35 articles

Yesterday, at some point…


Ok so I finally made it to the new Whitney Museum. Way more conveniently located (for me) at the last stop of the L train, but for some reason, the new meat packing locale been far more elusive than the museum’s previous Upper East Side location. It was the Biennial that finally reeled me in… And I found the show to be full of work that speaks to what I feel is one of the most important issues facing us today– that of intersectionality, and the overlapping layers of our combined, shared but very different histories on this Earth.

This photo is jut a detail, but Aliza Nisenbaum’s monumental portrait of a diverse group of women meeting to address the urgent plight of immigrants (MOIA’s Women’s Cabinet, 2016) spoke to me personally as I think of the work I’ve been doing with the Women’s March organizers and of how much power a group of women can have if they choose to wield it. It is an image of hope and strength in a time that seems to be full of dark clouds.

You should all go to see the show– as usual there is a lot of work to look at, to think and argue about, to question and to enjoy. The Whitney Biennial is nothing if not guaranteed food for thought.

Yesterday, at some point is a series of photographs that describe a moment I experienced during the previous day (or some point in the very recent past). The posts are meant to be stand alone images, though at times I can’t control myself, and I end up expanding the caption into a more lengthy bit of text. Hopefully the extra information is useful, or at least interesting.

Earthshakers, or People to know about: A series of profiles for Black History Month and beyond

betye saar

Betye Saar, 90 year old mixed media artist and force to be reckoned with. Photo by Ashley Walker.

I was hunting for Valentine’s Day ideas and came across this profile of African American artist Betye Saar in Design Sponge. She has long been one of my favorites, both because she makes work out of all sorts of things (some of her pieces are paintings, some quilts, some sculptures and everything in between…) and because each piece has a narrative that seems to flow out of it effortlessly. Nothing is preachy, yet they all have a strong message to convey that is at once deeply personal, magically surreal and culturally relevant. She is a true modern master.

So if you don’t know her work, please take a minute to read the Design Sponge profile, and watch the video below in which she speaks about racism in southern California between the World Wars.

And here are three examples of her work, just to whet your appetites to dig deeper.

Stay tuned for more inspirational people as Black History Month continues…

Go see the Martin Creed show RIGHT NOW (if you haven’t already and you happen to be in NYC…)

art - kids
Martin Creed balloon

My daughter, having the time of her life, in the middle of the balloon room at the Martin Creed show uptown at the Park Avenue Armory.

The Back Door, British artist Martin Creed’s show at The Park Avenue Armory is absolutely not to be missed. Which means you have 3 more days to catch it before the building wide installation closes and fades into a memory (and lots of Instagram photos).

There are balloons, a piano that opens and shuts on it’s own, a whole range of videos, a band of musicians that wander through the space making enigmatic songs, huge curtains that move on their own and all sorts of beautiful objects that make you pause and think about all sorts of things. Plus the huge main room has been transformed into a kind of dark internal head space where the “mouth” opens every once in awhile and you can see out through the back door. Hence the title of the exhibit.

Go see the show. Take your kids, who will love the balloons and the curtain and the piano and most of the videos at the very least. And hurry before it’s gone.

To motivate you, here is one of Creed’s videos. Needless to say this was a particular favorite of my daughter’s…

And here are some photos I took of the show…

Martin Creed
The Back Door
At the Park Avenue Armory through Aug 7
643 Park Ave, NYC
tickets are $15, available online or at the door

Thornton Dial, American Artist (1928 – 2016)

Thornton Dial.

Thornton Dial, self taught and internationally renowned artist, died this week at his home in Alabama. Photo courtesy of

“Art is like a bright star up ahead in the darkness of the world… a guide for every person who is looking for something.”

Wise words, spoken from the heart by one of America’s greatest artists, Thornton Dial, who died this week at 87 years old. A self taught African American artist, Dial spent most of his professional life as a metal worker and created art in his back yard, in poverty and relative obscurity, until he was ‘discovered’ by the Atlanta folk art collector William Arnett at the age of 62.

By the mid nineties, Dial’s work was being shown in museums and galleries around the world and his reputation slowly grew, particularly among students and admirers of American folk artists. His work is now in the collections of major museums and he is widely regarded as one of the most important artists to emerge in the US during the second half of the twentieth century.

His work is complex, masterful, inspirational and intricate, and it pushes boundaries, raises uncomfortable issues and touches our hearts. He is at once “self taught” and a true master of his craft who will continue to blur the lines, categories and pigeonholes of the art world even though his time with us on the planet is over.

To dive deeper (which all of you should) check out this Studio360 podcast, this celebration of Dial’s life and work on hyperallergic, a fascinating article in the New Yorker about the complicated relationship between Dial, Arnett (his largest collector and champion) and the art world at large, and what I like to call the “official” obituary in the New York Times.

Looking at other people looking at themselves


Or, in other words, putting this entire #selfie thing into an historical context that suddenly pushes the whole genre away from a general societal egotistical psychosis and towards a central part of the way human beings make sense of themselves and the world around them.

A Kaia Miller self portrai, as seen in a video as part of the show "ME" at Ricco Maresca gallery in NYC.

A Kaia Miller self portrai, as seen in a video as part of the show “ME” at ricco Maresca in NYC.

My friend Emily told me that her 12 year old daughter Kaia was going to be featured n a photography exhibit at Rico Maresca gallery in Chelsea. I looked at her Instagram (@growingrainbows) and was intrigued, but I have been growing increasingly skeptical of the constant flow of selfies and the apparent myopic obsession with ourselves that they seem to represent, so, to be honest, I was also a bit worried about what kind of person Kaia was growing into.

But I love Emily and I dutifully went to check out her kid’s work, just like I’d like my friends to look at my kid’s stuff if and when the time ever comes. And as I read the press release and looked around at the other work in the show, I was suddenly able to see that some of today’s selfies really are a part of an evolving body of work that is well worth checking out, sitting with, and mulling over.

Kaia Miller’s work is presented as a video, played on an iPad, in which the artist talks about the motivations behind each of her photographs. The images are for sale, but the only way to view them is via this video. And I found myself glued to the screen, curious about how she manipulated some of the images, impressed by her thoughtfulness, and captivated by the parallel universe digital fairy world she has created. I might not want to live there, but it’d be a nice place for an expedition-style vacation.

The show also includes Photomatic images from the 1940′s, and other surreal self portraits from artists like André Kertész and Berenice Abbott. Some images are familiar, while some I’ve never seen before. But they are all evidence of people grappling with self and self image and their place in the world.

self prtrait with gorilla mask soji Ueda

Self portrait with gorilla mask (1975) has always been one of my favorite images by Shoji Ueda.

It’s a show well worth seeing… but tomorrow is the last day, so hop to it. If you miss seeing the images live, there is always the gallery website, and a lovely piece by Adam Gopnik in the New Yorker that you can peruse at your leisure.

Photographic Self Portraits
Through October 31 2015
Ricco Maresca Gallery
529 W 20th Street, third floor

Fairytales do come true, or the overnight sensation of painter Claude Lawrence (that was 30 years in the making)

My Old Flame, acrylic on canvas, by Claude Lawrence

My Old Flame, acrylic on canvas, by Claude Lawrence

Once upon a time, there was a creative soul named Claude Lawrence. Born in Chicago, he moved to New York City and lived the artistic life of a jazz musician making music in venues all over the city and absorbing everything that the mythical NY of the 1970′s and 80′s had to offer.

He also loved to paint, and while it was not his main source of income, Claude painted and drew and made art with a dogged persistence, creating visual work which mirrored the lyrical and improvisational qualities of his music.

Eventually, Claude moved back to Chicago, dedicating most of his time to working with paints. He was an outsider, both by virtue of his location far from the center of the art world, and the fact that he was self taught.

Untitled 10, 1991, acrylic on canvas, by Claude Lawrence

Miss Rita, 1991, acrylic on canvas, by Claude Lawrence

But a year or two ago, the wind shifted direction, and a body of his work emerged from a storeroom where it had been hiding for many years. Collectors and galleries took note. Two pieces were shown in the Hamptons. Several more went to a gallery in Santa Fe. And suddenly, Claude Lawrence found himself in the collections of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, The National Gallery, The Brooklyn Museum, NOMA (The New Orleans Museum of Art), and The Studio Museum in Harlem, among others.

Which just goes to show you that hard work really does pay off, even if it takes awhile.

The Gerald Peters Gallery in New York is currently showing his work and the sky seems to be the limit. The show is up through March 26 and MOMA is sponsoring a reception and artist talk at the gallery this Wednesday (25 March) from 6 – 8 pm if you want to learn more.

Invasion, 1998, acrylic on paper, by Claude Lawrence

Untitled 190, acrylic on paper, by Claude Lawrence

Another thing I really don’t need, but totally want regardless

Petronas Sign, by Brian Alfred. On view at Ameringer McEnery Yohe through March 14.

Petronas Sign, by Brian Alfred. On view at Ameringer McEnery Yohe through March 14.

Hands down, the award for best tittle of a gallery exhibit this season goes to painter and animator Brian Alfred. It Takes A Million Years To Become Diamonds So Let’s All Just Burn Like Coal Until The Sky Is Black is up at Ameringer McEnery Yohe in Chelsea for just one more week (through 14 March) and is absolutely worth the long trek through the cold and snow to go check out.

His (mostly) large scale graphic paintings are inspired by auto racing, but to me they seem more about the thrill of speed and how the regular world is abstracted when you move so quickly through it, and less about showy cars and the road. I say this because I can’t for the life of me imagine ever wanting a painting of a racetrack, or anything to do with one, and yet I absolutely fell in love with one of the smallest pieces in the show, Petronas Sign. I suppose I always did have a thing for signs…

One of these days I am going to be a person who goes to galleries in Chelsea and actually buys things. But for now, I count myself lucky to be able to experience and have my mind expanded by work like Brian’s.

It never hurts to be reminded of the potential diamond in every piece of coal.

Yesterday, at some point…

dustin yellin

Last night we went to the New York City Ballet and were treated both to 3 breathtaking and seminal works by Balenchine and to Dustin Yellin’s life-size multi-layered explosive chaotic ethereal glass collage sculpture installation pieces. They are called Psychogeoraphies and were commissioned as part of the NYC Ballet’s Art Series.

They are not to be missed.

Yesterday, at some point is a series of photographs that describe a moment I experienced during the previous day (mostly). The posts are meant to be stand alone images, though at times I can’t control myself, and I end up expanding the caption into a more lengthy bit of text. Hopefully the extra information is useful, or at least interesting. If not, feel free to ignore it.