Showing posts with label Chelsea. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Chelsea. Show all posts

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Following in Grandma's Footsteps

I had my moment in the sun as an artist's model as well.  (Please see previous post.)  Below is a series of photos John Lesnick did in homage to Duane Michals, entitle "Exit the Photographer."  I believe John took at least one class with Mr. Michals at a workshop in Venice.  John asked my friend Larry and I to pose for him on this project.  He wanted to use Larry's apartment, which Larry had just moved into and which, being on the top floor of the building, had good light.

As far as I know, John only printed this one series.  He presented it to me as a gift about a year later.  (He complained that creating the mat for the sixteen pieces was more work than he usually did for photographs.)  I then gave it to my friend, Jack Bayer, as a birthday gift one year.  Jack passed away about 10 years later of heart-related causes.  Again, the family swept in, but this was one piece they didn't care about, so it landed back in my hands.  After cleaning 10 years of cigarette smoke residue off of the glass and frame, it turned out o.k.  Here are the full series and one of the individual scenes:



The photos are fully mounted on acid-free cardboard.  Each individual photo is 4" x 6" and the framed work is 33"w x 26"h.  The work is dated 1980, and signed.

Why I like this piece:

Apart from all of the narcissistic reasons, (I mean, who doesn't revel in their faded beauty?) this is a good homage to Duane Michals.  It follows his artistic MO, but it follows John's particular way of translating that method to his own uses.  I suppose one could infer that the photographer leaving the scene of his own creation to join a scene (imaginatively) being created elsewhere is clever.  Perhaps too clever, but John was early on in his career (1980) and so perhaps this represents his working on an issue rather than actually resolving an issue.  

That is one good thing about art.  If it is done with the idea that the questions are more important than the answers, than it is at least done in the spirit of art.  The questions engender more questions, and that is why art often reflects its era more accurately than the carefully recorded history of the same era.  

What this piece reminds me of:

First, it reminds me of how the Lower East Side has changed so completely from those days.  You may remember that I mentioned a friend who was mugged 3 times in as many months.  That friend was Larry, pictured above.  He left New York defeated by the danger.  New York, supposedly, is less dangerous these days, but it could easily revert to the late 70s and early 80s, when you had to know where and when you could be on the streets.

Mostly it reminds me of Jack.  Jack had this over his desk in his studio apartment in Chelsea.  He liked it very much.  Jack was a very ruggedly handsome man.  He had served in the Navy during the late 60s, and ended up in New York with a career as a freelance graphic artist. He made a good, if modest, life for himself in the city.  He also made no excuses for his vices.  In today's world of political correctness, he would have smoked his cigarettes and over-indulged in food and drink because the practice of self-denial in such things would have smacked of hypocrisy to him.

Jack and I carried on a brief affair about a year after Terry's death.  He was one of Terry's trio of caregivers.  We became closer because of our shared grief I suppose, but the affair only lasted a few months.  It is one of the signs of how time had changed such that when he passed away a few years later, in the late 90s, I hadn't spoken to him for over a month.  I had to track down a close friend of his to find out that he had died of congestive heart failure.  He had programmed all his phone numbers into the phone, and no one thought to listen to his message machine.

Monday, January 4, 2010

My First Acquisition

The first piece of art I ever purchased was in a group exhibition at a gallery in Soho whose name I have long since forgotten.  It was opening night and I attended with a close friend of mine.  The object in question is a mixed media piece entitled (I believe) Daphne's Hand.  The artist is Diane Karol who, I understand from a brief internet search, now teaches painting and mixed media at Queens College in New York.

I remember the evening fairly clearly for someone who perhaps had one too many glasses of the cheap wine.  My friend and I had already done a tour of the pieces on display, but this one caught my eye. On our second go round my friend was very quick to note my attraction to it and she dared me to buy it.  I'm not sure of her exact words, but something along the lines of "You know you like it.  Why not just take it home?"  And so I did.  (Although I had to go back and pick it up after the exhibit ended.)

It did make it through the first twelve years or so on the wall in my studio apartment.  When I moved in with a partner it was stored for quite a few years, and I have to say I didn't miss it much.  However, in my current apartment I discovered it in a box that had been moved and then stored again. I took it out, and kept it standing at odd locations around the apartment.  I didn't really pay that much attention to it, and it went missing without my noticing.

Recently, cleaning behind a nightstand in the bedroom, I discovered it again. It had probably been laying there for a good six months or so. Though dusty, it was not much worse for the wear, and now it is the first listing in this blog.  Here are the pictures:


It is composed of a cloth work glove which has laurel (?) leaves sewn into the material to form fingernails.  The nails are painted red and green.  The wrist is filled with material and that is where the signature appears.  There is quite a bit of dust which has worked its way into the glove material, but the nails are still glossy.

Why I like this piece:

The piece references mythology directly:  Apollo falls in love with Daphne, but she rejects him and in order to put off his advances asks the gods to change her to something he cannot love.  The gods grant her wish and she is transformed into a laurel tree.  Apollo adopts a wreath of laurel as his crown.

When I saw the piece in the gallery it stood out because it was an object as opposed to a painting or drawing.  Thought and effort had gone into it, and yet it seemed effortless in concept: simple and appealing.

Although it appears graceless and drab now, the concept still carries through for me and I have no intention of parting with it.  If Diane Karol ever reads this post, then she may have it if she plans to do a career retrospective at some point.

What it reminds me of now:

The whole episode in the gallery, the opening, etc., was part of life in those days.  Galleries still have openings, but I don't attend them.  And Soho is no longer the center of the art world.  Williamsburg is arguably the center for new artists, and Chelsea has all of the established galleries with their A-list artists.  Soho is more or less a shopping mall for the rich.  More modest stores like Broadway Panhandler have decamped.  To my mind Soho was a more accessible art market in many ways.  Chelsea today is not much different in terms of accessibility, but there's no direct subway line to the heart of the district.

I would spend hours wandering Soho and checking for new shows by favorite photographers and/or visiting galleries that had consistently interesting artists.  Leo Castelli comes to mind, and the other galleries in that building.  I discovered Larry Clark there, and the Photography Book store always had great deals on books, since I couldn't afford the prints themselves in most cases.