Thursday, March 29, 2012

New York, New York

The NY art fairs couldn't have come at a better time of year, with the folks safely ensconced in Florida and the homestead empty. By the end of my week there, the catalogs, Swedish posters, business cards and maps were strewn about the place - a decorating overhaul with which my mother would surely take issue.
As Yarden says below, it was interesting to experience the different personalities of the various shows and exciting to see how some of our artists fit into them. After the loft gallery show we attended which featured several Boston artists, I went back to Brooklyn on Saturday. All of the galleries in Williamsburg and Greenpoint stayed open until 10 for the After Hours event. My brother and I particularly enjoyed the work of Michael Van den Besselaar, a Dutch painter who we spoke to for quite a while - Van den Besselaar lives in Paris and was in NYC for the opening of a group show he was participating in at Black and White Gallery. Zooming out from the New York/Boston art axis, his take on American culture and militarism was particularly refreshing. (Above: Aesthetics of Contemporary Power / 60" x 60" / oil on linen / 2011)
Earlier that day I went to the Dependent Art Fair which was held at the Comfort Inn on the Lower East Side. As art folks know, the most recent wave of galleries in Manhattan have found a home in LES, and it is a blast seeing all the new venues opening up down there. Still, as a native New Yorker, you have to laugh sometimes - this is definitely not your grandmother's Ludlow Street. The Dependent show was especially scene-y with some vendors barely having much on view except for a logo or a sculpture in the corner of a cramped hotel room. I took a few minutes in the hallway and just drank in the comings and goings - the air kisses, the costumes, etc. Before heading off, I sat in the lobby and chatted with a young curator. I had planned to go to the Whitney Biennial the next day and she told me that there were some great dance performances there as part of the Biennial. The performances were sold out but she let me in on a secret - if you got on the standby line, you might be able to get in. Running late the next afternoon, I fortunately found an excellent parking spot on Madison Avenue and raced down the block to the Whitney where there was a long line just to get in. To make up for the wait, there were some interesting folks also waiting on line, including Lou Reed and his recent bride, Laurie Anderson - so, you know, that it made it a lot better. Having found the standby line in a stairwell, I struck up a conversation with the guy in front of me. The Nordic theme continued as he was a Swedish performance artist. Dressed in black from head to toe, including fingernails, he told me he had been attending the shows in town and the night before had been to a big party at an art consultant's. All of a sudden, a woman and her date came running up to the guard, insisting on being let in as she worked for a major donor of the exhibit. But in this case, money did not talk and egalitarianism prevailed - my Swedish pal and I were the last two to get in.

Halfway through the 90-minute performance of Sarah Michelson's
Devotion Study #1 — The American Dancer, part of me wished that Might had indeed beat Right in this case, as the piece was repetitive and a bit dull. (My black-clad neighbor must have thought so too as I could hear him snoring - or maybe it was the late night at the art consultant's.) The problem for me was that the piece started with a 5-minute voice over which is then repeated before launching into a continuation of the dialogue. It's one thing to watch the same steps over and over again but having to listen to the same dialogue was frustrating and made me lose interest in the whole piece. I must admit though, the monotony of the dance and music led to a meditative state that stayed with me after I left the museum. (Here's the review in the NY Times which appears to corroborate my unschooled assessment.) I only had a few minutes to take in the rest of the Biennial, which was unfortunate, but it's up until May so there's a chance to catch it again before then.

We've got a show opening tomorrow so I've got to wrap this up...I'll continue next week with more on my trip southward to Phillie, Baltimore and DC and all the great stuff I saw down there. Other than some visiting and the amazing Nepalese food my brother found at a hole in the wall in Jackson Heights - again, not the Queens of my childhood! - two other NY highlights remain.
Cindy Sherman retrospective at MOMA is a phenomenal show - breathtaking in both depth and curating. It's up until June 11 - don't miss it, folks. Then on my last night in town, I caught the engaging documentary The Ballad of Genesis and Lady Jaye at the Chelsea Clearview, about the
"pandrogynous" performance artist and industrial music pioneer Genesis Breyer P-Orridge (Throbbing Gristle, Psychic TV). And in an incredible bit of only-in-New York synergy, I ran around the corner afterwards for a quick drink and some not-too-bad drag karaoke before scooting up to Penn Station for the 12:19 back to the Island.

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