Less Than Picturesque

April 16th, 2010 § 1 comment

queens

astoria

Queens, for some bizarre reason, has a very bad reputation when it comes to its aesthetic virtue. In a show on NPR a while back the borough was humorously described as being less than picturesque, and I was appalled by its representation in the movie Julia & Julia, where shots of trains I take and buildings I walk by looked manipulated to make Queens even more discouragingly ugly than it actually is. Certainly it is not Manhattan, the island of architectural diversity and beauty, but I can’t make it less attractive than Brooklyn. I find Queens mostly made up of attractive residential buildings surrounding the train lines, suburban strip malls farther outward, and industrial warehouses along the waterfront. Beginning in recent years with Long Island City, the closest area of Queens to Manhattan, and working eastward, gentrification of sorts has slowly begun. LIC reminds me of what Williamsburg might have been a few years ago, after the artists but before the high-rise glass condos. While I love my neighborhood (Woodside)  with its little houses and tiny gardens, Colombian cafes and ethnic diversity, and its close distance to Manhattan and Brooklyn, it matters very little for my photographic purposes how picturesque Queens may or may not be. Often the “uglier” it is, the more interesting it becomes.

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Missing The Peanut Gallery

March 26th, 2010 § 0 comments

I recently saw William Kentridge’s artistic adaptation of Shostakovich’s 1930s opera The Nose. Based on a Russian short story from 1836 by Nikolai Gogol, it was my first opera at the Met. I have loved opera ever since I saw the Phantom of the Opera when I was six or seven. The richness of that first experience left me with an unforgettable appreciation for the metaphorical, and a love for what seemed to be a kind of theatrical magic. In one of my undergraduate applications under the question, describe your first artistic experience, I described watching a chandelier rise in the first act of that opera. Every city I have lived in, by frivolous necessity, has an opera house, from Montpellier to Richmond. They are always that impressively ornate building located in the heart of downtown. With cool exteriors and dark, saturated interiors they feel a bit like a library, demanding a hushed tone of respect.

the MET opera house

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March Madness—Art Fairs Galore

March 12th, 2010 § 0 comments

Who knew that going to art fairs could be fun? This past weekend nyc hosted the March madness of art fairs, openings, special events, and self-indulgent parties, all of which were crunched into the span of only four days. Each fair opened lazily at noon, and all were strewn carelessly around Manhattan. Trying to make an appearance during visiting hours at every event felt like the scavenger hunt from My Man Godfrey: completely absurd. Divvying up my weekend days, grouping the shows by like neighborhoods, organizing the fairs by importance, armed with my makeshift press pass, and resigned to the fact that one person can only see so much, I set out.

Without rushing or suffering from visual overload, I actually found that while I ruined my feet for the weekend, I enjoyed the whole spectacle. Not out to buy or to mingle either, I simply wandered the fairs with my camera and my curiosity. I ran into a few friends, saw Nick Cave at the Armory and Fred Wilson at The Art Show, talked with a good many gallery workers, and watched a tourist knock over a sculpture in his great hast to photograph a brightly painted naked woman. Though the champagne at the Armory cost sixteen dollars a glass, the people and even the shows themselves felt less ostentatious than last year.

(A William Kentridge collage from The Nose)

William Kentridge

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Dodging Blizzards

March 4th, 2010 § 1 comment

February’s vacation to central Florida was somehow unintentionally timed perfectly between two snowstorms that draped a dense white blanket over the entire east coast. Flying down the morning before the first storm, I was thankful for my last minute decision not to fly the day of the blizzard. I watched instead on television in 70 degree weather as airlines canceled their flights to and from cities waiting for the pending snow. Flying from New York to Florida on a beautifully clear and crisp day, following the coastline like a compass south, allowed me to lust after every strip of beachfront property from Far Rockaway to Daytona Beach.

snow

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A Foot in Both Worlds

February 11th, 2010 § 0 comments

Paolo Ventura Winter Stories at Hasted Hunt

Paolo Ventura

A little over a year in New York City and I have learned a thing or two about the cities art scene, but not nearly as much as I need to know. Though it was not my intention when I moved here, I have started edging my way toward becoming an insider though an opportunity I happened to find in a profession I didn’t study—art criticism. While I originally thought about it as an extension of my blog/thesis, a way to continue practicing writing critically, it has become the dominant perspective from which I see art. At a meeting of Whitehot writers a few weeks ago, as we discussed ideas for the new Op-ed column the magazine is planning, I realized I was the only artist there. Though I know the magazine is a mix of artists, critics, and art historians, I didn’t suspect the artists were so greatly outnumbered. I also found that compared with those who have been art critics living in NYC for over a decade, I am obviously drastically less informed. As talk floated around the table about press lunches and advanced screenings, I felt that the knowledge I have so proudly gained in the past year is just the tip of the gossip iceberg. When asked for ideas for Op-ed subjects I drew a blank—suddenly I was being asked to formulate opinions about the aspects of the art world I try my best to write around in my reviews.

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