"Brooklyn Dispatches: Aesthetic Cleansing," Brooklyn Rail by Fredrick Munk

By James Kalm

The new gallery season has kicked off, and despite apocalyptic predictions and nervous jitters, the crisis produced by the financial meltdown is beginning to settle out. Unfortunately, the crisis of clichéd metaphors providing color commentary is on the rise. Is the art market the “canary in the coal mine”? Are we “only in the second inning of a nine inning game”? Will the “other shoe drop?” Is there “light at the end of the tunnel?” So stop with the camels and straws, fish and ponds. Two years ago most everyone knew the market couldn’t maintain its ridiculously overinflated state. Now, with a moderate correction, these same people think the world’s coming to an end?

Because of its DIY nature, low budget, self-financing, and borough-wide inferiority complex, Brooklyn has been hit with a double whammy. Not only have several longtime venues reached the end of their rope, (ArtMoving Projects, vertexList, Ad Hoc Art, Brooklyn Fire Proof, HQ, Pocket Utopia, McCaig-Welles, et al.) but the mainstream critical establishment has seen fit to scratch off most of the scene as nonexistent, reasoning that if these (not in Manhattan) losers are bumped from the roster of closings, the situation doesn’t look quite so dire.

In her September 3rd article in The New York Times titled “The Mood of the Market, as Measured in the Galleries,” Roberta Smith put a fine point on it with “it is hard to know if this summer has brought much more than the usual in the way of closings, along with relocations, expansions, contractions, splits, and alliances. So far the list of galleries that have closed is barely two dozen long, and only if you include galleries that closed several months before the crash; galleries that, to be blunt, will not be missed; neophyte galleries that had yet to establish either a financial or critical foothold.” After reading this, I realized that now we’re not only deciding what is and isn’t art, but what is and isn’t a legitimate gallery (perhaps we should expunge Robert Filliou’s Galerie légitime which, beginning in 1962, operated out of the Fluxus artist’s hat). I won’t argue with the numbers, or even the gist of Ms. Smith’s statement, but I’m glad to know that, in her world, maybe the sky isn’t falling after all. I will argue that these galleries will be missed, at least by me. That’s not to say their shows were always great, or that I went to every one, or that all the artists exhibited merited a “critical foothold.” But having visited plenty of “neophyte” galleries in scary neighborhoods, climbed rickety stairs to cramped apartments and lofts, and personally witnessed the sacrifices of time, energy, money, and passion with little or no chance of financial remuneration, I have to salute them. Even if it’s with a critical ding, I can’t sentence these enthusiasts to the damnation of nonexistence. They at least deserve the recognition of disapproval.

Ironically, in the past few years, institutions, curators, and this same critical establishment have become infatuated with “abject art,” “Impoverished Art,” “skuzz art,” or “crap on crap.” The last Whitney Biennial, the New Museum’s “Unmonumental” and “Younger than Jesus,” and last summer’s provocative installation by Justin Lowe and Jonah Freeman, “Black Acid Co-op,” at Deitch Projects all wallowed in the grimy realm of grunge. But, like the fashionably stressed jeans that look like they’ve been worn by a skateboarding slackster for the last three years, sold for exorbitant prices in chic boutiques, these examples of the “abject” are simulations, concocted by well-funded, highly educated and skilled people attempting to imitate a patina of authenticity that their work would otherwise lack. Somehow a minutely detailed reconstruction of a shit-hole gallery is praiseworthy, but the real thing should just disappear? Miraculously, out here on the margins, crap is still real crap, and abject doesn’t just refer to works of art, it’s a socioeconomic classification. Maybe it’s time we began the challenge of exploring a brand new aesthetic horizon, the dark matter of our cultural universe, the aesthetics of failure.

Jessica Stockholder is a proponent of one brand of “crap on crap” but in her case things have a bouncy, just bought, nonchalant order. Her work is the surprising calling card for a three-person show at Klaus von Nichtssagend. “Untitled, 2009” (pillow, plastic bowls, acrylic paint, orange plastic flipper, green wire, yarn, hardware, plastic parts, painted pole, pole stand, wire) is a wall-commanding assemblage that sings with the coloristic and material tones of a Dollar Store window. Stockholder has superseded Rauschenberg’s ichorous paint-smeared quilt with a blue-and-white striped cushion adorned with acrylic red, orange, and yellow constructivist triangles. Bright hunks of plastic buckets and flippers are carefully arranged, surrogates for fully charged brushstrokes of color. A horizontally striped pole, about six feet tall and the thickness of a broomstick, stands in front of the piece, concentrating the viewer’s focus while seeming to lift the work’s bulk from the floor. Ian Pedigo’s “Untitled” (2009) channels the previous life of its main element, a black lacquered half cylinder, to productive ends. A subdued photo of roses wraps around the curving lower half of the sculpture, and a stack of “rocks,” recalling a meditation garden, balance on its carpet-lined top just below eye level. David Gilbert presents digital photos sometimes paired with quotidian objects. In “Light Impressions” (2008), a simple white towel is photographed hanging on a wall above an illuminated nightlight. The photo is a study in shades of pale ivories, off-whites, and evanescent pastel shadows. It’s hung low to the floor over a stack of folded towels whose edges have been airbrushed in mauve and cerulean, mimicking the shadows in the above picture.

Out Bushwick way, Brent Owens’ ”Gnastic Pursuit” at English Kills is this artist’s solo debut. A couple of years ago Owens, along with Jason Eisner, was half of a show called “Knucklehead Blues.” One of his pieces in that show was a functioning moonshine still. Over the course of “Knucklehead’s” run, it cranked out gallons of hooch (and avoided the revenuer’s ax). The latest works, employing logs and found lumber, engage less in the low art practice of junk art, but Owens does shove a “Southern Fried” sensibility of chunky woodcarving and local vernacular signage in our faces. Wood may be a more traditional sculptural material than crumbly sheet rock, yellowing Styrofoam or booger-stained plush-toys, but our cultural tastemakers would be making tracks out of any town or “gift shop” hawking the stuff that Owens derives his craft from. In “And You…” (2009) Owens recycles the ubiquitous loading pallet with text and incised painting, carving “And you please just keep shutting up” into a horizontal plank that extends out to the left to accommodate the words. Zippy zigzag stripes in shiny beauty parlor colors fill the rest of the picture, their repeated rhythms echoing braided rugs or Indian beadwork.

Though not technically “junk art,” the paintings of Derek Stroup’s “Station Pieces” at A.M. Richards Fine Art imbibe the materials and fabrication processes one might find in an industrial sign shop: sheet metal mounted on metal stud frames held together by a staccato pattern of pop rivets. A large piece features a narrow panel in white, red, and gray that’s held aloft by a shallow network of studs interspersed with pink fiberglass insulation. The sheet of white plastic that covers the upper half, and an exposed electrical conduit acting as a compositional horizon line, suggest a perpetual state of being under construction. Smaller paintings, employing tertiary shades borrowed from corporate logos, are coated with the immaculate enamel finishes of billboards or truck signs but with all residual hints of text removed. There’s a seductive formalism in Stroup’s “conceptual” painting and in his quirky use of materials, and their references have a relation to the “construction” paintings of Jim Lee that were shown at Freight + Volume last spring. Perhaps the only thing that might improve these pieces would be a couple years of exposure to the elements in the parking lot down at the local Quickie Mart.

"Brooklyn Dispatches: The Lies We Tell Children," Brooklyn Rail by Fredrick Munk

By James Kalm

You’ll Be Remembered

A list of names: Landis Lewitin, Philip Pavia, Willem de Kooning, Milton Resnick Conrad Marca-Relli, Franz Kline, James Rosati, Ibram Lassaw, Lewin Alcopley, Ad Reinhardt, Giorgio Cavallon, John Roelants, Joop Sanders, Emanuel Navaretta, Charles Egan, Jack Tworkov, Gus Falk, Ahron Ben-Shmuel and Peter Grippe. Some of these names are familiar, well known in the annals of American even world art history, and some… But what do they have in common? These are the founding members of the legendary “Artists Club,” as compiled (complete with unfamiliar variations and misspellings) by Philip Pavia, the Secretary/Treasurer at its inception in 1949. In many ways, with all its flaws and foibles this “club” is the genetic code, the DNA from which the “New York School” grew.

What interests me, for the sake of this essay, is why some of these individuals have attained immortality and others have been totally forgotten? The standard reply is “some were just better artists, more talented or innovative,” but who decides? In my research, even with the omnipotent power of Internet search engines like Google, some of these artists, lively, involved, dynamic members of a community, are complete blanks. Some art critics, like the little clowns following the elephant parade with a broom and bucket, conscientiously sweeping up every trace of whatever is left by the passing pachyderms (except for their favorites), put forth the notion that those (art and artists) that have been forgotten, deserve to be forgotten.

Another common refrain is: Maybe they didn’t care about having a legacy, history wasn’t important for them. This may be true for a miniscule group, those creating artifacts as some private therapeutic activity, but the mere act of taking up the cloak of “artist” is a self-proclaimed engagement, however tangential, with the forces of “history”.

The Truth Will Come Out Eventually

As Søren Kierkegaard noted, “Life must be understood backwards. But it must be lived forward.” To that I’ll add my own chestnut, “To understand the mystery of art, you have to understand the history of art.” In many ways, one of the most important aspects of art is its history. Because of its referential and interconnected nature, art can give a more accurate and understandable picture of a culture’s momentary state than its political, scientific or economic histories.

Irving Sandler (who took over Pavia’s duties at the “Club”), and Barbara Rose concluded in the late 60s that the New York scene had grown to such proportions that it was no longer possible for one person to keep track of its totality. Along with this astonishing boom in artists was a concomitant surge in critics, historians, galleries, museums, and publications whose ostensible purpose was the exposure, promotion, and preservation of important cultural production. Despite all these institutions, powerful forces—the market and general entropy among them—are waging and insidious battle to “streamline” history. Which brings us to the strange case of Philip Smith.

Missing Pictures

On September 24, 1977, Douglas Crimp’s seminal PICTURES: an exhibition of work by Troy Brauntuch Jack Goldstein Sherrie Levine Robert Longo Philip Smith opened at Artists Space. On April 21st, 2009, 32 years later, The Pictures Generation 1974-1984, organized by Douglas Eklund, Associate Curator in the Department of Photographs, and featuring the work of thirty artists opened at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. As expected, during the intervening period the lives and careers of the five original “Pictures” artists have gone through ups and downs, triumphs and tragedies, and indeed some have achieved the very highest ranking in today’s market. One, Jack Goldstein, arguably the most influential, after a long battle with drugs and depression dropped out of the art scene entirely and committed suicide in 2003. Yet, by my reckoning, Philip Smith, as a member of the original cast, was given more ink and images in Crimp’s original Artists Space catalog than all but Goldstein. Curiously, in Eklund’s catalog, he’s reduced to a single mention, in a sentence regarding the placement of his work in the original show.

Like the pearlescence enveloping the original irritating grain, a vast movement of related artists has grown up around the basic “Pictures” group. Yet, when a leading cultural institution deems them “ripe for rediscovery,” and includes a cadre of tertiary artists, one glaring hole remains. Where the hell is Philip Smith? (Full disclosure: I’ve been acquainted with Philip and his work for over twenty-five years and we’ve shown at some of the same galleries in New York and Europe.)

In his article “Signs of the Times,” which appeared in the October 2001 issue of ARTFORUM, David Rimanelli wraps up his thoughts on the restaging of the PICTURES show that occurred at Artists Space earlier in the year with “Perhaps the exhibitions oddest surprise was Philip Smith, whose schematic drawings figured prominently in the original show but who was demoted to a footnote in Crimp’s October text. Critic Jerry Saltz told me that when he visited Artists Space with some recent MFA grads, the works they responded to most were Smith’s—this sort of figurative, handmade imagery (like, say, that of Ida Applebroog or William Kentridge) best accorded with their idea of what art looks like, Smith was ‘cool’ the others ‘whatever.’ It certainly wasn’t the response I would have expected, but then again, like Pictures, maybe I’m a little dated.”

Professional Academicians Get it Right

One of the sub-stories of this story is how it’s evolved, not through the mainstream press or academic journals, but through the network of blogs, magazine websites, and Internet social networking sites. As proof that we’ve now entered a new age of art reportage, we have Douglas Eklund’s interview at the Art In America Magazine website from April 4th ( http://www.artinamericamagazine.com/news-opinion/conversations/2009-04-21/the-pictures-generation-a-conversation-with-douglas-eklund/ ) and Philip Smith’s own open letter in response, which appears there June 26th. ( http://www.artinamericamagazine.com/news-opinion/news/2009-06-26/setting-the-record-straight-philip-smith-dougas-eklund-pictures-generation/ ). Smith’s letter contains further links and articles concerning his status as a PICTURES artist.

Within hours of the press preview, Lee Rosenbaum’s CultureGrrl blog featured an interview with Douglas Crimp in which she tries to pin down the original PICTURES curator about, among other things, the Smith omission. ( http://www.artsjournal.com/culturegrrl/2009/04/ ). Within a week or so, Jerry Saltz had commented on his Facebook page about the Smith omission (and although his feature-length review in New York Magazine doesn’t mention it, his reply to Douglas Eklund’s interview at the AiA web site does— http://www.artinamericamagazine.com/news-opinion/finer-things/2009-07-07/setting-the-record-straight-critics-respond-/ ). Other bloggers such as Seattle’s Regina Hackett at ( http://www.artsjournal.com/anotherbb/2009/05/philip-smith- - -all-the-insults.html), “the Power” at Carefully Aimed Darts ( http://carefullyaimeddarts.wordpress.com/2009/05/18/historical-erasure-at-the-pictures-generation/ ) and Martin Bromirski’s ANABA ( http://anaba.blogspot.com/2009/06/philip-smith-responds.html ) have all weighed in and added links to still more articles and blog entries. Paddy Johnson at Art Fag City has provided updates, and eventually Holland Cotter of The New York Times jumped on board, questioning some of the curator’s decisions with an insightful article titled “Framing the Message of a Generation”.

It’s About the Work

Despite my apparent ragging and an inherent fear of nostalgia (even for stuff I hated), I found The Pictures Generation 1974-1984 an innovative and important show for the Met, and though I’d appreciate further clarification from Eklund (as of this writing, e-mail requests have remained unanswered), I admit that curatorial practice, especially at this level, is fraught with hazards. I also believe that, like the creation of any artwork, a curator has a duty to pursue her or his own vision, without intimidation or threats of retribution. Any resulting controversy or debate is a healthy, welcome, and fun outcome. A few of the tantalizing questions raised by this mini-brouhaha are: Just what does it mean to be included or excluded from a major show at one of the country’s most prestigious museums? Like the statistics claiming someone who graduates college earns millions of dollars more than one who doesn’t, can we quantify how such an exhibition can increase an artist’s commercial and historical value over a lifetime, and after? How is this thing we call art history actually formed, and does curatorial license trump it? Whose voices are given credence, and are we entering a new phase? Are there factors beyond the artifacts themselves that carry greater import? (Statements have been made to the effect that Smith wasn’t really part of the clique, he didn’t toe the party line, hang out at the right clubs, suck up to the right “movers,” live in the right neighborhood, or have the right sexual orientation.) Is “official recognition” more important than being recognized by a community of your peers? Can the “alternative media” turn the status of refusé from a negative into a positive?

Just Tell the Truth

Most artists will never get the opportunity to have their work shown at the Met, and the last thing wanted by those that do is to cause trouble or ruffle feathers; consequently a lot of self-administered tongue biting goes on. I spoke briefly with Douglas Crimp at the press preview and he seemed slightly perplexed that a show he’d curated over thirty years ago was still seen as so “relevant.” Reticence, it seems, has kept him from expounding more fully on his thoughts regarding Smith. In a brief chat, Walter Robinson (someone I’d nominate for inclusion) seemed taken aback by the slim-to-nonexistent connections that some of the included artists and their work had to the core group or to the theme, but has politely and publicly refrained from commenting. Thomas Lawson, whose “Last Exit: Painting” is, besides Crimp’s “Pictures” essay, arguably the movement’s second “manifesto,” responded in an e-mail. “As for the Philip Smith question, the real investigation should look to the original sin—what prompted Doug Crimp to drop him from the revised essay when it was republished in October? My guess would be the disapproval of that dark prince, Jack Goldstein. Jack was very clear in his mind about what cut it and what didn’t, and he made his opinions known. If you take a look at Jack’s aesthetic it is clear he would have had no time for Philip’s. And I’m sure he told Doug that many times.”

So, as with many stories in our art world’s New Noir, we end up blaming the dead guy.

"Brooklyn Dispatches: Bushwick Biennial: Venice It Ain't," Brooklyn Rail by Fredrick Munk

By James Kalm

The bitter satisfaction of morning caffe lingers on the back of the tongue. The sun, burning through the mist, glimmers off the Grand Canal. A flock of cream-colored pigeons wheels overhead, the woofing of wings echoing the shuffle of exquisite leather soles on ancient cobblestones. Through squinted eyes, St. Mark’s Square melds into a Turneresque haze of sundrenched yellows and aseptic ochers. Screeeech, caaachung, bang. Hey, wake up—this be Brooklyn. We got a canal—the Gowanus—a Grand Street, and sky-rat-pigeons that’ll sucker-punch their Venetian cousins and use their bones for stickball. Yeah. Brooklyn.

Since the emergence of the East Village in the early 80s, artsy types have been building scenes and garnering attention with a mix of DIY gumption and wide-eyed naïveté. For thirty years, this clan at the margins has been drifting ever farther east, first across the river to DUMBO and Bedford Avenue, then the BQE and with this latest iteration, to the vague reaches of Bushwick/Williamsburg Industrial Park, or more picturesquely, MOJO (between the Morgan and Jefferson Street stops on the L train).

Peddling east on Flushing, I chuckled to myself. The commercial art world is wallowing in the first wave of what one accountant has termed “an invisible blood bath:” galleries are closing, dealers are skipping town in the middle of the night, leaving their artists holding the bag. The glitterati have all jetted to Europe for the champagne circuit of Biennales and art fairs. What better time for this tough, grungy nabe to have its debutante ball?

The Bushwick Biennial, along with Bushwick Open Studios, is an example of the huge clusterfuck art happening that makes for exhausting, touring, great partying, occasionally interesting discoveries and headachy mornings. With over 115 studios and nearly a dozen galleries listed, this three-day fest is simply too big for one correspondent to cover, and though I tried, I could hit only a few of the highlights,

Pocket Utopia popped up on the radar about two years ago as a social sculpture/artist-in-the-community space, the brainchild of Austin Thomas, and it’s going out on a high note (the space will close after this installment). Digital print collages by Kevin Regan give a Surrealist jolt: large portraits of Ronald Reagan with their eyes replaced by increasingly smaller versions of the same head shot, rendering this iconic face into a discordant unrecognizability. Jonathan VanDyke constructs a well-crafted box, open on one side, exposing a mirrored interior. Two tubes drip watery paint from eye level. On return viewings, wet pigment had begun to leak out and run along a seam in the gallery’s floor. In the back garden, a three-meter-tall florescent foam sculpture—a psychedelic fertility deity with twin beer kegs for breasts—had thirsty artists worshiping this “Goddess.” Serving the crowd was jocular artist Ben Godward. Also included at Pocket Utopia were works by Valerie Hegarty, Rico Gatson, Molly Larkey and Austin Thomas.

One block west, English Kills trotted out their version of the Biennial. Curated by Phoenix Lights, this installment included eighteen artists and featured major works by Jim Herbert (a huge, chunky, copulating couple painted on a plaid ground titled “Plaid”) and Andrew Ohanasian (a folded sculptural fragment of contrasting interior walls, “Carpet, Drapes and Bag,” which juxtaposes the wine-and-wood-toned schmaltz of ersatz haute culture with a shotgun-toting manikin that had apparently crashed through the blue stuccoed wall of a local social club). In the second gallery, the Gods of Mars, a loose confederacy of artists, presents a group of works including “Black Tower” by Andy Piedilato, a large, swirling, Piranesi-esque mass of briskly painted brick chimneys, buttresses and arches, and Lenny Reibstein’s paintings of things happening below the waist: “Afterbirth,” is a rendering in tasteful salmons, dirty pinks and peach of bloody female genitalia, placenta, a gray baby and a dripping penis, all portrayed like a manic cartoon version of Courbet’s “The Origin of the World.”


I was tipped off to the English Kills’ Annex, about five blocks north on Ingraham Street, where I found a continuation of the show hung in the front section of this industrial building. But the attention-grabbers were the workspaces of Jim Herbert, Andy Piedilato and Carter Davis, welcoming visitors in conjunction with Bushwick Open Studios. Both Herbert and Piedilato like to work big, and eight-to twelve-foot-tall paintings were easily accommodated there. Though some of Herbert’s work might be tied a bit too tightly to 1980s Neo-Expressionism (will we ever be able to look at gestural figuration without that taint?), I was impressed by his prolific energy; dozens and dozens of his massive paintings were neatly stacked against the walls. Carter Davis, who works on a more modest scale, employs a sensitive palette and a light touch, creating paintings with quirky narratives and clumsy but endearing pastiches of modernist tropes.

By the time I made it to the NURTUREart extravaganza, curated by director Ben Evans, I’d trekked many miles, perused many studios and imbibed more than a reasonable amount of the good and the bad in both art and beer. “Trailer Park” by Kim Holleman, a small 1960s trailer with a garden and fishpond inside, squatted in front of the gallery entrance. A cordon of red velvet ropes at the front door exuded a faux sense of exclusivity, no doubt a jab at the knuckleheaded elites and social-climbing scenesters who’d be attending this kind of affair if it were in Venice, Basil, or Miami. Stepping inside I was blinded by the light of an animated projection by Chris Hagerty installed in the stairwell, showing a series of rotating escalators. Upstairs, the festivities filled the gallery and spilled onto the roof next door, where I milled about, schmoozing while contemplating an installation by Audrey Hasen Russell, coiled pink foam sheeting that covered hundreds of square feet and resembled toxic dune grass. Back inside I was attracted to “Fallen,” an exact reproduction of a BMX bike, fabricated from fiberboard and dowels by Jonathan Brand, that was lying casually on the gallery floor. The beige monochrome of this sculpture echoed the whiteness of the “Ghost Bikes,” a project organized by the collective Visual Resistance, which memorializes the sites of local traffic fatalities with white bikes. A wall-occupying installation that included a Plexiglas case and rusty car parts, gnarly branches, weathered photos, maps and lenses by someone or something called Scrapworm was worth a glance. Though raising questions of content, this poetic weaving of timeworn objects hinted at some dark, obscure obsession.

Having missed the opening night performance at Grace Exhibition Space, I returned later and was greeted by a tour of “Human Touch, Divine Touch” by Sandra Jogeva, a stately, redheaded, Estonian dominatrix who’d created a tableau replica of a sleazy S&M den. This cubicle of corporal punishment, decorated in whorehouse red, included a cheesy couch, cubbyhole shelves stuffed with nasty accessories, Estonian money, an ashtray-strewn coffee table, and flickering TVs playing the artist’s video documentations. Bolted to the wall were chains with leather harnesses. The floor was littered with empty Vaseline jars, scattered beside remnants of a plaster body cast, used by the supplicant to protect himself from the wounds of the lash. As Sandra described this piece, “Do It Yourself S&M” was a chance for audience members to explore their own aptitudes for inflicting pain. The victim was chained and gagged, kneeling on the floor, and participants were encouraged to practice whipping him while Sandra gave technical pointers (it’s all in the wrist). Sandra’s explanations were as painful as they were comical, and I left exhausted yet purged of guilt.

Before I wrap up, let me briefly mention some of the other points of interest I came across. Drawn: Vasari Revisited or a Sparring of Contemporary Thought, at Norte Maar, representing the eastern end of the district (for the moment), is a tight drawing show full of gems. Several pieces—a trifecta of Jack Tworkov’s thumbnail sketches, an Hermine Ford geometric gouache and a pair of preparatory drawings by Robert Moskowitz—hooked me. Nice to note the curator kept it all in the family (Hermine is Jack’s daughter, and Robert’s wife).

A couple of group shows at 56 Bogart: first, Fortress to Solitude with Chris Martin (who’s also featured in New American Abstraction at Saatchi Gallery London this season), Gary Petersen offering a whimsical geometric abstraction, Tom Sanford doing his thing with a takeoff of the Barack Obama “Hope” poster, Guillermo Creus, Peter Fox, Elizabeth Cooper, Giles Lyon and others; second, “Vicious/Delicious,” a Brooklyn College MFA thesis show teeming with buoyant, if somewhat derivative examples of Pop-flavored kitsch and Florescent Pathetic. It featured works by Emily Bicht, Susanne Cranston Graf, Zane Wilson, et al.

Finally, stumbling into the studio of Art Guerra was not only a joy because of his unmistakably luscious paintings but, for anyone with an alchemist’s interest in pigment and the chemical properties of paint, it’s an enlightening and educational encounter. Guerra loves to hold forth on the latest products for the painter’s practice, and he’s funny too. Using materials that seem borrowed from science fiction, his paintings seem to glow from within, smoldering with reflective hues only glanced in dreams, until now.

For a James Kalm video tour of the "Bush Biennial" visit: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x60JRbzfUnA&feature=channel_page.

"Brooklyn Dispatches: Old School Future," Brooklyn Rail by Fredrick Munk

By James Kalm

It’s funny that nothing seems to get dated faster than our depictions of an imagined future. Reading Nineteen Eighty-Four in high school, the future looked grim, but inevitably, when 1984 popped up on the calendar, life still looked cheery, and when the long-awaited movie lumbered along, it was a period piece indulging in high-kitsch Cold War paranoia. Likewise, 2001: A Space Odyssey is a much better snapshot of 1968 than anything we’ve seen in the new millennium.

Ignoring these warnings, I can’t help but wonder what the future of our little art world, specifically the critical side of it, will look like in five years. Irving Sandler’s “A Call to Art Critics” appeared only two years ago in the December/January 2006-07 issue of the Brooklyn Rail, yet today the double trouble of a faltering economy and a burgeoning Internet makes Sandler’s questions of critical taste, market manipulation, and relevance seem like a debate over the best buggy whip. No matter how you arrange the deck chairs, the entire enterprise of hard copy art criticism is sinking. It’s not a question of relevance, but of whether it will exist as anything recognizable in the near future. How will this brave new world, where anyone with a keyboard and a phone line can become an art blogger, affect the consumer? Who’ll guarantee quality and editorial ethics? Has the era of paradigm-shifting essays like Greenberg’s “Avant-Garde and Kitsch,” Rosenberg’s “The American Action Painters” or Sontag’s “Notes on ‘Camp’” (all first published in “little magazines”) passed? Will it be replaced by celebrity gossip and hot button issues designed to drive up views at the expense of aesthetic investigation? Knock, knock…who’s there?…Not art criticism.

About six months ago I started to notice little things. The e-mail address of a rising young editor at one of the big three art mags was deactivated; although she was still working there, her job was strictly “freelance.” Soon after, the New York Sun folded. Despite what you might have felt about the paper’s political slant, the art section featured some of the best local arts writing and lots of color photos. Publications not closing were slimming down, looking to slow financial hemorrhaging and tap additional revenue streams. The first thing to go is always the unprofitable art review section. Even rumblings from The New York Times about cutbacks on writing and editorial staffs and the leasing of major portions of office space in their Midtown building shows that no one is immune. If current trends continue, we’re looking at a cultural shift equivalent to the invention of the printing press or TV.

Meanwhile the emigration to the Internet is frenetic. A laggard like Art in America recently debuted a spiffy new site (http://www.artinamericamagazine.com/), while established mega-sites like Huntington Post are expanding their arts sections. Given the niche market for art reporting, a profitable business model remains elusive. Even some high profile art bloggers like Art Fag City have turned to fundraising, asking fans to pony up for the privilege of their expertise. Sharon L. Butler’s informative “The Art World on Facebook: A Primer” (which appeared in the March 2009 Brooklyn Rail) delves into the recent “social networking” aspect of the Internet with a special focus on Jerry Saltz’s recent Facebook participation. And although his 4,829 “friends” might not equate to the number of his readers at New York Magazine, there’s something to be said for the immediacy and volume of response he achieves with each post. It’s a world in flux, but once you get over the fear, the potential for innovation is astounding.

In the spirit of this new game I posted a query through my own Facebook account: “What’s the future of hard copy art criticism?” Although it didn’t generate the number of responses some of the FB stars get, there were some interesting posts. Sharon L. Butler put in her two cents worth: “Art critics better head over to Blogspot or Wordpress, sign up for their blogs now, and think creatively about new sources of revenue. They should stop wringing their hands and look at it as an opportunity...or else they’ll go down with the ship.” Mark Kramer chimed in with “As long as there are coffee tables, there will be hard-copy art media to adorn them.” Some tech-head art pundits have already predicted the decline of blogs, saying the trend has passed its prime, they’ve become too mean, restrictive, and inhospitable to innovation and new technologies.

What are some of these new approaches that might use the internet to extend art reporting? Recently Twitter has set hearts aflutter. Based on my own experiments in online video art criticism with the “Kalm Report,” I’d nominate online streaming video as a possibility.

I decided to throw out some questions via e-mail to an expert, NewArtTV’s (http://www.newarttv.com/) founder Robert Knafo. Robert was an editor at GQ and Connoisseur magazines (1983-89), and he has organized exhibitions at the Chelsea Art Museum, produced StudioVisit.net ( http://www.studiovisit.net/ ), and contributed to Art in America, Arts, Artforum, Art News, Slate, and The New York Times Magazine.

James Kalm: What made you decide to start NewArtTV?

Robert Knafo: I’ve had a long-standing interest in documentary film on art. In 2006 it occurred to me that online video offered a great new platform for doing what I had been doing in an online magazine format with StudioVisit.net, which is to document and write about contemporary art and artists around the experience of a studio visit. The Internet and editing software meant that you could make “documentaries” or videos on art, to be less grand about it, for relatively little money, and bring them to an audience more or less on your own. I found that very exciting.

James Kalm: Do you think the Internet has made conventional print journalism, specifically that of art criticism, obsolete?

Robert Knafo: It is undeniable that less art criticism is to be found on newsprint, but I am not sure that this is the crucial issue regarding the future of critical writing on art. I’d worry if it meant that there’s less art criticism, or less good art criticism, but is that the case? Judging from the hundreds of art blogs, and the fact that I can read online many if not all of the art critics I follow—I’d say no. I think that art exists as a crucial focal point for discussion and debate about aesthetic, cultural, and a myriad other issues and concerns, and criticism will always be essential for proposing the key terms of the conversation. I think we’re witnessing a morphing of art criticism into different forms (the blog entry, the crit-tweet) as it makes a sometimes-turbulent transition onto a new platform.

James Kalm: As someone who worked as a critic, do you feel your current video practice at NewArtTV functions as critique, and if not, why?

Robert Knafo: What I do on NewArtTV is not art criticism, but it is related, I believe, in that it contains aspects of criticism. In contrast to the explicit and interpretive propositions of criticism, I think that in each video I make there’s an implicit initial argument at work, which is that this work, this artist, is worth paying attention to; beyond that, I am conscious of drawing out certain lines of investigation (through questions, focus, emphasis, elaboration) and, in the editing process, structuring the raw material I derive according to how things relate and connect to each other, their relative importance, their place in a kind of story or discursive experience.

James Kalm: Perhaps you could comment on what you see as the difference between writing a review of a show and your video programs in which you visit studios and interview artists.

Robert Knafo: I’ve come to think of producing videos as having a critical dimension, but I also like and want to emphasize the neutrality of creating a platform, a medium, for someone else’s voice or “performance.” I think video is a crucial way to record the ephemeral as well as the enduring aspects of art production and creativity (the artist’s thoughts and views, the work environment, etc.). I see the videos as having a documentary function about artwork, the critical interpretation and judgment of which I am happy to leave to posterity. I’d love to be able to watch a video studio visit with Manet, or Cezanne, or Duchamp, or Picasso, and I hope that the videos I make will be seen and have a similar interest for people who are not yet around to see them.

Robert demurred from prognosticating further on the future.

However things work out, we’ll have to use our noggins to transform the ancient Chinese curse “May you live in interesting times” into our own blessing.

"Brooklyn Dispatches Resurrection of a Bad-Ass Girl, Part II," Brooklyn Rail by Fredrick Munk

By James Kalm

Life is messy, but death is messier. And at least while you’re alive, you can bust ass in the clean-up—scrub away the stains and sweep what you don’t want seen under the rug.

Recently the ghost of Lee Lozano has been haunting me like Laura Palmer from Twin Peaks. I began Part I of this essay with a simple idea: track the process whereby an artist’s oeuvre is discovered, promoted, and canonized without the direct intervention of the artist, a study at the nexus of where the market meets art history. Lenore Knaster, aka Lee Lozano, aka E, seemed the perfect case, an ambitious young artist with a brief but intense ten-year career that encompassed nearly every major artistic tendency during New York’s tumultuous ’60s. This decade’s worth of artifacts were set like a gem in a ring of actions, rumors, and myths that, because of their complexities, both obscured and enhanced the seductiveness of the work. Lozano’s final twenty-five-year self-imposed exile from the art world, her decision to stop creating physical works and divorce herself from her own production (leaving it like an orphan in foster care), carry all the implications of one of her “actions.”

Armed only with published reviews and oft-repeated historical anecdotes, I assumed I could track down the particulars easily—google a few articles, collect some factoids—and so I went ahead and published Part I. But Lee wasn’t going to let me off the hook so easy. Almost immediately the accepted dates and received myths that Lozano had so carefully constructed started to evaporate. A ten-thousand percent increase in the value of the extant work seemed to raise an E-fever in some witnesses, while at the same time, because of the powerful forces involved, it intimidated others into an uncomfortable reticence.

I was contacted by Lee’s cousin, Mark Kramer, who was living in Dallas when Lee showed up on her parents’ doorstep there in 1982. Mark spent several years as Lee’s closest confidant and hapless provider of a crash-pad when Lee couldn’t face hanging out with her parents. He’s established a website with the mission of straightening out the Lozano legend at www.leelozano.net. Available at the site is Robert Wilonsky’s incredibly tragic article, “The Dropout Piece,” which appeared in the Dallas Observer of December 9, 1999, just a few short months after Lee’s death. This cautionary tale documents the life and death of Lee, and should be required reading for anyone dreaming of risking their all in the pursuit of becoming an “artist.”

So here’s a brief, revised update: despite what’s been recorded in many chronicles of the period such as Robert Hughes’ Shock of the New (1980) and numerous articles in publications like ARTFORUM and Arts Journal (that Lozano left New York for Texas in 1971), it seems she remained in or around the Downtown Manhattan scene for at least another decade. This ten-year gap in her visibility testifies both to her success at “dropping out” and to the apathetic myopia afflicting a shocking percentage of local critical and historical pundits. According to Kramer, it was the death of Mickey Ruskin, owner of Max’s Kansas City and Lee’s longtime meal ticket, that ultimately led to her departure from Gotham and arrival in Dallas as a fifty-two-year-old indigent. Moving in with her retired parents, a strained relationship begins, which ultimately deteriorates to a point where, in desperation, her father is forced to have a restraining order issued against Lee (he complained that she’d kicked his legs bloody during tantrums). Apparently the abuse had gone on for years, and calling in the cops, who removed Lee in handcuffs, was her father’s final act of resistance, and took place only a month before his untimely death.

With the passing of her mother not long after, Lozano’s last lonely decade is spent in and out of various institutions. By 1998 she seems barely aware of the retrospective exhibition of her “Wave” paintings at the Wadsworth Athenaeum, or of the concurrent shows at three Manhattan galleries, Mitchell Algus, Rosen & van Liere and Margarete Roeder. She’s diagnosed with inoperable cervical cancer in the same year and dies in October 1999, laid to rest at public expense in an unmarked mass grave in Grand Prairie, Texas. Perhaps Lee’s quarter-century pilgrimage into obscurity can be posited as a millennial antithesis to Warhol’s 15 minutes of fame, a heartbreaking performance without a safety net, an ambitious exploration in the aesthetics of failure. Here, at the last frayed nub of this artist’s life, you’d expect the story to end, and for Lenore Knaster it does.

The Afterlife

“The evil that men do lives after them; / The good is oft interred with their bones.” In an ironic twist on Mark Antony’s eulogy from Julius Caesar, it’s the artifacts (not necessarily the evil) that live after, but how and why do they reemerge into the conscious world of the living?

In her April 2008 ARTFORUM “Market Index” article, Katy Siegel makes reference to Pierre Bourdieu’s concept of the “circle of belief,” explaining, “By circle, he meant all of the people it takes to make an artist’s reputation, especially dealers, critics, curators, and collectors. By belief, he meant to emphasize that, for the system to work, all those involved must be sincere; they must truly believe in the artist.” With the passing of Lozano, this virus-like “belief” entered a latent phase, but as with any good virus, it needed only one profligate and passionate believer to transmit it. Enter a vector of taste-making.

“I don’t know if I’m qualified to talk about this, I just wanted to buy a drawing,” states the well-known critic, author and co-curator of Lee Lozano, Drawn from Life: 1961-1971 at PS1, Bob Nickus.

“I’d seen the show at the Atheneum, and had known about Lozano before that through the Cologne dealer Rolf Ricke. He’d shown her work in the late ’60s. Ricke also worked with both Steve Parrino [another posthumous art success story] and Cady Noland, a couple of my favorite artists, so we have a shared sensibility. But it wasn’t until some time later that I saw drawings at Mitchell Algus. I had no intention of curating an exhibition, I was just interested, and Jaap van Leire invited me to his apartment and showed me stacks of her work. I was impressed with the quality, the personality and anger that came out of it. That’s what you look for.”

When I asked Nickus during a phone interview about the re-emergence of the Lozano oeuvre at this particular point in time he opined:

“I think we’re in a period of rediscovery and consolidation. It seems about every 15 or twenty years we go through a cycle of looking back and being influenced by what happened in the past. Lozano is an artist whose work resonates with today’s ideas. A lot of the art in the late–80s/early–90s was referring to work from the sixties. Now we’re looking back to the early–90s again, taking stock. It’ll take us another twenty years to sort out what’s truly significant today.”

Nickus’ Drawn from Life co-curator Alanna Heiss is a longtime fan:

“I’d known her work from the ’60s and organized a well-received show previously at the Clock Tower in the early–80s. By then Lee might have traveled back and forth between here and Texas, but she was in New York, I spoke to her almost every day while we were planning the show [another myth bites the dust]. Funny, she thought being around other women would draw away her essential energy, but she was still in contact with me, at least telephonically. Even then the eccentricities were becoming apparent. One of Lee’s demands was that there should be only male guards. We might get into trouble with something like that today, but back then we agreed because we didn’t have a huge staff and our guards could use the overtime.”

On the question of Lozano’s re-emergence Heiss states:

“She had a small group of very loyal supporters, and these people also happened to be very influential in the art world. Berry Rosen and Jaap van Leire had developed relationships with committed collectors who maintained an interest. Bob Nickus is a very passionate and agile advocate. I knew the work was beautiful, but Bob has such a deft hand at designing and hanging exhibitions. I don’t know exactly how many people saw the show, but if one person sees it and loves it that’s enough. You saw it and loved it, and Ronald Lauder saw it.”

(Ronald Lauder acquired “Untitled” (1963), a large gnarly hammer painting from Drawn from Life, which was subsequently donated to MoMA and prominently featured in their controversial exhibition What is Painting in the summer of 2007.)

Once the prestigious gallery Hauser & Wirth comes on the scene, securing the estate after the PS1 exhibition, Lozano is on track for art world canonization. With their international reputation and timely focus (they mounted Lozano mini-retrospectives at their booths at both the 2005 Armory Show in New York and the 2006 Basil Art Fair—coinciding with the traveling exhibition Lee Lozano: Win First Don’t Last Win Last Don’t Care, curated by Adam Szymczyk and originating from the Kunsthalle Basil—and a one-person show of dark, nearly abstract paintings from the mid–60s at their Zürich gallery in late 2008) Hauser & Wirth presented Lozano as a seminal force in feminist and conceptual art theory, rather than a downtown eccentric who didn’t play well with others and had trouble sticking to the rules. (At the time of this writing, queries made to Hauser & Wirth regarding Lozano’s estate and the artist’s re-emergence have remained unanswered.)

Dave Hickey has stated that one of the measures of great art is its ability to morph and change yet remain in memory, and Lozano proves the point. A body of work that was created in the ’60s, abandoned in the seventies and forgotten by all but a minute few over the next two decades suddenly pops back into popular consciousness, as fresh and relevant as if it were made this morning. In that span of forty years, the work hadn’t changed, but the world has, and so has our perception of Lozano’s art. At the end of our conversation, Alanna Heiss left me with a cautionary note, “Don’t present Lee’s path as a recipe for success, she was unique.” I agree: who in good conscience would encourage that kind of self-destructive sacrifice, even on an enemy? Still, I can’t help but think I hear a faint, coy chuckle carried on the wind from the dusty barren planes of East Texas.

Special thanks to Mark Kramer, Bob Nickas, Alanna Heiss, Katy Siegel, Jaap van Leire, Stefan Eins, and the friends and acquaintances of Lee Lozano who wish to remain anonymous.

"Brooklyn Dispatches: Tough Time, Don’t Whine, Get With a “Project” ," Brooklyn Rail by Fredrick Munk

By James Kalm

If you’re lucky enough to be in a relationship, one that has begun to stretch, before you know it, into an ever-higher percentage of your life, then you’ve been privileged to witness what the ravages of time can do. The same kind of decrepitude can creep into a neighborhood or a community, with equally off-putting results, but without the option of cosmetic intervention to restore suppleness to sunken eyes, blush to the cheeks, or tighten the wrinkles at the neck. With this latest economic downturn, things around the Williamsburg Bed/Met nexus have begun to look downright tired, at least as far as the gallery scene is concerned: re-dos of projects that got attention three or four years ago, and sequel shows by artists who seem trapped into complacency, producing their signature stuff for a market paralyzed with fear. A whiff of desperation tinges the air, and for those trying to survive this crunch, a rush to the slick, safe, entrepreneurial shop owner side of the avant art boat just might cause the whole thing to finally capsize. Official announcements of gallery closings are coming in. Brooklyn Fire Proof has folded its tent and Aron Namenwirth’s Art Moving is under pressure from encroachment. Even much-envied escapees from the ‘Burg, like 31 Grand, have fallen by the wayside, and rumors of others in dire straits are floating thick and fast around the blogosphere. Some local venues seem to be backsliding into the kinda, sorta, maybe-we’ll-be-open status, recalling the pre-“Elsewhere” period of the mid-nineties. Blue plastic tarps lashed to the side of a gallery snap in the wind like arctic sails, while week-old notes of apology festoon its glass door.

The subprime catastrophe has put many local construction projects on hold, leaving long stretches of the nabes looking like a fractured smile with a bloody, half-finished root canal. Despite the developers’ “gold rush fever,” by last fall you could bet on the direction things were going. Even the latest episode of “The Burg Show” (the locally produced YouTube comedy at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TIPmqUO_2FA) was spreading the grief with its dysfunctional Christmas celebration that ends with the cast of artsy, lovable, neurotic slackers lining up for handouts at a Driggs Avenue soup line. Now that the future ain’t so bright, maybe you can take off those shades. But if, as in the old Kris Kristofferson song, “Freedom’s just another word for nothing left to lose,” then maybe this isn’t such a bad situation, maybe we’re just free. All it takes is some creative collagen, injected into the right places, to smooth out the situation and at least give the appearance of getting the groove going again.

Schlepping through my latest tour, I stopped in at Pierogi to catch a glimpse of David Kramer’s “Snake Oil” and, in the front gallery, a selection of very impressive Surrealist graphite drawings by Michael Schall. Once upon a time Schall and I had shown with the same “gallery” for about three seconds before he was snapped up by Williamsburg’s most revered venue. These pieces showed a solid development in both scale and ambition. “Battle at Sea” (2008), at about six by eight feet, is the largest piece in the show and reflects most of the characteristics of what I’ve dubbed “Meta-drawing” (a perennial Pierogi favorite). It features a panoramic view, so broad that the curvature of the earth is visible, filled to the horizon with cruise liners battling fully loaded supercargo ships. These huge vessels have none of the grace of classic schooners, and Schall’s detailed rendering captures the thick, blocky nature of these “floating cities” with relish. Ice floes cover the ocean surface, enhancing a sense of comic slow motion, not unlike whales dancing ballet in ruffled tutus. At roughly half the size of “Battle at Sea,” “Remaking the Night Sky” (2008) is technically the most challenging piece in the show. On a velvety black ground, Schall depicts what appears to be a sophisticated industrial site, perhaps an oil refinery, at night. A pair of brilliant, ground-hugging orbs, one in left foreground the other toward the upper right corner, illuminate a mindboggling mass of scaffolding and pipe works, casting shadows like a Georges de La Tour, then quickly fade into the all-encompassing dark void. As much as one might enjoy these displays of drafting prowess, I found myself getting a headache just contemplating the tedium of grinding out every strut, elbow-joint and concrete wall these pieces required, and wondering whether this kind of commitment would be more durably preserved as a painting on canvas or board rather than a drawing on the fragile surface of paper?

Entering Kramer’s show in the rear gallery, we’re confronted by a pair of wacky back road store signs, their utilitarian backlit plastic letters reading “Free Kool Aide” and “Snake Oil.” The implied impermanence of the removable letters, which could just as easily have been “Night Crawlers” or “Discount Rims,” is contrasted by the light bulb-festooned metal arrows on top of the pieces, which point at each other like two frozen gunslingers. On the signs’ rippled plastic backs, in a chunky brush script, Kramer has written brief anecdotes of art world hijinks (the anxiety of getting involved with a rich but naive dealer) and his conflicted feelings about letting his son watch cable TV. A grouping of watercolor and ink drawings on the front wall continue the artist’s hapless tales of unmet expectations, including some apparently based on illustrations from popular 1960s lifestyle magazines. For years Kramer used funky typewriter texts that could only be read close up, at arm’s length, which appeared more as literature with drawings added. This current batch’s use of hand-lettering is a move into full-fledged painting, with a direct gestural quality that juices up the color, and entertaining erasures and edits that recall movie posters or paperback book covers inspired by the crisp graphic style of 1950s Stuart Davis. For fans of Kramer’s work, his Rodney Dangerfield “I don’t get no respect” routine is pretty familiar, but these new monologues announce an even more pathetically mundane set of concerns—a poetry of broken promises, disappointing business deals, and the mind numbing, churlish slog a middle-aged professed artist trudges through day to day. I’d be sniveling if I weren’t giggling.

On my slink out, stopping to forge a signature in the guest book, Joe Amrhein buttonholed me for a brief chat. With the European economy suffering even worse than New York’s, Joe has decided to scale back operations in Leipzig and refocus energy on the gallery’s core local, right here in good old Williamsburg. “The Boiler” is Pierogi’s latest venture. Situated in an ancient factory’s steam plant, at 191 North 14th Street, between Berry and Wythe Streets, “The Boiler” will be a cutting-edge project space. This kind of facility, with its forty-foot ceilings, will lend itself to lots of possibilities, from in-site constructions to film projections, musical performances and maybe even bungee-jumping. Joe’s planning to debut on March 7th, to coincide with the run of the Armory Show. The opening will feature works by Tavares Strachan, Jonathan Schipper and a twenty-foot painting by Yoon Lee. On the night of the opening they’ll close North 14th Street to traffic until 3:00 a.m., allowing revelers to drift freely between “The Boiler” and Gutter, the bowling alley/bar across the street. As Joe said, “This is like the old neighborhood, before the developers, they’ve still got weeds growing through the sidewalks up there.” Stay tuned for further updates.

Back on the street I pondered as I peddled. I was beginning to see a pattern here. Just around the corner from Pierogi is Black & White Gallery’s Brooklyn branch. I’d been informed several months ago by Tatyana Okshteyn, B&W’s director, that their Driggs Street gallery, with its wonderful open sculpture garden in back, was in the process of becoming a not-for-profit “project space.” As a practical matter, Tatyana calculated that the difference in foot traffic between the Chelsea and Brooklyn galleries made it a clear business decision to alter the mission of the Brooklyn space. They now have a five-member curatorial board that will select two artists or artist collectives a year for a residency program, which entails creating site-specific works on a rotating schedule. The winter term’s production will be exhibited for three months in the spring, and the summer output during the fall season. Funding has already begun with a successful benefit auction and a NYFA grant. The inaugural exhibition, Casual Conversations in Brooklyn by Alina and Jeff Bliumis, will open March 5th.

Cruising south on Driggs, I turned west on Grand and jumped the curb to peek in at Parker’s Box. For a couple of weeks now I’ve been watching the progression of John Bjerklies’s “evolving solo group residency project,” When A River Changes Its Course, through window gates from the street. The pile of painted debris, hand-lettered signs, and flickering video monitors seemed to get bigger and more colorful every time I passed by. “We didn’t want to do what they’re doing in Chelsea, putting up tiny precious things on the wall and hoping they sell. We decided we wanted to get back to what our original intent was, to be as experimental as possible,” stated gallerist Alun Williams during a phone chat. “With our international sales it doesn’t seem to make that much difference whether we show commercial stuff in the gallery. It’s counterintuitive, but with the economy slowing down we wanted to do the opposite, show crazy unsalable stuff. We’re not going to do just projects, but we want to be more flexible, expand the program, give the artist more time to let things grow organically.” To this end, the Bjerklies project will take a couple of months to install, and will involve “Real, Fictional and Virtual Time and Space, Politics and Anti-Politics, Construction and Demolition, Interviews, Discussion, Debate, Demonstrations, Incidents, Sculpture, Drawing, Painting, Video, Installation, Performance, Poetry, Speeches, Anti-Performance, Dancing, Jokes, Auctions, Sales.”

Will this cluster of “projects” provide an outlet for underexposed artists and tap back into the critical attention that seems to have shifted from the ‘Burg to the New Lower East Side in recent years? I’ve certainly been impressed with installations I’ve seen out east in the MoJo district, like Andrew Ohanesian and Tescia Seufferlein’s Blind Spot at English Kills (a video tour is available at: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m1Ewhpxryro&feature=channel_page), and I’m heartened to see risky, innovative ideas being tested when most people are pulling back into security.

Finally a brief note of interest: Attitudes of Magnitude, the latest exhibition by Carri Skoczek at Ch’i Contemporary, is worth an ogle. I’ve known Carri for quite a while; she’s a local spark plug who organized the “Mermaid Show” that ran concurrently with the Coney Island “Mermaid Parade” shindig, as well as a benefit auction for the victims of Hurricane Katrina. I’ve always enjoyed her hyper-decorative work and its sometimes over-the-top elements of kitsch. With Attitudes, a visibly new level of maturity has been reached. Despite her self-admitted influence by and homage to Egon Schiele, and his own derivation from Klimt, these single figures, ensconced on their off-white grounds, make a simple, punchy statement. What Skoczek’s women lack by way of Shiele’s Freudian angst and emotionally tortured expressionism, they make up with a kind of comically self-satisfied vamping that places them somewhere between the denizens of a local rock club and not-so-high-fashion models with plump, pouty lips. Her unique technique, employing printer’s ink and pearl powders, is like a reversed Byzantine icon: the flesh is a shiny metallic bronze while the backgrounds are dry and modeled as blanched skin. But the real surprise is the power of Skoczek’s new series of linocuts, a rogues’ gallery of art stars rendered in bold black and white, with graphic decisions that reduce recognizable features into blocks of hard-edged abstraction. With this group of prints, Skoczek’s gifts have found a perfect medium.