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The Big Apple, Art, and other Things to Do

Among the things I didn’t do while I was in NYC last weekend:

Go see the Liza Lou show at L & M Arts:


I have to admit that I was a little bit afraid the show might come across as “forcing it” with a reach for “important” content.  It doesn’t seem to have the surprising combination of subtlety and critique by way of embrace and exuberance that her kitchen has.  But, the show at L&M appears to be extensive and at least materially impressive.  Moreover, I’m in no position to armchair bash it.  Even if I already “get” chain link and razor wire made from beads, I still want to see it.  And, I’m intrigued by the images of the 2D work the gallery has online.

I also did not go see the Carl Hammoud show at Bellwether Gallery.


I wanted to though…  His paintings look like what might come about if Charles Sheeler made a painting of my office, if I had an office.  So, yeah, I’m a fan of the Precisionists.  I’m also interested in the film noir quality of Hammoud’s work; something I see in the lighting and in the dated furniture.  The image I chose to post here seems to suggest there is a moment of implosion at which a normal working environment − a desk such as one that mine only becomes shortly before guests arrive − turns into the Detroit Public Schools Book Repository (is our children learning?).

I also did not manage to go see the new gallery that a person I used to know, with whom I once served as “master printer” (ha ha) in assistance of her project to make prints by smashing tomatoes in an intaglio press, who I’m not really friends with, just opened somewhere around East Village.

That’s all because:

After waking up early and being forced to jog to the Metro station with our bags, because the buses apparently don’t run on the schedule that the WMATA says they do, because the first train of the day came a half hour late, meaning that we may as well have not jogged, then after riding the Megabus for 4 hours, hiking across Midtown and through Times Square, in umbrella weather, to get to our hotel – which was a Japanese establishment that rents studio apartments as hotel rooms, but with a website and signs that are only in Japanese and that you can only enter through a sushi restaurant,

catch breath, pause

as soon as we arrived in NYC we took a nap until after the galleries closed.

What I did do in NYC:

I walked around and remembered what I liked about big cities while I lived in Chicago.  I like DC, but it has a very different sense about it.  Moreover, although my suburb is just fine and pleasantly quite international, I also reminded myself why I don’t really like living in suburbs.

I met my wife’s friend who was visiting from Spain, as well as three of that friend’s friends.

I discovered that very close to Times Square there is an inexpensive Udon shop.  It’s probably the only relatively healthy, filling meal available for under $7 within ten blocks of there.  It also has, most likely by common virtue of being located among highly competitive real estate, a tininess that renders its atmosphere as quite authentic.

We had dinner at an izakaya (Japanese tapas) on 49th St. that was not only delicious but at which we had the rare experience of ordering more food than we needed just to get to the $10/person minimum.

I also had the experience getting that “look” from a cute waitress that makes you think that if you weren’t married that girls ten (15?) years your junior would be interested in you.  Then, reality dawned and I figured she was probably just wondering whether or not she should tell me about the half-chewed piece of squid stuck to my face, or something.  Besides, I taught in higher ed long enough to know that even in a parallel universe where girls that age might be interested in me, I’m most definitely not interested in pairing up with any of them.

Finally, and more significantly, on Sunday, seeing that the galleries were closed, I went to the Met, where I saw:

Art work by Raqib Shaw. (link)


(Image lifted from the Tate Online.)

The Met had a room dedicated to the work Shaw created in response to the Holbein in England show at the Tate Gallery in 2006-7.  I hadn’t heard of Raqib Shaw until Sunday, so (not to reveal how little I get out) I was surprised to run into his work.  But then…  I had that rarest of moments during which I saw art that was so close to what I wished my own work was.  There are more than a few points of commonality.  It’s just that Shaw’s is so, so much better.

His work in the Met uses metallic industrial paints, and maybe also more than a little glitter (if that all isn’t in the paint).  In as much as those are things that aren’t possible to reproduce online, you’ll just have to imagine the sparkle factor of the image I posted having been turned up to eleven.

There are a few larger works with surfaces covered over with paint, such as his rendition of Holbein’s infamous skewed-perspective skull.  However, I think the works on paper, with their well punctuated white spaces and the contrast between industrial paint and raw paper, take the cake for the show.

Having seen the work at the Met, the image I found to re-post does actually represent well represent the show.  But, without seeing the other works, seeing only what I posted here, what you’ll miss that impressed me so much is the feeling of excess, the sensibility of images overbounding with grotesques, the mystery of the relationships and imagined narratives of images that are at times quite complex.

If Shaw were into consumer identity and the tasteless kitsch of middle-class decor, I’d have to just admit defeat.

As it is, I’m happy to say I have the rest of my day to finish up an edition of prints.

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