Monday, September 16, 2013

Ann Fensterstock's "Art on the Block" Book Signing, or "Get Your Galatea Here"

I've read Ann Fensterstock's new book Art on the Block: Tracking the New York Art World from SoHo to the Bowery, Bushwick and Beyond (which chronicles the past 60 years or so of artist and gallery communities across New York, and for which we are hosting a book signing this Thursday, September 19 [see details below]) a few times now, and noticed an interesting arc to how the narrative was registering with me. Ann's book manages to be both dense and wonderfully readable at the same time. I've twice now nearly missed my subway stop while reading it (even on the second read), being so absorbed in its charmingly told anecdotes and abundance of data about the artists and dealers I assumed I already knew so well.

But that arc I mentioned. Following Ann's narrative as she follows the city's art scene from Uptown to Soho, over into the East Village, and ultimately splitting into Chelsea and across the East River into Williamsburg, I would not only recognize the stories and people in them...slowly I'd begin to read of events I had attended or of people who are close friends of mine. Slowly, like Galatea did for Pygmalion, the story comes alive for me, personally, and I'm reading about myself.  OK, so quite literally in a few places I'm reading about myself (our gallery is included in the history), but in general I mean I'm reading about all the shows or events that helped shaped who I have become as a dealer. At a certain point, Ann's history stops playing in black and white in my mind's eye and emerges into full Technicolor. Indeed, as her tale marches forward into the Lower East Side and Bushwick, it becomes so real and now, it's virtually a holographic experience.

But it's so much more than a mirror held up to the art world. In the opening chapter, Ann outlines several sociological variables that explain the relentlessly migratory nature of the New York art world. Noting how no one of these variables explains this nomadic history, she offers instead the notion of a constant interweaving of real estate, politics, the economy, community, practicality, and yes, even advances in the size or format [i.e., physical requirements] of the art itself, as the reason we all seem so restless, and brilliantly carries that through the entire book. Indeed, the text is very subtly quite academic. But don't worry, her style is so enjoyable you'll hardly notice.

That last notion listed, though, that the New York art world moves to accommodate advances in the type of art being created holds a great deal of interest for me. Here's a snippet of how Ann outlines this history [any typos below are mine]:
Subsequent shifts in the centers of art have also been catalyzed by changes in the form, medium, size, or installation demands of the new, new art. Obtrusive columns that broke up the open floors of SoHo lofts, charming as they might have looked in the 1970s, became problematic as big installations got even bigger. A wooden floor's weight-bearing capacity was sometimes an issue, a third-floor location impossible to reach and a loading dock crucial for oversized pieces. With the increasing prevalence of video work, acoustics started to matter as conflicting soundtracks fought for attention. The wide-open concrete boxes of Chelsea's taxi garages beckoned.
A little over a week ago, we visited the new Hauser and Wirth space on 18th Street with two European artists we're currently showing. Their galleries in Europe are more or less the size of our space, and we prepared them for how gargantuan H&W was. Both were struck by what it would mean to them to exhibit in such a hall. They both enthusiastically agreed they'd welcome the opportunity, and yet when pressed neither were quite sure at the moment what they'd fill it with. Which is fair enough on one side, but leads me to believe we're entering an era in which this idea of galleries changing locations to accommodate the "new, new art" has a  flip side. At a certain point, artists have to change their thinking to accommodate such spaces, too.

Moreover, if new types of art being made play a major role in how the story of the art scene (and the types of spaces galleries open in particular) evolves, what might that mean with regard to the growing field of digital, online, and social-media based art? On the surface of it, perhaps not that much different from what we see today. Bigger spaces can always put up extra walls, documentation of performances or other ephemeral work will likely remain a staple of the gallery sphere, and there are already art galleries in Second Life, but even as I typed the phrase above "virtually a holographic experience," I began to wonder.

Either way, the real history of how artists and dealers have moved around the Big Apple is an essential foundation to thinking more about the future, and it's with that in mind I most highly recommend Ann's book. If you would like to know where you can get a copy, well, we'll have some available for purchase at the gallery this coming Thursday, where you can meet Ann and get your copy signed. I hope you'll join us!

Ann Fensterstock's Art on the Block: Tracking the New York Art World from SoHo to the Bowery, Bushwick and Beyond will be released by Palgrave Macmillan on September 17th, 2013.

Meet the Author / Book signing
Thursday, September 19th, 6:30pm
Winkleman Gallery
621 West 27th Street
New York, NY 10001


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Give me 10 million dollars and I will fill H and W with shock and awe. The Pumpkin Eaters will go Nuts.

Most Oversized art sucks, public sculpture is usually a disaster.

Pink Floyd and Richard Serra can do big and always win .

If you want to try to compete with nature and architecture good luck.

I am gonna buy the book Edward.


9/18/2013 10:34:00 AM  

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