top of the Rock
4. Shopping at the NBA Store and the Apple Store
5. Seeing a broadway show, like Billy Elliot, In the Heights, South Pacific, or Wicked. More shows can bought at TKTS
6. Seeing the Christmas Spectaculars like The Radio City Rockettes, Wintuk, or a Christmas Carol
7. Then there are always the staples like Blue Men, Stomp, and Fueza Bruta. These are just a few of the things that I recommend.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Museums, Galleries, Theater & Music in NYC

The arts is an engine in New York. It's one of the things that make this city great. We are free because of it. It epitomizes our hopes and desires, and it shows us who we are.
We took the liberty to bookmark the links for you. Here it is. Enjoy.

Where to Dine in NYC

Book mark this! New Yorkers love to eat. We love to go out to eat, and we love find the best places, with the most interesting ambiance at various prices.
Here are the sites that I use to find where to go in my home town.

Yelp! Here I list my reviews for places to eat. It is a great user created reference on a variety places to visit as well.

Menu Pages List of restaurants with customer reviews, menus and more. Excellent resource!

Our favorites that we book marked on Delicious

Buen Provecho!

Photos from the Pinta Art Fair

We did go to the art fair. It was a lot fun and worth the visit. Here are pictures from the event.

Thanksgiving Day Parade 2009

Every third thursday in November is Thanksgiving. Here is a picture of Peter carving the turkey the last time we had a Thanksgiving dinner at our loft. We cooked two turkeys and served dinner to about 20 people. This year will be another adventure. For us this holiday is about family and friends. About slowing down, watching a parade, watching football, setting up the table and sharing a meal with the people you know, and the people you are getting to know. It is about family and friends.

In New York we start off the holiday with the Macy's Thanksgiving day parade. Information can be found here. The parade starts at 9AM so we suggest you get there early for a good view or else you can catch it on TV. Right after the holiday is Black friday, the start of Christmas shopping. Hold on to your wallet! Happy Thanksgiving!!

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Artists at work should read Joanne Mattera

For almost the past year Joanne Mattera, a fantastic artist and writer has been writing a series on how artist and galleries have been surviving in this difficult economic climate. If you are an artist, a collector or just interested in the art market I can't help but recommend that you read and follow this series, Marketing Mondays.

Pinta Art Fair Nov. 19 to 22 on Latin American Art

The annual Pinta Art Fair is back. It is an art fair coinciding with the Latin American art auctions at Christies and Sothebys. The Art fair brings together under one roof prominent Latin American artists and galleries. It is worth a visit if you are interested in Latin American Art or are just curious . Let me know what you think.

New York City Airports

For those who are planning a trip to New York and are looking for information on how to get to and from the airport, here is one link to bookmark them all!

Travel directions and tips try Hopstop New York

For finding parking go here this a great site.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Watteau: music and theater. through Nov 29 Vermeer’s Masterpiece: The Milkmaid through Nov 29

Metropolitan Museum of Art

For me Watteau seems like the kind of artist that's hard to not like. Maybe it's because I've been kind of obsessed with him for the last year or two, but this exhibition is to honor former director Philippe de Montebello, who called Watteau one of his favorite artists. So, apparently I'm not the only one. Watteau has a reputation as the master of sophisticated hedonism. I didn't make that up. I know I read that somewhere, and it seems pretty accurate. Toulouse-Lautrec may have been more of a hedonist, but Wateau was more sophisticated. I'm talking about the painting, not necessarily the subject matter. Watteau's subjects just look like they had more money than Toulouse-Lautrec's.

Anyway, this is a pretty small show that consists of just two rooms. One of drawings, and the other of paintings. Still, there are some real jewels to be found. Also, about a third of the work is not by Watteau but his contemporaries. This is to illustrate the artists influence on 18th century france, but it also draws attention to the qualitative difference between the work of some very skilled artists and that of an old master. The only artist who comes close to Watteau is Nicolas Lancret, who has some pretty impressive work in the show.

Watteau died very young at 37 which accounts for his somewhat small body of paintings, but he was a copious draftsman. Thank god for that, because he was magic with the colored chalk. Most of his drawings were done as studies for his paintings, but his light handed effortless way of rendering makes them stand out from his contemporaries, and function as independent works of art. His paintings also have a subtle elegance that makes them exceptional. He's as famous for his pallet of silvery greens and soft pinks as for his strange theatrical narratives. The interaction of his figures are enigmatic and appear almost otherworldly. These scenarios and the characters that make them up were based on the commedia dell'arte for which Watteau had once worked as a set and costume designer, and figures like Harlequin, Mezzetin, and Pierrot are staples in his work. He used these figures, and narratives to create a new genre of painting called the Fete Galante, which became very popular throuout Europe after his death in 1721.

Vermeer died soon before Watteau was born, which is just as well because I don't think they would have gotten along with each other anyway. Although, they did have a few things in common. They both died young (Vermeer at 45 and Watteau at 37). They both painted relatively small paintings with kind of dreamy ethereal narratives, and they both became hugely influential after their death. Watteau's painterliness, and exoticism though is in stark contrast to Vermeer's precise detailed studies of light and form, and his focus on humble everyday people and objects.

This show is similar though, in that it's small and made up largely of other artists work. Actually, in this case most of the work is by other artists and there are only 6 Vermeer's in the whole show including "The Milkmaid" which is on loan from the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam. that's not too bad though considering that there are only about 35 Vermeer's known to exist in the world. All the other work in the show is part of the Met's permanent collection including the five other Vermeer's, which can be seen on exhibition all the time anyway. The show was put together to celebrate the anniversary of Henry Hudson doing something important. I can't remember what. Anyway, "The Milkmaid" is a beautiful painting, but I don't think it's his best. I don't think it's as good as "The Girl With A Pearl Earring", and it's certainly not as good as "View of Delft", but neither one of those are in the show.

Both these shows are closing pretty soon, so if you want to see them you've got to get off your ass and get over there. I probably should have reviewed them earlier, but you know I've got things to do.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Photos of Halloween Parade 2009

Here is what I saw on October 31 in NYC. Photos by Giuliana and me. I hope you like. It was fun and wet!

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Mr.Adam in pictures

Mr.Adam - 079.JPG
Mr.Adam - 079.JPG,
originally uploaded by ramper67.
Mr. Adam has lots of friends. Here is a link to photos of him on my Flickr page. Yes, I am pimping him, but I can't help it, he is such a good boy!

Friday, October 30, 2009

NYC Marathon, Sunday Nov 1

This sunday is the annual New York City Marathon. It is one of the high lights of the year. The run can be caught on TV at 9 AM on NBC . Information on event can be found on their site here. Enjoy the run, enjoy Sunday, watch it on TV, or better yet cheer them live. Here is the map of the run, you might be some where near. Enjoy!

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Kandinsky. through Jan 13 @ Guggenheim

Guggenheim Museum 1071 5th ave (at 89th street)

Hey, if you like early 20th century abstract, Russian, avant-guard painting (and who doesn't) then Vasily Kandinsky is your kind of guy. If for some reason you don't, then you should, because he's an enormously important, ambitious and influential figure in the history of modernism. In fact, no study of modern art, no matter how cursory could be complete without including his work. He's probably one of the 4 or 5 most important artists of the 20th century, and he's credited with creating the first abstract painting. Although, that's a little hard to determine, since abstraction is something that happens in degrees, and with Kandinsky it happened very gradually, and over a very long period of time. So, it's kind of like how abstract does it have to be before it's abstract. Know what I mean?

He didn't actually start studying art in earnest until 1896 when he was 30 years old. His two major inspiration were Monet's "Haystacks" paintings where he felt he was more moved by the colors and forms than the subject matter, and a Wagner concert he attended. He came to believe that visual art should operate like music and be expressive in a pure autonomous form, thus laying the groundwork for abstract art. Solomon Gugganheim started collecting his work in 1929 on the advisement of artist/baroness Hilla Rebay who convinced him of Kandinskys importance. In 1943 when the museum opened it was originally called The Museum of Non-Objective Painting, and Kandinsky was presented as the leading figure of the new art. The upshot of all this is that the Gugganheim has a lot of Kandinsky's, and this is one big ass show.

Kandinsky was a Russian artist who spent most of his life in Germany, and whose strongest influence came from the French. Which I guess makes him multicultural in an exclusively european kind of way. You can see the impact the impressionists had on his early landscapes and cityscapes, where the colors are rich and the forms simplified. He became a leading figure in the Russian avant-garde, and worked with composer Arnold Schonberg who was similarly experimenting with music, trying to give it a freer form of expression. In 1912 he started the "Blue Rider" movement, whos goal it was to express the power of color and form independently. The movement is strongly motivated by Kandinskys interest in mysticism and Theosophy. It's interesting to me that his work from this period still include some form of figurative imagery, which seem romantic and symbolist in nature. When there isn't a clear figurative subject there's a figurative depiction of forms, and some kind of an illusionistic space. There's one particularly beautiful little painting from the end of this period called "Moscow 1" that I'd never seen before. It was also around this time that he published "On The Spiritual in Art" (1912). Which, with his second book "Point and Line to Plane" (1926) are considered two of the most seminal written works on modern art. Having read Kandinskys books I have to say that I find his writing very dry and cerebral. It's basically essays about theory and cold annalysis of form. It seems to have very little to do with his paintings which are dynamic and improvisatory, and seem playful and even impulsive in structure. It's amazing to me that the writer and the painter could be the same person.

He moved from Germany to Moscow in 1917. During this time he internalized some of the teachings of the Russian constructivists and the Suprematists. This caused his paintings to become flatter, less figurative, and more geometric in structure. He developed a vocabulary of abstract forms, and he seems to have realized that he can create pictorial tension by simply contrasting these forms and not having to revert to conventional pictorial space. His drawing, however remains specific and he maintains a clear figure ground relationship, which today would be considered inconsistent with non-objectivity. (Speaking of drawing, there's a large gallery of Kandinskys works on paper which are kind of disappointing. They're very tight and finished looking, and seem to lack the spontaneity and energy of the paintings. I don't really know why.)

Kandinsky then moved back to Germany, and taught at the Bauhaus from 1922 to1933 when it was closed by the nazis. Then he moved to Paris, which in retrospect was a wise choice. While he was there the influence of the Surrealists becomes visible and these strange ameba forms enter his work. He planned to eventually return to Germany, but after his paintings were labeled degenerate and removed from German museums he decided to stay in France. Another wise choice.

The work from the last decade or so of his life is very beautiful, but a little complacent and kind of formulaic compared to the rest of his oeuvre. He seems to lose interest in the paint, and I think if he were making them today he would probably do it on a computer. Personally I think he was kind of running out of steam, which I guess had to happen eventually. Even this late work though doesn't seem to get bogged down in theory. That's the thing that impressed me the most about this show. Kandinsky is considered an important figure because of his revolutionary ideas. Today those ideas may not seem that revolutionary, but the consistent high quality of the paintings, that don't simply illustrate his ideas, is something that would make them stand up in any era. Maybe that's why he's such a modern giant. He didn't just have great ideas he was a great painter.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Halloween Haunted Houses 2009


In New York City there are haunted houses. Some are filled with monsters and ghouls, one has coven of vampires and another you must sign a waiver. All of them look like they may be fun. Here is a list. Maybe you are brave and willing to go. Honestly, what is more american than going to haunted house in Halloween. You know you want to get scared! Take a date, or come with a friend. This won't be no Shrek.

Here are the three, go to the sites and read the FAQ's first, it is important.

1. Nightmare: Vampires:: Americas # 1 Haunted House This is not Twilight, so Edward won't be there. No one under 12 will be admitted.
2. Haunted House You must be 18 years or older, and they promise to touch you. You go in alone. Bring a change of pants.
3. Blood Manor This house is about ghouls. It is about 5000 square feet with crazy rooms, and people eating monsters. Not for children under 14. They warn, that it is not recommended for people with heart or back problems, pregnant women and people prone to seizures. What fun!

If you plan to go to any of these places remember to come in track shoes, casual dress, and just in case, bring an extra set of trousers. Happy Halloween

Halloween 2009 Tips and Treats/ Oct. 31 7PM

Halloween is almost here, October 31 when all the freaks and monster shed their costumes and openly roam the streets. Come out and enjoy the parade, participate; get out of your costume and embrace your inner princesses or ghoul. It is free, fun and so very Village! I always enjoyed this night, and this parade, these are my fellow freaks, after all Halloween was never for the kids. For more information go here. Enjoy and be free! Boo!

Afterwards you might want to check out the parties. Here is a good site. Why not check it out. After all you just want to be yourself and let it all hang out! The night is young. HALLOWEEN PARTIES!!! Arggghhhhhhhhhhhh!

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

New Years 2010 Survival Guide/ part 1.

New Years in New York is alway filled with expectations. As a city of extremes some of us have gotten use to it and some of us have not. ( I am of the latter.) Yet with the right preparation and the right frame of mind we can come ahead to usher in the new year with joy and laughter. For us, the big night always starts with food and then party, we all like to be with friends. Yet the question remains where to begin especially when you are new to the city. The secret is in knowing that the entire city is a party. There is something always happening and everyone too is celebrating the beginning of a New Year. So there are no places, just "starts".

For starters, read the reviews to find great place to eat. I will check out the following sites and look by area. On New Years, restaurants and clubs often offering pri fixes specials with champaign. You can find these specials offers in the Village Voice , Time Out New York and New York Magazine. I also suggest exploring Yelp and City Search. For events around Time Squares see the Time So this is where I will begin. I will add more information as we get nearer to the New Year's Eve. Cheers!

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Georgia O’Keeffe: Abstraction. through Jan 17

Whitney Museum of American Art, 945Madison ave

Georgia O'Keeffe is primarily known as a figurative artist, but this show concentrates on her early work (1916-mid 1930s) when she made her name as one of Americas early abstractionists. The show starts with some early charcoal drawings, and some encouragingly messy watercolors that she exhibited in 1916 at "Gallery 291", a visionary art space that was run by the visionary photographer Alfred Stiegletz. He would become a major figure in both her personal and professional life. She would become a subject in his photos both nude and clothed, which clearly helped promote the sensual and erotic aspects of her paintings. It also promoted the commercial success of both her and Stiegletz's art.

It's interesting to me that her work was seen as so groundbreaking when it's not really all that abstract, even by the standards of the time. She usually used some clearly identifiable figurative subject matter, and always had some kind of illusionistic space with modeled forms that you can see light fall on, pass through, or reflect off of. Maybe this noncommittal approach to abstraction made her work more accessible, and gave abstract painting a broader audience. But, compared to some of the radical abstraction that was going on at the same time in Europe by artists like Wassily Kandinsky Kazimir Malevich, and Piet Mondrian these paintings seem very tame. Admittedly she was dealing with different issues than they were. Her paintings are about abstracting from nature to give a truer, more emotional experience of being in the landscape than can be reached through conventional depiction. She wanted to capture a feeling, rather than make a picture. It's an ambitious goal, but some of her colleagues here in America who were working towards the same goal like Marsden Hartley, and Arthur Dove were clearly doing so with more ambition, and explored the genre in much more depth . Compared to their paintings hers look timid and illustrative. Even John Marin, who would never call himself an abstract painter seems much more raw and visceral in his handling of the landscape than she. The same could be said of Charles Burchfield, or Milton Avery for that matter (although Avery painted later). You can see the influence some of these artists had in her work in terms of pallet and structure, but she seems much less committed in her soft, almost apologetic brushstrokes.

O'Keefe was a very evocative colorist, and her paintings are best when she allowed the color to carry the strength of the painting, drawing attention away from her pictorially stagnant compositions, that for all their weird amorphous forms still look decorative and structurally flat. It made me wonder what would have happened if she had moved more earnestly into abstraction, and allowed the paint to simply be seen as paint. Maybe she would have turned into an interesting colorfield painter. Instead she went in the other direction and retreated back into figurative imagery. Surprisingly in the last room of the show we flash forward to 1952 where there are two paintings, "My Last Door", and "Black Door with Red" which are flat and geometric, and the most purely abstract paintings in the show. Maybe she was exploring what could have been. I overheard a couple of young women talking about how"fearless and intense" she was. It sounded like wishful thinking to me, but of course they were looking at one of Stiegletz photos of her at the time.

So, why is she considered such an important artist? Well, some people love her. Some of that has to do with the accessibility issue I brought up before. Also, clearly a lot of it has to do with Stiegletz promotion of her paintings, and more specifically with his promotion of her as a female art icon, and her paintings as the true inner voice of women. She was the only woman around at the time painting like this (or at least the only one I'm aware of). But, does that make her work distinctly female in character? Is it because her abstractions of flowers and canyons look vaginal in structure? Maybe it's because her paintings are pretty, and her light ambivalent brushstrokes were seen as feminine at the time. Maybe they still are. How sad would that be?

Friday, September 18, 2009

Dorothy Iannone: Lioness. Through Oct 18

New Museum of Contemporary Art, 235 Bowery, at Prince street

Dorothy Iannone: Lioness. Through Oct 18

Dorothy Iannone has been producing provocative art that deals with sex and the body, and the societal taboos surrounding them since the early 60s. Her work has always been a first person narrative, and has focused largely on charting the artists personal sexual history. According to the wall text her work is strongly informed by Egyptian art, and Byzantine mosaics. Personally I see more of a folk influence, specifically in the deliberate crudeness of the figures and the way they're rendered. Howard Finster is the first name that comes to mind. Lannone first gained some notoriety in 1961 when she was arrested for attempting to bring a Henry Miller book into the country when the writers works were still banned. The book was confiscated, and the artist sued to have it returned to her. She won the case, which helped pave the way for the ban on Millers work to be lifted . Some years later in a group show she was forced to cover the depiction of genitals in one of her paintings, which caused an uproar from fellow artists, and earned her more publicity. Her former lover, the artist Dieter Roth gave her the moniker "Lioness" which she's used ever since.

With a build up like that I wish I could tell you she was a better artist. I, for one was very disappointed. This is a small show, particularly since it's supposed to be a retrospective of sorts, but it didn't leave me hungry for more. Part of the problem is that what was revolutionary and provocative in the 60s and 70s doesn't always hold up today, so the loaded subject matter kind of comes off as a juvenile attempt to shock the viewer. That wouldn't bother me so much if the work had a little more formal or aesthetic intrigue. although, some work is better than others. There's a narrative, graphic novel type series of drawings with text called "Icelandic Saga" (1975-83) which is the best piece in the show. Its small scale gives it a personal, humble quality that seems to compliment the subject matter. There are also a series of small wooden cutouts of celebrities and historical figures with their genitals hanging out (1966-67) that have a perverse folksy charm. But, then there are these large scale paintings that really don't work at all on a formal or expressive level. The images look pretentious and ugly, and badly painted. I wish I could say that she is rebelling against conventional aesthetics, but I think it's just that she's a really bad painter. There's also this video piece which is one of the dumbest, most inelegant works of art I've seen in a while. I don't want to waste any time or space describing it.

I've heard that Ms Iannone is having a concurrent show at the Anton Kern Gallery on west 20th street. Maybe it's better than this one. I don't know, because I'm not going to see it. If anyone does, let me know.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Museum of Modern Art, 11 West 53 street James Ensor. Through Sep 21

When you look at the history of modern art and the significant personalities that designed it James Ensor (1860-1949) has to be seen as something of a unicorn. He's a fascinating, and clearly important artist, but he can't really be categorized. He partially fits into a couple of different movements, but not fully into any of them. We know he was a major figure in the Belgian avant-garde, but I don't know if that was a very hard thing to do, because for the life of me I can't think of a single other Belgian painter. Can you?

The show concentrates on his early work, and most of the paintings and drawings are from the 1880s and 90s. After getting out of art school Ensor set up a studio in the attic of his families curiosity shop in a small resort town off the North sea, and worked there for the rest of his life. His early paintings are dark murky cityscapes, still life's and interiors where he uses a thick impasto and the liberal use of a pallet knife as well as both ends of his brushes. A lot of these paintings look strikingly similar to some of Cezanne's early work. This style of painting was called "tachisme", which meant to mark or stain; something Ensor did quite aggressively. The surfaces of these early paintings are very physically beaten, scratched and marked up in an almost violent manner. There is however a clear sophistication to the way he painted, something very evident in paintings like "The Oyster Eater" (1882). References to northern old masters like Rembrant, Breugel, and Bosch can be found throughout the show. This strange mix of sophistication and brutality was a sign of his restless desire for innovation and need to rebel against aesthetic convention. It's particularly evident later in the show with his wildly improvisatory etchings and large scale drawings, that look almost like a cross between daVinci and a mental patent.

Some time around 1883 his pallet becomes brighter, and his images more eccentric. His figures and the relationship between them becomes more theatric. In some cases they seem farcical, in others tragic, and a strange symbolism seeps into his work. He starts including masks and sculls in his paintings, and becomes fascinated with cross dressing and death. The death obsession was so great that it actually drove him to paint his fathers corps lying in a coffin, apparently from life (so to speak). Around 1885 he became interested in the relationship between spirituality and the imagination, and sought to paint light as a subject. He reimagined religious images in bold provocative ways, like "Tribulations of St Anthony" (1887). In some cases he cross referenced biblical stories with contemporary culture. This culminated with his masterpiece "Christ's Entry into Brussels" (1889), which unfortunately isn't in the show (I blame the Getty). He also painted a number of self portraits as Christ, or as a martyred Christ-like figure. His persecution complex was pretty out of control.   Other times he painted himself dressed in women's clothing, or as a fool or clown pissing in a gutter, and in one case as a pickled herring being chewed on by two sculls. While walking through the galleries I twice overheard someone say "Man, he was really fucked in the head." While I think that's a bit of an oversimplification, I can't entirely disagree.

Ensor had a very individual and idiosyncratic vision, but it was a vision that never grew complacent. His career is marked by an overwhelming obsession with history and convention, and an equally overwhelming need to rebel against, and in some cases revise it. The fact that he had such a broad and detailed knowledge of art history and managed to make so many cultural and historical references, yet still maintained such an unusual and autonomous vision is testimony to his strength of character and artistic integrity. He had conflicting views of his identity as an artist, views that he never seemed to feel the need to resolve. He saw himself as both satirist and mystic, as narcissist and martyr, as cultural sophisticant and outsider visionary, as old master and insolent child. Chronologically the last painting in the show is "Moses and the Birds" (1924). I think it's one of, if not the most stunning and original piece in the show, and it's one that only an artist who had traveled such a unique path could have painted, even if that path was confined to a small Belgian attic.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Francis Bacon, A Centenary Retrospective. Through Aug. 16th

Metropolitan Museum of Art, Francis Bacon, Through August 16, 2009

Francis Bacon (1909-1992) is unquestionably one of the most important and influential British figurative painters of the twentieth century. He is also no relation to the actor Kevin Bacon, or to the smoked breakfast meat that I think tastes so good with french toast. But, I digress. When you think about the way British painters have distorted the human body since the first world war for the purpose of finding a truer less romanticized existential image of the human condition (and I'm thinking specifically of Lucian Freud, Stanley Spencer, Frank Auerbach, Leon Kossoff, and more recently Jenny Saville) Bacon stands chronologically at the head of the pack. You could say that he established a content that would become one of the hallmarks of modern British painting. Another thing that makes him an historically important artist is that he was one of the first to cross reference photography, film, and old master paintings in his work. Also, he did it in a particularly imaginative and original way. His obsession with stills from the film "Battleship Potemkin" and the Diego Velazquez's portrait of Pope Innocent X are themes that reappear throughout his life's work. We know Bacon was an atheist, but I don't know what it was about this image of this Pope that haunted him the way it did. Anyway, I can't imagine the Vatican was one of his major patrons.

That said, I have to admit that I've never been a huge fan of Bacon, and this show didn't do anything to change my mind. The show can best be described as hit and miss, but that can also accurately describe the mans career. Bacons images are arresting and powerful at best, but melodramatic and formulaic at worst. Also, his work didn't really evolve all that much. The paintings in the last galleries of the retrospective look very similar to those in the first both in subject and style. He clearly had a great gift for painterly distortion of the figure, but he frequently resorted to what I would have to call cheap expressionist theatrics, and it's the repetition of those theatrics that undermine their own authenticity. This is more obvious when his paintings are seen in a large group like this. In terms of subject matter he stuck primarily to figures in rooms, usually naked and lying on sofas or beds. There are also a lot of screaming heads, frequently belonging to the Velazquez Pope. Formally you can see the same pallet throuout the show. The same spooky burnt oranges and pinks, and the same big black backgrounds for his pale white figures to sit dramatically against. He also enjoyed drawing linear squares or rectangles around his figures which I guess was meant as a nod to the surrealists, and his use of little red arrows that crop up in his paintings over the last twenty years or so of his life is a pretty superficial compositional device that doesn't serve any intelligent pictoral function, and really annoys me.

There are some undeniable masterpieces in the show. I'm thinking specifically of the "Three Studies for a Crucifixion" triptych done in 1944 and the second version painted in 1962. These are as powerful and disturbing as anything I've seen in modern art. In fact, the triptych format is something Bacon really shines at, and are the most consistently good work in the show. Some of his early figure study paintings are also wonderful, like "Figure in a Landscape" from 1945. Also, the portraits of his late lover George Dyer painted in the 1970s are very moving and emotional images. it's interesting how his obsession with certain lovers seem to mirror his obsession with certain photographs and paintings. When he was on, Bacon was clearly a modern master of great importance. The problem as I see it is that half the time he painted like a lesser, less motivated artist trying to imitate Frances Bacon.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Dumpster pools are very cool

This is very cool. In Brooklyn a group of people decided to repurpose dumpsters into swimming pools. I love the ingenuity of it, and practicality. It is a lot. It is in Gowanus. It is NYC and yet these people through their vision and desire made something special and simple to share with their friends. They breathed life into large trash canisters. There is another message here. Enjoy the video here and read more about it here. It kind of makes you think.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

News: Manhee Bak is on Blogspot

Manhee Bak is a New York City based artist and a good friend. When we created the blog we wanted to let people know about the richness in creativity and depth that is in New York and that comes through here. Here is an artist of note. I like what he does with found objects. How he finds organic beauty in their artificial form. .
Take a look at his work.
Contact him and tell him what you think if you feel you must. Art, like us, does not exist in a vacuum. Enjoy

In the Know: Cool links

Yesterday I went to Central Park to hear the NYC Philharmonic and I took this picture. Below are some helpful links to all of what is happening in this great city.

For everything in the city, check out NYCGO and for what is happening in our latin culture, go to NY Remezcla. Both sites are worth a visit. Enjoy!

ManhattanHenge - Photos of NYC

Here are some wonderful photos of NYC, the city we love. During this unusually mild and wet summer we have received some spectacular sunsets and experiences with light. Enjoy the photos as you think of the city.

"a biannual occurrence in which the setting sun aligns with the east-west streets of Manhattan’s main street grid. The term is derived from Stonehenge, at which the sun aligns with the stones on the solstices". ~Wikipedia

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Summer Classical Concerts in NYC 2009

The New York Philharmonic in

I thought people should know about the classical music series in the park. There is always something happening. Here is a good link for you to bookmark. Check it out here for the schedule.

The 2009 US OPEN in August Offer

From Fandango and Ticketmaster special offer

Starts August 31

"Be a part of the greatest sports and entertainment event in the world! See stars like Venus Williams, Serena Williams, Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal, Maria Sharapova and Andy Roddick battle it out for the championship at the 2009 US Open. Witness the intense competition, electrifying action and unparalleled excitement that fans and players love about the US Open.

Fandango fans can take advantage of this exclusive ticket offer. Order now and see the US Open for the same price as a movie ticket! Tickets are just $10!"

Photos from Wondermere

Here is are some photos from our friend Susan McIntosh reception last week at Apex Art. It is series of very interesting video installation that is worth a visit. For more information on the show click here.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

NEWS: July 8th is Wondermare! Curated by Susan McIntosh & Albert Wilking

July 8 to August 8th,
Scene One: Take One - July 8, 6-8PM

Our friend Susan MacIntosh with her partner, Albert Wilking, are curating a show at ApexArt, Wondermare! Knowing them it will be a test of our reality. You know I wont miss it. Susan is an artist, actor, writer, film maker, survivor, mad genius, and many things more. Go see her show! I am sure you will not forget it.

NEWS: Conversation with Fanny Sanin Thursday July 2, 2009

Our friend Fanny Sanin is having a talk tomorrow at her gallery Latin Collector today. She's really artist who's worth hearing. She had shown with my mother in the past and so we share some history. The following is information from her e-card on tonight's Talk.

7-9 pm, talk starts at 7
37 West 57 Street

Please join us Thursday July 2nd, 2009 for a talk by Michelle Heinz about the work of Fanny Sanin. Fanny Sanin will be answering questions
about her work directly after the talk.

Fanny Sanín is one of Latin America's most distinguished and well-
respected abstract painters. Though she has worked outside of any
group affiliation, Sanín has remained faithful to the principles of
hard-edge abstraction since the early seventies and has constantly
created enigmatic color combinations and architectual shapes that
create subtle spatial suggestions that feel monumental.

Sanín studied at the University of the Andes in Colombia and pursued
graduate studies at the University of Illinois and the Chelsea School
of Art in London. Her work has been included in over 300 shows
including the landmark exhibition Latin American Women Artists
1915-1995 and is included in many important collections worldwide.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

The 4th of July is on the HUDSON!!!!

YES!!! The 4th of July almost here with more fire works and a twist. This year the fire works will be coming from the west on the Henry Hudson in celebration of the 400th Henry Hudson expedition.

To find the best place to see the fire works and what other venues t0 enjoy the festivities check out the Macy's Firworks site for locations and NYCGO for tips on what to see and where. It has tons of information. Check it out and happy 4th!

Sunday, June 28, 2009

The High Line is Now Open

We are now free to walk the High Line, at least the first third. It is beautiful piece of architecture that has been saved and transformed into a walk way across the city. Here are some pictures that I took. It is well worth a visit.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Brooklyn Museum, 200 Eastern Pkwy Gustave Caillebotte March 27-July 5

The Brooklyn Museum:Gustave Caillebotte Exhibition
March 27 to July 5

I've always liked Caillebottes work a lot and thought that he was an important and influential artist in spite of the fact that he is not one of the first names you think of when you think of the impressionists. This may be in part because he started painting late, died young at 46, and stopped painting several years before dying. In fact he was a bit of a dilettante, and consequently doesn't have that large a body of work. The other reason, I think is that he didn't entirely buy into the whole plein air thing, and most of the work in the show is clearly not painted from life. This is the reason he was seen as something of a reluctant impressionist, even though like the impressionists he rejected the academy and chose to paint images from every day life. Also his rich colors, avoidance of detail, and loose painterly depiction of light in its many forms clearly make him an impressionist, but an idiosyncratic one.

Caillebottes stylistic signature was his unusual and complicated compositions, and his "bizarre perspective" as one critic called it. He liked to create deep illusionist space with a dramatic diagonal, and used it in some very ambitious and imaginative ways. The strange vantage points and the way he cropped his images are what give his paintings their abstract integrity, and I think what make him an important figure. This is most impressive in his urban street scenes and his images of boats, where he frequently painted from the perspective of the passenger. The way he renders the strange elliptical shapes of the boats and the light dancing on the surface of the water reminded me of some of Thomas Eakins paintings of the same theme, but with a more painterly French quality. He was obsessed with boats, and he designed and raced them as well as painting them. This was one of the things that kept him from painting full time. The show has a wall of half models from his designs which were supposedly very cutting edge for the time. Anyway, that's what they say. I don't know anything about boats.

The show's a bit uneven though. Some of the paintings have this bold imaginative structure, but some are more generic impressionist landscapes where he tries his hand at the plein air painting that was the signature of the impressionists. They're technically beautiful, but not distinctive or that original. The major problem should be blamed on the Brooklyn Museum. Caillebottes most famous painting is "Paris Rainy Street Day" which is in the collection of the Chicago Art Institute, but for some reason isn't in the show. There's also an important painting of his that I've only seen in reproduction called "Boulevard Seen From Above". I would like to see it in person, but that also wasn't in the show. It made me wonder what other jewels didn't make it in. They did put a lot of boat models in the show, but personally I would have rather seen the paintings. According to the Museum this is the first retrospective Caillebotte has had in the US in over thirty years, so you'd think they'd want to include his best stuff, right? I think Caillebotte is a really intriguing figure who deserves further exploration and examination, or at least better treatment than he's received here.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Matthew Marks Gallery, 523 West 24stCharles Ray May 8- June 27

The Matthew Marks Gallery

To call Charles Ray an interesting artist would be a huge understatement. He's one of the most influential artists of his generation. That generation being of the late 80s and early 90s, which is why the three pieces chosen for this show were first exhibited over twenty years ago. "Ink Line", "Spinning Spot", and "Moving Wire" are all kinetic sculptures, or conceptual minimalist installations (whatever), and were all created in 1987 and 1988.

"Ink Line" is a continuous stream of black printers ink pouring out of a small opening in the ceiling of the gallery, and into an equally small opening in the floor. At first glance it looks like a static string or cable, and only on closer inspection can you tell that it's a moving liquid. "Moving Wire" appears to be two wires protruding from the galleries wall ten inches apart. Soon the viewer realizes that one wire is slowly moving out of the wall while the other one equally slowly retracts, indicating that the two wires are connected somewhere behind the wall. "Spinning Spot" is a cement disk inserted into the galleries cement floor that spins at 33RPMs. Personally I think It's the least intriguing of the three.

Rays work initially elicits a "cool, look at this" or "isn't that clever" gut level response, which I think undercuts the seriousness of the work. One thing he does that is pretty interesting is that he employs a hidden force outside the galleries interior for all of the works in the show, making the viewer more conscious of their environment, and how it limits what they see and know. Using that force he plays with perception in the tromp l'oeil tradition, but updating that tradition so that instead of dealing with two and three dimensional space he's dealing with static and kinetic energy. He also uses potential energy to take a unique turn on the artistic tradition of exploiting the seductive, tactile quality of the materials. You have a strong desire to touch the work, but (especially with "Ink Line") you know the potential damage you could cause. In fact it's the potential damage that amplifies the works tactile seductiveness. He's also one of the few conceptual artists I can think of that seems to make aesthetics a priority. Formally all three works function as very graceful, three dimensional line drawings, where elegance compliment conceptual imaginativeness. Now I'm Just wondering what he's doing today.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Matt Jacobs at George Bills Gallery Photos

These are some pictures I took at the opening of Matt's current exhibition at the George Billis Gallery. It was a lot of fun and worth the visit. Maybe you were there. Enjoy, and I hope you get a chance to see the show.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Mitchell-Innes & Nash, 534 West 26 street Jessica Stockholder May 7-June 20

Mitchell-Innes & Nash

Jessica Stockholder is a highly respected artist who's been showing for a long time, and I've seen a lot of her work over the years. I have to admit that I don't fully understand what she's doing or know if I even like it, but there's something about her that I think is interesting. Maybe it's that she's hard to really define. I usually hear her referred to as a sculptor, although I imagine sculpture purists would dispute that. She's also called an installation artist, although the spontaneous, haphazard appearance of her work really challenges the tradition of that medium. In fact her choice of materials and the way she combines them seems kind of silly, and even arbitrary. They don't appear to have any relationship to one another either formally or thematically. That kind of sloppy intuitiveness is a quality you see more often in painting than in sculpture or installation art. In fact some of the work does have big strokes of paint on it, though you'd really be pushing it to call her a painter. But, her work isn't just challenging to tradition, or catagoration. The objects and the way they're put together are about as disharmonious as any art I've seen. While I can't figure out what she's aiming for, I have to admit that her total disregard for aesthetics is pretty impressive.

Cheim & Read 547 West 25stChantal Joffe May 7-June 13Cheim & Read 547 West 25stChantal Joffe May 7-June 13

This was a pleasant surprise. Chantal Joffe is a very good young British painter who I'd never heard of before I wandered into the gallery the other day. Joffe paints large scale figurative images that, at least in this show, focus on young women. The expressive painterliness of the work, and the strange meandering distortions of the bodies made me initially think of Alice Neal. The work is also in the same school as Egon Schiel, or Chaim Soutine, where anatomical accuracy submits to the physical properties of the paint. They're actually the kind of paintings Marlene Dumas would be doing if Marlina Dumas were a better painter.

The size of the paintings at first struck me as a little awkward and self important given the seeming immediacy in which they were painted, but I could soon feel the weight of the gestures, and the expressive slap of the wet brush strokes that requires this kind of scale. There are, in fact a few smaller paintings in the back that don't carry the same strength of the big ones. The big sweeping strokes of paint also show off the bold and imaginative way Ms Joffe renders the bodies and creates unpredictable flesh tones.

I found out from the press release at the front desk that she usually gets her images from fashion spreads and magazine ads, but these paintings are from photos Joffe herself took bakstage at Paris fashion week, and are meant to "reveal a sense of vulnerability and openness, characteristics not usually associated with the polished identity of high fashion". Hummm. I didn't really get that, but she is a hell of a good painter.

Betty Cuningham Gallery, 541 West 25stJohn Lees: works on paper May 7-June 13

John Lees is an old school painters painter whose physically aggressive use of the medium, and slow deliberate method of painting has characterized his work for over three decades. This show of drawings are if anything more expressive, because of the physical fragility of the paper. The same way the duration of the work causes the surfaces of his paintings to build up also causes the surfaces of his drawings to break down. Lees usually uses a mixture of medium, and these drawings have a beautifully beat up and distressed quality, that is never self conscious. In some cases the paper is ripped through by the relentless drawing and redrawing of an image, a process that for Lees often takes ten years or more. The man should get points for tenacity.

Lees's subject matter is common place and has only personal significance, but he's one of these artists who addresses the universal through the particular. He draws his dog, his saxophone, or paths and streams that are near where he lives--the things that he cares about and enjoys looking at. The influence of Chinese art is pretty obvious, but I also think that the sketches of Leonardo, and other Renaissance masters inform Lees hand. In the spirit of disclosure I should mention that Lees's was a professor of mine when I was in art school and I'm pretty familiar with his work, but I think I would like it even if I were seeing it for the first time.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Summer Music 2009

Here are some links on summer concerts around New York. If you are planning on being here during this time you might be interested:

AllPointsWest starts Friday July 31rst

Siren Music Festival... waiting for dates

Summer Stage, central park concerts FREE!

Andreas Herzau Onscreen

Hi everyone,
I have been looking at videos and photos from our friend Andreas Herzau for the past few weeks and been very impressed. I have not seen anything like these photos video essays before. They are wonderful and well produced works that take you to a place that is akin to visual poetry. Looking at the photo essays, Skyscrapers, brought me back in time to when airplanes in the sky were mysterious and the world was large.

Explore his photo essays. Download his videos from Itunes and then tell him what you think.

He also has an interesting blog called Hellonewyork Hallohamburg. This is a wonderful blog of photography of competing visions by Stefan Falke and Andreas Herzau. I suggest an exploration. You will not be disappointed.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Update: Village Vanguard night of Brad Mehidau

On May 10th I finally got to see Brad Mehidau. Guillermo, a friend of the house recommend I go check him out, and I am glad I listened. Brad Mehidau is not crazy Thelonius Monk, but surrealistic new wave, on the edge jazz. It was right to see .

Here some pictures from the Village Vanguard. It is a very old and historic jazz club. It's small and intimate, and the price was reasonable. It is a good place to see and hear live music.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

the Atlantic Avenue Tunnel

A few weeks ago Matt and I took a tour of the tunnel beneath Atlantic Avenue in Brooklyn. The tunnel was rediscovered by Bob Diamond in 1979 after it had long been forgotten and became part of the folklore of Brooklyn. The were many stories about the tunnel being a place for pirates hiding their loot, and German spies planning to sabotage munition ships during WWI. If you want to see and hear about a part of New York that is rarely known we can't stress signing up for this tour enough. More information can be found on their website. Reservations are required. Upcoming tours can be found here.