Saturday, September 29, 2012

Flash Mob Dance

Nimbus Dance Works, Jersey City
All About Downtown Street Fair in Jersey City
What I loved most about this street fair is everything was local.

Friday, September 21, 2012

There's Somethin' Happening Here

There are THREE exhibitions of 1980's East Village art in New York now. While I'm delighted to see this work is at last getting some attention, not one of these exhibitions is comprehensive enough to give a feeling for what the art scene was like then.

Installation view of the New Museum's exhibition Come Closer (Photo: Katherine Jánszky Michaelsen)On the left is Paul Tschinkel's video Haircut, 1975 (a topless Hannah Wilke giving Claus Oldenburg a haircut); and on the right is part of  Curt Hoppe's painting Bettie and the Ramones, 1978 (done in conjunction with Marc Miller and Bettie Ringma's conceptual photography project "Paparazzi Self-Portraits" and signed by the Ramones). 
The New Museum has devoted their small fifth-floor space to Come Closer: Art Around the Bowery, 1969 - 1989.  In some ways, the small crowded space is a good thing because it helps reinforce the casual, raw quality of the work and captures a little of the spirit of those times. It would be even better if they packed in more art — or better yet, crammed the entire museum full with this work, but unfortunately the New Museum has become too conservative for that.

The exhibition draws heavily on my friend Marc Miller's archive and his comprehensive website If you want to learn about this period, you're better off going to Miller's website because not only is the amount of work in the exhibition insufficient, but the labeling and documentation are atrocious. Nevertheless, it is definitely worth spending time with this show since in a small way it does capture what the scene was like then. (If you want to see more photos of the show —The New Museum's site has only three — check out Tim Schreier's post here.
Door to Keith Haring's apartment (Photo: Tim Schreier)
The most ambitious exhibition of the three (and it's not very) is Times Square Show Revisited at the Hunter College art gallery (68th Street — enter through the lobby on Lexington). It pulls together a small fraction of the art originally shown in the historic Times Square Show organized by Colab in June of 1980 in a run-down four-story building at 41st and Seventh Avenue.  The original show was a free-wheeling, not to say chaotic, installation of the art of more than 100 artists, and it included painting, sculpture, music, performances, film and fashion. The current show is sedate and tiny in comparison; and doesn't come close to capturing what the original was like. (A recent show that came closer to evoking that spirit, although with current art, was This Side of Paradise, a huge exhibition at the Andrew Freeman Home in the Bronx that took place last April. I wrote about it here.)
Installation view, Times Square Show Revisited
It was almost impossible to identify the individual works in the Hunter College show from the check list provided, but the explanatory wall texts were informative and the exhibition's website is excellent.

Crossing Houston, the third exhibition, is getting very little attention, and that's a mystery to me because it has works from the mid-1980's by such well-known East Village artists as Keith Haring, David Wonjnarowicz, John Ahearn, Rodney Alan Greenblat, Jane Dickson and many others. It was organized by Hal Bromm, Paul Bridgewater, and Gracie Mansion, who herself was one of the major figures of this period. The show, appropriately enough, is in the Lower East Side, in the former New York Studio Gallery, 154 Stanton Street at Suffolk.

The New Museum, or better still the Whitney, should do a major exhibition of East Village art. It's overdue.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

City/Drift -- Bushwick

By Charles Kessler

I spent most of Friday, Saturday and Sunday in Bushwick attending (and participating in -- it was that kind of event) Citydrift, an exhuberant, chaotic, playful, all-embracing art-community undertaking. Among other things, it included night-time scavenger hunts for art, artifacts and about 100 mini-tequila bottles; an art time-capsule (the art was documented and placed in a dumpster, and the whole thing eventually will be buried somewhere); a large golem erected at Momenta Art, brought at night to the nearby Brooklyn Fire Proof cafe/bar/gallery where later that night, with supreme irony, some drunks set it on fire; Lisa Levy's Ego Evaluations (her diagnosis was that I have an inflated view of myself - oy); 4-person ping pong (played crosswise); Barry Duncan palindromes; and many panel discussions. And these are just the events I remember or heard about -- I'm sure I missed a lot. 

I still don't know WTF is was all about. Here's an inscrutable explanation from their website:
Citydrift is a replicable meta-event qua group installation/art discourse composed loosely in different measures on Guy Debord’s Situationist concept of the derive or drift, Jan Hoet’s 1986 project in Ghent, Chambres D’Amis, and Colin DeLand’s playful reconfiguration of art fair paradigms with his “Gramercy Hotel” model.
See what I mean?? But it didn't matter. Everyone just went with it in their own way, which was fitting, and some interesting art, performances, insights and a lot of great schmoozing came out of it. 

Peter Hopkins, the director of the Bogart Salon gallery, was the "Creator/Director" of the event, and the inexhaustible (and exhausting) driving force. He was greatly aided by the herculean efforts of Meenakshi Thirukode ("Queen Bee") and the interns Maya Meissner and Wilson Duggan. 

Peter is an important artist in his own right, and this event could be seen as his mad art. He enlisted several Bushwick galleries and what I'd guess was a hundred people, mostly artists, but also art writers, independent curators, and even two long-time East Village and now Chelsea dealers: Magdalena Sawon of Postmasters Gallery, and Wendy Olsoff, of the P.P.O.W. Gallery.

The primary activity was “drifts.” On Friday night, groups of people (ten groups by my count -- you can find some information on them here), led by an artist or artists, drifted around Bushwick with some general aim in mind, but open to other things too. The idea was to go with the flow. Saturday the groups met back at Momenta Art or the Bogart Salon, reported on their drifts, and often made some art derived from it. 

Perhaps the best way to capture what took place is to describe one of the drifts. 

Christopher Williams recording sounds in his drift area (Photo: Jason Das).
Working with the Hart Island Project (collaborations were the norm), Chris Williams and Jason Das of the Glass Bees art project and their group explored places in Bushwick where people died who were buried in Hart Island, New York’s enormous potter’s field. They took photos, made sound samples, did drawings, and picked up stuff from the locations. On Saturday and Sunday, Williams and Das created a performance and installation from the drift (see photos below). 
Jason Das and Christopher Williams in the Bogart Salon working on their Citydrift installation.
In addition to all this, on Saturday and Sunday there were four panel discussions mainly about the Bushwick art scene, including one about blogging that I participated in. Unfortunately these panels weren't well attended -- I suspect because people were pretty burned out by then, plus it was difficult to figure out what was happening when. And there were a lot of competing activities.
Citydrift panel discussion called Curators in Bushwick: citydrift and The New Model. From L to R: Wilson Duggan, Angela Washko, Meenakshi Thirukode, Melinda Hunt, Stefan Eins and Bonnie Rychlak. You can read their bios here.
The Go Brooklyn studio tour was happening, and several galleries had openings including Centotto, SlagTheodore Art, Brooklyn Fire Proof, Luring Augustine, the new galleries Ethan Pettit and Robert Henry; and Interstate Projects opened a new big gorgeous space at 66 Knickerbocker with what I believe is one of the best exhibitions in New York now. Here are some photos:
Interstate Projects, view from their courtyard (where they expect to show sculptures and have music and performances).
The artist Cheon Pyo Lee working on his sculpture in Interstate Project's basement gallery space.
Installation View, Cheon Pyo Lee's exhibition, Medium is the Same.
And wait -- there's more! Sunday the Bushwick Starr presented COVERS by Katy Pyle which I saw and loved. 

All and all, a pretty full weekend -- even for Bushwick. 

Monday, September 10, 2012

Jersey City Street Art

An anonymous artist has been beautifying Monmouth Street in and around Fourth and Fifth streets in Downtown Jersey City. I suspect it's the same person who festooned the utility poles around Astor Place with plastic ties. Write in if you know who it is.

While taking these photos, I happened upon two of the three gorgeous sisters who call themselves the Big Hair Girls. They're local dog walkers and singers in a band appropriately enough called the Big Hair Girls. What better street art could there be?