Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Born to Be Late (II)

26 February 2007 (~ 6:30 p.m.)

Did I mention I have no budget for taxicabs? What was I thinking? The Audi people (co-sponsors of the Armory Show) are going to send a car for me? EMERGENCY – less than 3 hours to run through the Show AND I need a class of the special Clicquot rosé champagne! Instead I get the equivalent of the Doris Day parking space in L.A. A cab pulls up in the turnabout in front of the Met just as I’m about to cross towards Broadway. I get in.

As we approach the Pier, I find myself on the flip side of that easy cab hail – the endless queue of cabs, shuttles and limousines crawling toward the entrance. I get out and find myself in something that looks like a minimalist ballet, or something out of a 1930s Futurist view of an urban commercial scene: a multitude of figures mostly dressed in long coats in black, (or am I thinking of The Matrix?) or shades of gray, criss-cross each other heading for 12th Street or parking garages flanking the pier, all carrying mostly squarish or rectangular brown paper wrapped packages. The art is leaving the building. No point in making myself crazy. Just keep walking. In any case I’m bound to run into Kathleen, right? I could have sworn she mentioned picking up something from Christian Nagel (Cologne), so I head more or less in that direction. (Did I mention I seem to have utterly lost any sense of direction?) En route, I pass among others, L.A. gallerists, including Richard Telles; and I have to wonder what I’m doing practically ignoring him. Is there anything here NOT worth a second look? I’m amazed that the Richard Hawkins collages (brilliant) and Lecia Dole-Recio piece – in gouache and collage on vellum – haven’t sold. At least one of the Hawkins might have been slated for pick-up. I almost have to assume that there will be nothing to ship back to L.A.

I have not ignored Marc Foxx, and as I’m flying by, I can’t help noticing an affinity between the Evan Holloway construction and the Fausto Melotti I was admiring uptown a couple days earlier. (Rodney’s so engrossed in a sale, he doesn’t even see me. The Jason Meadows is still here; maybe he’s selling that.) At Nagel finally, I’m wondering what Kathleen had her ever-prescient eye on. I have a cursory look around, but find myself coming back to a kind of rocket sequence – a series of drawings – constructions in blue pencil cross-hatchings by Kader Attia. I have a Steinberg moment (see previous post) before moving on.

The surprises – the art, the artists new and old, the market – never stop. One more thing that keeps us coming back. What is the Christian Marclay “Shboom” – the print of torn collaged 4-color comic page fragments around an empty center – still doing at the White Cube/Jay Jopling booth? ‘Shboom – so nice to see you again.’ (I have to assume it may be the last time.) The phone rings. It’s Kathleen. “Where are you?” “I’m at the gallery, dropping off my purchases.” (I suddenly realize that there are probably 50 dealers uttering the exact same words all over Manhattan, at least half of them in Chelsea.) “I can’t believe I missed you. You must have shot through Scope with a rocket pack. I’ve only been here 20 minutes.” While the kaleidoscopic group show in my brain is still turning, Kathleen is already in re-group (collector assignment?) mode. Like I said – always 25 emerging (and maybe 25 established) artists ahead of me – and probably Basel, too. I still have major reconnaissance ahead of me so I’m locked in until breakdown – the Show’s or my own it remains to be seen; but Katheleen encourages me to wheedle an Audi out of the VIP staff to speed me down to 26th Street from where we can negotiate a drink. I could use a nice dry red – especially now that there’s a Veuve Clicquot drought at the fair’s end. (What did I tell you? The Joads in the Dust Bowl (see first post) – always having to make the trek for a good cabernet.)

“There’s an auction over at Christie’s I was thinking of going to – but right now, I’d just as soon sit down with a glass of wine before I go home to Brooklyn.” An auction? This is not on the schedule. (Oh – like I’ve been so on-schedule through – MY LIFE.) I wonder if she’s reserved a paddle. And the sales don’t start until Wednesday, right? I am as clueless as ever. “It’s the Pierre Huber collection – it’s being auctioned tonight. Maybe you should cover it. Come have a glass of wine and we can figure out what to do.” Pierre. Huber. Now I know why people access the internet on their cell phones. I mull this over a minute as I ring off, stopping of course only to look at work. More Ori Gersht, I see – exploding flowers at CRG (New York). Gersht is another artist who has had a certain visibility at the fairs. Then there are the artists who somehow manage to stay before you even as you’re looking at someone else’s work. I’m looking at a Pierre Bismuth drawing on perspex at the Lisson Gallery (London) space “Following the Right Hand of Marlene Dietrich in Touch of Evil,” and thinking of Juliao Sarmento who – didn’t I just see something of his at Sean Kelly (nyc). ‘Yeah, I’ve been there I think,’ in two places at once (privilege of a Gemini, right?). The line is fascinating (more than the thought I wonder? – or should we simply revisit Welles and Dietrich?). But I find myself going back to Sarmento’s interposing and intersections of image and text – something that really drives right into civilization’s shattering bedrock. Speaking of shattered and Sean (Kelly) – great Frank Thiel there, no? But I can’t think about that right now. That’s the thing with Jenny Holzer – she distracts you from that last thought – and it’s sort of happening now with a “White Purple Curve.” Yvon Lambert (Paris) is showing Douglas Gordon – after Gilbert & George (how do you feel about that?)

I’m just pulling away from another Anish Kapoor alabaster ‘eye’ (this one at the Galleria Continua space (San Gemignano an Beijing) when another eye catches mine. David, a dealer from L.A. (and Dallas) strides into view. I haven’t seen him anywhere in the last 4 days. Where has he been? (On the other hand, I run into a lot of people who are just coming from Europe; and I don’t really know what’s going on there.) This, he tells me, is his first day at the show. I can’t tell if this is really smart or really dumb; it either simplifies the business or complicates it. Either way, just like me, he has to keep moving. He’s joined by another pal, Joel; and we’re all buzzing in and out of spaces like bees wondering where all the nectar has gone.


Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Born to Be Late

Part I

26 February 2007 (late afternoon)

One thing that happens during art fairs, markets or big annual/biennial/etc. themed or juried exhibitions is an accumulation of media – artist info, gallery info, printed images, text, check/price lists, catalogues, special (or not so) editions of magazines, posters, flyers, business cards. I start out trying to set limits on these accumulations; but I always find myself wanting the information – ALL OF IT AND AS MUCH AS POSSIBLE – as soon as I can have it. The rationalization is that I will need to deal with it when I get back to wherever I’m staying and start reducing my notes to something that looks intelligible on the printed page – or in any case is some improvement over the scrawl and dingbats that fill page after page between isolated words and figures. Occasionally I really do need the information and actually start USING IT more or less immediately. How far I progress with it is another issue entirely. So I end up with fifty-plus (or more) additional pounds to shlep back to the airport. No problem, you think – use a cart; check it curbside with a skycap; you’re only going as far as the counter. How hard can it be? Try – AGONIZING! Try – IT WILL NEVER HAPPEN TO ME AGAIN! So I headed over to FedEx today to drop off a small truckload of printed material going back to L.A. The tab came to over $80.00. Worth every penny.

I was going to hook up with my gallerist-always-on-the-go pal, Kathleen (someone should market an energy drink specifically for the art world based on whatever makes her brain and body function the way it does – which is to say non-stop. She’s always at least one hour, five miles and at least twenty-five emerging artists ahead of me.) at either Scope or the Armory Show; but I missed her by minutes at the Armory and I still had to run through the show again – complicated (or simplified) by the fact that many of the initially displayed works had sold over the preceding two days. In the meantime, I was waylaid by one dealer after another, either visiting (some for the FIRST! time) or exhibiting, eager to chat or pick my brain on one point or another. Hey – at this point, I’m running blind just like everyone else I want to say. I’m jotting notes as I run and (see above) I ALWAYS WANT TO KNOW MORE – but I’m running out of time.

Everyone’s determined, serious, in a hurry, and/or just anxious to be done with it. That seems to be the momentum of these things. There’s no line at the coatcheck not because it’s not crowded – it’s actually more crowded than I expected – but because people have left their coats on. They’re here to pick up whatever they’ve bought, get out and take it home. It’s funny what catches your eye the second time around as opposed to the first, and sometimes there’s no figuring why. The big Michael Wolf “Architecture of Density” C-prints stand out a bit more at Janet Oh (Seoul) than the first time when I had no time for them; and I wonder why I’m impatient about something like the Zadok Ben-David filigree silhouette foliage. I have time for the Simon English drawings over at Galerie Romerapotheke (Zurich) that I wouldn’t have given a day or so ago. What can I say? – I’m in a Felicien Rops state of mind? There’s something unsettling and compelling about these tight disjunctive narrative vignettes – and I come away thinking about the persistent connections between sex/sexuality and insecurities. Both here and over at the Armory, it’s great to see new adventurous work coming out of Paris again. I don’t know if I’m a Paris snob. I live in L.A., but I have a sentimental bond with Paris. Jean Brolly has always been a pretty adventurous gallery, and it was great to see Tatjana Doll’s work (she’s a German artist based in Berlin) in their space. Claudine Papillon (also Paris) showed Frederique Loutz’s disturbing, enigmatic drawings. The disjunct narrative, anecdote or story/character ‘rebus’ template has an analogue in the ‘inventory’ drawings one sees all over the place these days – this year, too. Cynthia Broan (London) showed Elise Eaglen’s recent drawings from a study of a virology laboratory, but I was more taken with the Shannon Lucy symbolic, gestural, “Bad Though No. 7” (additional text: “Please don’t be sad …. I’m sorry.”) If I sound a bit rudderless, it’s not a misperception. I’m still trying to figure it all out – here and elsewhere in the various shows. That’s what intrigues me and pulls me back – at least for a second look. Dean Dass showed similar ‘inventory’ drawings at the ADA space (Richmond, Virginia). But they couldn’t help being eclipsed by the impressive Stephen Hendee installation piece which dominated the space with its quasi-architectural presence (a kind of shadow or pseudo-construction – a bridge fit for the River Styx) and violence. The most intriguing work – intriguing in its offhandedness, its unabashed (and exuberant) recycling of kitsch – was the ceramic, resin, etc. sculptures by Jared Lindsay Clark (one of which, I overheard another customer saying, had recently been purchased by Cindy Sherman). Does he have an L.A. dealer? Maybe he should. Mary Younakoff, an L.A. artist, had her own heroically scaled treatments of kitsch (in the form of dolls, action figures, war toys, comics) showcased in an eye-popping installation at the Amsterdam gallery, Art Affairs’ space. (It was hard to miss if you were either checking or picking up a coat.)

It was fabulous to run into Kulov from Bank again. I thought he had already left for Paris. But I didn’t get to join him in another whirlwind dash through the place as I had the previous night at Pier 94, which was a disappointment. (Once I got back down to the Pier, though, I did not lack for other whirlwind companions.) He has one of the fastest eyes around. (Note to self: call Dr. Breger back in L.A.)

Monday, February 26, 2007

ADAA & Oscars; [I]lluminations as night (& snow) fall

The first part of this is from what should have been posted a day or so ago. Apologies for the delay.

23 February 2007 (late evening – closing in on 24 Feb. a.m.)

More camera problems. More apologies. Look – everything will get out. Eventually. (Sort of like my creditors getting paid. But they DO get paid. Eventually. PLUS INTEREST! Sometimes.) Barbara Gladstone’s space is front and center as you enter the ADAA Park Avenue/67th Street Armory Show and manages almost effortlessly to dominate the first rank of booths. A large (it almost fills the back wall of the space) red-mirrored concaves sculpture draws the viewer in like a blood-red orifice and, seemingly the world in back of the viewer – swirling around like creatures in a personal aquarium, or sensory alteration chamber. Kapoor seems to narrow his sculptural focus to the perceptual orbit generally here. Another example was an impressive alabaster globe backed by something like a roughly hewn corona looming around it and with a deep recession carved out of its center like a large iris. On another wall were six gouache studies playing on the same theme – the eye, the mirage, the void. Directly across, in addition to a Rufino Tamaya masterpiece (which probably sold in about a minute) and exquisite panels by Rivera and Siqueiros, Mary-Anne Martin Fine Art, which deals exclusively in Latin American (though mostly Mexican) art, space exhibited Mexican and Latin-American art exclusively, showed abstracted, entirely arresting, masks and torsos (or a merging of the two) in glass and metals, by Isabel De Obaldia, a Panamanian artist, which have an extraordinary, incandescent presence. Also rigorously purist and subtle abstractions by Gunther Gerzso. Other galleries bring out (as at the ARMORY Show) their disparate masterpieces which may or may not make music together (e.g., L&M (nyc) with works by Giacometti, Damien Hirst, Cy Twombly that will all sell here in a matter of hours if not minutes). The resurgent interest (or availability) of certain artists is evident here – e.g., Mel Bochner, Sol Lewitt, Tom Wesselman (what’s with that? I guess I’m not following the art market closely enough.) Then too some artists have never stopped ‘surging’ – like Sigmar Polke, whose stunning black and white canvases at Michael Werner were all sold out. Margo Leavin brought a wonderful Baldessari that I’m sure is gone by now; ditto L.A. Louver’s Mark di Suvero. But then there are those true rarities – like the Helen Frankenthaler bronze framed three-panel standing screen, “Gateway” (1988) “painted” with various salts, acids – and blowtorch – in blue and green hues on one side, and flaming oranges and reds on the other, shown by David Tunick (nyc). I’m not sure if a price was quoted to me; it hardly matters; sometimes the cliché holds true – if you HAVE to ask the price …. Oh yeah – I guess THAT’s why I’m not following the art market closely enough. Cheim & Reed created a magical space devoted entirely to recent (and wonderful) Louise Bourgeois cast sculptures, simply entitled “femme” which play ensemble (and poignantly) on the st/ages/states of womanhood. I found it interesting that more than one gallery was showing wonderful constructions by the Italian artist, Fausto Melotti (Barbara Mathes and Peter Findlay). (Mathes also showed Lucio Fontana.)

MORE on the rest of that Friday -- and my "Warhol/Factory Craze(d) evening later.

25 February 2007 (late evening)

It’s snowing in Manhattan as I write this. It began coming down as I left Pier 94 at around 8:15 p.m. or so. I was there only briefly: a day of barely glimpsed shows and near misses. (Or just misses.) File the Pulse Fair in that category. I’m uptown again (9:30-ish) and the Academy Awards are on the television screen in the next room. Such anachronistic and irresistible, wildly delectable glamour. You don’t even have to see it. You can HEAR it in every word spoken. It’s Mammon’s anti-prayer – notwithstanding the tendency of so many of the winners to ritually praise their deities on the Kodak stage. Tell it to the next suicide bomber, I think. Obnoxious and preposterous. But you better believe I want to check out Penelope Cruz. I NEED to know what Helen Mirren is wearing as she picks up her Oscar. Wonder what she’ll say. Listen to that music – it’s ENNIO MORRICONE. All Ennio Morricone. Guess who’s getting a Special Oscar. (Hey – I can talk about Morricone if I want to. It’s MORRICONE MONTH in Manhattan, donch’ya know. Besides, I really can address Morricone’s musical relationships to the Leone, et al. visuals at some length – having seen so many of these movies and listened and collected the music for them since “A Fistful of Dollars.” (Oh – do you know what you’re listening to right now? I do – and it’s not Morricone. I’m looking at the commercial advert right now. Did I just say that? I’m getting up from the sofa.) Oh look at Diane Keaton. She looks FANTASTIC.

It’s Black History Month – so I’ll share a little personal history: I know something about the Academy Awards (besides the fact that the Oscar is made with something called Brittanium and that the whole process is a little bogus). My family (father, brother) had something to do with film sound recording staging, editing and effects, so we grew up with movie soundtracks – not just the movies, but the SOUNDTRACKS that came to our house around Awards time in those big black vinyl 33 rpm discs with the frequently classic cover art and the best liner notes. You know – the stuff that made CHRISTIAN MARCLAY POSSIBLE. We always had some distance on the glam-biz – not that it didn’t have its place – it just seemed less than essential to the process. For my father, on the other hand, it was ALL ABOUT THE PROCESS. He was almost monomaniacally absorbed in the technology and technical processes involved in bringing the sound to the screen. Obviously it paid off. But my siblings and I rarely went to movies with him – and when we did, it wasn’t necessarily the intense pleasure it eventually became. What we could share were the soundtracks – and I played them to death. I got obsessional and monomaniacal when they DIDN’T send us a soundtrack (or didn’t nominate one I felt deserved recognition). I practically went through our suburban ceiling when we didn’t get the soundtrack to “The World of Henry Orient” (Elmer Bernstein wrote the music) – which was like my Manhattan life blown up on the screen – or maybe my wannabe Manhattan life. I wasn’t even six when I knew I wanted to be in Manhattan ALL THE TIME – not just the week-ends which was the reality of my essentially suburban life at the time. Film composers – they were STARS to me. (Yeah, yeah I was interested in the directors, writers, actors, etc. – but the composers were dream-weavers for me; I craved that sonic and musical texture.) Who knew we were supposed to focus on becoming superstars? Only after I read Walter Wanger’s My Life with Cleopatra did I realize it was the ultimate career. At the time the movie came out – and bombed – I was still entranced by the Alex North film score. (Oh yeah – I loved Liz’s eye make-up, too.)

So you want to know about the brunch with Susan and Michael Hort?? Oh …. It was nothing to write home about. Splendidly catered, though. I KID. I was furious when Susan Hort wouldn’t admit me up to the loft. For this I shlepped down on a cold morning to TriBeCa? Except that it wasn’t morning. It wasn’t even 1:00 p.m., the scheduled closing time, as I thought it was. It was after 2:00 p.m. So I turned right around and headed back uptown, heading first for Scope, (then LA in NY, then Pulse, then back to Pier 94 – at least that was the plan). (I actually thought about stopping at the Virgin store for some movie music – the Javier Navarrette score for Pan’s Labyrinth.) I knew I had to keep moving – and in my haste lost a glove. So I stopped at Lord & Taylor for a replacement pair. For a split second, I’ll admit I considered a more serious wardrobe augmentation a few blocks up – hey you can’t tell me I don’t need it – but I had an ILLUMINATION. Instead, I turned and walked a few blocks down and over to Madison to the Morgan Library to look at the Saul Steinberg drawings. I regret not a moment I spent there. Steinberg’s line, his art – you can never call him a draughtsman, or even a cartoonist really – is architectural and characterological. It is not simply that he is giving us an impression of the world, a reimagined universe in vignette. Steinberg is fascinated with the capacity of the hand and eye to move the world, the capacity of the mark – line, pigment – to alter the chemistry of an image. – just as conventional documents – official, financial, academic, political – can alter a course of events. Maybe that’s closer to it: Steinberg reinvents human social convention as a fiction, and summons all the power of symbolism, real, historic, invented, and inflection, pigmentation – and his sheer breathtaking virtuosity to see it as the giddy, tragicomic fiction, the farce, that it is. Think of his fascination with the mask – the mask IN the paper bag. I’m going on a bit about this. But it’s not to make excuses for missing something or not reviewing it thoroughly. Those paper bag masks are part and parcel of the same quarry these fairs are about – and which I’m occasionally (and HAVE BEEN in the last few days) privileged to find.

Ezrha Jean Black, in New York

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Excerpts and excuses

24 February 2007

I lingered on the East Side a bit too long (a Matta-Clark show at the Whitney I had to see); and now I’m paying for it. I have no idea why cross town traffic is so bad. But once I’ve turned into Columbus Circle, it’s a breeze – a beeline through Lincoln Center to Walter Damrosch Park – the backside of the State Theater and the Met we almost never see. (I have a love-hate relationship with Lincoln Center – something slightly De Chirico fascist about the whole concept; and then, too, it reminds me of the even more corporate crypto style of the L.A. Music Center – but it’s mostly love. So unlike my relationship with that other neo-Century City blight on Columbus Circle, the Time Warner Center, which is more or less hate-hate.) After an extremely fast run through the Scope Art Fair, I head down to Chelsea for a group show opening at Kathleen Cullen Fine Arts (I’ll return tomorrow – though I’m pushing it a bit. There’s a Red Dot panel to attend, the Pulse fair, and a return trip to the Armory Show at Pier 94.). More on that later – back uptown I’m feeling the impact of the margaritas from the after-party at Plume over on 14th Street and wonder if I’m coming down with something. But I promised not to make this into a version of my symptom journal.

25 February 2007

I feel like I’m chasing my tail – sorry to be playing this game of catch-up. I know, I know – you’re missing my notes on the Park Ave./67th Street Armory ADAA show (let me just preview – amazing work by Anish Kapoor, Gladstone of course; a beautiful themed show by Cheim & Reed – “femme” – all by Louise Bourgeois, an amazing Frankenthaler screen from David Tunick – one of only 12 extant that must be seen, felt, experienced in all its richness, beautiful Jennifer Bartlettt steel enamel paintings from Philadelphia’s Locks Gallery; fine to amazing Mexican/Latin American art from Mary-Anne Martin, Chinese work, including Wang Guangyi at Lillian Heidenberg; so much more) LA in NY fair (with a few exceptions – let’s just say for the moment -- & THIS IS NOT A PUT-DOWN IN ANY SENSE – whatever didn’t sell in L.A. – from Rosamund Felsen to Acuna-Hansen to Kim Light to Richard Heller – it’s all fantastic stuff. Only thing is I’ve already seen most of it. Carlee Fernandez was at Acuna-Hansen – looking fabulous; ditto Blair – hello GORGEOUS!). Much to say about SCOPE – but not right now. The Jean-Christian Bourcart work at Andrea Meislin must be seen – some of these photographic works look like something out of a particle accelerator; others abstracted multiple perspectives – all coloristically rich and vibratile. Amazing. Ditto the wood sculptures by Oliver van den Berg at Kuckei & Kuckei out of Berlin. Many charming -- & not so – encounters. Let me share with you later. I have to run down to TriBeCa to look at the Hort collection. They’re hosting a brunch with a tour of their amazing contemporary collection.

Oh yeah – I’ve come down with a cold. I just took an Allegra; hope it helps. My congestion is now perfectly in synch with the crosstown traffic. Does that mean my movement about town will be charmed from this point forward? Hope so.

Saturday, February 24, 2007

Hot on the trail of influence -- and when to cool down

22 February 2007 (~ 7:30 p.m.)

Everyone’s hard at work after the espressos – or maybe I’m only noticing it now that I’m revived. I barely noticed the Matt Mullican casts at Mai 36, taken as I was by the Thomas Ruff digital work, the Jurgen Dreschers and the Troy Brauntuchs. Mike Ovitz is here (with an advisor?) enrapt or merely nostalgic – who can figure? – before one of the Troy Brauntuchs. “I love Troy Brauntuch; I used to collect him,” he says. I think the ‘used to’ sort of sums it up. But who knows? I’m already leaving the space across the way and he’s still right where he was. To another collector, a saleswoman is insistent about a Stefan Thiel she’s showing off: “This is something that should be in New York.”

The long-standing influence of Luc Tuymans is still very much in evidence, though there’s not that much of Tuymans’ own work to see here (at least from what I’ve covered. Also a new willingness to risk/address the narrative and illustrational. (I wonder about all the things that contribute to this trend: the graphic novel or text? a kind of subliminal return to text as a point of departure? new film and video art? (anybody see that ‘action-painting’ Ezra Johnson thing at the Hammer lately?) Raymond Pettibon?) Zeno X out of Antwerp shows Jenny Scobel’s “But not today,” a grisaille double portrait/diptych, with subtly implied narrative (the male figure makes me think of Gene Hackman in The Conversation), which almost upstages the solitary Tuymans on the other side of the space divider. Speaking of which – grisaille is everywhere. It’s as if painting had universally moved on from the studied pallor of the Tuymans palette to grays in every range available from steel to charcoal to cigarette smoke blue-gray. White Columns showcases Graham Durward’s brute, broad-stroked figures closing in on the image of the cigarette itself, the smoke curling in baroque tactile spirals of blue-gray. At Mitchell-Innes & Nash, Chris Martin tries his hand with this palette in a Large acrylic and oil canvas “Homage James Brown (Black and blue)”. The title says it all – including the haste of the conceit. It pales in comparison with his far more striking and well thought-out smaller works. (Chris Martin is ubiquitous here – and apparently elsewhere.) Far more impressive are the Jessica Stockholder sculpture – a kind of standing figure in found materials – brilliant – and the veiled, watery worlds of Paul Winstanley (“Veil 17”). Materials and attitude towards the material are an unresolved and maybe unresolvable dividing point. It’s as if these two warring camps are always with us – sometimes in the same artists. The Jack Shainman (New York) space evidences this preoccupation in a tapestry of aluminum liquor bottle caps and copper wire and Jonathan Seliger’s giant Prada shopping bag in automotive enamel on bronze. Not far away, Greengrassi (London) shows an exquisite tapestry in mohair and silk embroidery from William Kentridge’s “(France) Porter” series, the central brown figure silhouetted over layers of sepia.

There’s so much more to report; but I’ll have to come back to it later when I’ve replenished my empty vessel. You can also be over-stuffed visually – even passing through the spaces at a fair velocity to pick up an overview. I’m visually exhausted after a couple more hours like the one I just sketched above. I head back (gratefully) to a far less crowded VIP Lounge, that now shorn of its overpopulation resembles a place one can actually lounge. I am utterly visually exhausted and must focus for a moment on the WORD. Loaded down with art media from tema celeste to ArtForum and all sorts of little catalogues, I turn first to BookForum and plunge in with abandonment. It doesn’t take much, though, to pull me back into the fray. I am engrossed in Vivian Gornick’s review of Susan Sontag’s last book when in stride Tim Blum with IRVING BLUM and his always remarkably stylish consort, Jackie and seat themselves one table away from mine. Out fly pen and camera. I won’t give away (and in any case could never verify) the substance of the conversation. But Irving’s ebullient dicta are irresistible. Referencing Jean Nouvel among others, Irving pronounces, “I hate architects.” And you have to wonder if he has Richard Meier on his mind in particular. On a work hard to place (for reasons of price, scale, artist, subject matter – it’s impossible to say) – “Call Dean up; he’l buy it and give it to a museum. It should be at MOCA or the Hammer.” Then speaking of MOCA, who should walk in and join them but Paul Schimmel. L.A. in New York is a small world after all. I’ll be verifying that tomorrow night somewhere near Seventh Avenue.

22 February 2007 (~9:00 p.m.)

The L.A. crowd is suddenly here in abundance as I wade back in with the camera all fired up. I run into George Stoll and Kim Light (showing at the L.A. in New York fair) and a host of others before disaster strikes. It’s hard to run around with pen, handfuls of notebooks, swag bags, wine and hors d’oeuvres, several scarves and sweaters and a camera all at once and as I’m shifting something around, the camera slips from my wrist and onto a hard surface – uh, the concrete floor. It’s not looking pretty – and this time I make for the lounge to regroup with a serious cocktail before I finally head for the coatcheck and back uptown FULLY LOADED.

23 February 2007

I’m off to a very late start – but the stress, late nights that stretch into morning, erratic dining (and dubious nourishment) and other off-scheduling are taking their toll. So much time consumed by technical issues. The camera is working again – but only for a NY minute. The images need to be seen (no – not the art: the dealers can provide that; the PEOPLE, the MADNESS. There were more than a couple than satisfied those criteria last night. Should I mention Chuck Close’s screaming fit at (who knows? dealer or exhibitor? another artist? fickle or disloyal collector?)

Friday, February 23, 2007

Very insubstantial polentina / very inessential people

22 February 2007 (~2:00 p.m.)

“VIP Lounge “ is something of a misnomer. Try ‘stand-in-line-til-you-faint-from-hunger-or-thirst’ cafe – which is when you may be revived by bottle of water (Dasani, $2) or a coffee (free – free!!!) I park my notebooks (and artillery magazines) on a table and go back to the queue which seems endless. They do bring water and coffee – both of which have been consumed by the time I get to the counter to order food. In the meantime, the table where my stuff is parked has turned twice. I order a “Polentina” soup which seems more English, circa Oliver Twist, than Italian. It sounds hearty; it is in fact watery gruel entirely without heart fit for a Dickensian workhouse. Generally speaking, the food is ghastly. I’m seated for a few moments with two private dealers, one local, one from Paris, who deals primarily in pretty high-end late 19th century art. She’s just come from Patrick Painter where she seems to have been bowled over simultaneously by the quality and the vulgarity (she makes it sound as if she’s talking about Patrick himself, which is amusing). She’s in love with a Sigmar Polke she saw there (and when I get back to Patrick’s space to have a look, so am I). They’re as ravenous as I am and it’s funny to see them trying to cope with the food. They manage to charm one of the waitstaff into bringing espressos to our table.

The remarks overheard on line and around the table are amusing. One dealer/collector expresses astonishment at the amount of painting and conventional works on paper – the overall price/quality ratio having slipped unacceptably above/below his horizon line. “I can’t imagine buying anything on paper anymore,” he says to the woman standing next to me. They’ve been to the 67th St. Armory show as well, where the prices seemed to impress at least as much as the work. (I’ll have to see to judge.) The Show will exhaust them. Works on paper are very much at home here. Finally at the head of the line, I’m queried by the exceptionally urbane Andreas Osarek, from Galerie Crone in Berlin, who invites me to check out his space. (I do – and love it.) He too seems a bit daunted by the sheer physical scope of the show. I feel like a wuss; am I tiring after taking in about 20 percent of it? And I’m wearing extremely comfortable shoes. (But a bit démodé? Looking at the fabulous heels all around me, I’m feeling shoe-challenged and fashion-challenged generally. Unfortunately there’s no budget for an emergency wardrobe update at Prada or Bergdorf’s.) Back to the booths.

Ezrha Jean Black, in New York

Armory Show preliminaries

I'm still deciphering my notes after a series of small disasters not the least of which getting this blog up and running and correcting the usual flood of typos amid the tirade. Please bear with me -- at least for the next few hours.

The Art of Wrath (20 February 2007)
(notes pre-departure)
Can you feel the pressure? You have to one way or another. You’ve seen the ads, read a few previews, opened your e-mails, invites, seminar and panel registrations or forwarded news items to piece together the big picture which adds up to a whole lot of scary happening all over Manhattan that will intrigue, implode, distress, distract, absorb, abstract and EXHAUST you before you’ve even set foot on the island. (Oh yes – did I also say that getting to Manhattan might itself present challenges entirely irrespective of what might be happening on Pier 94 or the 67th Street Armory?) It’s a Tuesday evening in Los Angeles and it feels like whatever spirit once inhabited by body long since decamped for a kinder, gentler turf. The state of my apartment would shock Walead Beshty to the core of his fibre. My sister tells me she knows my apartment in two states only: scary, and don’t-approach-without-serious-sedation. On this particular evening, the apartment is definitely in the latter state. A children’s size martini and 10 mg Valium might rose-tint my mental specs, but I have yet to pack and for all I know I don’t even have a clean stitch to wear. Also my two feline daughters are already freaked out by my imminent departure and I’m feeling guilty leaving them in a place that’s completely torn apart before they even have a chance to stretch their claws in anything. I am coming from a place where, among other things, I watch the way people move large sums of money around and occasionally try to disguise it, and going to a place where people move large sums of money around in plain view with (on occasion) interesting consequences both culturally and financially. I, on the other hand, am feeling like one of Steinbeck’s Joads in this cultural economy and all the search engines, forensic gurus, art gods, art fairs, or kunsthalles in the world will never be able to take me to that Valhalla Vaikuntha Vineyard where the cabernet of beauty, illumination and the sublime may be savored in all its splendor. It’s simply not enough. I wonder if Pier 94 will merely be yet another harvest of wrath. Oh yeah – did I say I was EXHAUSTED?

21 February 2007

As I was saying. After leaving my beloved oversized bowler on a bench at the Burbank Airport where I had temporarily perched to make some phone calls, running an impressively and obnoxiously thorough security gauntlet (I had to use three trays for various belongings, including the laptop – between unloading and repacking my luggage, the process seemed to go on forever), realizing I had misplaced my hat and determining that there was no way I could try to retrieve it and go through the security process a second time and still make my flight, I finally boarded Flight 352 to New York, trailing layers of sweaters and scarves and my half-disemboweled luggage behind me. I got the impression from the boarding attendant that they wouldn’t have been unhappy if I’d made the decision to go after the hat. The plane was packed and, although I had checked my largest bag, the attendants expressed pessimism as to whether there would be room for the rest of my luggage in the overhead storage bins. But perhaps what was expressed as pessimism was merely exasperation at yet another body to deal with, a body moreover that seemed to be coming apart at the seams with every step taken.

“You’re dangerous,” says the woman in the aisle seat across from mine. “I’ll take that as a compliment,” I snap back. I’m not exactly thrilled to face ad hoc editorializing as I’ m hustling for luggage space and squeezing into a seat. I’ll admit I’m flailing a bit, unable to properly fold my luggage cart, with a solitary bungee cord flying about (one more thing that seems to have been lost between skycaps and security). I’ve lost my hat and now sweaters and scarves are melting off me. I get no sympathy – or help – from any of the flight attendants or passengers – one of whom is occupying my window seat; at about ten minutes before departure he assumes I’m a no-show and he’s not thrilled to be ousted from the seat. It would have been so easy to miss the flight; why didn’t you? his expression seems to say.

My anger and impatience evaporate a bit as I watch the light refract through the clouds and mists over the Sierras, some of them now flecked with snow, still so clearly marked by the impression of ancient glaciers that once crept imperiously over the continent. Approaching cruising altitude, the cloud cover seems to hover over the surface like a soft shroud. I’m only semi-conscious and it occurs to me I haven’t been more than semi-conscious since I opened my eyes this morning – not the best state in which to travel. I am thinking about the uneasy relationship between the aesthetics and the art (and of my own immersion in both – an terms of style and attitude and my almost obsessional preoccupation with the new – the idea, vision, construct or expression that will turn my head around or shake the reality radically enough to reverse the geo-political-ecological doomsday we seem to be heading for).

Already the throat-clearing begins. Where is my Airborne? I am wondering about the way collectors’ obsessions (and advisors’ delusions) drive (or perhaps distort) the market. I wrote a piece recently that touched on the way art has progressively uncoupled from its own imagery and aesthetic support and now I wonder if it is also unhinging from the ‘hinge’ itself. I am fading with -- into the clouds. Turrell and Irwin might appreciate this, I think as I drift off.

21 February 2007

As I deplane at JFK, my cell phone dies and, having three sets of accommodation arrangements fall through, I have no place to go. I place a call – on the Jet Blue courtesy phone to the last guy on earth who MIGHT be able to make a viable recommendation. I meet him at 1492 on Clinton Street. I have no expectations one way or another and wonder if my budget is about to be blown in two nights. But rancor and recriminations are quietly set aside (it’s a long story) and I find myself in perhaps the best place I can possibly be (with one of my favorite dogs in the world).

22 February 2007

In theory shuttle buses operate between 8th Avenue and 50th and the Pier, which is at 55th. But I wait a small eternity for one, so I start walking. I’m almost to 11th when it starts to rain, but I’m spared the downpour I’m told has begun a couple hours later. After a few preliminaries, I am roaming the aisles – or at least one aisle. After the coatcheck and a long counter attesting to German support of the arts (there are a lot of German galleries here – and collectors – and apparently the Ministries of Culture, Industry and Economics are right behind them. Does that mean after the Bush-Qaeda Reich, we Americans will also have a government supportive of the arts?), I make a quick reconnaissance of the galleries closest at hand. Victoria Miro shows a Doug Aitken light-frieze (“disappearing” spelled out in cut-out photographs of jet planes that nevertheless telegraph the disappearances in nature the jet has at least partially induced. I like it; it’s good; it’s a ‘success.’ But glib has never quite cut it for me. On another wall, a fine Alice Neel portrait from the late 1960s. Two small but brilliant Chris Ofili watercolor/gouache drawings are on another wall. A John Korner painting sprawls in a rampage of color across from the Aitken. It’s a strong foursome. This is one possible approach to this sort of business: bring a bridge table of stars or near stars who know exactly how to bid to their strengths. Mai 36 from Zurich has the same approach. They’re showing fabulous digital C-prints from Thomas Ruff and black paintings from Troy Brauntuch, among other things. (The Brauntuchs with “Bank of New York” and Merrill Lynch corporate insignia evanescing from beneath the black, have an odd resonance, having emerged from the subway almost directly in front of the Lehman Bros. building so close to all those other corporate boxes on Sixth and Seventh. Another approach is to showcase an emerging STAR – which is the ever savvy duo of Blum & Poe are doing with Julian Hoeber – a filmmaker and compleat artist. A glimpse is enough to drive through you like a truck – but I can’t allow myself more. Patrick Painter is right across the way and I’m just not in the mood to see Angelenos right now. Also -- I have a slight headache and I’m STARVING. I head straight for the VIP Lounge (quelle folie) for water, coffee , and FOOD. For a change I’m ravenous for something besides art (and cash).


Ezrha Jean Black, New York