A NYC Day-trip.
Thanksgiving break flew by, as I expected it might- given the fact that I dedicated much of it to what amounted to a "day trip" to NYC. As I had planned, I spent my nights at my father's house- a mere hour and forty-five minutes from Manhattan. It was a novelty to have many channels of television to browse through, but most of it is truly crap. I caught a fair portion of Snakes On a Plane, and it was about as mind-numbing as I thought it would be. I also caught a few glimpses of the cartoon Lil' Bush. When I initially saw the title, a few thoughts rushed through my mind in quick succession. I wondered whether it really was what it appeared to be. I marveled that we have reached a point when a sitting president is so truly ludicrous that he is disrespected with an animated lampoon of his foibles on national television. Finally, I realized that this president (or any reasonable facsimile) is only funny in three minute bursts, and then merely pathetic.
Saturday morning we were able to get off to a reasonably early start. My father was willing to drive me into the city, despite his reservations about potential holiday-weekend-traffic snarls. Fortified with four shots of espresso, I was ready to contend with whatever we experienced. It was refreshing to be entering the city with almost no agenda whatsoever. This was my third trip in a little over a year, and the previous two visits were regulated by a set of activities I had planned for weeks in advance. When my Dad suggested that we could drive up to Chelsea and see some of the galleries, I easily assented. For sheer availability of contemporary art, this neighborhood of former industrial buildings really can't be beat.
It seemed like many of the shows were closing when we visited. I really wanted to get inside the Jonathan Levine Gallery, but they were in the midst of an installation- so I was out of luck. But there were enough places that were open to make the browsing worthwhile. I maintained a consistently loose and informal attitude, and so I didn't document anything I saw. I simply took my time and skipped through to whatever intrigued me, without taking any notes. Suffice it to say that we got to see a lot that was to my tastes, and another large portion of work that I considered to be pretentious crap. This time around I skipped all of the boutique-ish salon galleries that specialize in stocking and exhibiting the prints of well-established legends of the Twentieth Century. I stopped for a few group shows (one in particular featured paintings by a group of Europeans influenced by German Expressionism and Surrealism), but mainly stuck to places featuring an exhibition of a single artist. There was nothing that stuck out so prominently that I would remember a name to mention here.
Actually... I take that back. I was surprised (and pleased) to walk into the Charles Cowles Gallery and discover the gigantic photographic prints of Edward Burtynsky. This was a bit of a coincidence, as I had recently wish-listed a documentary featuring his work over at Amazon. Burtynsky took shots of mammoth stone quarries with a large format camera. The results show the full extent of ecological devastation that such industry has caused. But at the same time the vast scale of his shots allows them to assume a troublesome beauty. The brain-twisting enormity of the project sites he depicts allows Burtynsky to play with viewer perception. Only when one notices the (seemingly) tiny presence of people and machinery can he/she appreciate the ramifications of the imagery. It is a truly sobering show.
I couldn't resist an inspiration to take out my own camera as I walked admidst the galleries. There's something about the quantity and quality of work, all packed into a rather limited geographical area, that compels me to engage in the process of manufacturing art. Of the vast amount of sensory data offered by NYC, there is much worthy of partition and apprehension. For an extended period of time, I felt I found my zone. It was a nice warm-up for my talk at the Agni Gallery. It's too easy to forget how invigorating creation can be, when you are involved with trying to represent and sell your work. I had a good time among the few who showed up to hear us pontificate on the process and value of our art. Attendance was modest, but the people who showed up seemed to be interested in what John and I had to say. After we were done, we didn't linger. Our day in the city was happily concluded.