Category Archives: Art

Picture Industry, an art show you should see at Bard College’s Hessel Center

I went back to see this show at Bard’s Hessel Center for a second time today. I rushed through the first time, and didn’t quite get all the amazing connections going on here.

This is a show about photographs that digs deep into their documentary value. The first and last images in the loop of an exhibit space are workers entering and leaving their factories.

In between, there is a fantastic survey of photographic imagery working on social issues. Walker Evans and Lewis Hines are here, in the context of their documentary work, and some of Robert Mapplethorpe’s sex pictures are here, too. Plus one of the flowers, because it exists.

Not everything clicks, but everything does get at this idea that pictures and ideas and politics and social understanding, at least, go together.

There is an amazing video, built around Kanye’s Ultralight Beam, that weaves a history of black culture in image and sound that challenges and undermines the very notion of integration. In the way that I Am Not Your Negro does, disdaining the very notion of accommodation.

Martha Rosler’s detournment of women’s roles in American advertising struck me, maybe because this is what I grew up with, and how I learned to distrust the media.

Here’s one of those not in the show. Go if you can.

 

 

 

Fenn’s Treasure Hunt

Forrest Fenn is a dude, apparently.

He made lots of dough on Southwestern artifacts. You can surely see how that happened.

When he found time to confront his own physical demise, he wrote a poem with nine clues about where he buried a small chest or artifacts worth two million dollars, somewhere out in the wilderness of the Rocky Mountains.

Where? Idaho, Montana, Colorado, or New Mexico.

A cult of treasure hunters going after this treasure was inevitable, but so far the most anyone has gotten out of it is a good yarn.

 

 

Brackets! March Mammal Madness 2017 is on.

This is year five of MMM (March Mammal Madness). Read all about it here.

They even explain why there is a Gila Monster in this year’s bracket! In short, they’re not fooling around.

There are four divisions. Sixty three mammals, plus the lizard. There are seeds, venues, home venue advantage and, on schedule, matchups.

The big thing to know? There are upsets. Like this one:

The rankings are not infallible and there are upsets in nature too. Upsets are what make March Mammal Madness exciting. Like in 2015 when #3 seed Quokka exited stage left for those sweet burger rings allowing #14 seed Numbat to advance!!! OMG! WHO SAW THAT COMING!?!?!?!

I did not.

Another important question:

Is the battle always to the death?

The battles are NOT always “nature, red in tooth and claw.” Sometimes the winner “wins” by displacing the other at a feeding location, sometimes a powerful animal doesn’t attack because it is not motivated to- a few years ago in the “Who in the What Now?” Division we had a dhole lose to a binturong because the night before the dhole had gorged on babirusa and the gut passage time of wild-canids is 24-48 hours. This meant that the dhole was still full from the night before and unwilling to take the risks of tangling with the binturong. Even a small claw cut or bite wound can get infected and lots of times an animal will back down rather than take a risk for little potential benefit.

So, play along, follow obsessively, or just read the charming and funny description of the event. And before registering your bracket in a bettering pool, keep in mind a rules change for this year that completely overshadows major league baseball’s recent changes: A mythical mammal can now defeat a real mammal. That wasn’t the case last year.

 

On The Road: The Movie

screenshot-2016-10-07-23-37-44Walter Sallas made a movie of Jack Kerouac’s On the Road a few years ago. On the Road was my favorite novel when I was in high school, it fired my interest in Allen Ginsberg and William Burroughs, and it introduced me to a form of truthseeking and mystical engagement with the world that changed my life.

In other words, for a while I was obsessed with UFOs and horoscopes, but I found a way to shift my imaginative engagement to something more human. That, at some point later, is what really matters.

I didn’t watch Sallas’s movie for years, I think because what I read about it was bad. Critics did not like the movie, and I wasn’t interested in engaging  with a bad movie about my favorite book. A favorite book that was problematic in the way it treated women.

In the many intervening years, I’d talked about On The Road with many women who had read the book and found that it failed the women in the story totally. I grew to understand that this was an important thing, and a failing of Kerouac’s book.

I watched Sallas’s movie tonight and, after a rough start, was surprised how well the movie told the story of Sal and Dean’s friendship and respected the women’s part in the story.

This is an adaptation that is also a critique of the original novel, exalting the romance of Kerouac’s writing, at its high points, but not overdoing that, and also treating the story with a modern brush. Woman are more than objects today, even if Kerouac didn’t always treat them that way.

In this way I came to admire the movie, though it is far from flawless. The Ginsberg  character is given due as a figure, but as a personality he’s irksome and pretentious and lacks charm. I’m not sure that’s inaccurate but it undermines the fact of all these character’s sexual fluidity. In fact, the movie goes out of its way to protect Kerouac’s hetero identity, when that wasn’t the case.

The bottom line is I think everyone should read the novel. It has deep and abiding meaning, especially in the context of it’s time. And I don’t think the movie screws that up much, except that it adds a layer of much-later critique, which I hope makes women feel more welcome.

 

Governor Cuomo, Sir! A Way Better Idea for Penn Station.

Yesterday the Governor of New  York, Andrew Cuomo, announced a new shopping mall and Amtrak station adjoining the James A. Farley Post Office Building, across Eighth Avenue from the current Madison Square Garden. Call it the new Penn Station.

If you’re not familiar with New York you have no idea just what a disaster the current Penn Station, which currently resides under the Garden, is. For one thing, New Jersey Transit, Amtrak and the Long Island Railroad all come through the station, which is a tangle of platforms and stairways and levels, all with low ceilings and a sense of crushing crowdedness.

screenshot-2016-09-30-23-30-17For another, it isn’t the glorious station that was built in 1910 and graced the site for 50 years before it was ingloriously torn down by greedy developers, a move that sparked New York’s historic preservation movement cum bureaucracy those many years ago.

If you are familiar with the station, you know all its horrors, but you might not guess that 650,000 people arrive and leave from it every day. It was designed to handle about 200,000.

As someone whose portal into the city when I was growing up was Penn Station, it was always a miserable place to be. Its dismal surroundings were ameliorated somewhat by the fact that you were either leaving or coming, you didn’t linger longer than necessary in Penn Station. Still, sometimes the wait was long.

I don’t know if it is by coincidence or plan, but the New York Times today has an elaborate suggestion for how to fix Penn Station. The beauty of the plan, which was developed by the architect Vishaan Chakrabarti, is to leave the massive cylinder that is Madison Square Garden intact, but to do away with all the innards.

screenshot-2016-09-30-23-32-00No concrete shell, no hockey rink, no basketball court. No stairs or escalators. The shell would be replaced with something called blast-proof glass, and the space would be open to the sidewalk. No doors!

Though in cold weather the station may be sealed off by temporary walls. But the idea is that the sun beating down on a giant glass building would work like a greenhouse.  Anyone who has ridden the escalator up with a full complement of luggage to the door on Eighth Avenue and 32nd Street knows how nice the elimination of door would be.

In any case, the Times presentation of this idea, written by Michael Kimmelman, the paper’s architecture critic, is not only beautiful, but it is beautifully presented. If there’s a reason to move from print to digital now, this is it.

And I’m not showing any of it. Be surprised!

 

Slide Hill, Governors Island

Here is the architectural rendering by West 8, the firm that is designing the island, showing what it would look like.

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Click for larger image.

And here’s a picture I took yesterday of the finished, sort of, project (the trees will grow larger).

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Uncanny, except in reality the kids are all adults. There were in fact many children enjoying the slides, but somehow none of them made it into this shot.

 

Stephen Wilkes’ Wrigley Field Day to Night

The other mindblowing photo I saw at the Brooklyn Museum sports photography exhibit was this one, a picture of Wrigley Field from outside the park, that shows the day transitioning from day to night.

This is a sample detail to give you an idea:

Screenshot 2016-08-29 16.23.55

Wilkes took more than 1500 images, then blended them together to make the full image, which you can see in full at the Gallery Stock website.

You can see more of Wilkes’ Day to Night series on his website here.

Tomasz Gudsowaty: Mexico’s Car Frenzy

I was at the Brooklyn Museum show about sports photography this past weekend. It’s a fine survey of the art of sports photography, with some iconic sportastic imagery that everyone knows (Cassius Clay towering over the fallen Sonny Liston in Maine, for instance) and then some other striking stuff.

This picture is by a Polish photographer named Tomasz Gudzowaty and it is a constant amazement to me. The spiral of the roadways and the careening angles of the cars is dizzying, and at the same time embracing. My first thought was of what rules such races might be run, and my second thought was who needs races, the speed is the thing!

Copyright Tomasz Gudzowaty.
Copyright Tomasz Gudzowaty.

You can find more of his pictures of Mexico’s Car Frenzy at his website here. I think his shots of the cars are stronger than the people shots, but all are worth a looksee. And I’ll be coming back to this one often.