Aug 022021
 

“Life is tragic simply because the earth turns and the sun inexorably rises and sets, and one day, for each of us, the sun will go down for the last, last time. Perhaps the whole root of our trouble, the human trouble, is that we will sacrifice all the beauty of our lives, will imprison ourselves in totems, taboos, crosses, blood sacrifices, steeples, mosques, races, armies, flags, nations, in order to deny the fact of death, the only fact we have. It seems to me that one ought to rejoice in the fact of death–ought to decide, indeed, to earn one’s death by confronting with passion the conundrum of life. One is responsible for life: It is the small beacon in that terrifying darkness from which we come and to which we shall return.”

The above quote is from Baldwin’s 1963 novel, The Fire Next Time.

Happy Birthday to James Baldwin, born today, August 2nd in 1924.

The artwork above is by artist Jack Henry and is located in the River Arts District in Asheville, North Carolina. For more of his work, check out his website and Instagram.

 

Mar 102021
 

I stumbled upon this work while walking around in Brooklyn, NYC. It was created by artist Brian Block and is part of his project “based on late writings of Californian writer F.C. Wott”.

The biography of Wott from Block’s website

Wott was born in Santa Monica and lived as a resident of Elysium Fields commune in Topanga Canyon in Los Angeles from the late 1960s until its closure the early 2000s. He was an occasional prose and poetry writer, with his musings appearing in various zine style tracts that circulated among the west coast commune culture of the 60s and 70s.  

Confirmed further details of Wott’s life are few at this time, but it has been established that he served as part-time adjunct professor at Santa Monica Community College for many years in the 70’s and 80’s, teaching classes in Anthropology and Poetry.

Curiously, after years of writing only occasionally, his late years see Wott throwing himself headlong into his writing – intensely penning hundreds of lines of notes in seclusion at his modest beach hut at the nudist colony. These varied widely in length, coherence, and completion when they were found at his desk at his death in 2013. These writings would eventually became known as “The Notes”. 

“The Notes” were first circulated informally among friends, gradually acquiring a small, eclectic readership amid creative circles in and around Los Angeles.  One set of loose photocopied pages eventually captured the attention of UCLA Art Historian Emeritus Rene Glete, who introduced Brian Block to the writings.  Glete also went on to establish the scholarly framework for the study of Wott’s work: gathering and archiving all of Wott’s papers (such as they were) in cooperation with his estate, and setting up the framework for the Nachlass. It is worth noting that these are somewhat unchartered waters, academically researching the work of an “outsider” writer, for unlike the well established conventions of “outsider artist” and “outsider art”no such consensus has been forged in historical circles around such terms for writers.   

In deciding to make a group of artworks based on the texts, Block was drawn to their “eccentricity, and the fractured, iterative thinking” they depict, obtaining permission from the estate to make work from the Notes. 

Block is pasting up more work around town so check out the walls when you pass.

 

 

Feb 162019
 

This month there are a lot of excellent exhibitions on view in Chelsea.

At David Zwirner is God Made My Face: A Collective Portrait of James Baldwin, a group show curated by writer Hilton Als. The works are varied and include portraits by Richard Avedon (shown above), a friend of Baldwin’s who also attended De Witt Clinton High School with him, as well work by Njideka Akunyili Crosby (seen below), Kara Walker, James Welling, Beuford Delaney, Glenn Ligon and many more.

Nyado: The Thing Around Her Neck, 2011 by Njideka Akunyili Crosby

At Marianne Boesky Gallery is Pure, Very, New, Paul Stephen Benjamin’s first solo exhibition in New York. The exhibition includes paintings, photographs, sculpture, and single and multi-channel video installations, as well as a new site-specific black light installation in the internal passageway between the two spaces.

From the press release

Benjamin’s practice is rooted in a vigorous meditation on blackness, considering: “What is the color black?” “What does black sound like?” “Is it an adjective, a verb, an essence, or all of these components mixed to create a nuanced whole?” For his large-scale monochromatic paintings, Benjamin thickly coats the canvas in varying shades of black, producing a sensation of boundless depth. This is further accentuated by Benjamin’s application of the particular tonality’s name within the field of color—the words appearing to float and dissipate within the richness of the paint itself. The development of these paintings followed an ordinary visit to a hardware store, where Benjamin was confronted with the many permutations of commercial black paint. Shades of black came with emotive titles like “Totally Black,” “New Black,” and “Pure Black,” among numerous others. For Benjamin, this sparked a multi-layered investigation of the color and whether it could be distilled or understood differently within the context of a painting or the color itself.

 … Benjamin’s practice also extends into a conceptual investigation of sound, and how “black” can be conveyed and experienced aurally. In these works, he often uses single and multi-channel video installations to loop portions of particular historic and cultural footage to isolate fragments of collective memories or internalized narratives. With Black is the Color (2015), which will be included in the exhibition, Benjamin arranges a towering cluster of antiquated televisions, forming a glowing grid that endlessly repeats a segment of Nina Simone’s 1959 performance of “Black is the Color of My True Love’s Hair.” Here, Benjamin appropriates only the words “Black is the Color,” creating an abstraction of the song that reveals the contradictions and parallels between the notion of black being the color and it being a color. Moving fluidly from sound installation to painting to photography and sculpture, Benjamin’s practice is driven by the idea that blackness, whether explored as a matter of conceptual inquiry or identity, cannot be captured in a single action, emotion, or language.

Black Is The Color 2015 by Paul Stephen Benjamin

At Yancey Richardson is Blue Sweep, an exhibition of Andrew Moore’s beautiful photographs, taken in Alabama and Mississippi over the course of three years.

Carmen, Saunders Hall, AL 2015 by Andrew Moore

At Bryce Wolkowitz Gallery is Oliver Jeffers’ charming painting exhibition For All We Know. If his work looks familiar it may be because Jeffers is also the author of several critically acclaimed picture books.

From the press release

This series of paintings illuminate a dream-like nocturnal world populated by astronauts, deep-sea divers, sinking ships, floating pianos, and burning matches. Omnipresent throughout are the night sky and the ocean – the two great and unknown frontiers – glittered with the imaginary lines that create constellations, serving in this case as a mysterious key to unlock our world.

Expanding on years of observation, from the history of his upbringing in Belfast, to contemporary New York City, Jeffers’ evokes the precarious state of our home and its inhabitants. Inspired by Buckminster Fuller’s seminal book Operating Manual for Spaceship Earth, he presents pianos as dubious flotation devices and our planet presented as a cumbersome motor vehicle, overheating as we argue over what to play on the radio. From researching astronaut’s descriptions of looking at Earth from the distance of the Moon, Jeffers noticed certain recognizable patterns to the way in which he discussed the politics of his hometown from a vantage point of across the Atlantic Ocean. In finding that few people outside of Northern Ireland knew or cared of the intricate conflict there, a great waste of time was revealed: a divided population identical to each other in every way save for the flags they flew and the stories they told. Tragically, each side’s identity are still firmly rooted to the existence of the other, and therefore locked into a spiral of repeated patterns.

 

At both of Jack Shainman’s locations are a series of impressive paintings by Lynette Yiadom-Boakye.

Black Allegiance to the Cunning, 2018 by Lynette Yiadom-Boakye

 

For a new kind of exhibition experience, Asad Raza has organized the group show Life to Come, at Metro Pictures which “brings together works that meditate on the creation of new worlds and new models for living.” There are no labels or listings for the works included in the show. Instead there is a guided tour by hosts who take you around the various works to help you draw connections between the objects. Adding to the uniqueness of the experience, at one point the host pauses while talking and partially in motion, recreating a work by artist Tino Sehgal, and at another they show you that they have changed their eye color, a work by Rirkrit Tiravanija.

From the press release

Experiencing these works together incites intellectual, physical, and spiritual understandings of what it means to make an entirely new world, one in which reality is made from fiction. Raza asserts that “by re-immersing ourselves in the strangeness and fecundity of attempts to create worlds that have gone before, our imagination of a world beyond the present may be renewed.” The uncertainty about what new paradigm awaits us is unsettling in the wake of the modernist 20th century, but it links us to previous generations who experienced radical reinventions of biological and social life.

Philippe Parreno, La pierre qui parle (The Speaking Stone), 2018.

 

Selection of work by Camille Henrot (floral arrangements inspired by books)

All of these exhibitions close 2/16/19.