Sunday, March 31, 2013

Observations, Why Now?

Edith Windsor and Thea Spyer
The SCOTUS arguments made for an interesting week, interesting and thought provoking. I did a lot of reading, talking, and thinking about the subject because there was just so many opinions and articles out there. Everybody seems to have an opinion on same sex marriage now, it's an amazing thing to watch. One thing I know, you simply can not hear the forty year love story of Edith Windsor and Thea Spyer without tearing up. I suppose you can but than you probably don't understand what these arguments are all about. If you want to read about them this BuzzFeed article is a good place to start, "Meet The Hero Of The Marriage Equality Movement."

I have to be honest and say some of what I read has me stepping slightly back from what I said a couple days ago. While I still think Bill Clinton signing DOMA when it went against everything he stood for is political cowardice I can see where people have been evolving. One thing in particular has me saying that now and it's something I didn't realize before or I should say something I just learned. During the original 2008 Prop 8 vote the Mormon Church and it's members donated an estimated $20 million to help pass the measure. During the 'four state' campaign last year, that resulted in the first four same sex marriage wins at the ballot box, the church gave nothing. On one of its websites the church now says that homosexuality is not a choice. There is a good article on Reuters and if you dare the Mormon website is here.

The question quickly becomes why now? What suddenly changed over the past few years? The obvious first answer is demographics or, as someone said this week, everyday there are more of us and less of them. But demographics alone isn't an answer. What makes people, or a entire church, suddenly change it's mind about gays and same sex marriage?

There is another obvious answer but one I didn't think about until this week, one I didn't really hear discussed much until this week. Every day more and more gays come out of the closet. When I was in high school I sometimes felt like I was alone because I was the only out queer in my class. Not that many years later I know of a handful of others out in that very same class. Being the rebellious outsider sort I relished it at times but at other times I have to admit it did hurt so I'll always say having supportive parents made all the difference in the world. Just ten years later my sister's experiences were so very different than mine.

No matter what your moral, religious, or political thoughts on same sex marriage it's very hard to look a friend, family member, or co-worker in the eye and tell them that they shouldn't have the same rights as anybody else. That they shouldn't fall in love, shouldn't be allowed to have a family, that they shouldn't be allowed to marry. A perfect example is Republican Senator Rob Portman of Ohio who happens to be a GOP presidential hopeful and whose son is gay. On March 14 he announced that he now supported same sex marriage saying that his son was entitled to the same happiness that he and his wife share.

In 1978 Harvey Milk first gave what became known as his 'Hope Speech' at San Francisco's Gay Freedom Day Parade. "On this anniversary of Stonewall, I ask my gay sisters and brothers to make the commitment to fight. For themselves, for their freedom, for their country. We will not win our rights by staying quietly in our closets. We are coming out to fight the lies, the myths, the distortions. We are coming out to tell the truths about gays, for I am tired of the conspiracy of silence, so I'm going to talk about it. And I want you to talk about it. You must come out."

Makes so much more sense today.

Saturday, March 30, 2013

Observations on Art 3.30

Vincent Willem van Gogh was born 160 years ago today in the Netherlands. To celebrate here is a little something to watch while you throw around the egg dye this Easter weekend. What? Doesn't every family do that?

The Power of Art - Van Gogh

the complete series

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Observations from the Coffee Shop 3.28

While I was reading some articles last night I found one on Gawker called "Cowardice As A Political Philosophy" that is very good and worth reading. It's about both the Iraq War and same sex marriage but includes a few paragraphs about Bill and Hillary Clinton that struck a nerve. Now I love the Clintons and I always will but what Nolan says is all too true and is also the politics of same sex marriage in a nutshell. In the end it doesn't always mean somebody needs to evolve on the issue.

"People like the Clintons - cosmopolitan, well traveled, well educated, well connected, and liberal - do not really believe that gay marriage is some great threat to America. They would no doubt laugh at the simple-minded odiousness of such a position, in private. But in public, they were all too happy to embrace it for their own political gain.

Bill Clinton signed into law an act which banned gay marriage, because he feared the political consequences of vetoing it. That is a fact. And it is disgusting. Hillary Clinton, like many of her peers, supported that act, and continued to oppose the right of gay people to marry up until just this year. That she supported "domestic partnerships," the most intellectually laughable attempt at a middle ground since the the Three-Fifths Compromise, only serves to expose her own hypocrisy more easily.

Let us be clear about what this is: this is an example of some of the most powerful people in America spitting upon the basic civil rights of a minority group in order to further their own political power. This is the opposite of courage. This is cowardice in all of its repulsive glory."

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Observations 3.27

Upon further review, well, maybe I spoke too soon. I'm going to stand by what I wrote yesterday about the Supreme Court and Prop 8 because I still think the Obama "nine state" decision is one of the possible results. After listening to some of the audio I'm not so sure it's very likely. More likely seems that either the court simply dismisses the case entirely or agrees with the appellate court. Either result ends Prop 8 in California but doesn't effect the rest of the country. Listening to the audio you get the feeling that for the most part they wish it would just go away so maybe a dismissal. I don't know, I'm just thinking out loud.

As expected what Justice Kennedy thinks will be more important than the other justices, especially the ravings of a mad hatter like Scalia. Kennedy seems to be struggling with the issue, wanting to do what he knows is right but probably goes against his own personal beliefs. Justice Kennedy asked Charles Cooper, attorney for Prop 8, a question about the 40,000 children in California who just want their parents married, "the voice of those children is important in this case, don't you think?" Not wanting to say the children didn't matter Cooper evaded the question. Later Justice Kennedy was the first to bring up just dismissing the case while Chief Justice Roberts and Kennedy both questioned whether Prop 8 backers had any legal standing for defending it in court.

Cooper, responding to a question from Justice Sotomayor, fully admitted that, other than marriage, he could not think of any legal reason to treat gays differently than anyone else. I found this interesting because I didn't see it mentioned much in the media yesterday.

I guess we'll find out in June.

Today SCOTUS hears the DOMA arguments, again beginning at 10 AM, with audio and transcripts to follow in the early afternoon. My gut feeling prediction on this case is easy, DOMA is dead, especially if the court isn't going to broadly rule on the Prop 8 case.

update - Here are the links for both the audio and the written transcript from today's DOMA oral arguments at the Supreme Court. Also here are a pair of links to the Prop 8 and DOMA transcripts on the Oyez Project website. The Oyez Project is at the Chicago-Kent Law School and is a multimedia archive of SCOTUS cases. What makes these transcripts interesting is that they are searchable by word and by speaker. To search the transcript click on the 'oral argument' link near the bottom of each page.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Observations 3.26

At 10 AM this morning the Supreme Court of The United States will begin hearing arguments in California's Prop 8 case. They are scheduled to last one hour, give or take, with arguments in the DOMA case scheduled for Wednesday at the same time. Transcripts are supposed to be released no later than 2 PM both days and I'll pass along links when I have them. Decisions in both cases probably wont be announced until the end of the court's term which, one way or another, will make the end of June rather interesting. Not too any years ago I wondered if I would see legal same sex marriage across the country in my lifetime. Now, other than the flyover belt of the country, I wonder how soon I will see it become a reality. At the end of June I may just find out.

I thought I should throw my opinion out there before arguments start on the remote chance that at some point I'll be able to say I told you so.

The main argument against same sex marriage now comes down to that marriage is between a man and a woman because it "furthers society’s vital interests in responsible procreation and child rearing." That is it, that is their argument. Narrowly the worst case scenario is that the court takes the position that the constitution has no position on the issue thus leaving it completely to the states. It will in no way decide that same sex marriage is unconstitutional because it can't without destroying the right's beloved states rights position. This decision would allow Prop 8 to stand and set in motion a vote to repeal Prop 8 in a state where same sex marriage now is favored by 67% of the voters. In California it's only a matter of time.

The other extreme, and to me just as unlikely, is that the court makes some sweeping decision that hypothetically legalizes same sex marriage nationwide. In all honesty this may be worse than the worst case I just mentioned because, while a reason to celebrate, it would just crystallize opposition from every direction. At the same time this possibly the best result for the Republican Party. Anybody in the party with any kind of sense could walk away from a no win issue, than again this is the Republican Party where common sense is currently in a limited supply.

What remains are the two middle options where I think the decision will fall. The first possibility is to simply uphold the decision of the Ninth Court of Appeals which says California, or any other state, can't take away a gay persons right to marry once the state has given them that right. At the time of the Appeals Court's decision it was thought Judge Reinhardt wrote it with SCOTUS in mind. This is the easiest way for Chief Justice Roberts and Justice Kennedy to rule in favor of same sex marriage in California and not have it effect the rest of the country. Along the same lines the court could simply dismiss the case allowing the Ninth's decision to stand as is.

But I think Roberts will do more as he did in ruling Obamacare was constitutional. John Roberts is a student of SCOTUS' history and sees his position as Chief Justice as caretaker of the court's legacy. With the rest of the government SCOTUS lives in a bubble but in the court's case it can be a very leaky bubble and public opinion has shifted twenty percent since 2008, Roberts knows this. Roberts also knows he will be on the court for a long time, he is 58, and probably doesn't want to be remembered for a decision that became meaningless while he was still on the court. It's probably just my gut feeling but I think Roberts and a majority of the court will go with the option favored by the Obama administration and rule that a state can't deny the word marriage to gays while granting them all the rights of marriage in civil unions. This decision would effect the states of California, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Nevada, New Jersey, Oregon, Rhode Island, and Colorado.

History is a fickle thing but when its time comes nothing can stop it. Whatever the court decides I think history's time has come and sorry will be those on the wrong side of it. I just don't think John Roberts will be one of them.

update - Here is the link for the audio of this morning's Prop 8 hearing at the Supreme Court. The text should follow but I'm not sure when.

update 2 - I'm a little slow with this but here is the link to a pdf file of the hearing transcript. While I'm at it here is a link to SCOTUSblog which is a very good site to find out what is going on at the court.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Observations on Art 3.24

We stumbled onto a good list in the Art and Design section of Complex magazine's website, "100 Museums to Visit Before You Die." Like I said it's a good list but it doesn't say if it is in any kind of order. I don't see how it can be with MoMA at 56 while the Met is at 3, the Philadelphia Museum of Art is at 4, and the Louvre is at 7. I love the Philadelphia Museum but more than MoMA and the Louvre? No way. Another sure sign of no order is that something called The Simone Handbag Museum in Seoul, South Korea is in the first spot.

Of course everything becomes a competition so we had to compare who had been to what museum and I came out the winner at twenty four. The Galerie nationale du Jeu de Paume, The Drawing Center, Institute of Contemporary Art Boston, International Center of Photography, Brooklyn Museum, MoMA PS1, The Museum of Modern Art, Museum of Arts and Design, United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, Whitney Museum of American Art, The Phillips Collection, MAD Museum, Andy Warhol Museum, New York Historical Society, Centre Georges Pompidou, New Museum, National Gallery of Art, Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum, Museum of Fine Arts Boston, American Museum of Natural History, Musée du Louvre, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Philadelphia Museum of Art, and the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum.

A few museums not on the list that I think should be are the National Art Museum of China in Beijing, the Shaanxi History Museum, and Shanghai's Museum of Contemporary Art. I think the list totally neglects Chinese art, the art and culture with the longest history, and concentrates on Japanese art.

Off the top of my head the museums on the list that I hope to get to are the Tate Modern, Palace of Versailles, Galleria Nazionale d'Arte Moderna, Museu Nacional d'Art de Catalunya, the Vatican Museums, Museo Reina Sofia, and the Hermitage. I suppose I need to spend some time in Europe unless I go to China instead. To bad I didn't win that big lottery last night.

Yes I have been busy but that still leaves 76 museums to visit. One less than that if I skip that purse museum in Seoul.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Observations 3.21

Next Tuesday and Wednesday the Supreme Court will hear arguments on both California's Prop 8 and the Defense of Marriage Act. The court has announced that it will post audio recordings and transcripts on the SCOTUS website no later than 2 pm on those days.

Twelve year old Daniel's letter to Chief Justice Roberts ....

"My name is Daniel Martinez-Leffew. I'm 12 years old and I live in northern California. I have a younger sister named Salina, and we were adopted by two dads. We were adopted when I was five and my sister was about twelve months old. When I was in foster care I was told that I was considered unadoptable because of my Goldenhar syndrome. That is a genetic disorder that affects the whole left side of my body. I lost my little brother Emilio because some people wanted to adopt him, but they weren't willing to adopt me because of my medical conditions. Lucky for me, that's when my two dads came along.

I recently found out that you yourself adopted two kids, a boy and a girl, kind of like me and my sister.

Family means a lot of different things to a lot of different people, but some people believe that you have to have the same blood to be a family. You and I both know that family goes deeper than blood. I was lucky to be adopted by two guys I can both call dad. They give me and my sister so much love. My dad Jay works in San Francisco as a deputy sheriff, and my dad Bryan stays at home and takes care of me and my sister. My dads really encourage me to excel in life. Since I want to be a cook when I grow up, they're letting me take cooking classes. My parents want me to improve, whether it's schoolwork, or my social life.

I know you have a tough decision to make with the gay marriage issue, but my family is just as valuable and worthwhile as any other. It's especially tough for you because I know you don't necessarily believe in gay marriage religiously. Lucky for us, though, you also don't believe in taking away a right, even from people like us. My family and I have spent the last four years making YouTube videos to show people who don't understand that our family is like any other. If Prop 8 is allowed to stand, imagine the pain we would feel knowing that we are not considered equal to everyone else.

I guess to end this, it is important that all families are protected and valued. In our country we may not all be the same, but we are all Americans and deserve an equal chance at bettering our lives. I hope you make the right decision in the end."

Published on Mar 17, 2013

"So our kids know that Prop 8 is coming to the Supreme Court soon and that could be a very big deal for our family. When they found out that one of the Justices hearing the case had two adopted children, they said, "Hey! They're just like us!" And so, in a moment that made his dads very proud, Daniel decided to write a letter to Justice Roberts in the hopes that he will see that our families are not so different."

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Observations 3.20

I really don't know how to describe this video other than classic. It's so good that when I first saw it I didn't even realize it was a commercial which you might not have either if I hadn't just told you. Be sure you watch till the end so you understand why I think it's classic.

"Le papier ne sera jamais mort," à l'époque où le débat fait rage entre les prescripteurs du 'tout numérique' et les irréductibles défenseurs du papier, Le Trèfle prend position avec son nouveau spot TV intitulé Emma.

"Paper is not dead," at a time when debate rages between the prescribers of 'all digital' technology and the die-hard defenders of paper, Clover has taken a position with this new TV spot titled Emma.

vimeo link
Published on Mar 12, 2013

I'm posting both a Vimeo and YouTube link because the video is much better viewed on Vimeo but in their wisdom it doesn't allow embedding. Why I do not know, it's a commercial after-all.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Observations 3.18

I can't say I want to write about rape but something is just freaking me out a bit. First off I have a problem comprehending why some in the media can't seem to grasp three words, rape is rape. See it's a fairly easy concept to grasp. Personality doesn't come into it, nor does the fact that you were 'allegedly' drinking. Rape is rape.

Yesterday Trent Mays and Ma'lik Richmond, 17 and 16 year old Steubenville, Ohio high school football players, were found guilty of raping a girl who they literally carried from party to party. The boys' only defense was the usual one of her consenting because she didn't positively say no. The main evidence against the boys consisted of videos and photos that were posted on Twitter and Facebook that night and over the next few days. Richmond was sentenced to a minimum of one year in a juvenile detention center and Richmond to a minimum of two because he was also found guilty of using the victim, a minor, in pornographic material. With good behavior both will spend less time locked up than the typical drug offender. I have more than one problem with the reactions to this verdict but for now I have a question.

What the hell is the matter with CNN?

Immediately following the verdict announcement Candy Crowley's main thought was of the poor boys whose bright futures were ruined by the verdict. She added that they would in all likelihood be traumatized for life. Crowley said "these two young men, who had such promising futures, star football players, very good students, literally watched as they believed their life fell apart." Very little mention of the 16 year old victim of the rape.

Not to be outdone Poppy Harlow, CNN's correspondent on the scene, added "One of the young men, Ma’lik Richmond, as that sentence came down, he collapsed. It was very hard to watch." I'm torn between wanting to ask Harlow how difficult the rape video they posted on Facebook was to watch and wanting to kick Richmond a few times as he collapsed.

Crowley finished by asking CNN's legal expert what the lasting effects of the verdict are for the men. "But in terms of what happens now, the most severe thing with these young men is being labeled as registered sex offenders. That label is now placed on them by Ohio law. That will haunt them for the rest of their lives," answered Paul Callan. It should haunt them as I'm sure it will haunt their victim.

I'm not sorry if their lives are ruined, if the town of Steubenville's reputation is ruined, if the boys' "promising futures" as football players is gone forever. They raped a 16 year old girl as their friends took pictures and video than posted them on Twitter and Facebook. I really don't care if they are on a sexual predators list for the rest of their lives, that's exactly what they are. They have nobody but themselves to blame for their ruined lives.

To be fair CNN wasn't the only source reacting this way but one expects more from a serious news source. But than between this and the poop ship chronicles I'm not so sure CNN should be called that any longer.

3/19 update - I saw this yesterday on CNN's website in an opinion written by Ric Simmons, a guest writer from Ohio State's College of Law. Granted he doesn't specifically work for CNN but they published it. In his opinion Simmons said; "A few decades ago, this behavior would probably have been considered inappropriate or 'ungentlemanly.' Today, it brings protesters into the streets and creates a nationwide outcry about sexual abuse." Again we are talking about rape here.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Sunday Observations 3.17

Vivek Shraya is a musician and writer living in Toronto who one day he had a cool idea and asked people what they loved about being queer. He filmed the answers in his living room and made them into a documentary. The film became a tumblr where you can post a photo and your own answer to his question. Now it has become a book which also includes essays by Farzana Doctor, Elisha Lim, Kathryn Payne, and Marilyn McLean. The book can be ordered from his website or in Toronto bookstores if you happen to be passing through.

What I LOVE about being QUEER
Film teaser from Vivek Shraya on Vimeo.
Film and Screening Inquiries 

Friday, March 15, 2013

Observations on Art 3.15

Diana Thater - Day For Night
Armory Week usually brings about a kind of art overload, if that is possible, but there is always something I absolutely love. This year it was a series of videos by artist Diana Thater at the David Zwirner booth. To make the videos Thater said she "placed the flowers on a mirror that reflected the bright blue Los Angeles sky above and filmed them from above on a crane using a day for night filter, which movie directors use to make scenes shot in the day look like they occur at night, and had a rain machine pump rain between the camera and the flowers." The videos were played on the highest of hi-tech screens and are just a stunning shade of blue.

Not long after I mentioned that I have no use for Pinterest I read an article on ArtInfo that listed the ten best art related accounts to follow. Needless to say I'm finding myself addicted to what you could call art porn but I have yet to 'pin' a single thing. That lack of pinning brings to mind a question, how did I get seven followers? If you use Pinterest the article is a good place to start but I would add The Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Musée du Louvre both of which have awesome boards, or maybe I'm just a snob at times.

A quote I posted on tumblr about a month ago has well over 5,000 reposts now. The quote is by Vladimir Nabokov and I'm sure its popularity is saying something about the world we live in but at the moment I don't feel like dwelling on it. This is the quote, "Our existence is but a brief crack of light between two eternities of darkness."

Speaking of quotes, and possibly in some way related to the above paragraph, today is March 15th, The Ides of March. This would be the day Julius Caesar was assassinated in the year 44 BC. A seer had warned Caesar that harm would come to him no later than the Ides of March. While going to the Theatre of Pompey that day (eerie shades of Lincoln here) Caesar passed the same person and supposedly joked, "The ides of March have come," meaning he was still alive. The seer answered back, "Aye, but not gone." Four years later Octavian executed 300 Roman Senators on the anniversary of Caesar's death.

I have no idea why I think that is important but yet I do. I think it has something to do with the ignorance of  the currently be held CPAC and what people will think of us 2,000 years from now, that is if there are people. It can't be good.

As William Shakespeare wrote simply in Julius Caesar, "beware the Ides of March." I would stay away from theatres too.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Observations 3.13.1

I always have had a habit of calling my collection of websites my 'empire' because I spend so much time on them. Recently the empire has morphed has morphed into something a bit more important. I've made some important contacts for both Ash and myself, gotten my point across in ways I never imagined, and just gotten a large amount of exposure. The problem with exposure is it can be both good and bad.

For some time I've had a faux Facebook account the primary purpose of which was pushing this blog and some photos into Facebook. I know, totally against the terms of service and hard to do on Facebook but there are always ways. I finally decided it all wasn't worth the effort and stated looking for other options including blogger's dynamic views or just starting another tumblr to re-post this blog on. For various reasons I decided on the new tumblr and after learning some of tumblr's text code, a bit different from blogger's, I published it this week. As I said in the previous post, the tumblr introduction, it's very much a work in progress and looks a bit stale but you can see it here.

Now back to the bad exposure I mentioned, another reason for the change. I never have been much of a fan of Facebook, liked the movie but hate the product. Their statements to the contrary I just don't think they care all that much about the security of your information and they collect too damn much of it. Because of their terrible IPO and poor stock showing they seem more concerned with profit than security, not that it was ever the other way around.

A few months ago I started getting spam mail, the usual "grow your manhood four inches" type of thing, that I can trace back to that Facebook account. Now I began getting spam texts, Facebook is the only site requires/demands you list a cell number, that can only be related to that same account. These just added to my desire for a change and that account will be history as soon as I finish erasing it. I really don't trust them to delete it themselves so I'm doing it manually. It always goes without saying that you shouldn't post anything online you don't want to be there forever because it will be just that, forever. It's another thing entirely when personal information leaks from, or is sold by, somebody without permission and against their own rules.

There is a totally funny side story to all this. Facebook just announced their new design and it looks totally like, yes, tumblr. In a post on its blog Facebook says it developed the new feed using paper, Post-its, and a large blank wall. The blank wall must have looked remarkably like tumblr.

Seems I made the switch just in time.

Observations 3.13

This is something I have been posting on my tumblrs over the past few days. I'll have a better explanation in my next post here but I'm posting this alone so I don't have to re-post it on tumblr ....

Observations: A bit of an introduction
I have been writing a blog over on blogger for over three years now. At the same time I have a few, some not totally safe for work, photo blogs on tumblr. I had been re-posting my blog to a public facebook page but finally decided that was a total waste of time so I decided to combine some of my projects, lose some others, and re-post “Observations” here.

The first few posts will be what blogger calls my popular posts and some art posts I have done over the last week. After that I’ll just re-post what I’m blogging with maybe throw in some fav photos. There is a link to my blog in the header of this so if anyone has any interest there is plenty more to read there.

My thoughts for this are very much a work in progress so we shall just have to see what comes of it.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Observations from the Coffee Shop 3.12

Time to get away from art for a moment and back to politics. I've done some volunteer work for a few election campaigns over the years including the first Obama campaign. I haven't done any recently because I didn't have time, got lazy, or moved to New York and didn't know the local politics. They may be about to change because Sunday, while the entire world was centered on art, an announcement was made I've been waiting for. New York City Council Speaker Christine Quinn officially announced she was running to replace Michael Bloomberg as Mayor of New York.

I haven't been this excited about a campaign since President Obama's first run because, like that campaign, it's not just a run for office but for the history books. In its entire history New York has never had a woman mayor let alone an openly gay one. For that matter New York hasn't had a married mayor in some time so I think the city is ready for its first openly gay married woman mayor. I'm sure you're going to hear much more about this in the months ahead so consider yourself warned.

Quinn's partner Kim Catullo doesn't appear in the video so I had to dig up the photo above. The two were married on May 19, 2012 in Chelsea. I know the wedding has nothing to do with politics but I wanted to mention it because the wedding guests included past and future political allies Mayor Michael Bloomberg, Governor Andrew Cuomo, and Senator Kirsten Gillibrand. I think she may have a chance of winning.

In other New York news, Big Gulps are still here for now so go get em while you can.


Sunday, March 10, 2013

Observations on Art 3.10

It's the last day of Art Week and the breakfast conversation isn't so much about art as the dearth of coverage this year. I should say lack of sleep, not helped by the changing of the clocks, may have something to do with the topic because I have never seen a sorrier looking group of artists. Massive quantities of coffee will be needed today if anybody is going to function properly at all.

In all honesty something does just seem off about the fairs this year. It wasn't the crowds, they were there, but more about the feeling, the buzz for lack of a better word. The usual art publications covered all the shows but even The New York Times reviewed only the three major ones (see previous post for links). Here are some of the reasons our gloomy brain trust has come up with.

The big galleries seemed to have stayed away the piers this year leaving a show full of galleries that normally are seen at lesser events. Good for the galleries' exposure but not all that good for the coverage of the overall show. Granted Gagosian was there but in the Focus section which normally is reserved for emerging markets and artists, not for the crown prince of the art world.

Another possible reason we discussed was the show's current owner, Merchandise Mart Property Inc. of Chicago, which is a holding company specializing in trade shows. A major art fair isn't exactly the same as a home builders show. On their website MMPI says they have "assured the continued development and enhancement of the Art Show division by bringing together some of the top minds in art fairs under one partnership." Funny thing to be saying as rumor has it their art fair holdings are currently for sale. According to The Art Newspaper the leading candidate to purchase the fairs is Louise Blouin who is the publisher of Art + Auction, Modern Painters, and owner of Louise Blouin Media. We shall see.

My pet theory, which I mentioned a couple days ago, is the effect the Frieze is having on the Armory Show. Last year it was new and unknown in New York and it did an awesome job. This year the Frieze is a known and more people are planning for it. Being in mid-May it has weather on its side, it snowed for three days this week, and its location on Randall"s Island lets you be in the city but yet feel like you aren't in it at the same time. The Frieze may also be the reason the Armory Show has turned so much more American. I don't think it has as much to do with some misplaced idea of patriotism as it does with major international galleries planning to do one fair in New York and that fair is in May.

In the end maybe the whole reason is the interwebs as had the whole show online before it even opened. This could be the main issue art fairs have to deal with in the future if they are going to survive as they are now.

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Observations on Art 3.9

Tod Seelie / Suckapants
Sometimes you find something that is just so perfect, so dead on, that you just have to borrow it. Sometimes it's just a short sentence or a quote. In this case it's a headline and two paragraphs I saw in Gothamist yesterday, "10 Photos Of Gallery Assistants Looking Bored At The Armory Show."

"The Armory Show isn't all champagne and $9,000 McDonald's cups, for some forlorn souls, it can be a terribly lonely place, an invisible prison where sudden waves of profound isolation threaten to drown the poor gallery assistants in existential dread when there is NO ONE to peruse their wares.

But the painful truth is that wherever art is bought and sold, the Tree of Commerce must be watered with the blood of gallery assistants. Yet what poet sings songs to ensure their bitter tears of boredom have not streamed not in vain? Who (besides the gallery owners trying to cheat on their wives with their assistants) spares a moment's thought on them? Enter Gothamist LLC to fill this shameful void. Here: a humble photographic hymn to the bored and forgotten gallerinas. Let the world never forget their courageous sacrifice for art! Please let them update their Facebook profile in peace!"

In my experience all too true other than maybe the part about gallery owners cheating on their wives. Click the photo caption or here to see all the photos.

update - Here are links to The New York Times reviews of the three major fairs: Art Dealers of America Association at Park Avenue Armory, the Armory Show at Piers 92 and 94, and the Independent Art Fair.

Friday, March 8, 2013

Observations on Art 3.8.1

Here is another walkthough  from VernissageTV, this one is from Armory Week's newest show the Spring/Break Art Show. In its second year it's little bit different in that it focuses on curators and not on galleries. Rather than simply show what a gallery would like the curators bring together works to interpret the Spring/Break Art Show's theme which this year is New Mysticism. On the show's website the founders describe the theme as "examining how digital semiotics, the Internet, and technology at large, along with the old relics of 20th century visual culture together." There are no Brillo pad boxes here.

Published on Mar 6, 2013

"Art TV pioneer Vernissage TV provides you with an authentic insight into the world of contemporary fine arts, design and architecture. With its two main series "No Comment" and "Interviews", art tv channel VernissageTV attends opening receptions of exhibitions worldwide, interviews artists, designers, architects. VTV provides art lovers with news, reports and features from the international art scene. VernissageTV: the window to the art world."

Observations on Art 3.8

Of art shows and Brillo pads ....

Every year the Armory Show brings something that everybody falls over themselves to rave about and I just don't care for at all. A couple years ago it was Ivan Navarro's glowing neon "Armory Fence" that was sold for $40,000 per seven foot section. This it was Charles Lutz’s massive pile of cardboard Brillo boxes, literally hundreds of them. A supposed homage to Andy Warhol the boxes were free for the taking so Brillo boxes fought for space in the aisles already crowded with art lovers, art collectors, and wannabes of both varieties. It wasn't so much that I didn't get it, what wasn't to get, but I couldn't fathom the waste of space. A good piece of art should inspire an artist, give them ideas, but all I was inspired to do was paint the inside of a Walmart warehouse. I also felt totally sorry for the cabbies that had to deal with the boxes.

The Brillo boxes are better explained by the show's review in this morning's New York Times. I knew about the changes to the format, what the Times calls a sudden desire to please, and I get that. There is so much competition now with shows and fairs all over town this week and the second Frieze New York in May. The Focus section of the Armory Show is normally dedicated to new markets and their artists, last year it was the Nordic countries, but this year the Focus was on America. It's pretty much an art show in the middle of an art fair with nothing especially new about it. What I didn't know was that Eric Shiner, director of Pittsburgh's Warhol Museum, was the Focus organizer and that explains a lot.

Personally I think that if competition is the Armory Show's biggest worry they would be better off not toying with the makeup of the show but just moving it back a few weeks. Looking out the window at hopefully winter's last gasp, it has been snowing on and off for two days, that seems like a good idea. If I were an art tourist planning a trip to the city for a big art show and I had to choose between the Armory in March or the Frieze in May it wouldn't be much of a decision. Or maybe I would just plan a trip to the Warhol Museum instead, it's probably much cheaper trip but than again it's in Pittsburgh.

This video is a walk through from the first day of the Armory Show by VernissageTV. VTV is an online art channel founded in 2005 and is also free as a podcast on iTunes. Their website has a huge archive of videos worth a look on a rainy or snowy day. Watch for those ever present Brillo pad boxes.


Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Observations on Art 3.6

Contrary to prevailing opinion, and as you can see from this film of last year's Volta, art people don't wear exclusively black, it isn't a rule written in some secret handbook of art. Sometimes they do wear bits of other color including white, gray, and khaki. I like the girl just before the one minute mark because she pretty much shows you the method I use when taking in a large show.

Volta NY 2012 from David Willems on Vimeo.
Music by Reefrider - Kinky Cowgirl

PS - I saw some turquoise in this too. Turquoise is a personal favorite and always good for jewelry  It looks good with all the black.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Observations on Art 3.5

To me Art Week has become another of those unofficial indicators that spring is almost here. It also seems to be the opening of the warmer weather tourist season with people wandering and exploring more and not just coming to the city to shop or go to the theatre. In this current political world where we debate even emergency aid visitors may be in for a surprise when the get here. Sandy was the story for a long time but as with everything it passed as other things made headlines. Everybody knows, or should know, that Staten Island and the beach areas of Brooklyn are still devastated but even in Manhattan some areas have yet to recover. Some may never again be what they were.

One of New York main gallery districts is in Chelsea along the Hudson River. During the worst of the storm almost every gallery south and west of 21st street was flooded and parts of the area were under twenty feet of water. Galleries on the ground floors of buildings were wiped out with thousands of art works destroyed and Reuters now estimates insurance claims for just art will reach $500 million. One totally unforeseen problem is who is responsible for an art work that was paid for by a collector but never picked up. Many of Chelsea's galleries have reopened, some just last week, but whether the district remains as it was is an open question. Galleries like Gargosian and Zwirner can afford to move their inventory at a moments notice, most can't, and with a future of rising sea levels the best option is probably to move the galleries to higher ground. Global warming comes to the art world.

Tourists walking or riding through the gallery districts will have no clue of the turmoil still just under the surface so they probably will be in wonder of the recovery. A visit to the South Street Seaport, another tourist favorite, will probably change their minds.

We decided to do a bit of wandering Sunday and eventually got to the Seaport. To be honest the area looks like it was visited by the zombie apocalypse. By that I mean on fist look it seems fine but look a little closer and something is missing, people. It's eerie to walk down the street between buildings that look just as they did before Sandy hit down to masking tape on the windows and locks on the doors. While the museum and piers are open a majority of the shops and restaurants remain closed months after the storm. Some buildings in the area still have no ll phone service or internet because Verizon's underground cables were destroyed as the East River moved to the west.

Granted the seaport area is a warm weather spot, and it normally is quiet in the winter, but it just seems so dead for lack of a better word. I read somewhere that businesses in the area are having trouble negotiating their leases with property owners who want to charge higher rents to people that lost everything. Other tenants, principally on Front Street, have been told their buildings wont reopen until spring or even early summer. Many businesses will probably move elsewhere, the streets a few blocks off the river seem fine, and wait for the rising river to make the shops waterfront again.

When all is said and done the Seaport will probably be a major tourist spot again but of a different kind. A tourist spot to remind people of what once was before super storms and rising sea levels became the norm or just a reminder of the havoc those storms can cause.

If I seem climate cynical sometimes blame my brother, he fills me with dread at times.

Monday, March 4, 2013

Observations from the Window 3.4

Hairstyle is something I have never in my life worried about, my hair is what it is, long, wild and for the most part unmanageable. Now I may not worry about hairstyles but that doesn't mean I have never thought about them. I was catching up on magazines a few weeks ago and it just struck me as funny that the two supposedly new hot styles for this spring are so different from each other. The first is perfect for me, Vogue calls it gym hair, because it's long, wild, and looks pretty much unmanageable. "The hair is meant to look disheveled," said one stylist. What it means is I could go to a salon and pay to have my hair look like it did when I walked in. The other style they call slick hair and is usually extremely short, pulled back if not, shiny, and saturated with mousse. Before you ask slick hair was in the magazine before Charlize Theron's appearance at the Academy Awards, maybe she saw it. Honestly i didn't know mousse still existed so I'll just skip this style.

Coincidentally Sunday morning's Up With Chris Hayes panel featured Liz Mair with uber-short slick hair and Stephanie Kelton looking like she had just gotten out of bed. Than again maybe that early on a Sunday it wasn't a style statement at all, maybe Kelton had just gotten out of bed.

Yes you actually just read a post about hairstyles. I had it written for some Sunday Observations that never happened and now it doesn't fit with anything I'm working on. So there it is.

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Observations on Art 3.3

Have I mentioned yet that this is Art Week? It's another sure sign that spring isn't too far off. Among other things this year's edition brings the 100th anniversary of the original Armory Show, the 25th anniversary of the ADAA Art Show at the Park Avenue Armory, the 15th anniversary of the current Armory Show on Piers 92 and 94, and the 5th anniversary of the Salon Zürcher. It's going to be a very busy week and one of the few times of the year I decide to write about art and little else.

Because of the centennial of the original show I think a bit of history and a trivia lesson are called for. Known as the International Exhibition of Modern Art the 1913 Armory Show ran in New York from February 17th until March 15th. From there it traveled to Chicago where it was at the Art Institute of Chicago from March 24th until April 16th. It became known as the Armory show because in New York it was housed in the 69th Regiment Armory. Attendance in Chicago was actually twice what it was in New York but, New York being New York, the name stuck.

One of the organizers of the show was Lille P. Bliss who was one of the major art collectors of the day. Bliss, who was never married, devoted her life to bringing modern art to the U.S. and her collection eventually included works by Paul Cézanne, Georges Seurat, Paul Gauguin, Henri Matisse, Claude Monet, and Pablo Picasso. Not only was Bliss one of the show's organizers she also became one its largest buyers. In May 1929 Bliss had lunch with Abby Aldrich Rockefeller and the result was that the Bliss and Rockefeller collections became the foundations of the Museum Of Modern Art which opened later that year.

Not to be outdone Chicago has its own claim to Armory Show fame. Because of the show The Art Institute of Chicago became the first American art museum to show the work of Pablo Picasso, because technically the Regiment Armory wasn't an art museum, but at the time the seven works were labeled with the Americanized Paul Picasso. The Chicago stop is also remembered because AIC students burned Henri Matisse in effigy as the Midwest didn't seem ready for modern art, not that it is now. The Institute is currently running the show "Picasso and Chicago" which includes over 200 of his works. It should be noted that Pablo Picasso himself never set foot in the United States.

After seeing the modern art show photographer Alfred Stieglitz said it was made up of "painters and sculptors who decline to go on doing what the camera does better. You’ll go back to your habitual worship of eternal repetitions of mere externals of people and things that cram all the museums and galleries, but you won’t feel happy. The mere outside of things won’t satisfy you as it used to."

The College of Arts and Sciences at the University of Virginia has a huge site devoted to the 1913 show which includes works, vintage reviews and criticism along with current opinions and essays. It's work a look or an afternoon.