Friday, November 30, 2012

The Unfortunate Side Effect of Political Correctness

While claiming they have no interest in seeing Ken Johnson censured, the authors of the petition titled "Open Letter to The New York Times" are informally doing just that via their campaign. 

Until now I've stayed away from this slow boiling controversy, not having had much time to read the original reviews by Mr. Johnson that stirred up accusations of racism and misogyny, but I do feel strongly that the only defensible response to speech one dislikes is a convincing counter-argument. Demands that the publisher of such speech "acknowledge and address this editorial lapse and the broader issues raised by these texts"  ring too much for my taste of demands to "Tell me, have you stopped beating your wife yet?" 

The framing of the publishing of the reviews as an "editorial lapse" does not truly call for an honest and open dialog about the issues raised. The implication is that Johnson was wrong, not that his point is debatable. Such implications are not compatible with honest dialog.

Now I've read the petition and I do think it has the potential to open up a very interesting discussion, so I thank its authors, but what I find troubling myself about the petition is how selective its presentation of Mr. Johnson's actual words was. The petition reads:

In his review of “Now Dig This!” Mr. Johnson starts with the claim that “Black artists didn't invent assemblage.” Instead, he states that black artists appropriated the form from white artists who developed it. Both these statements attack a straw man; no historian, artist or curator has ever made a claim that anyone, black or white, “invented” assemblage. In fact, assemblage has roots in many cultures and it is well documented that European and American Modernist artists borrowed heavily from African art in their use of the form. [emphasis mine]
But the review doesn't actually start with that sentence (“Black artists didn't invent assemblage.”); that sentence appears in the 6th paragraph to be exact. And that sentence is a lot less inflammatory when it's actually read in context. How the review actually starts is

There is a paradox at the heart of “Now Dig This! Art & Black Los Angeles 1960-1980,” an exhibition at MoMA PS1 about black artists who lived and worked in Los Angeles during a time of revolutionary changes in art and society. It is not specifically addressed by the exhibition, which was organized by Kellie Jones, a Columbia University art historian, and had its debut at the Hammer Museum last year as part of the Californian extravaganza “Pacific Standard Time: Art in L.A. 1945-1980.” But I think it goes some way toward explaining why so few black artists have been embraced by the predominantly white high-end art world. It has to do with the relationship of black artists to Modernist tradition and the differences between the lives of blacks and whites in this country. [emphasis mine]
Further down, Mr. Johnson gets to the heart of why he viewed the exhibition through this perceived paradox:
According to Ms. Jones’s catalog essay, Mr. Purifoy has said that the Watts calamity made him an artist. He and the fellow assemblagists John T. Riddle Jr. and John Outterbridge began to make sculptures using rubble and detritus left in the aftermath of the riots. Ms. Jones writes, “Purifoy, John Riddle and John Outterbridge reinterpreted Watts as a discursive force, emblematic of both uncompromising energy and willful re-creation, using the artistic currency of assemblage.” Herein lies the paradox. Black artists did not invent assemblage. In its modern form it was developed by white artists like Picasso, Kurt Schwitters, Marcel Duchamp, David Smith and Robert Rauschenberg. For these artists assemblage was an expression of freedom from conservative aesthetics and parochial social mores. It did not come out of anything like the centuries-long black American experience of being viewed and treated as essentially inferior to white people. It was the art of people who already were about as free as anyone could be.
This was a necessary (if, again debatable) observation for Johnson to bring his readers to his more important point:
If I am right that most of the work in “Now Dig This!” promotes solidarity, then this poses a problem for its audience. It divides viewers between those who, because of their life experiences, will identify with the struggle for black empowerment, and others for whom the black experience remains more a matter of conjecture. Those who identify may tend to respond favorably to what those viewing from a more distanced perspective may regard as social realist clichés, like the defiant fist.
I happen to believe Political Correctness plays an important role in the American experience. There is no doubt that the playing field has not been level for most people from perceived "minorities," and Political Correctness is a good tool for pointing that out when the "majority" players refuse to accept their advantage. But Political Correctness is only a tool toward the goal of a more level playing field; it's not an end in and of itself. It must eventually give way. At some point, for a true level playing field to ever exist, we must all be able to speak openly about how things look from our vantage point, with equal protection and equal opportunity under the law in doing so. If any minority remains a protected class, for whom others feel compelled to soften their criticisms where they wouldn't toward members of another class, that protected minority isn't actually yet equal because they're being condescended to. In his review, Mr. Johnson clearly acknowledged the social advantages white artists had over black artists in the 1960s :
The most violent episode of civil unrest in the city’s history up to that time happened in the predominantly poor and black neighborhood of Watts in August 1965. So Mr. Edwards’s sculpture can be read as a metaphor for the struggle of black people to break through barriers that have kept them down in America.
To me, that gives him license to then move the dialog further along. 


Indeed, to me his review reads as a much-needed attempt to move the dialog about race, and in particular advantages/disadvantages for artists based on their race, past the everyone-walking-on-egg-shells, condescending phase it seems stuck in. Others may disagree. Others may feel the disadvantages within the playing field still require a higher level of the ginger discussion I've personally grown bored with. I'm not learning anything new from the white-man-looking-at-art-created-by-non-white-artists box that Political Correctness has locked me in. If I make errors in my judgement of art because of this desire to respond to it more openly from my own experience, again, the best and only defensible response, in my opinion is a convincing counter-argument. Petitions to demand my knuckles be rapped or some other such public humiliation would seem beneath the art world to me.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Get out of New York for a While....Join us @ SEVEN in Miami!



SEVEN
With a focus on a collaborative presentation commingling galleries and artists, SEVEN looks beyond the art fair model to create a new platform for viewing and acquiring works of art. The emphasis on cooperation rather than competition relates to the founding days of these long-running galleries which remain true to the non-conformist, adventurous nature of their beginnings in the New York and London art worlds.


SEVEN
December 4 - 9th, 2012
2200 NW 2nd Ave.
(@ NW 22nd St., Wynwood)
Miami, FL 33127
www.seven-miami.com



SEVEN, the pioneering collective project organized by the galleries BravinLee programs, Hales Gallery, Pierogi Gallery, Postmasters, P.P.O.W, Ronald Feldman Fine Arts and Winkleman Gallery will return to Miami for the third year, at a new exciting location, from December 4th through December 9th, 2012. With a focus on a collaborative, exhibition-like presentation commingling galleries and artists, SEVEN looks beyond the art fair model to create a new platform for viewing and acquiring works of art.

Inspired by the prevailing need for a more intimate, personal way to engage visitors during the Miami fair week, the members of SEVEN come together to create an environment where artworks may be experienced in a curated context and interested parties can have a substantial, quality interaction with the dealers. The emphasis on cooperation rather than competition relates to the founding days of these established, long-running galleries, which despite over 130 years of combined experience, remain true to the non-conformist, adventurous nature of their beginnings in the New York and London art worlds.SEVEN will be the only space in Miami featuring an integrated exhibition format that will include several video rooms and our acclaimed fifty feet long Salon Wall.

SEVEN's new location, a 25,000 square foot warehouse at 2200 Northwest 2nd Ave at NW 22nd Street in the Wynwood district, situates the project in the epicenter of the most dynamic section of Wynwood, surrounded by local galleries, coffee houses, restaurants and creative businesses.



Entry to SEVEN is free, and the opening day will be on Tuesday, December 4, 1- 8 pm with a reception starting at 6 pm. On Thursday, December 6, SEVEN will host a party with a performance by Melanie Bonajo and Joseph Marzolla that will start at 5:30 pm. The fair will be open from 11 am to 7 pm daily (Sunday to 5 pm), December 5 through 9. Updates and other information can be found at www.seven-miami.com and www.twitter.com/sevenmiami.


BravinLee programs will show a group of new paintings by Los Angeles artist, Laura Krifka. Krifka will have her New York solo debut at the gallery in the spring.  They will also preview their show of Tom Sanford's 100 Little Deaths, a series of watercolors of celebrities that passed away in 2012. The gallery will present work by Philip Akkerman, Charles Ritchie, and a new hand drawn animation by Katie Armstrong. The edition’s program will debut its new 8’ x 10’ rug by Christopher Wool.

BravinLee programs
CHARLES RITCHIE, Self-Portrait with Night: Two Panels III, 2005-2012, watercolor and graphite on Fabriano paper, image (two sheets): 5½ x 14¼ inches


Hales Gallery will be focused on works by Frank Bowling, Aubrey Williams and Hew Locke. All three artists emigrated from Guyana (South America/Caribbean) to Great Britain and represent three generations of Britain's black post-war artistic legacy. Williams, who died in 1990 made paintings about such varied subject matter as the Omec-Maya people, astronomical visions,the music of Shostakovich and the vanishing bird species of the Guyanese Jungle. Bowling was one of the first Caribbean abstract painters to make a solo show at the Whitney Museum, NY in 1971 and his poured paintings are currently on show at the Tate Gallery, London. Locke, who explores post-colonial subject matter in his works, has made several brand new pieces especially for SEVEN including textile and bead wall hangings and large scale painted photographs. Hales Gallery will also show works by newcomers to the Hales programme, Omar Ba (Senegal/ Switzerland) and Derrick Adams (USA), as well as Hales regularsAdam Dant (GB) and Sebastiaan Bremer (Netherlands/USA).

Pierogi  will feature works from Kim Jones' recent Averno series, which incorporate photography, acrylic paint, ink line work and collage, many of which have been made over a period of thirty years, along with his three-dimensional book-like sculptures ("These harsh and delicate drawings are gorgeous and repellant, ludicrous and vulnerable... They're Felliniesque, satiric, sardonic — like a punk take on old master classics." –Kim Levin); Dawn Clements' panoramic works including a large-scale Sumi ink drawing based on the film East Side, West Side; as well as recent work by Darina Karpov, John O'Connor, Ward Shelley and Jonathan Schipper.

Postmasters will highlight the works of Holly Zausner, Federico Solmi and Sally Smart. In radically different ways all three artists combine film and video with collage, painting and photography. Zausner's 16mm film Unseen becomes a vast source of individual frames recombined into striking photographic collages. Solmi's animated video, a political satire Chinese Democracy and the Last Day on Earth, originates with vivid paintings as skins for a 3D game engine. Smart's photographs and collages from new Pedagogical Puppet series lead to poetic, meditative videos on the nature of movement, dance, and the female figure. Additionally they will present new works by William Powhida, Jennifer and Kevin McCoy, Eva and Franco Mattes, Adam Cvijanovic and Anthony Goicolea. They will also introduce moveable sculpture-paintings by Tatiana Berg.

P•P•O•W will present an installation by Dutch artist Melanie Bonajo including some of her recent photographs published in SPHERES. Bonajo will also present her project ZAZAZOZO with Icelandic collaborator Joesph Marzolla in a live performance taking place on Thursday, December 6. Bonajo's art uncovers how current ideas surrounding identity and value systems are driven by consumption, ultimately leading society further from human nature. In addition there will be a new multi-panel photographic work by Vietnamese artist Dinh Q Le created during his recent residency in Tokyo. Le was recently featured in dOCUMENTA (13). Other featured include Bo Bartlett, George Boorujy, Timothy Horn, Portia Munson, Robin Williams and David Wojnarowicz.

Ronald Feldman Fine Arts will be showing the work of gallery represented artists for the 3rd consecutive year at SEVEN Miami. Previously, the Feldman gallery brought work by Brian Knep, Kelly Heaton, Yishay Garbasz, and Rico Gatson to SEVEN Miami, and the work of artist Gil Yefman to SEVEN New York.
LESLIE THORNTON, Peggy and Fred in Hell (archival edition), (1984-2013), film, HD video, mixed media box set, edition of 5, plus 2 APs.

Winkleman Gallery will present a new installation of Leslie Thornton's epic film and video series, Peggy and Fred in Hell (1984-2013). Part of a larger installation to be debuted in New York in March, this installation is a "preview" of the new limited Archival Edition of this ground-breaking work that has been nearly 30 years in the making. This installation includes the Prologue episode of the series, artifacts from the films, and a sneak peek at the final 14th episode which confirms an important element about the entire project heretofore only hinted at in the previous episodes. Peggy and Fred in Hell was recently the subject of a feature length article by Ed Halter in the September issue of Artforum magazine (see here [in PDF format]). Winkleman Gallery will also present work by Janet Biggs,  Rory Donaldson, Chris Dorland, Yevgeniy Fiks, Ulrich Gebert, Christopher K. Ho, Shane Hope,  Nancy Lorenz, and The Chadwicks.

SELECT PAST PRESS FOR SEVEN

Seven progressive galleries from New York and London have banded together to prove that an art fair doesn’t have to be a sardine-can-style trade show.
The Times Magazine, Show of Support by Marina Cashdan, December 12, 2011

The galleries have created a show where the labels alone identify gallery affiliation. Curating is by “passive-aggressive consensus” according to one participant. The fortuitous juxtapositions that arise by serendipity in a big grid fair are aesthetically composed here: the way a painting by Veteran West Indian-born abstract expressionist Frank Bowling sets off a dialog with a Fabian Marcaccio, for instance, or a Ward Shelley speaks to a David Diao.
Artcritical, Get Lost! Victims and Victors of the Art Fair Grid by David Cohen, December 2, 2011

Seven may be small, but it demolishes old art fair models. How? By feeling more like an exhibition, or maybe a family, or—because I have a theme to get back to—maybe a family that’s really violent. Seven galleries—six from New York, one from London—all roll up into one pile-driving wrecking ball, with no booths and no rules.
ArtFagCity, Which Art Fair will End this Tournament of Pain? by Corinna Kirsch and Whitney Kimball, April 27, 2012

“There really are plenty of negatives about the fair format,” says Amrhein, and many of these – the strip lighting, the bad air, the endless “streets” lined with identical three-sided booths – will be familiar to frequent visitors."
“Some artists really dislike the commodified aspect of it all, and we wanted to have more comprehensive possibilities of how to show work.”
Financial Times, Dissenters Transform the Art Showcase by Caroline Roux, November 26, 2010

Not only was this mini-fair filled with some of the coolest art of the week - particularly their video art - that bitter taste of classism was notably absent.
Miami New Times, Seven Miami: The Highlight of Art Basel, by Amanda McCorquodale, December 6, 2010

Monday, November 26, 2012

A Short Slide Show of our Sandy Vacation

I had a dream a few nights ago that Manhattan flooded again, only this time the water was a clear Caribbean blue, and it shimmered behind the glass doors and windows of the ground floor spaces it steadily filled. At one point, the wall of water surged to about 20 feet high, knocking over pedestrians and spilling onto the city streets its contents that normally remain submerged, like fish and even, to my temporary surprise, a rather huge crocodile. Ahhh, I eventually thought...the legend is true...they live in the sewers. Mercifully, I woke up before the huge reptile had a chance to munch on anyone.

We are in reconstruction mode at the gallery. It's taking a while because of the unique situation of our building (in which all the basements are connected and it was impossible to pump out the water from one space without the water from the others just spilling back in). Also contributing to the delay was the lack of electricity for 10 days; the lack of space to spread out the debris (so it could be sifted through for salvageable versus irreparably damaged objects); and the need to essentially rip out the basements, rip out the gallery walls, and rip out the gallery floors (none of which could begin until the contents of our basement and gallery space itself were safely moved and the basement had been detoxified). Fun times, let me tell you.

I imagine it's tough when you're not on the scene of such a disaster to imagine what it's really like. The types of responses to accounts by arts writers I've read in some places strike me as so heartless and, well, some of them downright clueless, that I thought I'd share what it feels like to have the business you've struggled to build for years get washed away overnight. It's with that goal in mind, I present a slide show of our Sandy vacation:

Pre Sandy:

The Friday before the storm we had an opening in the gallery. One commenter has asked why we would schedule an opening three days before a storm that would damage our space so badly. The answer to that, as is the answer to many such questions, is we had no idea the storm would damage our space so badly. It was an unprecedented storm with unprecedented consequences. We did prepare. We returned to our space on three separate occassions as the storm approached and the warnings became more dire. Each time we moved more of the gallery's contents to higher ground. The last time we went over to the gallery, just a few hours before all public transport shut down and we were truly worried about how we'd get home, we moved 80% of the art in our space up on tables in the main space, and moved everything still in basement to at least 30 inches off the floor. We truly believed we had prepared for the worst that could happen.

Post-Sandy Day One:

The Tuesday after the storm we had no electricity in our apartment, there was no public transportation, and the reports on our battery-operated transistor radio were not good. We walked the 40 minute walk to the gallery about 10 am.

I made the mistake of having two coffees during our walk and by the time we reached the gallery I had to make a bee-line for the bathroom. You have to remember, the space was very dark. Our floors had clearly had water on them, and were buckling in places, but there were no waterlines on the walls. I felt relieved that we had dodged a bullet.

From the back of the gallery as I washed my hands, when Murat had found a light source and peered into our basement, I heard him moan simply "We are fucked." This is what he saw as he looked down into our basement (this space runs the entire length of the gallery and is 7 feet high):




I freaked out, of course. We began texting and calling friends, the landlord, our neighbors, and our insurance company. We couldn't see much because there was only a foot of space between the ceiling and the waterline, but what we could see was surreal. Heavy objects, like a sofa, banging up against the ceiling; hundreds of pens and packing peanuts dotting the water surface; pedestals, and the odd wrapped, framed work of art we had thought would be safe four feet off the ground gracefully floating by. I had an image of this elaborate grotesque ballet taking place under the murky water, of objects huge and small swirling around each other, touching briefly, to then part again.

What else could we do? There we no pumps to be had anywhere in Manhattan, nor generators. We began bailing out the water a bucket at a time. We did this for over an hour, without so much as a dent in the water level (remember, the water we displaced simply spilled back in from the other basements...our building takes up a full city block...it was millions of gallons we were hopelessly trying to bail). We relented.

We then began fishing out whatever we could. I strapped a flashlight to the end of a painter's extension pole and from the second step kept reaching out at anything I could steer back toward the opening to haul up. We did this for several cold, soggy hours. Each new corpse of some previously treasured object we dredged out breaking my heart all over again.

Eventually it got dark, and we headed home.

Post-Sandy Day Two:

We returned to find the pumping of water our landlords had begun at various places around our building (with generators and pumps they had sent to Maine and Pennsylvania for) had lowered the water in our basement about 2 feet. Here's what we could see on Day Two:




Day Two was spent much as had been Day One, fishing out whatever we could safely reach. At one point I grew so desperate I almost entered the water (which was about 4 feet deep). An image of me slipping on something, falling under the water, and getting trapped there held me back. 

We also began hauling things out onto the street, where we had light at least, to help triage the damaged property. On one hand, the cold weather helped prevent the eventual mold from growing as quickly as it could. On the other hand, it made trying to sift through dripping wet objects outside perfectly miserable. The scene on 27th street would eventually become so grotesque, with garbage piled 10 feet high and barely any room to move around, this photo looks quaint in comparison. 

We eventually were forced to surrender the effort to nightfall again.  

Post-Sandy Day 3:
 

We're thoroughly exhausted by day three, covered in bruises, bodies aching, and yet the work had really just begun. Unfortunately,the steady progress that had been being made in pumping out the sea water in days one and two was stalled and even began reversing when a floating heating tank in one of the spaces ruptured a water main and new (at least cleaner) water started filling the basements back up again. It also got much colder on this day. 


Day 3 didn't see much progress.

Post-Sandy Day Four:

We came into the space to find the water significantly lower!


The lower the water got, though, the more the horror grew in some respects. Entire archives of important (to us anyway) exhibitions were lost. Signed copies of books, personal treasures, irreplaceable art...all lost.

Meanwhile the gallery itself began to look like an art MASH unit. 

I can't bring myself to show you any images of the damaged artwork. I don't think it's fair to the artists, and it's heartbreaking to me. Just imagine the walls dotted (like the worst curated exhibition you've ever seen) with dripping artworks and every square inch of the mangled floor, tables, and benches, and counters covered with soggy dirty documents, photos, catalogs, etc. 

Here's how it still looked several days in, when we had finally moved the artwork into safe storage and could finally move around a bit:




 Our space looks much better now...that it's empty and the demolition is about to begin in earnest. I hope to show you photos of a shiny new space in a few weeks.

Wednesday, November 07, 2012

ADAA Insurance Claims Information Session

I continue to be impressed by the leadership and generosity toward the entire New York gallery community by the Art Dealers Association of America. Their outreach in response to the damage galleries sustained from the storm has been reassuring and uplifting. This event on Friday is something many galleries I know can use. Here are details.:

ADAA Insurance Claims Information Session
Friday, November 9 at 11:00am

Mitchell-Innes & Nash
534 West 26th Street
New York City

As galleries begin the recovery process following Hurricane Sandy, the Art Dealers Association of America (ADAA) has assembled an information session addressing insurance claims.

With presentations from lawyers and insurance experts, this is an opportunity to ask questions and receive advice about this complex and sometimes daunting process.

Sharks in Manhattan

Winkleman Gallery is temporarily closed due to the affects of Hurricane Sandy. We are working hard to clear out the space, and eventually repair the damage to our floors, and get back up and running, but we remain without electricity and it's been a slow process. We hope to have concrete information about when we can reopen in the coming days, but realistically, we're looking at weeks, not days.

We have been so focused on the gallery and without much in the way of contact with the world, due to 5 days without electricity at home either, that we have only just begun to realize the extent of devastation in neighborhoods like Greenpoint, Redhook, and Staten Island. Our hearts are broken for the losses suffered so widely. We hope to get to a point soon where we can help with that clean-up effort. (Please send info on websites where we can help if you have it.)

For the first few days after the storm it was impossible for us do much other than clean up the gallery until night fell, drag ourselves into our dark apartment, and cuddle under the duvet to stay warm. Fortunately falling into a heavy sleep wasn't a problem. But we were out of communication with most people, to the degree that Murat's family in Kyrgyzstan became concerned. 

They were hearing all kinds of stories about what had happened in New York. Murat finally was able to email his neice with news that we were ok and she wrote back, "Thank God. We were so worried. We've heard New York is in terrible condition. Is it true sharks are swimming around Manhattan?"

We were wet, covered in mud, and utterly exhausted on the crosstown bus going home when the email came through on Murat's iPhone. The other weary New Yorkers on the bus must have thought we had lost our minds. We started laughing so hard we were almost in tears. 

Normal blogging will not likely resume any time soon, I'm afraid. Just too much work left to get things back up and running. But I do want to thank a number of people who have been absolute heroes to Murat and me, for their kindness, help and encouragement. In no particular order, we are so very grateful to 

Rory Donaldson and Derek Preston, Mark Pollock, Cristin Tierney and her wonderful associates, Justin Amrhein, Donna Troy Cleary and Elizabeth E Cook, Gary Petersen, Doreen McCarthy and Craig Zabala, William Powhida, Omar Lopez-Chahoud, John Post Lee, William Flaherty, Carl Pritzkat and Tony Travostino, Seymour Barosfky, Martina Batan and the wonderful people at Ronald Feldman Fine Art, Andrew Porter!!!!, Wendy Olsoff, Penny Pilkington, Anneliis Beadnell, Monica Herman, Heather Darcy Bhandari and all the wonderful people at Mixed Greens, Elizabeth Dee and Jayne Drost Johnson, Lisa Schroeder and Sara Jo Romero, Jesse Lambert, Sean Fader!!!! and the woman Murat and I would ask to marry us if they ever made polygamy legal, the awesome Helen Toomer Labzda (well, we'd clearly have to discuss that with her husband, but...).

We are also grateful for the generosity of the fabulous neighbors we have on our street. Derek Eller, Wallspace, Foxy Production, and Jeff Bailey; these are wonderful galleries with ambitious programs run by wonderful people who need and deserve your support. It's been hellish on 27th Street, but no one has lost their optimism or sense of humor.

Finally, he's part of the team, so it goes without saying, but Murat and I are so very grateful for the continual support, wisdom and encouragement of the amazing Jay Grimm. This would have been so much harder without him.

Please please forgive us if we've left anyone out. It's all been such a blur. And please be patient if we still can't respond to communications in a timely manner. Electricity will not be restored to the gallery for at least a few more days (we hope that's all it is).