Showing posts with label NYC. Show all posts
Showing posts with label NYC. Show all posts

March 18, 2019

Shaolin*: the forgotten borough

Who we are has so much to do with where we are from.

Something's been on my mind about place and belonging. So many artists talk about where they're from and how much it's influenced their work and their lives. Whether they left a place by choice or not, whether they stayed, returned, or were never able to, whether they hated it or loved it, it has played an important role.


I was born and raised in Staten Island, New York, and lived there until I was 29.



Staten Island has a very ghetto mentality. By that I am being quite inclusive as far as race and discrimination. It's less about poverty, but definitely about fear, isolation, and cultural starvation.

Staten Island is divided by neighborhoods. There are 19 stops on the Staten Island Rapid Transit. Each one has its own personality. In my era, neighborhoods were divided into territorial gangs. My neighborhood gang was called the Albee boys because we lived on the cross street of Albee avenue. The Albee boys were rivals of the New Springville boys. In 1991 Thomas Bickerton's big brother was beaten to death with a baseball bat by the New Springville boys and his name was spray painted under the overpass a block from my house. I remember this distinctly because Thomas Bickerton had jumped up to kiss me in the courtyard of PS 36 during our Kindergarten recess, and I had been friendly with him ever since. I graduated from a high school with a population of almost 4,000. There were exactly two African American students in my graduating class. In the last election almost 75% of the people from my old neighborhood voted Republican.

Staten Island is divided by the north shore and the south shore. My neighborhood on the south shore was made up mostly of people who had moved from Brooklyn to Staten Island, including my family. People who commuted to Manhattan to work every day but didn't spend much time there after working hours. My friends and I didn't hang out in the city, we hung out on the corner, in back of the high school parking lot, or literally at the giant rock in the woods by my house.

In 1986 I was accepted to the high school of performing arts for ballet. I didn't go. I have no recollection of what that conversation was like, but for a sheltered 13 year old from Staten Island, the idea of riding the ferry to the train by myself to Fiorello La Guardia every day wasn't even in my peripheral.

There are five boroughs of New York City: Manhattan, Bronx, Queens, Brooklyn, Staten Island. Staten Island is the only borough that doesn't physically connect to Manhattan. There is no bridge or train that goes directly to the city. Commuters take a train to a ferry, or a bridge to a tunnel, or some combination which often includes driving from New York to New Jersey to New York again. From Annadale it took me an hour and a half to get to midtown Manhattan. A half hour train ride, a 20 minute ferry ride, a ten minute subway, plus the walk to, and the wait for, each of these operations. There are three bridges that cross over to New Jersey and exactly one bridge that crosses to Brooklyn. This is not an accident. It symbolizes a great cultural divide. In 1993 65% of Staten Islanders voted to secede from NYC. With mostly no interest in taking advantage of/enjoying any of New York City's culture, art, spirit, energy, there was also no interest in paying its expenses/tax bill.

Staten Island, often referred to as the "forgotten borough", if you didn't already know, was also once home to the largest garbage dump in the world. T h e   w o r l d.  It was seen from outer space... for real. On a particularly stale day one could smell the dump from miles away.

It took me years to accept that the place I grew up in was, well, kind of embarrassing. A way more suburban than urban, left out, dumped on borough under a giant shadow of one of the greatest cities in the world. When I worked in the city I never volunteered that I was from Staten Island. People would make fun of the dump or the ferry or the fact that New Jersey was easier to get to.

I hated Staten Island when I was growing up. I was shy and artistic and I didn't get anyone's inside jokes about the Staten Island mall. I was a cheerleader but I couldn't do a cartwheel. I had no connection whatsoever to the place I was from. When I was a senior and about to graduate high school, my parents went to an open school night and incidentally met with my art teacher. Mrs. D'Agostino was shocked that I had absolutely no plans for any specific college or to pursue art in any way. She's the reason I became an art major. Not because she was particularly inspiring, but because she was the only one who'd suggested it.

I think I let the place I was from define me for a long time. I'm beginning to understand that the place itself is just part of a story I tell myself about who I am, and that's something I can change.




*Shaolin is what the Wu Tang Clan called Staten Island in the early 1990's.


February 22, 2019

NYC ART: 3 MUST-SEE SHOWS

I went to see some gallery shows yesterday, in particular Dana Schutz at Petzel Gallery, Judy Pfaff at Miles McEnery, and Brenda Goodman at Sikkema Jenkins.

Judy Pfaff, detail of Quartet II

Judy Pfaff, Quartet II, 2018, Photographic inspired digital image, steel frame, acrylic, expanded foam, aluminum discs, lightbulbs, wood, melted plastic, Styrofoam. 128.5” x 160” x 60”

Dana Schutz, Trouble and Appearance, 2019, Oil on canvas, 90 x 96 inches

Brenda Goodman, Let the Match Begin, 2017, oil on wood, 60 x 72 inches

Brenda Goodman, Possibility of Age, 2018, oil on wood, Two parts: 80 x 144 inches overall


WOW. These three artists are kicking ass with uncontained, unbridled energy, intention, and material-love. Monsters of color, detail, and form. I saw the shows in that order, Schutz, Pfaff, and Goodman. I left the Dana Schutz exhibition feeling like I should just give it up right now. The work feels so big, and a lot of it is so big. Big and bold and juicy. I imagined my paintings next to hers like little puny specks. Then I walked into Judy Pfaff's show and just started smiling uncontrollably. She is total exuberance! I was still smiling when I got to the Brenda Goodman show. Goodman has been at it for so long, I think of the saying, slow and steady wins the race. She is persistence. The surface details and little unexpected moments everywhere are too marvelous!

These women are laying it all out there. Led by a very personal, intuitive layering of material and meaning. I am so inspired. I feel like I have to go back and soak up some more.

These shows prove that seeing is believing. Visual art NEEDS to be experienced in person. Not one online image I viewed of any of these artworks came even close to what it feels like to be in a room with them.

Both the Dana Schutz and Brenda Goodman exhibitions end tomorrow, so if you haven't been, high tail it over there. Judy Pfaff's exhibit runs through March 9th.


Dana Schutz, Painting in an Earthquake, 2019, Oil on canvas, 94 x 87.75 inches

Brenda Goodman, Bringing it Home, 2018, oil on wood, 16 x 20 inches

Judy Pfaff, Quartet I, 2018, Photographic inspired digital image, wire frame, acrylic, melted plastic, aluminum discs, fungus, paper, glitter, Styrofoam, florescent light. 120.75” x 156” x 32”

Judy Pfaff, detail of Quartet I

Dana Schutz, Washing Monsters, 2018, Oil on canvas, 94 x 87.75 inches

Dana Schutz, Boatman, 2018, Oil on canvas, 88 x 75 inches

Dana Schutz, Smoker, 2018, Bronze, 28 x 30 x 12 inches

Brenda Goodman, Pink, 2018, oil on wood, Two parts: 50 x 72 inches overall

Brenda Goodman, Pushing Through, 2018, oil on wood, 14 x 18 inches

Brenda Goodman, Say It's So, 2018, oil on wood, 12 x 16 inches

Dana Schutz, The Visible World, 2018, Oil on canvas, 108 x 140 inches

Judy Pfaff, Quartet III, 2018, Photographic inspired digital image, acrylic, expanded foam, aluminum discs, Melted plastic, paper, acrylic, melted plastic, Styrofoam, lightbulbs. 121” x 149” x 21”

Judy Pfaff, Installation view

Dana Schutz, Washing Monsters, 2018, Bronze, 44 x 38 x 17 inches

Dana Schutz, detail of Strangers, 2018, Oil on canvas, 88 x 84 inches






May 25, 2018

Artist of the week: Leon Golub

Finally made it to the MET Breuer to see the Leon Golub show just before it closes on May 27th. So amazing to see this work close up, and experience the enormity of both the materials and subject matter. Golub's work is so much about power struggle, and it is expressed so perfectly through his materials. The violent torn and raw canvases, and the dry dragging of paint look almost as painful as the atrocities they depict. If I had to describe Golub's work with one word, it would be Monstrous. 

Excerpt taken from the MET's statement:
His devotion to the figure, his embrace of expressionism, his fusion of modern and classical sources, and his commitment to social justice distinguish his practice as an artist.
Alongside the monumental, terrifying Gigantomachy IILeon Golub: Raw Nerve features paintings from the artist's most important series....  that represent subjects of longstanding interest to the artist, from mercenaries, interrogators, and the victims of violence to political figures, nudes, and animals, all of them rendered in the raw, visceral style for which he is justly celebrated.
Together, these paintings attest to Golub's incisive perspective on the catastrophes that afflict human civilization and his critique of brutality and belligerent masculinity. The artist's work has much to teach us in the twenty-first century, as does his belief in the ethical responsibility of artists.
detail, Two Black Women and a White Man, 1986, acrylic on linen, 120 x 163 inches






detail, Two Black Women and a White Man, 1986, acrylic on linen, 120 x 163 inches

Two Black Women and a White Man, 1986, acrylic on linen, 120 x 163 inches

Installation view at the MET

The Conversation, 1990, acrylic on linen, 92 x 170 inches


Colossal Torso III, 1960, lacquer on canvas, 82 x 96 inches

Tete de Chevall II, 1963, acrylic on canvas, 81 x 81 inches

Combat I, 1970, offset lithograph



detail, Gigantomachy II, 1966, acrylic on linen, 9 x 24 feet


detail, Gigantomachy II, 1966, acrylic on linen, 9 x 24 feet


detail, Gigantomachy II, to show scale


Gigantomachy II, 1966, acrylic on linen, 9 x 24 feet


Leon Golub (1922-2004) was married to artist Nancy Spero (1926-2009)

Further looking and reading:
The Canvas takes Shape, on Youtube
The Paris Review
Leon Golub: Raw Nerve




Champ de Bataille, 1965, oil on canvas, 91 x 66 inches



Leon Golub in his studio


detail, Vietnam II, 1973, acrylic on canvas, 9 x 37 feet


Riot I, Lithograph

The Go-ahead, 1986, acrylic on canvas, 120 x 192 inches