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

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