Monday, December 28, 2009

top eleven

The end of the year, and surely the end of the decade, brings about a plethora of obligatory “Top Ten” lists. Why not dive right in? Below is my Aesthetic Top Eleven list for 2009 – in alphabetical not preferential order.

Compass in Hand: Selections from The Judith Rothschild Foundation Contemporary Drawings Collection at The Museum of Modern Art, New York. On exhibit are more than three hundred drawings from this vast collection. Included are gestural, figurative, conceptual and systems based works. One gets to view drawings of established masters such as Donald Judd and Joseph Beuys, while viewing contemporary European works by Kai Althoff, Neo Rausch and Francis Alÿs. There was almost too much to take in and the show required more than one visit. The collection demonstrates why drawings, both as tools and end products, remain relevant.

Fred Sandback at David Zwirner, deftly demonstrated the late artist’s acute sense of the phenomenology of space and volume. The illusion of these qualities was remarkably created with the lowliest of materials, and its most minimal employment: acrylic yarn.

Martin Kippenberger, The Problem Perspective at The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Kippenberger lived fast and hard and died young from liver cancer at the age of 44. This did not however, diminish his prolific, varied and fearless output. I walked away with the sense that I shouldn’t think too much about what I am doing, but rather “do” and let the thinking follow.

Mat Lombardi, Guitar Quartets. My only non-visual entry and please forgive the nepotism. I felt that I was hearing something I shouldn’t hear; experiencing something beyond my realm; and knowing something a human shouldn’t know. Profound.

Michaël Borremans, Taking Turns at David Zwirner, New York. The Europeans aren’t afraid of employing representational and figurative art to describe an ambiguity. Borremans does just that. I respond to his paint and his iconography.

Pierre Bonnard, The Late Interiors at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York. Every experienced painter that I’ve recently heard speak has referenced Bonnard. I can understand why. His ability to meld color, light, form, material, abstraction, figuration and symbolism was astounding. I wanted to lick the paint right off of the canvases.

Raoul De Keyser , Terminus: Drawings (1979-1982) and Recent Paintings at David Zwirner the small and modest abstract paintings made clear that the artist was definitely looking at or thinking of something when he painted them. The beautifully installed show was refreshing amidst the spectacle that is the first opening night of the autumn season in Chelsea.

Ree Morton: At the Still Point of the Turning World at The Drawing Center, New York. Avoiding the tropes so typically found in the works of many of her fellow feminist contemporaries, Morton’s work remains fresh today more than thirty years after her death. It demonstrates that she was part of this world, not just commenting on it.

Robert Frank, The Americans at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York. It articulated the way I think and changed the way I see.

Song Dong, Projects 90 at The Museum of Modern Art, New York. If you have suffered the loss of one parent and observed the grief of the surviving one, this installation, based on the Chinese concept of wu jin qi yong, or "waste not” consists of the complete contents of Dong’s mother’s home, amassed over fifty years. The artist collaborated with her, assembling and organizing the contents after his father’s death. It poignantly demonstrated all of the sadness, humor, impatience, compassion and lunacy that punctuate such an experience.

The Lindy & Edwin Bergman Collection of Joseph Cornell’s boxes at the Modern Wing of the Art Institute of Chicago. Finally, one can regularly view the important and comprehensive collection of 38 boxes, where, within each, dreams are made manifest.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

more likes and dislikes

The past several weeks have been chock full of just working on work. A hope for this holiday break is down time to write and reflect. So here is a list:

the logic of sense, Deleuze
Significant Others, eds. Chadwick & de Courtivron

Listening to:
A lot of Christmas music
My ipod on shuffle – i’ve been busy

tissue paper with glitter embedded in it
snow in Central Park
the word: mellifluous
Ken Johnson, NYtimes
the smell of balsam fir
little ones in winter coats
my laundry backpack
the 10” of snow on my window sill

the movie: home for the holidays
insurance companies
sour grapes
lingering kitchen smells

Monday, December 7, 2009


Window display at Peter Pan Donuts, Greenpoint, Brooklyn.

One of my favorite things about New York is the variety of window displays, particularly at Christmas time. From the tinseled paper towels at the lowliest Bodega to the opulent splendor at Bergdorf Goodman, merchants display their wares in the most festive holiday manner.

I have always loved Christmas, the rituals, the smells, the sounds, the flavors, a general good will and, of course, the giving and receiving of gifts. Last year, the economy, tuition, a new business and maturity prompted me to reassess the season. I was also deeply saddened by the tragic events that occurred at a Long Island Wal-Mart for the want of a flat screen TV. Mat and I decided to make each other’s gifts. It was much like the Christmas just before our wedding when we imposed a $25 price limit. I still wear and treasure the Speidel ID bracelets I received, and 21 years later, we are still going steady. We intend to make each other’s gifts every year.

Every Christmas I recall the creatures, the boy and the girl, hiding in the robe of the Ghost of Christmas Present from Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol:

They are Man's,' said the Spirit, looking down upon them. And they cling to me, appealing from their fathers. This boy is Ignorance. This girl is Want. Beware them both, and all of their degree, but most of all beware this boy, for on his brow I see that written which is Doom, unless the writing be erased.

My hope this Yuletide and beyond is to heed these words and remember that kindness and tolerance are among the greatest of gifts and are surely remembered long after the others gather dust in a closet. Next week I will have some free time and I plan to enjoy New York at Christmas with a stroll in the city. I will take my camera and notebook but will travel lightly - sans shopping list. I imagine I’ll experience a larger helping of Christmas Spirit.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009


John Singer Sargent | 1856-1925 | Mr. and Mrs. I. N. Phelps Stokes 1897 | Oil on canvas | 214 x 101cm | Bequest of Edith Minturn Phelps Stokes (Mrs. I. N.), 1938 (38.104) | Collection: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York | Photograph courtesy: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

The women that John Singer Sargent painted have a definite presence. Obviously one immediately understands that they are beautiful, well bred and well heeled, but on closer inspection, one senses their self awareness, competence, independence and intellect. If I were to choose any artist in history to paint a portrait of my dear friend Germaine, it would be Sargent.
I have known Germaine for 36 years, and in that time I have come to treasure her powerful intellect, her surgical wit and her even and measured approach to life. Her friendship has been unwavering.

In an earlier time, Germaine might have been considered a Blue Stocking, admirable in itself, but she is also a devoted wife, a loving mother, a gifted tennis player and a wonderful cook and hostess. She seems to accomplish everything with ease. The most embarrassing thing I can think about her (and I won’t go into Nancy Drew) is that we were nerds together – she outgrew this condition much more quickly and gracefully than I.

I wish I could repay the friendship you’ve shown to me, but for now happy birthday dear friend. Thanks for your beauty, your humor, your brains and your example!