What possess those with a singular vision? Those that see something large and significant when most see nothing at all, sometimes, and by some standards, less than nothing. What does it take to identify a moment, capture an essence or value a life that is seemingly insignificant within the glow of the big picture? How does one begin to gather the pieces that make up an unseen whole before they are no longer there to touch?
Maybe it takes someone from the outside to see the inside of the "outside" as in the case of Captured: A Film/Video History of the Lower Side as seen through the lens of the living legend Clayton Patterson, and documented by the team of Ben Solomon, Dan Levin, Jenner Furst and Marc Levin.
Much like Jacob Riis' pioneering use of "flash" photography to penetrate the darkness and squalor of New York's most desperate slums to expose social injustices and human suffering during the 1880s, Clayton Patterson was to use the video camera to expose the underbelly of a brutal NYPD and give not only faces, but voices to L.E.S. gangs and dealers, crack heads and crack whores,homeless and artist, punk rockers and drag queens, anarchists and self appointed community leaders to become the muckraker* of the 1980s.
This is a truly powerful film for anyone that lived in New York, the East Village and the L.E.S. during the late 1980s and experienced or witnessed the Tompkins Square Park and Squatter riots, the merciless cruelty of crack, heroin and AIDS, and the everyday struggle of those born to survive or succumb to the hard knock life. It would also be an important film for those who would otherwise like to remember to forget about this era as they leave the air conditioned comfort of Whole Foods with their yoga mat and a bag of organically grown fair-trade baby arugula for air conditioned comfort of their luxury condo that used to be a vacant lot filled with cardboard box shelters and the smell of urine. Remarkably, the revolution, as well as the evolution, can now be
televised, downloaded or projected, thanks to little brother.
Limited edition prints of Clayton Patterson's still photography work can be acquired through KTF Gallery.
* Muckracker is a term coined by Teddy Roosevelt to describe Jacob Riis, who he also proclaimed to be "the best American I ever knew". I wonder if Ed Koch will ever describe Clayton Patterson and his companion Elsa Rensaa are the best Canadians New York has every known?
Here is my project for the Bring it to the table exhibition. I have had a lot of fun playing with sugar in all it's forms! See below for the outcome. Hope to see you on Sunday at the opening – spring, 126a Front Street, Brooklyn, New York, 11am-2pm.
Sugar is a food product that teeters somewhere between good and bad. Like salt, it is a product that is used by most of the world, regardless of development, infrastructure or GNP. However, its production has led to exploitation and clearing of forests to make way for planting more sugar cane in developing countries and its growth in popularity has led to the onslaught of obesity in both children and adults in developed countries. Conversely, sugar cane has also been developed as a feasible alternative energy source, making its very existence something we may depend upon more heavily in the future.
Considering the many faces that sugar takes, Natasha Chetiyawardana has explored sugar in its many forms for Spring gallery’s Bring it to the table project. Taking sugar in its original form, a pen was whittled from a piece of sugar cane, ready to chew on in that moment of thought and contemplation, hopefully there to provoke thought itself. Secondly, a sugar bowl was made from the by-product of sugar production, bagasse, the fibre that is left when the juice is extracted from the cane. The fibers were mixed with soy resin to create a new life for a waste product that is usually just burned. The third exploration was looking at sugar in its usually-consumed form, the sugar cube. As a nod to the ships that haul sugar across rivers and over oceans, a small boat made of sugar floats momentarily on the foam seas of a cappuccino and eventually sinks. A sugar man sits on the precipice that is the edge of a cup, dipping his feet into the drink to test the waters. A little poke from a sugar-hungry finger pushes him over the edge.
The first of a few of the pieces we are exhibiting on Sunday at spring that I thought you foodies would be interested in.
CHOW CHART by Brett Snyder, Designer, Visiting Assistant Professor, Pratt School of Architecture and The University of the Arts, www.chengsnyder.com
The food we eat is part of a vast network of global production and consumption. On Chow Chart, a placemat, adjacent maps trace the path, from farm to table, of the ingredients in a typical home-cooked dinner. Total mileage that ingredients have travelled are represented by the color coded ‘spokes.’ These distances comprise only a portion of the whole story. Once food is consumed, the by-products continue on various trajectories, from the network of sewage pipes, to water treatment facilities, to landfills, and to recycling centers where discarded food packaging material is transformed once again. Chow-Chart suggests that in addition to measuring food by cost and calories, we may also begin to think about food in terms of its global impact.
spring is a gallery in DUMBO, Brooklyn whose next show stems from the table as a place where we sit, eat, discuss. The need to readjust and focus towards a more enjoyable, clean and responsible way of living is best represented by the philosophy behind projects as such as slow food and how it reflects a collective, contemporary thinking that can be applied to other disciplines; the slow revolution! Through curation, Anna Cosentino and Steve Butcher of spring would like to 'bring to the table' results of successful collaborations, examples of design that gives back, show the importance of artisanal skills and their application in design and art; and ultimately the new interpretation of luxury. Featured in this selling exhibition are the brilliant paintings by Justin Richel (see images above) and the much-lauded Sorapot (images below) by Joey Roth.
Alongside this show is an exhibition co-curated by Michael and I with spring. Reserving a space at the table for a group of designers, artists, art directors and thinkers we have asked them to bring something to the table to provoke thought/discussion/action. We are very lucky to have the following people participating (and more may be added to this list): Ralph Ball; Davide Cantoni; Will Carey; Peter Cole; Heather Cox; Otis Kriegel; Michael McGinn; Maxine Naylor; Stijn Ossevoort; Brett Snyder; Cecilie F. Egeberg; Jessica Peterson; Rob Price; Douglas Riccardi; Charlie W. D. Marshall; Rich Brilliant Willing; Zoe Sheehan Saldana. This exhibition explores creative thinkers' approaches to the table environment and their work will be exhibited along a dining table. I'll post some of the pieces involved tomorrow. If you are in the new York area, come and join us this Sunday, May 18th from 11am-2pm for some bloody marys and see what we have at our table!
You are probably going to ask yourself, what kind of person would not post about a friend's new show at Hirschl & Adler Modern until 16 days after it opened, and 15 days before it closes? My answer to you is an idiot like myself who can't seem to find the time of day to get a post or two into a foolhardy weekly schedule filled with travel, teaching, clients and excuses. But enough about me.
I met Marc Dennis through friends Richard and Penny down at DUMBO's General Store last spring. With Marc's long time association with the area, sharing studio space with an old college soccer mate of mine (that's you Manny), and a mutual admiration for a pint or two, I don't know how it was possible that we hadn't met years ago. Regardless, when we did meet, we bonded like two old sailors stuck in Kansas.
Unlike his paintings, when Marc is observed from a typical viewing distance, he appears unrefined, a rough around the edges blue collar type armed with an unforgiving Massachusetts accent. From this perspective there is no romance in his style, flair to his dress or an apparent necessity for social niceties. For those unwilling to look further or engage (if Marc so chooses) they will miss the beauty, intelligence, knowledge, cutting humor and quick wit of this man who has slashed a distinct pathway to considered vision and creative passion.
As with Marc, his paintings are there for those who spend the time to engage. Taken at face value, his work seems simple and easy to understand as interesting subjects of nature's beauty deftly executed in a photorealistic manner. Both his large and small canvasses feature a rich pallete, powerful compositions and a depth that calls for the viewer to reach out and touch. BFD, right? No, not right. As with the person who sticks around to to discover the value and essence of Marc's words and character, so will the viewer who stays long enough to find the message and reward in his paintings.
For example, at the opening there was an older couple hovering around Diptych of Earthly Delights, an 2007 oil on canvas that measures 30 x 60 in, depicting an arial view of poppy flowers and buds. As the couple moved back and forth observing the buttock-like buds, the woman was overheard by Marc to say, "Are those anuses"? To which Marc replied in passing, "Yes, they are". Moving beyond gimmickry to deliver a dose of reality and humanity as evident in his Melodius Merrius Giganticus which transforms beautifully-rendered buds into a gaggle of curious pink characters with green snouts with the simple application of dots, or Venus Giganticus where mehndi/henna (Lawsonia inermis) styled stems lurk behind a foreground of gloriously patterned and detailed flowers.
I would be going out on a limb to state that to know Marc is to know his paintings or visa versa. However, I would say that in viewing these recent pieces that Marc has come to the conclusion that with all of his skill and artistry it would be a fruitless folly to try and fully capture the evolutionary beauty and intelligence of nature by applying pigment to canvas. By studying nature day in and day out he has found something most of us have missed. By dissecting and recreating nature he has discovered and connected his individual human nature and traits to his subject to create an intimate and knowledgeable relationship where the humor is an insider's joke between Marc and his subjects.
Anyway, my dad Bio Bob thinks Marc it the greatest thing since saprophytes and I don't think he is bad either. Marc, I owe you a few beers.
Shown above: Melodius Merrius Giganticus, 2007, oil on canvas, 50 x 50 in. Venus Giganticus, 2008, oil on canvas, 50 x 50 in.
Hirschl & Adler Modern, 21 East 70th Street, through March 15, 2008
There would be relatively few reasons for me to leave the comfort of my apartment or the warmth of my bog-standard builders tea on this miserable Friday afternoon. However, reason and rational have little traction when one is called by an unnamed force to act, and act I did.
Poorly armed with a $3 street umbrella and red-laced low-top trainers I fought my way through fitful winds and pulsing streams water falling from the Manhattan bridge on my way to Klompching Gallery here in DUMBO. And what did I find at the end of my soggy vision quest? Snow.
Unexpectedly, I found myself swept up and enveloped by Lisa M Robinson's "Snowbound", a five year undertaking to photograph ice and snow. Having been raised in Binghamton, New York, I know something about snow as I know something about winter. And in my expert opinion, so does Lisa M Robinson. You don't see winter, and capture images of snow like she does unless you do.
She understands that winter is a suspension of life and a point of no return between the memory of fall and the hope of spring. Within her photographs you hear the ghostly whispers of summer's glory as winter winds carry them across a thinly veiled landscapes that attempt to hide the presence of those who make it their home. Multiple colorful huts and a single figure become an abstract vision painted with life's frozen elixir in Robinson's "Invisible City" as shown above. While "Solo", as seen below, teeters between a brutality of fact and the romanticism of fiction.
I found comfort in being alone with this show's 16 pieces as I often found myself comforted by walking through the winter nether-world of my youth. Their familiarity brought my senses to life, and life to memory. Here's to you Lisa M Robinson.
The show runs through February 29th.
I have been off painting and sculpture of late and now find myself drawn to big photos much in the same way I am drawn to tapioca pudding. In both cases I am fascinated by mankind's vision and technology to create such wonders, but disappointed that each has the tendency to leave me with a sugary taste in my mouth and empty feeling in my stomach considering such a high calorific intake.
I really didn't put this new pursuit into perspective until yesterday afternoon when I stumbled upon a meaningful show, Motherland by Simon Roberts, at the Klompching Gallery here in DUMBO. As you can imagine, it was a giant relief to see a photo show, specifically a large format photo show where the size of the prints was in direct relation to the quality, impact and meaning of the subject and story. And as one can imagine, this is something that doesn't happen much in this age of large format Digital Type C Prints. You know what I mean, we have all walked into a gallery or even a museum and said to ourselves, "Wow, those are big, they must have cost a lot to print". No matter what those spam emails tell me on a daily basis, bigger is not always going to impress the ladies. In fact, I have been downright miffed by some the big photography I have seen at ground level, big name, Chelsea galleries the season. Although it's not worth the time and effort to name the galleries or photos that suck (or to answer the hate comments left on the Nova Clutch blog), I will go with the spirit of the season and share the stuff I really loved. How's that?
1. Edward Burtynsky: Quarries at Charles Cowles Gallery (Closed)
Know him, love him, can't live without one of his prints, but I will have to for now. Initially I didn't know how to look at these photos. I walked around quickly to take them all in and then made a second and third round to move beyond the size of the prints and the vastness of the space captured within to bring me to a place where I could enjoy the composition, color, details and story. Talk about the will to move mountains, the ingenuity, the technology and the brute strength compared to the smallness of the cars, trucks and buildings. Now this is modern sculpture on a massive scale, not just the palace where the stone actually went. Art capturing life creating art, yes.
2. Amir Zaki: ? at Perry Rubenstein Gallery (Closed)
As my dearly departed friend George once told me at the age of 80, "I think I really started to see last month when I saw beauty in an ugly town that I never really looked at before". I think this may be what Amir Zaki has thankfully discovered at a much earlier age. I was immediately struck by the monumental format and presence of this photographer's urban landscapes. Like ruins of an ancient civilization, these images, anonymous residue of urban sprawl and strip mall culture, are singled out and made worthy of their existence. Adorned with hypothetical logo marks and signage, the buildings are taken further from their original and forgotten purpose and transformed into a relic of some parallel universe. Although some of the logo marks can come off as a bit too Stargate ( http://stargate.mgm.com/ ) for may taste, his accompanying digitally informed "scribble" sculptures are intriguing on their own accord.
For me the Motherland was the mother load. Here the large format captured the vastness, simplicity and complexity, hope, struggle and heart of the Russian territories, peoples and cultures. It would have been easy for this talented young Briton to take exceptional yet expected shots, however, even when he takes a picture of the ubiquitous Brutalalist Soviet apartment blocks he captures something different; a serene acknowledgment of deterioration without sentimentality or apology. Each and every photo created connection between this viewer and the subject because the Roberts has engaged the land and its inhabitants over the course of a 365 days, 75,000 kilometers and 11 time zones.
Can these men help save the world of large format photographic prints? Da, pravda.
All photos are from the photographer's respective websites.