Urban Interfaces Article in Places

Surrey Urban Screens

I wrote about “urban interfaces” — the points of point of engagement where people interface with, and experience, our cities’ “operating systems.” You can find my “Interfacing Urban Intelligence” at Places


The Hand + the Copy

The themes of “making” and “replication” were central to most of the art and performances I’ve seen over the past couple weeks. Yesterday I took part in a memorial conference at the Cooper Union for architect Lebbeus Woods, who passed away in 2012. I talked about his “politics of small things” (to borrow a phrase from my New School colleague Jeff Goldfarb).

And in preparation for the event, I visited the “Lebbeus Woods, Architect” show at the Drawing Center last weekend. I tried to take some photos I could use in my conference presentation, but was frustrated to discover that, with the gallery’s track lighting, I simply couldn’t get my own shadow out of most of the images. But then it dawned on me: the work of the hand is so palpably present in these drawings and sketches and models, so why should the work of my own hand, in creating a photographic replication of Lebbeus’s work, be erased?

Then on Friday, I took a quick 90-minute trip to Chelsea in-between appointments. I started at Robert Kinmont‘s “trying to return home educated” at Alexander and Bonin. As with the Woods exhibition, this is kind of a retrospective in that it looks back on the artist’s life, even if the exhibition itself doesn’t include work from throughout his career. According to the gallery, Kinmont stopped making art in the 70s in order to raise his children and build his own school (!); this work reflects his return to making stuff. And again paralleling Woods, we see in Kinmont’s work the interaction between the hand and the landscape, although the character and politics of the two artists’ work are quite distinct. With Kinmont, we see ideas in an elemental form — as sketches, notes, personal collections of ephemera — and the landscape rendered in its elemental components: wood, dirt, copper.

After that: Howardena Pindell  at Garth Greenan. Pindell employed a rather elaborate process,

often cutting the canvas in strips and sewing them back together, then building up the surface in elaborate stages: painting or drawing onto a sheet of paper, punching out dots from it, dropping the dots onto her canvas, finally squeegeeing paint through the “stencil” left in the paper from which she had punched the dots. By the late 1970s, sequins, glitter, powder, string, hair, and even perfume had become a part of her labor-intensive, process-oriented approach to painting.

Her work, like Woods’s, resisted photographic replication. While in the Woods’ exhibition I could chalk my troubles up to the track lighting and reflective glass, here the paintings themselves defied focus. There’s so much in the field of vision that my lens simply didn’t know what to home in on. So, at a distance, all the paintings are a blur; up close, you can see their intricacy and texture.

After Pindell, I saw Kristen Morgin’s “The Super Can Man and Other Illustrated Classics,” which featured little tableaux of antique collectibles — mass-produced mass-culture objects that obtain new value through their decay, their patina. We sense there’s an interesting biography to each of these objects, and perhaps an interesting story behind their connections to the other objects they’re assembled with.

Then on to Sikkema Jenkins for Vik Muniz’s “Album,” in which he collaged found photos and postcards — images that undoubtedly held great sentimental value for those who created and collected them — into large-scale “photo tropes”: the stereotypical family photo, the class photo, the travel photo, etc. The hand plays a great role here, too, in transforming these individual mechanically reproduced images into a “mashup” of, a riff on, a composite mechanically reproduced image.

Dominique Gonzales-Foerster’s “euquinimod & costumes” at 303 picks up on themes present in Morgin’s and Muniz’s work — particularly regarding the value accorded to mass-produced objects, and the biographies those objects accumulate. According to the press release, Gonzales-Foerster discovered her own old Michiko Koshino coat in the Victoria & Albert Museum’s “Club to Catwalk” show, which led her to reconsider the worth of clothes — as “autobiographical evidences” and as a reflection of her own “artistic personality through different periods.” Here, supposedly, “Gonzales-Foerster’s clothes appear as costumes, narratives and fictions which mirror a fragmented and multiple inner self.” The overall ambience was charming, but I found the premise rather simplistic. It seemed a little off-puttingly “conspicuous consumption”-ist, too: so much Balenciaga!

After that, I moved on to Robert Longo’s “Gang of Cosmos” at Metro Pictures. Longo made charcoal drawings of twelve well-known Ab-Ex paintings. I overheard one woman in the gallery saying to her partner: “See — they’ve run out of ideas!” I snorted (rather embarrassingly loudly), turned around to catch a glimpse of the critic, and made eye contact with her companion, who rolled his eyes for me in solidarity.

I saw something quite different than what she saw. As with Muniz’s composite photos, Longo’s reworking canonical pieces through novel material processes — and through his reworking, sorta “reverse engineering” those objects and figuring out what makes them work. He manages to capture — in charcoal — the texture and other material aspects of the original paintings. With color abandoned, we can appreciate how much those non-chromatic material dimensions define these paintings and make them iconic.

Then, to round out my hour-and-a-half, I stopped by the Walther Collection to see Christine Meisner’s “Disquieting Nature,” which featured video and works on paper that explored the birth of the blues in the Mississippi Delta. I don’t know that I’ve ever said this out loud, but I’m gonna say it: I think an awful lot of video art is gratuitous, navel-grazing crap. But Meisner’s video was a beautiful and obviously sensitively researched production; she interviewed key figures in blues history, shot stunning footage of the landscape, collaborated with composer William Tatge on the score, and produced a work that situates the blues within its geographical context, and in relation to the African diaspora and the region’s history of slavery. As the gallery puts it, “For Meisner, the Mississippi is a powerful witness to violence, a symbol of American expansion, a site of death and also of shelter, a historic escape route for enslaved people, and the landscape from which music and mythologies arise.”

Also on display are her research notes and heavily annotated maps where she works out the geography of Delta and blues history.

Then yesterday, after the Woods conference, I made a quick trip to Spencer Brownstone to see Jane South’s “Raked,” an installation composed of hand-cut paper sculptures atop a graded stage. It looked like HVAC and lighting equipment — all the crap stuffed up in a theatre’s fly space — dropped down, in a not entirely haphazard fashion, onto a minimalist stage. I know not what to say, other than ‘cool.’

And between Spencer Brownstone and a Saturday night birthday party, I trekked up to the Whitney to see Triple Canopy’s “Media Replication Services,” which featured a performance by William Pope L., a short lecture by the fabulous Lisa Gitelman, and a lecture/reading by the equally fabulous poet Caroline Bergvall. Pope L.’s performance was accompanied by five or six portrait artists, who were positioned on pedestals throughout the room, and who sketched profile- or back-of-the-head portraits of audience members. On Pope L.’s cue — “Grab,” I think, was the secret word — they tore away sheets of paper and sent them falling to the floor. Simultaneously, a “waitress” passed through the aisles, delivering glasses of red wine to select attendees (I was Recipient #2). Her tray, held aloft, also supported a tall stack of cocktail napkins that fluttered to the ground as she glided amidst the audience. I have to admit: I forget much of what Pope L. said; I was too busy watching those floating napkins.

Gitelman then took to the stage to historicize the process of reproduction. She talked of Walter Benjamin’s mechanical reproduction, the history of patents, provenance and conservation, and Blanchard’s turning lathe as a precursor to 3D printing. Then Caroline Bergvall spoke of poetry movements that play on linguistic or material reproduction, and of replication’s inevitable errors. She talked about translation and variation, then read VIA, a poem offering 47 English translations of the first three lines of Dante’s Inferno.


And on my way back to the train, I encountered Urs Fischer’s “Last Supper” in what is apparently a new Gagosian space on 75th & Park. The gallery relays the interesting back-story of this piece, which here is cast in bronze from a hand-molded clay sculpture Fischer created, in quick-and-dirty fashion, with 1500 volunteers at Geffen Contemporary in 2013.

The vagaries of the hand, replicated in bronze, situated in a gallery representing the ever-replicating power of Larry Gagosian, the “Not-So-Invisible Hand” of the contemporary art world: a fitting way to close. So I will.


Lebbeus Woods: The Politics of Small Things


Next weekend I’ll be participating in a symposium honoring architect Lebbeus Woods, who passed away on the night of Hurricane Sandy in 2012. “Lebbeus Woods: A Celebration,” which takes place at the Cooper Union, begins Friday April 25 at 6:30 pm, and continues through 5pm on Saturday April 26.

I’m on the “Politics” panel on Saturday afternoon, with Carin Kuoni, Sanford Kwinter, and Neil Spiller; David Gersten’s moderating. We’ve been asked to prepare our five- to seven-minute remarks in advance. I finished my presentation yesterday, so I figured I’d share it here:


I met Lebbeus several years ago through his gracious and brilliant wife Aleksandra, my colleague at The New School. I remember being nervous about meeting this giant of a man – “giant” in many senses of the word – but was ultimately reassured by his gentle handshake, the mollifying texture of his voice, and his genuine interest in what interested me – little old me.


A year or so later, in 2009, I served as a guest critic for a studio that he and Christoph Kumpusch were offering as part of Cornell’s intensive summer program. The “Common Ground” studio directed its students’ attention to the “surface of streets, sidewalks, parks, plazas and other (even informal) public spaces, comprising the ground-plane we share with others we do not personally know” – a plane “inscribed with evidence of people’s movement, activities, and intentions, but also the accidental events, the unintentional and the unpredicted.” The studio was premised on the assumption that we can potentially learn more about urban life from those cracks we step over, that noise we listen through, those smudges we look past, than from official plans and policies.


In his introductory lecture Lebbeus examined the longue durée of mark-making – from cave paintings and cuneiform through the spiritualists’ fascination with automatic writing, Dada’s exquisite corpse, and Cy Twombly’s seemingly improvised scripts, and ending where the studio would begin: with the palimpsests of intentional and accidental markings on our urban facades and sidewalks. Over the course of two weeks, Lebbeus and Christoph urged their students to read, rather than read past, the small and the quotidian. They collaboratively developed a politics of small things.

Labyrinthine Wall
Labyrinthine Wall

I, and perhaps you, have traditionally associated Lebbeus Woods with big, aberrant ideas  – proposing bold architectural interventions into war-torn territories, imagining tombs that traverse the galaxy on beams of light, grappling with forces of nature and laws of physics, envisioning buildings that not even Arup could render structurally sound. These are not small visions. Yet having license to be so bold might be the reward for humility. For all his big thinking, he also saw the power of the small mark, the subtle gesture, the nuanced articulation – and the hidden potential.

Berlin Free Zones
Berlin Free Zones

“Common Ground” echoed themes from Lebbeus’s earlier work. As he wrote in 1992, in regard to his Berlin Free-Zones project,

I am much more interested in the secret life of the city, those things which can maybe happen out of sight or in a kind of unseen way, strange things…that are unexplainable, even unjustifiable in terms of any sort of convention of society or certainly of architecture. I decided to bring to the city some…spaces that didn’t exist already…. [S]o I just simply began by introducing a kind of tectonic manifestation, a kind of form that was not quite yet architecture, not something inhabitable…. I began to call these freespace structures[,…] free of any kind of predetermined meaning or usefulness.

The Berlin Free-Zones, he wrote in Radical Reconstruction (1997), were imagined as a hidden city of interior spaces linked by communication technologies, which bound a community through the “vagaries of dialogue” (p. 26). These freespaces acquired meaning and usefulness as they transformed into spaces for communication.

Lebbeus Woods, Architect, The Drawing Center; photo by yours truly
Lebbeus Woods, Architect, The Drawing Center; photo by yours truly

Woods practiced architecture as if it were such a space for multiform communication. The current show at the Drawing Center, “Lebbeus Woods, Architect” (emphasis added), presents the sketch, the formal drawing, and the model as equal manifestations of architectural practice – in his case, a practice in which small marks and folds, intricate parts, and subtle annotations add up to big, potent ideas.


dezeen_Lebbeus-Woods-2Later in his career, as he sought to free himself from the “tyranny of the object” and shifted his focus from “from objects to fields,” Woods added another practice – another field, or “freezone,” of architectural mediation – to his repertoire. The fall of 2007 brought us Lebbeus’s blog. The previous summer he had participated in an architecture blogging conference, “Postopolis!,” at Storefront for Art and Architecture, and the organizers of that event contend that it inspired Lebbeus to explore this new medium. His blog’s minimalist theme – the Hemingway – and small, sans serif typeface are unassuming on their face. And Lebbeus’s blogging voice, which is much less prone to manifesto-like proclamations than in his earlier writing, is generous and elegantly conversational and marked by sage humility. The writing, much like the forms of mark-making addressed in that Cornell studio, strikes a balance between the intentional and accidental. Thus is the nature of blogging: it’s both planned and automatic; it’s a “freezone” web architecture that takes on purpose as it’s inhabited and actualized.


This space of subtle aesthetics and small marks was, since its inception, actualized into a zone of vibrant debate. Lebbeus’s posts often drew dozens of thoughtful comments and inspired follow-up conversations in other forums. It was a small space for big political discussions of both big and small things. The blog itself thus constituted a “common ground” for architectural discourse. It’s fitting, then, that the blog resides at WordPress is an open-source blogging platform and content management system that users can either download and install on their own servers, or allow WordPress to host on their behalves. Lebbeus chose the latter – probably not intentionally, in an attempt to make a political statement about hegemonic discourse, but rather more likely because of a lack of technical expertise. Yet the accidental result of this unintentional choice is that lives out there on common ground, in freespace – echoing big ideas through small type; riding on a beam of light, in perpetuity, for all the world to read.



Traces: Things I’ve Seen Want to Remember

Katrin Sigurdardottir, Townscape Box, @ Josée Bienvenu’s “There Is No Such Thing as a Good Decision,” January 2014



Beth Campbell, “My potential futures,” @ Josée Bienvenu, January 2014





The water main break outside The New School, January 2014

from Rory Solomon

Opening of The New School’s new University Center, January 2014




My old laptop on its final day, February 2014


Liang Shuo, Fit No. 8, Gallery Yang, Beijing @ The Armory Show, March 2014





William Powhida, “Overculture” @ Postmasters, March 2014


Great for teaching the basics of textual theory!


Serkan Özkaya, “One and Three Pasta” @ Postmasters, March 2014. Via the gallery:

One and Three Pasta deals with two men’s absurd passion for an almost worthless object. Imagine different kinds of pasta as design objects: the distinct shapes of farfalle, fusilli, rigatoni, spaghetti, penne and 87 others. Imagine each pasta shape converted into a mathematical formula. Imagine each formula used to print a 3D replica of the original pasta.

Taking Joseph Kosuth’s One and Three Chairs (1965) as a conceptual model, the exhibition at Postmasters will consist of 92 shelves, each with a single pasta unit, its mathematical formula, and its 3D printed incarnation.Since 2011 Serkan Özkaya sought to curate an exhibition installing various types of pasta as art objects, their creators anonymous, their commercial value minuscule. It never happened. Subsequently Özkaya came across the publication titled Pasta by Design by the designer George L. Legendre. The book’s idea was eerily close to Özkaya’s plan for the exhibition: Legendre had approached pasta varieties as design objects, analysing 92 different types in order to figure out the mathematical equations describing each seemingly organic shape with loving precision. He had effectively reversed the formula-to-form process. Özkaya contacted Legendre and they have collaborated to move the project to stage three: transforming the pasta equations into individual, 3-D printed objects.

To parallel Kosuth’s thinking Legendre’s equation can be considered the eidos, the Platonic ideal, the essence of the pasta itself. The exhibited pasta are organic and as such are each unique. These real pieces might be flawed and temporary but their computer generated models — the incarnation of the eidos itself — are perfect and permanent. Yet inedible. In One and Three Pasta the real, the ideal and the re-presented offer the decidedly unholy trio of options and differences.



The Seattle Public Library on its 10th birthday (almost), March 2014


William Cordova, machu picchu after dark (pa’ victoria santa cruz, macario sakay y aaron dixon), Seattle Art Museum, March 2014


Record Store, Ballard, Seattle, March 2014


My Rudy, aged 15, April 2014


Peabody Library, Baltimore, April 2014


Irving Penn, “The Telegraphist,” 1950 @ AIPAD Photography Show, April 2014
Julie Blackmon, “Thin Mints” @ AIPAD Show, April 2014
Keith Smith @ AIPAD
More Smith (not in AIPAD show)
More Smith (not in AIPAD show)

Angela Strassheim, “Horses” @ AIPAD


Tom Butler, “Cabinet Cards” @ AIPAD



William Henry Fox Talbot, Foliage, with superimposed pattern of gauze, photo engraving ca. 1852-57



It’s Become Increasingly Obvious That I’m an Incorrigible Structuralist

Matthias Bitzer
Matthias Bitzer

Last weekend was glorious! Spring had sprung! My scratched cornea had healed, which meant I could wear my contacts once again — which, in turn, meant that I could wear my new sunglasses! I could go out without a jacket (and keep it off all day long, on principle, and pretend that I wasn’t just a wee bit chilly!)! And there were new exhibitions galore! So I dedicated Saturday — part of it, anyway; the second half was supposed to be dedicated to developing this presentation, which didn’t exactly happen as planned — to art.

I think I’ll dispense with my typical practice of “thematizing” my gallery tours. I always pretend to find some conceptual thread, some overarching theme that ties together the myriad shows I see on my marathon art adventures. Everything I see is — in my mind, at least — somehow about language and mark-making and structure and materiality anyway. So let’s just take that as a given.

Thus, as one might predict, I saw some fantastic structuralist work around Chelsea, Soho and the Lower East Side last weekend.

I started with Moyra Davey’s “Ornament and Reproach” at Murray Guy. Honestly, Reader, it didn’t do much for me! (I hate that pretentious writerly convention — the silly direct-address-of-the-reader thing! Yet it somehow seems appropriate here, given how overwrought the “concept” for this show was.)

via Murray Guy
via Murray Guy

2014-04-05 13.48.21I then moved on to the Kitchen, which is typically my Chelsea tour “home base” — another convention that seems fitting, given that I lived on 19th Street, a block away from the Kitchen, from 1998 to 2002. I saw Gerard & Kelly’s “Timelining,” a hybrid sculpture / choreography / spoken word installation.

Two brass sheets leaned up again the wall. Two young men, sitting in two side-by-side chairs, stood when I entered the room, and began to walk in circles around the room, sometimes in tandem, sometimes at different paces, sometimes in different directions. While circumambulating the room, which featured a black line bifurcating its floor and walls, the men recited one of three Transcripts — surrealist/autobiographical texts full of temporal prepositions, like this: “Now in front of Whitney died / Whitney died in front of LA bike rides // Now in front of drove cross country / drove cross country in front of…” According to the Kitchen, it’s all about “queer time and intersubjectivity.” But of course! I liked it a lot.

While I can certainly see how intersubjectivity plays out in the piece — for one thing, the performance highlights the intersubjective relations between performers and visitors — it also, simultaneously, seems to reinforce the fairly resolute subjectivity and agency of the visitor. When I walked in, the show began. Before my arrival, the two dudes were just hangin’ out on chairs. As I walked around the gallery, they walked their circles around me. They occasionally glanced at me as they walked. It made me a little self-conscious, but it was also kind of empowering, I must say: at one point, I said to myself, jokingly, “make the art happen, dammit!!”

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In keeping with the choreography script, I then moved on to Jim Campbell‘s “sculpture light installations” at Bryce Wolkowitz. I sensed I was seeing low-resolution feeds, rendered in various matrices of LEDs, of people walking on the street outside the gallery. I was almost right; as the gallery explains:  “The exhibition includes panel projections comprising hundreds of LEDs strung from ceiling to floor form a grid that transmits low-resolution imagery distilled from found Kodachrome home movies; wall-mounted pieces, or topographies, composed of individually-scaled LEDs that comprise a gradient picture plane; and a series of four color LED-based bas reliefs, whose transparent, molded, resin front pieces act as both surface and content.” I thought of the exhibition as offering various permutations of low-resolution data visualization.

via Wolkowitz
via Wolkowitz

Then came one of the highlights of the afternoon: Matthias Bitzer’s “Saturnine Swing” at Marianne Boesky. He has a simultaneous show at Boesky’s uptown gallery, but I didn’t see that one. When I read this — “For Saturnine Swing, Matthias Bitzer will use both the uptown and Chelsea gallery spaces to present his drawings, paintings, and sculptures, and multi-part installations, ultimately engaging the two spaces and the works contained within to achieve his larger project: a metaphysical space that weaves history, memory, and narrative into a multi-layered realm that addresses the issues activated by our comprehension of reality” — I thought, oh my, how Aby Warburgian!  Good call. As it turns out, Bitzer is drawing inspiration here from Warburg’s Mnemosyne Atlas (which we discuss in my Archive class) and Deleuze & Guattari’s rhizome. Not only did I love the pattern and geometricism of the individual works — particularly those that resembled shelves full of books — but I also saw a lot of the Atlas and the rhizome in the installation’s staging, with all of its beautiful formal and chromatic juxtapositions.

via Boesky
Installation shot, via Boesky; all the other images are by me
And here's my slightly-less-successful version of the same image.
And here’s my slightly-less-successful, but pretty darn similar, version of the above image.

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An official Rosen image, which is much better than the photos I took
An official Rosen image, which is much better than the photos I took

After that, I wandered over to Friedrich Kunath’s “The Temptation to Exist (May Contain Nuts)” at Andrea Rosen. Nuts! — I’ll say! It felt like the Aesthetics of Administration à la Reading-Rainbow-meets-Crazy-Cat-Lady. If you take a look at the images, I think you’ll see exactly what I mean: it’s all abstracted file folders, feline gymnastics equipment, and Pantone headaches. I prefer my interpretation to that presented in the official exhibition statement, which was so full of artspeak it was almost comical — which was maybe the point, given that there was clearly a sense of humor in the exhibition itself. Anyway, here’s the official gobbledygook:

Inextricably entwining the experience of the ordinary with the sublime, Kunath’s works jump between daydreams and “reality,” painterly surface and psychological interior. Through heightening the artifice and the sincerity of the narrative, both are shown to be essential. Playfully pushing every element to the limit of its emotionality and capacity for meaning, Kunath reveals the deflative qualities of a climax, and simultaneously suggests that certain new truths can be revealed through, as the writer David Berman describes, “knowing which dimension of an uninteresting thing is actually interesting.” The act is an embrace of existence – both vibrant and mundane. An invitation into a perpetual joke.

Kunath, via Rosen
Kunath, via Rosen

And then I moved on to see Todd Hido’s photos at Bruce Silverstein. I often use Hido’s work during the photography lesson in my Media + Architecture class; he captures the suburban uncanny so well! As I tweeted, Hido has always struck me as a more romantic, melancholy version of Gregory Crewdson; both focus on cinematic representations of architecture, but their photos have very distinct tones. Hido’s scenes are often shrouded in mist or masked by glare. Here, what seems like condensation on the lens adds a romantic blur, but also draws you into the scene and makes you feel the chill. It’s odd, particularly given that many of the photos in this series are taken in Hido’s hometown in Ohio, that such personal images have such clinical titles.

Todd Hido, #10845-7
Todd Hido, #10845-7

Then came another of the afternoon’s highlights: Ghada Amer’s fabulous “Rainbow Girls” at Cheim & Read. In the past, Amer has rendered sexualized images of women in embroidery on canvas, thus using a feminized craft — sewing — to re-appropriate this imagery. Apparently the pieces in this exhibition mark a new development in her work: the integration of text — particularly passages from canonical feminist texts, relayed in both Arabic script and English. Also present here are sculptures of “metal calligraphy,” which allude to the latticed screens and inscriptions that are so prevalent in Arabic architecture. I could ponder her work all day — there are so many beautiful connections she’s making here: between texts and texture, lines of thread and lines of language; between the aesthetics and semantics of Arabic and Latin scripts; between gender and meaning-making. But because, once again, I’ve gotten in over my head with this blog post, I need to move on. I’m not getting paid for this, you know.

Ghada Amer
Ghada Amer

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Detail of the above

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Detail of the above
Detail of the above

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Detail of the above
Detail of the above

2014-04-05 14.58.16I wrapped up the Chelsea leg of my trip with David Hartt’s “The Republic” at David Nolan Gallery. The eponymous film explores “the proposed city plans of Greek urban planner Constantinos Doxiadis for both Athens and Detroit”; neither plan was realized. The film montages together images of Athens and Detroit, thus rendering the two cities indiscernible and blending them into a “hybrid city-state.” Infrastructure played a central role, which made me happy. The gallery had other stuff in it, too — like bronze plants that sprung up from the floor, which I took as an allusion to the resurgence of nature in a depopulated city. 

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Lots o' infrastructure
Lots o’ infrastructure

And here’s my obligatory “accidental selfie” of the week:

Ha - I guess I did put my coat back on after all.
Ha – I guess I did put my coat back on after all.

Then downtown to Soho and the Swiss Institute for Heidi Bucher. Her Raumhaut (room skin) (1977-79) is an obvious precursor to Do Ho Suh’s gossamer architecture. The “dirtiness” of these skins also reminds me of the work of Jorge Otero Pailos, an architectural preservationist who collects “skins of dust” as a chronicle of a building’s condition — its years of accumulated material history — before it’s cleaned and preserved. Bucher’s work also feels like the antithesis to a Rachel Whiteread sculpture.

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After that, I was off to see Allan Wexler’s “Breaking Ground” — photos, drawings, and sculptures exploring what I’d call “speculative archaeology” — at Ronald Feldman. He examines the history of mankind’s intervention into the landscape as builders, and our transformation of natural resources into building tools and supplies. The individual pieces themselves were marvels of construction, in keeping with the central theme of the show. Good stuff.

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Becoming I-Beam
Becoming I-Beam
Adams House in Paradise
Adams House in Paradise

In keeping with the “fundamental structures” theme, P! hosted one-half of a two-gallery showing of Brian O’Doherty’s work. “Connecting the…” was a tiny explosion of structuralism: chess boards, language games, and grids.

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2014-04-05 16.57.32I then wandered over to Norfolk St. to see Carter’s “Beside Myself” at Lisa Cooley, who’s really been on a roll lately. I’ve liked everything I’ve seen there over the past year or so. Here’s what they have to say about Carter’s work:

In his new paintings, Carter sews highly decorated fabric into regions of the canvases, expanding on his long-standing interest in portraiture. His use of fabric evokes the body: floating mouths and painstakingly stitched circular eyeholes serve as renditions of faces. The materials themselves speak to the quotidian – clothes, cloths, sheets, and other textiles inherently connected to everyday life, or as Carter describes, “referencing garments, shoddily created…shit couture… or woman’s embroidered samplers created in the 18th and 19th centuries to ‘keep busy’ and to decorate the home… or Liberace’s sexuality expressed in his dress.” His paintings return our stare from behind their eyelets – shrouded yet glancing out, calling to be seen, while curly squiggles, carefully stitched together, mimic hair in a highly stylized, artificial way, suggesting a wig rather than human locks. Carter’s process imparts the feeling that the varying eyes, mouths, and wigs affixed to the paintings could be easily exchanged for others: that identity is nothing if not a composite of representations, fragmentary parts attempting to portray something whole.

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And finally, I saw Corin Hewitt’s “The Third Station” at Laurel Gitlen. Here we encounter a stage-set ghost town consisting of two architectural structures. We can’t enter, but in their display windows we see surveillance footage of the implied interior. Each structure features a little back plot, where we find rubble and buried Post-Its, cosmetic containers, gloves, masks, etc. Cosmetic containers are perched on the buildings’ side ledges, too. There’s an obvious connection being made here between facades, skins, and screens.  The back room then features two tables displaying some of the same detritus we find buried in the backyard dirt — but displayed in a rigid fashion, as if these objects are being catalogued — as if they’re the find of some highly aestheticized archaeological dig.

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A lovely picnic

And in lieu of a proper conclusion (I’m way too tired for that), I’ll close by saying, See? It’s all about structure.

The end, for now.


My Review of Hillel Schwartz’s Making Noise Is Finally, Well, Making Some Noise (Metaphorically Speaking)

My review of Hillel Schwartz’s fabulous Making Noise: From Babel to the Big Bang and Beyond (Zone Books, 2011) — which I worked my way through waaay back in early 2012 — is finally out in Current Musicology. One of the points I make in my review is that the book is polychronic:

Structuring the book in “Rounds” seems fitting for a story that cycles through time, continually revisits subjects…, and appreciates their echoes. Even the book’s polychronic subtitle—which starts with Babel, then listens back for echoes of the Big Bang, then listens forward to the beyond—suggests that this is not a linear, teleological story.

 Perhaps fittingly, this issue of Current Musicology, very recently published, is their Spring 2012 issue. They’re a little behind schedule 🙂


Animating the Archive: Ben Vershbow Visited My Archives Class, Too


On March 4, Ben Vershbow, Director of the incredible NYPL Labs, visited my Archives class. I’m belatedly posting my notes: