I broke my new years resolution and had two glasses of wine last night. Not entirely by consent.
I’d trekked over to Chelsea after doing a gallery stroll in Williamsburg. The local galleries actually produce a monthly map and listings of the openings each night – so arty punters in search of free piss and eyeball stimulation – or just warmth amidst the pretty cool young things - can guide themselves along the circuit.
I was actually very strong and resisted the free beer, and free pastis on offer. OK it didn’t take that much self control actually. And the art was pretty orright too.
First up was a ballpoint show at Cinders gallery. Biro drawings are tres cool part of the edgy ‘anal grunge’ aesthetic that characterizes modern ‘youf’ art. You know the thing? Everyday materials – as a generous nod tho the waste aesthetic post-arte-povera thing combined with exquisite attention to detail and that self conscious focus on pop-culture trivia, or just trivia, that denotes authentic late-industrial-consumer-society angst?
Cinder’s last show was a big printmakers combo – and the back room sells jewellery, objects, zines, t-shirts and VINYL – yeah – RECORDS – by local hipsters, all for nice present level prices. I’d bought a resin cast cumquat slice enamelled onto a ring for a friend – and the owner said they were planning a t-shirt show in Melbourne of screenprints on teatowels at the 3rd Drawer gallery.
Back to Friday – the gallery was packed. The walls were wallpapered with 3 or four deep A4 sheets of mostly bond paper – all covered with mainly blue biro drawings –though there was one corner of black biro drawings. Tiling is a great way to hang serial style shows – where there are lots of works that share a formal criteria – (like size, or support medium) and evokes the post-modern trash-ironic-aesthetic that seeks to rise above the preciousness of art as reified singular object of genius – and embrace seriality and repeatability as fun facts of life. Prices ranged from $2.95 to $1,000.00 which was cute too. Most were in the $50-$100 range. I grasped all of the above at the threshold of the gallery, by peeking above the heads of the throng which filled the centre of the room, while swiping a catalogue at the doorway.
The next bit was a bit harder – doing the New York sauna slow stripping shuffle. (actually I’m becoming quite adept at this) – which involves peeling off layers of clothing – allowing enough time for snowflakes to evaporate but not condense on spectacles as steam, while in a really crowded room /subway/queue of people doing the same thing. One of the things I really like about winter is the constant doona like gentle pressure between bodies. Danes have word ford it: “hooglie” – which reminds me of “huggily”. Peoples bodies are so wrapped up in winter woollies that we forget our boundaries – and huddle and press and gently and sway together, all without eye contact. It’s kind of intimate, and cute, and kind of weird at the same time. I guess guys must have a similar thing at beats. Anyway I was doing this in a room, edging along the walls, back to the centre, peering at biro drawings in a not quite steamy bespectacled kind of way, while ferreting around for a tissue to wipe my runny nose. Behind me I felt the padded pressings and shufflings of the black clad hipsters of Williamsburg and I felt like I’d walked into some cool pub on Brunswick Street. (or maybe surry hills in the 1990’s – Sydney is too sunny and plastic to really be ‘cool’). Almost everyone was 10 years younger than me, with bad skin and bad hair (mainly facial on the men), but a certain je ne sais quoi that made me feel self conscious. Oh, yeah, I know. They were wearing duffle coats, high tops, those trendy Tibetan/Inca style beanies and all had white skin, black hair and mostly black clothing. I also have white skin and mostly black hair but also had on a stripy beanie, flouro orange polar, blue jeans with an appliquéd flower on the sides, green/white sneakers, and I was lugging a big puffy full length parka. (one of the key markers of social capital in winter cites is the confidance to wander round looking half fed- and underdressed – overdressing tends to connote homelessness – and overeating denotes white trash poverty – coolness invokes a detachment from the senses – such as the fear of cold or hunger).
I really stuck out because, I wasn’t carrying a can of budweiser, and I was looking at the art. Which was kind of cool. There were some really amazing detailed drawings, some exquisite stencil style blade cut and biro drawings, and a lot of fairly banal illustration, some fairly bland adolescent ‘protest-angst’ art, (complete with bad poetry) and lots of mad magazine teenage boy cartoony art. Which ain’t my cup of expresso. I considered forking out $10 for a drawing of exqisitely rendered diarrhoea on a garbage can – but then couldn’t be bothered fighting my way back through the crowds to do the purchase. So I rugged up and braved the snowflakes once more.
I checked my map and scurried around the corner to a place called “front room” – in a warehouse behind big metal doors up some stairs. This was a big white box of delights – miniatures and reproductions and a more heterogeneous crowd – that looked – like the other crowd – the artists and their friends – but these artists seemed to have spent more time away from their teenage bedrooms. The place was so packed – that I was forced to negotiate the space warily – peering at video installations, into light boxes, onto shelves. There was some bronze pistachio nuts, FUCK snow globes and a book of beautiful superimposed photographs by Robert Flynt – that were creepy and beautiful and so I got one for my friend who collects found photographs and stitches them up into little sculptures. There were more PLM’s (people like me) at this space so I could have happily stayed but – my friend wanted to push on. So out we went…..
And trudged for 2 blocks up the same street to Parkers Box. This was redolent of the Good Hope Gallery on a good night with more ‘serious’ artists, and buyers (with decent winter coats). It was a very clean white cube, with clean white works, and clean white people. And blissfully free of the stench of Storrier. (you know, I can’t BELIEVE how Australia is sooo small that even potentially interesting galleries are forced to take moribund turkeys seriously because the art buyers are so few and far between and so turkeyfied themselves that the only way to keep a profit is to sell big buck turkey art –and showing anything interesting is regarded as an act of fucking charity).
I’ll stop whingeing now – because the group show, called ‘the troubled waters of permeability’ had some really lovely works to make me smile for quite a while – especially animated sculpture video stuff – as in electronically interfaced kinetic sculptures…. Eergh. In English this means that one bit had a rotating sphere of wires linked to a whole heap of little daisies on wires on the wall that scintillated and shimmered, with various nice alternances, and then there was a really intense forest video placed in this great moving assemblage of old printer bits. I’m not sure what it meant but it looked good (great art review eh?). There was an amazing big funnel object by Soyeon Cho, suspended from the ceiling, that had the lyrical grandeur of similar objects made by Petra Coyne. It was made from an plastic forks and other every day things – and had the witty transformation of the everyday into exquisite fanciful otherness that Koji Rui did in Primavera this year.
At the steel school of sculptural formalism where I did my training – they wer e pretty down on assemblage art – because (apparently) it never allowed the objects to transcend their object-ness and become ‘pure’ material that can then evoke ‘pure’ form – and those hokey rustic wood and metal things that you see in bad Sculpture shows certainly prove that point. But occasionally, the plastic soul of banal objects can take flight and become both object and form, and matter, and as our eyes and minds stumble between all three possibilities, nice things happen. The Mayhem Theory Of Aesthetics‰ holds fast to the power of interstices, of gaps and crevices, of incomplete junctures and wrinkled seams as the repositories of the great stuff in life (which reminds me; I’ve run out of dental floss).
So I was enamoured of Soyeon’s funnel – as a permeable shell of meanings and troubledness, and nice imaginative possibilities, even though dusting it would prove a total shit. One of the nicest things I saw though was a great digital/kinetic installation by a duo called “electric shadow”. The gallery curtained of a corner to create a nice little booth. A shallow rectangular pool of bubbling water was in the centre, on the floor, with some abstracted elegant blue-green lines projected over the rippling surface – which then reflected up onto the wall. There was an enticingly expanding, shrinking animated circle projection on a pad at one end of the pool – which was incredibly tempting – to stick a foot in, o on. Which after a few bevvy’s punters gingerly did. The projection was mounted on a pressure pad – and standing on it –set off another projection across the pool – a weird diaphanous smokey shadow form streaming across the rippling water – in a way reminiscent of viola’s ‘ascentions’ (which is perfectly housed at MOMA right now). Ghostly presence, rippling water, light, air, and fine fine algorithms. Digital art done well can evoke the stuff of the self so well – sense, experiment, fate, form. This was nice.
After this I had a slow trudge tot he subway and a long wait at 6th avenue for a train to the Chelsea Bar where my friend was playing. By the time I arrived, my face was almost too numb to form words. She said she’d put my name on the door, but negotiating my way through two floors of a pumping Chelsea Gay bar on a friday night was not easy. Not to mention dealing with the attitude of the staff manning the caberet theatre where she was playing. “Have you got a reservation?” “Yeah, I’m with the Bass Player”. “Well, there’s no seats left” “I can stand” “You can’t stand” “Oh” “Ok, I think there’s a seat here, at this table, (to the seated clients) can you make room for this lady?” “yeah sure” “Ok, you can sit here” “great thanks” “now, you must have a drink, what do you want?” “err.. have you got a drinks list?” “Ok, come in here (so I struggle into the bar area) this is our drinks list (shows me to a wall of vodka). “err… can I have a glass of wine, please?” so they brought me two glasses of wine. (What!) but I was in no mood to protest. I was at a table of really lovely Manhattan Queens being regaled by an incredible performer - who put the soul back into country and coaxed a double bass solo off a Tammy Wynette tune from my Jazz muso friend. What a genius! Strutting, talking, singing, sobbing to blues, country and Tango. I texted Kath Ellis and told her to get her arse over here. New York is the place where Carlos Gardel meets Hank Williams with just enough Streisand…. I thought about some great lecture on CAMP that I heard at an art-history conference last month and felt very glad to be alive. At the end of the night, I handed over my plastic, and me, my friend and her tree (pet name for double bass) squeezed past the disco beats and muscle marys in the other two rooms and headed back to Brooklyn.
Last night in bed I actually kept on my pyjamas and my doona – and could hear the central heating hissing –so I knew it must have been cold. This morning I groggily woke up to a world of whiteness outside –and watched it melt while eating my fruit porridge. Now, I’m aiming to get to a ‘burlesque sketch club’ a few blocks away. I’m meant to shower first I guess, but I want to stay in my pyjamas and keep tapping away. I hope the burlesque show isn’t full of scary frat boys with scary ‘arty’ attitude. – and I can sit and do some fun little drawings of the people and the room, and hopefully see some nice stuff.
Nov 11: Giving a reading at Naked Heart Festival
2 weeks ago