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The Ballad of Blexbolex

art - kids
The latest and, from what I can tell, the most complex narrative from the french artist Blexbolex.

The latest and from what I can tell the most complex narrative from the french artist Blexbolex.

A couple of months ago, I went in search of a birthday gift for the daughter of a friend. And as it is with most younger kids gifts (this young lady was turning six) one tends to think at least as much about the parents and what they might appreciate as one does the child. At least, if one is me.

ballad by blixbolex

An early spread in the story depicting the boy’s walk to school.

So I knew I’d hit the jackpot when I found this book, Ballad by Blexbolex, in the kids section at Spoonbill and Sugartown, one of my favorite local bookshops. It has everything I could want in a children’s book. Vintage inspired silkscreened art, a typeface that feels handwritten, a story that starts off with mundane scenes of a regular school day but erupts into full fledged fairytale territory with a witch, a princess, a drummer, panic, an armada, birds, secret messages… In short, it’s a story about a small world exploding into enormity. But the best part is that the author leaves many of the pages devoid of text which encourages the readers to invent their own interpretations of the illustrations. The tale has a happy ending, but the way we get there is entirely up to the individual telling of the story.

Which means we can read this book over and over whilst never hearing the exact same plot twice.

Reason enough to make sure that our kids to learn how to read and write in cursive, if you ask me.

Dancing with the stars


This is an incredible beautiful dance by the Japanese company Enra called Pleides, after the constellation of stars that represent the seven sisters who hunted with Artemis back in the day. My family were all so mesmerized by it that we watched this 3 times in a row before returning to a reality that unfortunately doesn’t include shining bits of light that answer to our every movement.

Take the four plus minutes out of your morning to watch it. You won’t be sorry.

Mike Kelley’s last weekend in Queens

Mike Kelley Kandor

These are two pieces (a video and a sculpture) from a series the late artist Mike Kelley made about Superman and Kandor, his birthplace that was miniaturized and kept on life support by the evil Lex Luthor

Ok first off, a word of advice. Don’t wait till the last weekend to see a wildly popular art exhibit. It makes the whole experience slightly annoying and fraught with waiting in lines, from the coat check, to some of the galleries, to the cafe.

That said, if you haven’t yet seen the Mike Kelley retrospective at MOMA’s PS1 (which closes after this weekend), you should by all means ignore my advice and go check it out. And bring your kids, too. This is the kind of work that speaks to all ages.

Mike Kelley stuffed animals

What kid won’t be into giant hanging balls of fused stuffed animals?

Generally considered one of the most influential artists of our time, Kelley’s work spans many media, and is at times funny, sarcastic, sad, meditative, playful, jarring and beautiful. There is work about Superman, Plato, and serial killers, meticulously constructed architectural models of every school Kelley attended, giant floating balls made of color coordinated stuffed animals, and films of a painted satyr frolicking through a psychedelic wood. ANd that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Kelley was a busy man.

Mike Kelley Pay for your Pleasure

This piece is called Pay For Your Pleasure. There’s a donation box outside, a long hall lined with portraits of various luminaries commenting on the close relationship between creativity and being an outlaw, and, at the end, a painting by convicted murderer Arthur Shawcross, known as the Genesee River Killer, who murdered 14 people in his lifetime.

The work takes over the entire building, which is itself a bit of a labyrinth, and each new gallery or hallway or open space is a distinct experience. A person could easily spend all day wandering around and not even take in the half of what is on hand to view. But even just a sip of this strange and beautiful brew is well worth the subway ride to Long Island City.

Mike Kelley Kandor

More work about Superman’s hometown of Kandor

Mike Kelley quilt

A crazy patchwork of found items, with ears of dried corn on the borders, of course.

I am not a critic, so I won’t try to get all technical with anybody here. But I can say that this is the largest exhibition of Kelley’s work to date, and that the people who have ordained Kelley a high priest of the contemporary art scene have good reason to keep him in that pedestal.

Mike Kelley tribute to John Glenn

A tribute to John Glenn, complete with tons of broken cups and saucers.

Try to get over there to see the show this weekend, if you haven’t already. They’ve even extended the Saturday hours till 9 pm. And then have lunch or a snack at M.Wells Dinette, the eaterie that serves as the museum cafe. A bit overpriced, perhaps, but really delicious nonetheless. They charge 3 bucks for bread and “salted” butter, which drives me crazy, but that’s another post for another time.

Mike Kelley at PS1
Through Sunday, Feb. 2, 12 to 6 pm.
Extended hours on Saturday, Feb 1, till 9 pm.
22-25 Jackson Ave., LIC
$10 suggested donation

PS: Now that this show is closed, you can get some nice Mike Kelley quality time online at, which has a whole Kelley online universe, complete with links to various works, articles and other exhibits. Well worth checking out.

The secret life of a whisperer

Judith Puckett-Rinella on the phone in her Long Island City studio.

Judith Puckett-Rinella on the phone in her Long Island City studio.

Ok so this is not really about the secret life of anybody, but I liked the sound of that phrase for the title. I also think it goes really well with the photo, which is one of my favorites from a recent shoot I did with the inimitable Judith Puckett-Rinella for the People section of Jill Platner’s website.

This is one of my favorite photo gigs, because I always get to hang out with singular and inspirational people, ask them lots of questions and snoop around their spaces a bit. What’s not to love about that?

In this case, I had the privilege of photographing Judith Puckett-Rinella (a former photo editor at Vanity Fair and T magazines) at the HQ of her new venture, Whisper Editions, a collection of limited edition original works resulting from collaboration with an exclusive group of artists and designers. It was part office, part photo studio, part design workshop, with huge windows covering an entire wall. An ideal space to create. I totally wanted to move in.

Each week, a new edition is released into the world. The current offering, just out today, is a decoupaged mirror by Joseph Heidecker. It’s released in an edition of one as part of their new Original Fridays series, so run don’t walk as I’m sure it’ll go fast! If the edition doesn’t sell out during the first week, the remainder of the work moves into the “vault” where we mortals who might not be quite so quick on the draw can check it out and make our purchases in a more leisurely fashion.

The work is always incredible, ranges from fine art photography, to jewelry, to tinctures and tea and ranges in price from the ‘whoa-ok-that’s-beautiful-maybe-in-a-future-life’ to the ‘wait-I-can’t-believe-that’s-all-it-costs’. There’s something for everyone.

So go check it out. And maybe get something for that special valentine you’ve been wanting to pamper. (yep, it’s that time already…) Or for yourself, for that matter. And then, if you’re in NY, go outside and enjoy the balmy 30 degree day we’ve been blessed with after such an insanely long deep freeze. It almost feels like springtime out there.

Judith Puckett-Rinella

Judith Puckett-RInella, hair tied back, ready to go to work in her studio. Smiling because she’s doing exactly what she wants to be doing. May she be an example to us all.

Who needs school?

The pardee collection

Some hand painted hairdressing signs from Ghana and small paintings of birds at The Pardee Collection’s pop up gallery show in Chelsea.

Outsider art can bring all sorts of things to mind (a guy painting alone in a field, a lonely kid drawing comics in her room) but in actuality, it just means that the artist has had no formal training. Once dismissed as “craft” or “primitive” and relegated to small shows in folk art museums, the category is finally getting it’s due and the artists who have been drawing, painting, making and building their hearts out are finally finding a bit of a market in this crazy place we call the art world.

I’ve always been a big fan of this type of work, thanks to my parents who are long time collectors, and have the very beginnings of my own collection starting to take up some space around here.

I get notices of shows from time to time and today, for some crazy reason, I decided to actually trek through the snow to Chelsea to check out a pop-up show of an Iowa City based gallery called the Pardee Collection. Run by Sherry Pardee (who is also a photographer) this collection of vernacular work by both American and African artists is a labor of love, the result of thousands of miles driven, doors knocked on and unknown places explored. Pardee has wonderful taste, and each one of her artists brings something different, but no less significant to the table.

I could go on and on, but suffice to say that if you are going to be in Chelsea this weekend, walk up to 29th street and check out this show. At the very least, go look at the gallery website and mark your calenders for the Outsider Art Fair, coming to NYC in May. The work is spirited and subtle and beautiful. And relatively affordable, which is really appealing to fellow artists like me, who may not have thousands to spend on art, but love to surround ourselves with inspirational work:

Emitte Hych

The brightly colored animal paintings of Emitte Hych.

"Uncle Pete" Drgac

The subtly colored graphic work of “Uncle Pete” Drgac. (Except the piece on the top right, which is by Jim Work)

Jim Work drawings

The breathtakingly meticulous architectural drawings of Jim Work.

Go check this show out if you are in the hood this weekend. You won’t be sorry. Details are below.

Pardee Collection popup gallery showing
527 W 29th Street (bet 10 & 11 Aves)
Second Floor

Saturday (1/25) 11-6
Sunday (1/26) 11-5

And if you want to learn more about Outsider art without leaving the confines of your living room, check out this great BBC documentary:

Turning The Art World Inside Out from Jack Cocker on Vimeo.

A flight of fancy


This is a beautiful video that makes me want to quit everything and just do collaborative art projects forever.

Which probably isn’t going to happen.

But maybe I can work towards increasing those types of projects in my life from their current number of zero (unless you count the Sketchbook Project I’ve been helping my daughter with) to say, one or two.

A girl can dream.

When you wish upon a tree…

art - kids
yoko ono wish tree

This wish tree was recently at the Jim Kempner Fine Art gallery in Chelsea.

I had a couple of extra minutes before a recent shoot in Chelsea, so I wandered into Jim Kempner Fine Art Gallery and saw, in the courtyard, this Wish Tree by Yoko Ono.

Of course I had to participate in the project (anything to help motivate some of my wishes into transforming from dreams into realities) so I took one of the little labels, wrote down my wish, squeezed it with my eyes closed, and then tied it to the tree.

It was a really nice, contemplative thing to do before heading off to work.

That particular tree is no longer in that particular courtyard, but you can add your wish to the collection by going to They also have instructions for building your own wish tree (do I hear weekend activity with your kids, anyone?) with templates for tags and everything else you might need.

Maybe if we all wish hard enough for all the stuff we need to make a better world, it’ll come true.

Joe Bradley rocks

Joe Bradley drawings at Gavin Brown

This is my favorite wall of Joe Bradley’s show at Gavin Brown Enterprises in NYC.

Joe Bradley’s recent NYC show at Gavin Brown was profound, funny, simple, huge, graphic, tactile, primitive and subtle all at the same time. Pay attention to this artist, who is quickly moving into the art-star category. I love his work.

Click below to see more from this show… — Read more

Dan Estabrook makes beautiful pictures

Dan Estabrook inviote

The official online invitation to Dan Estabrook’s beautiful show. Which I just lifted from the website, but I figure since I’m promoting the show it’s ok, right?

For some reason, it seems that May 2013 is “my-friend-has-a-show-in-a-gallery” month so I have been trucking over to Chelsea to see what has been keeping them so busy for the past little while. And I must say I have not been disappointed.

Take my friend Dan Estabrook’s images for example. He uses what are called alternative processes, (ie not silver like your standard black and white photo, but other light sensitive emulsion techniques like gum bichromate and carbon printing that were typically used in the early days of photography) to create a haunting series of pictures that could be over a hundred years old. They are intimate, captivating and surreal, and manage to be both peaceful and disturbing at the same time.

His show is up through June 15th at Daniel Cooney and is well worth checking out. I took my daughter to the opening and she immediately fell in love with the girl with the fire headband (below). I liked her too, though I am also partial to the feet (also below) maybe because I am a Pisces and we are supposedly really obsessed with our feet.

dan estabrook images

Or does the fact that I especially love the feet image make me some kind of Jesus freak?

I apologize for not writing a profound review of this show. I am about as much of an art critic as I am an astronaut. But you should still listen to me and go see this show anyway.

Just because.

Dan Estabrook
Daniel Cooney Fine Art
526 West 26th Street
Through 15 June