What kind of show gives you a smile?

The show at SalomonArtsGallery on Keith Kattner not only gives you a smile on your face, one that won’t go away until you leave this oasis of art – it gives you a glimmer, a peek at art that combines excellence  with modesty. The kind you see in the Asia galleries at the Met – as if those artists were painting hundreds of years later in these times.

Congratulations, and thanks are all I can say for this evening well spent.

Enjoy & benefit Ukraine’s color filled art

We all regret and are outraged at Russia’s rape of the Crimea. What better action, what sweeter revenge than to acquire a piece of Ukraine’s unmistakable art, a vibrantly colorful pleine aire rendition of its Carpathian majesty. By doing so you will benefit that wondrous temple of art,  the Ukraine Institute, located in one of Fifth Avenue’s remaining mansions at 79th Street. And reward this artist, Roman Luchuk for his paintings of the Carpathian Mountain Landscape, an artist  who has dedicated his life to passing on his skills and his vision to generations of Ukrainian artistis to come. Come, enjoy the joyful celebration of this splendid land through realistic yet imaginative and unmistakable color –  and ensure in some little way that it endures and survives the terror and rape of its majesty yet one more time in history by having it brighten your home.
You will be enchanted by the joyful and colorful swaths of color depicting the essence of the Carpathian landscape and its unique homes. I call Roman’s style expressionist impressionism – for he captures the essence of each feature of what’s depicted translating it with color. There is no doubt as to what’s depicted – and to its spirit, its true nature.
The Institute’s writeup sums it up: “Each of Roman Luchuk’s canvases evokes the splendor and energy of his native Carpathian Mountains in seductive compositions that exude a lifelong love for the mysteries of the Hutsul landscape. His iconic images express instinctive emotional experiences rather than impressions of the physical world. He does this through an extravagant use of paint and color. Expansive stillness and silence of the pastoral are interrupted by sudden outbursts of life and vitality changing from one mood to another.”

One third of the revenues for these paintings goes to maintaining this last of Fifth Avenue’s previous wonders – and the remaining amount goes to Roman’s work with Ukrainian art students to whom he has devoted his life. Ukraine is in peril and so is this 63 year old bastion of Ukrainian art. Do your part to at least save its art. That for me is a no-brainer: do well by doing good.

Delirium at the Breuer – in more ways than one

  Being managed well is now among the primordial values in art and in museums. Meanwhile we have forgotten that modern art used to cause us to reflect, rethink, and redirect. Somehow contemporary art in its challenges resulted in realizations of how to live well, how to be well, and how to treat our brethren well.
  Art used to be based on life’s values, questions such as why – not how. Beauty was valued for its own sake, proportion was valued for how it felt so good, and all art told a story with a point.
  Pointlessness, chaos, and the delirious were pitfalls – not pinnacles – of human achievement. This is a show from the madhouse – the madhouse of the post-war era – where minds, values, and reason were not only lost but despised, destroyed, and debased.
  Perhaps appropriate for a history museum? appropriate for a history lecture? about the abyss, the madness, and the ugliness of mankind gone mad after having lost their reason – so having done so impulsively went beyond the limits of all value and values, including reason?
  Let us not celebrate the detritus of destruction, let us not commemorate the insanity of man’s inhumanity – to man, to our environment, to our relationships to each other.
  Let us search out those gems of beauty, exquisite satisfaction, and delightful humanity. We have a choice: this vision, or that hell – in the next 10 minutes. Life is too short to spend time on where we failed, flailed, and fell.
  The show was impeccable as a managed event. But any of the possible philosophical underpinnings for this art are absent. Our primary realization is that philosophy has gone missing in the war of commerce and consumers.
  Being managed well is now among the primordial values. Certainly at the Breuer. Meanwhile we have forgotten how to live well, how to be well, and how to treat our brethren well. And now in this vacuum the Breuer celebrates whose who did art as an excuse, on a whim, as an aberration.
  The true delirium here is that the world’s greatest art repository should focus on one of the greatest threats to art in the last century, on a period where madness reigned, on people lost in wildness, wilderness, and woe.
  This is not a show worthy of the Met Museum. This is a triumph of academics, curators, and critics. There is no art here. There is only the death, disease, deterioration – and, yes, delirium – of the overeducated, the too removed, and the insanely misdirected.
  The Breuer’s shows since its inception have shown little direction, little spirit or power, and have reveled in irrelevance. The Met Breuer has indeed lost its way.

Breuer Museum photography show on an abandoned IBM complex in France

    Two photographers, two radically different takes on the Breuer. One sees it as a piece of sculpture, as an abstraction work of art. The other sees it as raw architecture, living space for people and for art.
    The Dutch photographer, , is the one worth the trip – and if you see only one part of this fifth floor exhibition focus on the three pictures on the western wall in the room to the left on leaving the elevator. He has been experimenting with the use of rice paper to catch the detail and subtlety photographing raw architecture requires. It took him half a year with his printer to perfect the technique, the proper level of inking. And there they are, frameless, frank accurate intriguing play pens for the eye to run around in. Look at them closely. (The traditionally printed two large photographs on the opposite side of the room, look at from a goodly long distance.)
    Let’s reflect on how it is that Holland is a center of photographic innovation and technique: Amsterdam, Rotterdam – and Brabant. Brabant? How? Because that has been where Phillips has been working its magic – like Silicon Valley, like the places where Boeing, Google, Apple are headquartered. Beautiful, magic places where high-tech – highly valued – people like to live: that’s where big companies have learned to give them places to work.
    The Dutch photographer reveals the dilemma the Breuer faces – as do other massive buildings from the 60s and 70s. They were built for humanity’s purposes of their times – and those purposes change. IBM’s office complex in rural France went from 3000 to 200 people – and is now empty. And the Breuer, built for the Whitney’s classic, comfortable modern American and European art of the 60s and 70s now hosts exhibitions of photography from India, massive paintings from one of America’s longest serving black painters now exploding into the color and abstract images that nurtured him when he was starting out. The Breuer is a beast – and it demands equally large, massive, mega shaped in your face shows. Let MOMA and the new airy Whitney be guardians of the 20th century’s middle class American and European modern art. The Breuer is a beast in waiting for the big prey of Art for the Future. It is itself as this show demonstrates worthy of being itself an exhibition. Let it be a space for the modern life and art to come.

Sotheby’s conquest of contemporary art

Whatever you had planned for tomorrow until 2pm hustle over to Sotheby’s palace of contemporary art at 72nd and York tomorrow – or if you’re lucky get an invite to the opening and closing party tonight at 7:30pm.

Either way, get your hands on the catalogue. Ignore the website which mentions every Sotheby’s shenanigan around the globe – except this one. The website often ignores what Sotheby’s does in NYC – which means a saunter to Sotheby’s weekly in season is often a smart art move.

The stars of the show? the building is packed with art – so that’s a difficult proposition. Here are the candidates:

  • The deliciously displayed ultra rare oeuvres d’art on the 10th floor? One of the desk jockeys confessed to me that working on the 10th floor collection has been the high point of her career at the big S. The petite presentation of Alexander Calder’s jewelry is enough to take your breath away. The 10th floor is big – and the art there is bigger.
  • But don’t forget the 4th floor: Albert Albee’s reaping the benefits of having three Pulitzers (only Robert Frost had four) and the creme de la creme of actors and actresses in his plays and the movies of those plays resulted in a collector’s eye rarely seen – and a collection par excellence. This may be the only time you’ll get to see what he’s given to Sotheby’s to sell for the benefit of the Albert Albee Foundation. The Man had the Eye. From the looks of the 4th floor he chose only the Very Best. I’m incredulous at his choices during times when it was very hard indeed to see what was the Very Best.
  • Lastly, the 2nd floor is crushed and crammed with what the curators at Sotheby’s have determined what defines Contemporary Art. This happens a lot at Sotheby’s – which is one reason why it’s a good idea to always work the building from the top down. (Besides, the incredible cafe on the 10th floor with a terrace just below heaven is always a great place to start.) From incredibly crafted chairs and furniture to creations that leave your jaw dropped. MoMA, the Breuer, and the Whitney should take notice – and take notes – as to what is on display here.\

For the simple truth is that sometimes the Market Knows Best. This is why the auction houses – not the museums – so often mount Contemporary Art shows that startle, amaze, and excite. What the rich and powerful bought often is a good indicator of who’s winning in the art game – not some museum curator or curatorial committee compromised by the need that the show fit in with the existing collection.

This is the best, most comprehensive show of contemporary art since Sotheby’s left our jaws dropping in its legendary show on two huge floors of Russian contemporary art. By hook or crook take this one last chance to finally figure out – and See – what contemporary art is really all about.

Governor’s Island: Cauldron of new art



From Sept 2 through Oct 1 weekends are the occasion for the Governor’s Island Art Fair (www.4heads.org).


Several times a year the abandoned officer homes on Governor’s Island become homes to new art. (get a map after getting off the ferry – and turn right upon leaving the ferry) There’s one at the far end of Colonel’s Row  which is the HQ of holography – in itself worth the trip.

All the five homes give a room to each artist – and the variety of artists outdoes the variety you’d otherwise find on the Lower East Side. One shoots bodegas which are disappearing fast.

Plus the ferry  ride, which  runs on holiday weekends every half hour, is worth the entire trip. Then add on the astonishing forts – and you’re living on in a world a century old. There’s something for everyone – especially children – starting with a strident bell they love to clang.

Don’t forget Liggett Hall which at its west end has artists who work  with art, and artists who are in the process of doing their work in front of your eyes, and works you can simply look in at through their closed doors.


Found: One artist who lives art….

    At the “Artist-Run” invitational at Noho M55 artists coop gallery – a show which opened June 29 and which will close July 29 – I found one artist who stood out for his iconic work – which is the poster for the show.
New Note.jpeg
    The only way to understand this man as the multimedia artist he is? look him up on Wikipedia: “Robert “Rob” Redding, Jr. (….1976) is an American media proprietor, award-winning radio talk show hostpolitical commentatorindependent journalist, a best-selling American author, a best-selling American music artist and songwritervisual artist and social entrepreneur.” And it then explodes from there. This man lives art.
    As was the case with another black artist, James Baldwin, Rob was protected and nurtured by living in Europe – which many young black artists have had to do. Redding moved to Brussels Belgium in 2013 and  became first to broadcast his afternoon talk show via GCN to American audiences nightly from Europe. Wikipedia lists a dozen major scoops he came up with – but what’s key is that Redding made his program the first ever and most successful stand-alone spoken word program available exclusively to subscribers via his subscriber-supported Web site. In the US he started as a hip-hop personality on talk radio – and ending up at The Washington Times. In 2001, went full-time in talk radio at CBS Radio. As ReddingNewsReview.com in 2003, in 2008 he signed weekend syndication deals with GCN and Sirius XM in 2008, while finishing his undergraduate studies at the University of Louisiana-Monroe. The Sirius XM deal ended after 420 episodes in 2013.
    Had enough? Redding is author of eight consecutive best-selling books – all of which have figured in Amazon’s top hot new releases, notably Why Black Lives Matter, Disrupter, Unthinkable: Poems, Philosophies and Paintings, an e-book Where’s the Change?: Why Neither Obama, nor the GOP Can Solve America’s Problems, and Not a Nonviolent Negro: How I Survived Obama – which was #1 on Amazon.com in three categories.
    Redding should make Wikipedia redefine “multimedia” and make us abandon categories for describing people like him. He’s also released a dance album, “Not a Nonviolent Negro” which takes portions of his talk show and sets them to heavy dance beats (#1 on Amazon.com). The album is considered a soundtrack to his No. 1 best-selling book “Not a Nonviolent Negro: How I Survived Obama.” The book and album were released on the same day. His  dance album “Unleash the Whip!” takes portions of his talk show and sets them to heavy dance beats (#2 on Amazon. Black? he’s beyond black.
    To round off this square peg in our round holes, Stanford University selected him as their John S. Knight Journalism Fellowship Semifinalist for his journalism innovation. He’s founded Black Talkers, a web site which covers the black talk media industry. And he’s narrated “Stay Brady Stay” a documentary about the future of Louisiana.
    Oh, yes – Redding is also an artist, who paints abstract “smear paintings.” His work has been exhibited in Europe and throughout the states. He’s a hit in all he does. The Washington, D.C., Georgetowner focused only his art in a group show on Capitol Hill in 2006.  And I’m doing the same here. I love the Chelsea NohoM55 artist coop – but I’m even happier to announce that a solo show of Redding’s Smear Paintings opens Sept 21 6-8pm at Midoma Gallery – one of the great galleries reclaiming 8th Ave midtown as NYC’s next art arena.
    Let’s have more artists like this: artists who live art as Rob does.

Male youths as art – did you know this?

The Japan Society (333 E 47 in NYC) sponsored this spring a lecture given by John T. Carpenter “Amusements in a Samurai Mansion: Male Youths as Actors, Escorts, or Outcasts in Early Edo Art”.

This mysterious mention led me to Wiki, where this was revealed:
“Although any person would be clearly classified as a child, wakashū or adult, the timing of both boundaries of the wakashū period were relatively flexible, giving families and patrons the ability to accommodate the development and circumstances of the individual boy.

The concept of wakashū contained several partially overlapping elements: an age category between childhood and adulthood; the social role of a pre-adult or adolescent boy, usually conceived of as a subordinate (student, apprentice or protégé); and the idea of the “beautiful youth”, a suitable target for homosexual desire and the subject of wakashūdo, “the way of youths”. As boys were considered eligible for homosexual liaisons only when they were wakashū, their patrons occasionally delayed their coming of age ceremony beyond socially acceptable limits, leading to legal efforts in 1685 to require all wakashū to undergo their coming of age ceremony by age 25.[3]

Sources such as Ihara Saikaku‘s Nanshoku Ôkagami (“A Great Mirror of Male Love”, 1687) indicate that “in the past” (when is not precisely clear), wakashu were typically “ostentatiously violent, and thus manly,”[2] and that at that time, a young man who was too weak, gentle, or feminine in his manner would find it difficult to find an older samurai with whom to engage in shûdô. This emphasis on martial manliness is somewhat understandable, given the martial nature of life in the Sengoku period, and the idea that wakashû were expected to grow up to become fathers, warriors, and nenja[3] themselves.

Saikaku indicates, however, that by his own time (the Genroku period, 16881704), wakashû came to be valued more for their youth, beauty, and artistic abilities (e.g. in dance, music, and poetry), and less for their physical strength or martial prowess, in conjunction with the rise of the feminization of young actors on the kabuki stage.[4]

Memorial Day Calm… and how to deal with it

This is the only day in my art blogging experience that I have seen only one listing for the entire NYC metro area. The Met and the Guggenheim are open – and it’s no longer raining on the High Line – so get going New Yorkers! there may be no gallery activity – but there’s a big wide empty city out there. Out of towners: parking spots abound on holidazed weekends. On these occasions you’re permitted admission to Fun City…..
Here’s the only event today in the five boroughs:
Repair the World 808 Nostrand Ave Crown Heights exhibition closing: The Other South installations, prints, drawing, and textiles by Buenos Aires based artists from LABA-BA: Laboratorio de Arte y Cultura Judía: Silvania Blasberg, Valeria Budasoff, Myriam Jawerbaum, Mirta Kupferminc, Viviana Romay, Silvia Rubinson, Blanket project group (Valeria Budasoff, Myriam Jawerbaum), Entresuturas group (Viviana Romay, Valeria Budasoff, Myriam Jawerbaum), curated by Mirta Kupferminc 6-8

NYC’s Botanical Gardens: what’s the best?

Brooklyn Botanical Garden is a good first choice. Accessible by subway, there is parking nearby on unmetered side streets.

It’s next to Prospect Park, Brooklyn Museum, and Park Slope. It has a great Japanese garden among a dozen specialized gardens

Smaller means a more manageable visit. It’s more formally organized, a set of Victorian gardens. Result? More integrated into surrounding neighborhoods means more access to shops and especially to reasonably priced eating places in Park Slope or on Atlantic Avenue. This is the same spirit that its neighbor holds, the Brooklyn Museum – notably in their First Saturday events where they throw open the doors to their neighbors from 5-11pm with food, dancing, movies – and of course tours. Overall the two are more an everyday park for residents instead of a destination park with all the expense, crowds, focus on entertainment that entails. Count yourself lucky if you live nearby.

NYBG is more naturally designed, including a stand of the original forest that used to cover all of Manhattan. It has a rock garden, a conifer collection, and a tremendous rose garden with 4000 plants abloom June throughout the summer – a total of 50 special gardens. Its conservatory is far larger than the BBG – a consideration on rainy, cold, windy, snowy days.

NYBG focuses on Great Shows, the train show, orchid show, Chihuly – big themes with lots of entertainment, merchandise and crowds. With 13,000 plants having to be grown & cultivated for a show – with a philosophy of going over the top to attract crowds – the result can be pricey.

Like most other museums & public attractions in NYC NYBG gives a little. The grounds are free all day Wednesday and from 9-12 on Saturday morning. But no entry to the Conservatory where the shows are. Frankly, NYBG is the elephant in the Bronx’s living room: it draws from Manhattan – and apart from providing menial jobs ignores local yokels.

Membership makes economic sense. Entry on weekends is $28. Night shows are currently $35. Four visits recover the cost – and include a few perks. Seniors are $68/88 single/couple. Otherwise it’s $85/110.

Eating can be pricey too. The old cafeteria is now the ritzy Hudson Garden Grill where a ham, egg & cheese sandwich can run you $23 and appetizers range from a salad at $10 to asparagus at $17. Luckily there’s a kiddie snack shack {with beer & wine for parents!) and a pizza hut. Arthur Avenue is not far (187th and Arthur Avenue) but it’s a trek of 1/2 mile across Fordham University’s grounds to get there – but you can get a B&D train at 182-183rd Streets on the Grand Course to get back to the city.

NYBG is not far from Pelham Bay Park, three times the size of Central Park, with many paths and bikeways, right there on the sea. And not far from that is City Island – a piece of NYC history frozen in time.

Whereas BBG is accessible by subway, NYBG is accessible via MetroNorth from Grand Central or 125th, every hour on the hour only, and with a more expensive fare.

Membership at NYBG gets you visiting privileges at the BBG’s Japanese garden and greenhouses.

And of course there is the Queens Botanical  Garden. www.queeensbotanical.org.

There’s also the Staten Island Cultural Center and Botanical Garden on the grounds of Snug Harbor.

Wave Hill is located a few miles from Yankee Stadium. Its Kerlin Overlook gives 180 degree views of the Hudson. They have many programs, a small greenhouse, art shows – and though located in the north Bronx are a fun place to visit – especially if you have a car.

At the far end of brooklyn near the Verazano Bridge is the Narrows Botanical Garden on the Upper Bay in Brooklyn.  http://www.narrowsbg.org

The surprise garden in NYC is the 6BC, located as you’d imagine on 6th Street between B&C Avenues – a throwback from the days of the squatters and squalor of the LES. http://6bc.org Truly a delight especially for the neighbors who keep it going for whom it is an oasis.

And let’s not forget all the pocket parks in Manhattan itself many of which have artificial waterfalls in addition to the abundant sitting area and beautiful design and flowers galore. Plus the atriums especially in midtown but also in the financial district which encourage people to sit, play chess, and have a quiet conversation. An entire book has been written about these – and they prove you don’t have to have hundreds of acres to provide the pleasure and peace that a flower garden offers.

Lastly let’s not forget the promenades, notably the east river promenade especially from 80th Street up and past the bridge to Randall’s Island – itself a bike haven. And the wondrous bike and sports path that starts where the ferry goes to visit the Statue of Liberty all the way up the upper west side – a pleasure path that has kyack rental, trapeze practice, roller blading, biking, and pocket parks along the way.

A postscript: Cherry Blossoms are beautiful in both the BBG and NYBG parks of course but for that don’t forget Branch Brook park [www.branchbrookpark.org] a short 15” trip out the Holland Tunnel – for it has more cherry trees in a 1920s setting than all of Washington D.C: 4000, the largest collection of Japanese flowering trees in one location in the US. Its expanse of 360 acres stretches nearly 4 miles from US Rte 280 in Newark to Mill Street in Belleville