A New York story
April 28, 2000
At the Whitney on Wednesday there's lots of films
behind curtains in dark
rooms. One loop is a guy getting himself
tattooed, then getting graphically
cut up and branded to a mumbling monologue voice
over. "Hey, there's a
painter!" She does huge cartoony pin-up
semi-nudes. Something about the
reclamation of the voyeur. Someone is draping
blankets on pointy pillars.
There's a bodysuit with digital screens on each
shoulder. Over here you
can pre-record your face and broadcast it. This
means you don't have to
talk to people in person. One guy has made a
massive collage out of kitchy
landscape jigsaw puzzles.
All the newest galleries are in formerly
meatpacking Chelsea. Warehouses--one
is 15 floors of galleries. Go in, take the
elevator, get off at each floor,
visit three galleries. There's a theme: Big room.
Minimal art. Cement floors.
Desk at back. Directors on phone. Some are
friendly, some laid back, others
inaccessible. A steady stream of young artsy
visitors. No bankers on Wednesday.
Day-tripping collectors happen on Saturdays. Two
themes in paintings: One
is highly complicated uncompositional cartoon
collages with images from
media and advertising slap-dash in generally
strident colors. The other
is slick modernistic stripes executed like a
graphic designer's machine
shop. Some are like billboards but high-end
color-field on polymer Arborite
or sheet metal. One is hung like a bath towel on
metal rods with a back
and a front. Then there's Day-glow fluroscents.
Frames nondescript if present.
Unstretched canvas tacked, sagging on the wall.
Photos, mostly 70's slice-of-life
junky-chic snapshots of lesbian mothers and
Mexican transvestite prostitutes.
Installations like a 70's living room where every
piece of furniture has
a projector installed. There are little movies
going on all over the room.
Someone has built a diorama of generic New York
and a model jet plane overhead
does a loop of crashing into the city complete
with taped soundtrack of
passengers screaming. A big rock on a timed wire
falls like clockwork onto
a new glass plate every 15 minutes. Warning on
gallery door: "Sudden Loud
PS "Where's the entertainment
district?" (New York visitor in art gallery
If you would like to read a first-hand opinion
piece called "About the
New York Gallery Scene" go to http://users.aol.com/slowart/york.htm
If you would like to see selected correspondence
relating to the previous
letter "A New York Opening," please go
If you would like to add to or comment on the
above letter, or any previous
letter, please do so. Publication deadlines are
3pm PDST Mondays and Thursdays.
The following are selected responses to the
letter "A New York Story."
Thank you for taking the
time to write.
The artist blossoms
There is a kid
smiling. What does he say, why does he smile? He
is expressing even though he is not aware of it
and sometimes, by chance, not aware of himself.
This is art, humanity
springing out of a natural body (animal). With
time, the mind grasps onto it, tools and a lot of
techniques comes along, wordy money, teachers and
schools and the arousal of the thinking process
increase process in teenagers.
And then, the compelling
society with the deep beleif in self effort, the
sacred goal of winning your life as one would win
the sweepstake. Life is not granted, it is a goal
you deserve, the price of your effort and the
"freedom" to do what ever you want to
yourself and to others. And the more you effortly
you develop yourself, the more you are a part of
art because you become the master and are no more
Jean Pierre Daviau,
So how do artists not living in New York get into
some of these galleries? I live in a
small town in the Mid-west, and although I have
some of my work on the Web for all to see, I
would like to get into one of the galleries in a
city like New York, or Chicago, Etc.
Skip Bleecker, Shepherd, Michigan
Report from Hicksville
The visitor in the
New York art gallery asks, "Wheres the
entertainment district?" The proper reply is
"youre in it." Ever since
galleries requested and encouraged controversial
installations to bring in the gawkers, voyeurs
and curiousity seekers to bolster sagging
attendance, this sort of stuff has become common
and acceptable. These galleries are not in the
fine art business. They are in the entertainment
business. This confirms what we in Hicksville
have known for some time: If you make quality
art, dont bother sending it to New York.
My eye. My foot.
Not for my walls
Much of what you describe in the current
galleries doesnt seem to be intended for
decoration, or inspiration - they tend more
toward provocation and in the minimalist case -
perhaps a lifestyle.
Unfortunately, for most of us, many of the
installations you describe are difficult to live
with, unless they are captured on videotape for
viewing later - via TV or the personal library.
Even then how often would one want to review many
of these pieces?
I think it is important for people to understand
the role of art in life, and indeed how their
work interacts with people. I went to a critique
the other day and there were a couple of talented
people who wondered why they weren't getting more
gallery interest. Both were very accomplished
technically. What they didn't understand was
documentary shots of one lower middle class
neighborhood in Houston has in general limited
thematic appeal - at least contemporaneously. The
other was a very interesting work of one very
traumatized girl over a period of time. Very
interesting and well done, but not for my walls.
oliver, Houston, Texas
In defense of the Whitney
The Whitney Museum
of American Art continues to promote cutting edge
American and foreign artists who might not
otherwise be shown. Furthermore, they have often
taken courageous stands. For example the Whitney
board has recently backed director Max Anderson
in his allowing the work of Hans Haacke. This
artist has had a life of vigorous defense of free
speech, and while his work has upset and angered
many, particularly the recent works concerning
the Nazis and the Holocaust, it is being shown
and is a useful example of the curative value of
Merrilee Meyer, New York
Draw what? A crowd?
I wonder how many of
the art buyers both now and in the past buy
artwork for the right reasons------ I want that
piece because I like it, because I want to live
with it, it enriches my life in some way. Not led
by the critic who says this is innovative, the
latest up and coming regardless of true talent.
I wonder how many
'innovative artists' turning out works that defy
understanding, lack quality etc. can look and can
"Work was like a
stick. It had two ends. When you worked for the
knowing you gave them quality; when you worked
for a fool you simply gave him eye-wash."
Christopher Dennis, UK
We are at the tail
end of the "junk as art" period of
creative development. This stuff is fine for what
it is Robert. It appears to amuse you. Is
Randolph Fuller, UK
In these transformed
warehouses we celebrate the marvelous diversity
of the human imagination.
Michelle, New York