Friday, February 23, 2007

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

1 comment:

fette said...

Dear Ezrha,
My name is Fette and I edit this website called The Flog about the art scene here in Los Angeles. I'd like to write you about the space I recently opened in Culver City. If you are inspired, please don't hesitate to drop me an email.