Caught In a Satire

November 11th, 2010 § 2 comments

The day began at two o’clock in the morning, when I woke after a few hours of sleep, dressed, and made my way to the Port Authority. My bus was scheduled to leave at 3:45 am, and a long line of sleepy, restless twenty something’s waiting for a similar bus to Washington D.C. welcomed me at the station. I know bus stations, and I know that lines for buses are like queues in Europe, where there is no guilt in cutting and no shame in pushing. The redemptive quality of buses is that there are usually more of them than people who want to ride them. This morning was an exception everyone was prepared for except the bus companies. There was no Arianna Huffington to greet our sleepy line, but we were able to wait indoors unlike the Megabus riders. I met one rider in line who realized, after a small tantrum and some puzzled glances at people holding signs, that he had picked a very unfortunate morning to travel to D.C. After three hours of waiting and a certain amount of mutiny, I was able to look backward into the station, still full of upset travelers left temporarily stranded, from the safety of my seat aboard a bus I wasn’t supposed to be on, and hadn’t really bought a ticket for. It was the chaotic beginning of a frustrating but thought provoking day.

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Published—Just Kids

September 9th, 2010 § 0 comments

Patti Smith

While it was a wonderfully warm summer, perfect for lazy beach days and long bike rides around the city, it was a dull summer for art. The usual museum blockbusters were not interesting, and the gallery scene was even worse. Judging from the number of guest hosts we were subjected to this summer on NPR, everyone either left the city or stayed home and deliberately forgot about their daily obligations. I certainly didn’t feel obligated to do much in the way of research, which opened up a lot of time for recreation, but left my writing in the lurch. Whitehot began publishing book reviews this year around the same time I began working my way through Patti Smith’s Just Kids, one train trip at a time. Impressed by the book, enamored with Patti Smith, and unable to find any gallery show worth writing about, I undertook my first book review. Books, I found out, are hard to summarize while elaborating on and analyzing their content. It’s easy to get lost in them, as there is so much you could say, so many different directions you could go in. With the new gallery season revving up, with openings beginning this week and going into the next, and with the first glimmer of interest returning to the museums—Lee Friedlander’s America by Car opening at the Whitney and Fred Tomaselli’s paintings opening at the Brooklyn Museum—I am glad I took the opportunity to write about an artist rather than art.

Robert Mapplethorpe

The Dancemaker Turns Eighty

August 13th, 2010 § 0 comments

If you’ve never seen Paul Taylor himself dance, you’re missing something amazing. He’s tall and imposing, graceful and yet full of an athletic, masculine power. Watching clips from the beginning of his career in the 1960s, he fills the stage, literally and metaphorically, with a presence so captivating you can’t look away. In Taylor’s heyday as a dancer, which he spent growing away from the long shadow cast by Martha Graham, modern dance was not about storytelling like the classic fairy tales retold in timeless succession by ballet companies. Modern dance seemed more interested in experimenting with what else dance could communicate. Beginning with difficult choreography that confused and upset critics and viewers alike—such as his five minute dance in which no one moved—Taylor somehow found a way through abstraction to a kind of conceptual dance that, unlike Merce Cunningham, feels as natural as social dancing, street dancing, or our predilection for drunken capering. His choreography doesn’t look as though it should feel so accessible, we should struggle harder to watch his dances, but the way he understands our everyday movements makes his choreography uniquely enjoyable. Watching Taylor you get the sense that something important is being expressed, but exactly what remains something of a mystery.

young paul taylor

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An Endless Fascination

January 12th, 2010 § 0 comments

madonnaWho Shot Rock & Roll, on display through the 31st at the Brooklyn Museum, was surprisingly one of the best shows I saw in 2009. It was oddly underwhelming at the same time that it was deeply satisfying, in the same way that a chocolate covered strawberry never tastes as good as imagined, but in itself remains difficult to dislike. On the surface—despite the multitude of reviewers forced to discuss the deeper connections between rock & roll, celebrity and their constructed image, and the roll photography plays in mediating between the two—this show could be summed up as a crowd pleaser. While it is easy to roll our eyes at yet another Van Gogh or Dali exhibition, shows that appeal to our cultural understanding of “good art,” it is harder to make an argument against the type of images we simply can’t resist. Who Shot Rock & Roll goes deeper than this, however, not necessarily because the exhibition really is deeper, but because whatever the photographs lack the viewers make up for through the interest they bring to them.

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Eccentric Soul Revue

November 17th, 2009 § 0 comments

It was a drunken and disheveled Syl Johnson I saw stumble about the stage at the Music Hall of Williamsburg Friday night, gesticulating a bit uncontrollably and singing with all his inebriated soul. Not exactly at the top of his game, but somehow he still made the show; just not exactly in the way you might expect.

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