Art Is The New Rock n Roll

Manhattan, 2016. Click to enlarge.

Among the sites not seen above are-

The Bottom Line
The Knitting Factory (Manhattan)
Fat Tuesday
Sweetl Basil
The Angry Squire
Lush LIfe
The Lone Star Cafe
Bonds International Casino
Max’s Kansas City
The Peppermint Lounge
The Gaslight Cafe
The Electric Circus
The Five Spot Cafe
The Half Note Club
The Lion’s Den
Minton’s Playhouse
The Mudd Club
The Cooler
Coney Island High
Great Gildersleeves
The Ritz
Gerde’s Folk City
The Palladium
The Savoy Ballroom
Cafe au Go Go
Smalls Paradise
The Village Gate
Wetlands Preserve

and on and on…Going back further-

The Academy of Music
The Fillmore East

Those are just some of the live music venues we’ve lost in Manhattan. Spill a little of your drink on the pavement in their memory. In spite of the title to this Post, I include Live Music Clubs as a whole. The list includes Jazz and Folk Clubs, and clubs that had a variety of types of music, along with Rock Clubs. Some intrepid places have come along in their absence, though I don’t think anyone would say they’ve “replaced” them. There are some legendary places that still remain, including the Village Vanguard, for me, the greatest music club in the world. It’s nothing short of a cultural tragedy that so many clubs have UNWILLINGLY closed, which most of the above have, mostly due to rent increases that they couldn’t afford. When I walk past their former locations, which are “sacred” in their way (and so, some I consciously avoid), and see what’s there now, I continually shake my head and remember-

A little piece of New York City, and what makes this City great, special & unique, went away every single time each one of the Clubs closed.1

City government doesn’t care. They’ve done nothing to stop it. As the clubs have closed, it’s been interesting to me to note that there has been an increase in Art venues, a few Museums, but mostly galleries. Where some of those clubs were “cheap,” they were all at least “affordable,” to the average music lover, and they made going to see and hear music regularly possible. In the mid-1990s, I was going out every night, and hearing a crazily wild range of music, often in the clubs listed above that we’ve now lost. I wrote about many of the shows I saw as part of my Artist Management website. That led to my writing for a national music magazine for 4 years.

As prices, especially real estate, have risen steadily since the mid 1990’s the clubs have faced extremely challenging business environments, with no protection from government2, that has seen their business model largely change from a “club” to more of a “concert/show” environment. Clubs like “City Winery,” founded by Knitting Factory founder Michael Dorf, have become a model for franchises all over the country. Customers can sit, eat and drink, and hear music. I’ve never been to one. It’s not my scene.

Live music in NYC is almost a museum piece “Moon Duo” outdoors, in MoMA’s Sculpture Garden, 2016

And so, this Post is my way of saying I realize that I only wrote about one live music event this year, a damn good one (Jacob Collier opening for Kamasi Washinton), and that I, unfortunately, expect this trend to continue.

As the music clubs closed, in another part of the City, Chelsea, hundreds of Art Galleries were starting up- unprecedented numbers. While most specialized in Contemporary Art, some showed the work of established Artists. Soon, it was possible to wander for endless hours and see as many Art shows as you wanted, or as your feet could take, without spending a dime, (unless you wanted to make a purchase.)

Little by little, completely unintentionally, Art began to usurp Music’s primacy in my life, even though I am someone who was a professional musician who spent 5 years on the road. This has continued to expand to the present minute, where as I sit here on New Year’s Eve, at the end of a terrible year in many ways, I sit back and realize that I’ve gone to see Art every day for the last 6 weeks, except Sunday and Mondays, when the galleries are closed, and the Museums have short hours. I’m now living the life I was living in the mid-1990’s as a live Music fan as an Art lover.

I still listen to, and love, Music. My iPhone is packed with Music to the point I have very little room left for Apps or photos, and it’s constantly being changed and updated. I am always listening to Music when I’m looking at Art. But, I so miss that spontaneous creativity of a a great live Jazz Band, or the energy of a great live Rock Band, even though my years of performing live have taken their toll on my hearing.

For me, anyways, there’s not a heck of a lot of difference between Art & Music, in many ways. If you look through the history of both, there are similar “movements” that happen in both at about the same times. You’ll find Baroque Art & Music, Romantic, Impressionistic periods in both, and 20th Centuries marked by similar explorations. Picasso and Miles Davis have been compared often, not without good reason (and I don’t mean qualitatively compared). A good number of Musicians (including Miles), are/were Artists, though very few Artists were also Musicians (as far as I know). The similarities don’t end there, but that’s the subject of another Post3.

I don’t expect the number of Art Galleries we have in Chelsea to last. When their leases are up, many will close, move, or go online only. A current list can be seen here. Their number is probably already down from the peak number, which was over 300, an astounding number for such a small area of Manhattan, and more than there has ever been in any neighborhood in the world. Back in the day, Soho experienced a “boom” in the number of Art galleries opening. Today, not many remain. It’s hard to know what the future is in Chelsea. Some galleries have moved to the Lower East Side, Brooklyn, even to Midtown (traditionally more expensive). This will, no doubt, continue. Given that I believe the Art Market has, or will very shortly, peak, a downturn in prices may well be followed by a downturn in interest/demand, which would further exacerbate things. Time will tell. The Art market has gone down, a lot, in the past and recovered. Right now, though, many of the people in the Art market today have never experienced a large downturn in prices, so who knows how they will react.

High tide. West 24th Street on Nov 6, 2012, a few days after Hurricane Sandy flooded these Chelsea Galleries. How many will now survive the tide of rising rents?

As 2017 dawns, however, I expect one of the biggest years in memory in the NYC Art World. Blockbuster shows loom in the Museums, and the galleries are going strong. Both auger well for new records being set in Art attendance. I think it’s a good thing. For me? This is the reason I continue to live in Manhattan.

Making the rounds of the galleries and Museums to see Art shows before they end now reminds me of the days when I’d make the rounds of bars and clubs to see bands while they were there. Yes, back in the day there were often so many bands playing at the same time it was hard to juggle, unless they were all playing at the same place, I’d find myself going from CBGB downtown on the Bowery far uptown to the original, classy, Iridium on the same blind date. Now, I find myself going to see a similar range of extremely wide ranging Art on the same day so often I expect it.

Having seen the rise, peak and fall of live Music in NYC, I well know that the Art gallery scene here is likely to follow the same trajectory. The unknown factor is- how much longer will it last? Somewhere, Carly is singing…

“We can never know about the days to come
But we think about them anyway”*

Enjoy it now, while you can, Art lover, because these are “the good old days.”*

*- Soundtrack for this Post is “Anticipation,” by Carly Simon. Published by BMG Rights Management US, LLC.

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  1. Feel free to let me know if I’ve left one out. I know I have.
  2. like our supermarkets don’t receive now
  3. I touched on in in this one.

Art In The Subways Is Great, But The Big Question Looms

As the 100 years in the making Second Avenue Subway prepares to open it’s first segment on New Year’s Day, 2017, various media outlets not named were given a sneak-peak preview of the Art that has been, and is being, installed in the stations. I probably was sleeping, anyways.

I haven’t been sleeping, however, when it comes to appreciating the extraordinary “track” record (sorry) of the MTA’s Arts for Transit when it comes to choosing Artists and Art work for the Subway system since the 1980’s. Led by Director Sandra Bloodworth, they’ve done a job that deserves the thanks of all New Yorkers.

You can’t get there from here. Al Held’s “Passing Through,” Mosaic, 2004. Seen at the Lexington Avenue/53rd Street Station in 2015. Just one example of the MTA’s Arts for Transit’s superb choices.

Now, with the likes of Chuck Close, Sarah Sze, Vik Muniz and others, the 4 new stations on the 2nd Avenue Line (actually, an extension of the Q Line), will be aesthetic sites to behold, as you can see here, in the Times, and here. I note Cecily Brown, who occupied a bar stool adjacent to me a few years back, with her beau, is among Close’s portraits, now “immortalized,” or, at least, extremely hard to destroy.

Subway Star in the making, the great Chuck Close, who I ran into at the opening for “Ali Silverstein: To Put on the Edge, a Table,” on October 27 at Albertz Benda, is seen discussing her work with Ms. Silverstein.

While this is great news for my fellow masstransiteers, it leaves the biggest question looming. Actually, the 2 biggest questions-

What about Penn Station?
What about the Port Authority Bus Terminal?

BOTH of these need to be replaced, as I said. NOW! Will they be works of Art to equal the new PATH Station at the World Trade Center, which I called a Cathedral after my opening day visit?

While I laud the choices of Artists, Art Works and Medium1, what the MTA, City, State, and possibly Federal Agencies decides to do about Penn Station (and to a far, far lesser extent MSG, which currently sits on top of it), and the Port Authority are the two biggest urban design questions currently facing Manhattan.

Will we be lauding their decisions as supremely functional works of Art? Or will we continue to loathe every second we have to spend in either station?

I prefer to dream of what the possibilities are because we’ve already lived the nightmare for too long. But, my fears are still running a little bit ahead.

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  1. Mosiac is THE perfect choice, as Michelangelo himself once said- it will outlive ALL of us! If you want to see what I mean, there are mosaics from Ancient Rome in The Met that still look great!

A Tribe Called Quest- From Linden Boulevard To…Forever

When Q-Tip suddenly announced there would be a new, and final, album from A Tribe Called Quest coming out on November 11, you could have knocked me over with a cotton swab. Even after reading his hand written note a few times I still couldn’t believe it.

Did ANYONE see this coming? What would it be like? Afterall, one of it’s core members, Phife Dawg, passed away on March 22, as I mourned.

But, there I was November 15th, when I was finally able to get my hands on a download, and the experience was surreal. It reminded me of seeing “Eyes Wide Shut,” Stanley Kubrick’s unexpected last film, finished just before he died, on the day it opened, July 16, 1999. I was in the first row, and I’ll never forget the opening- on the huge black screen, big white letters appeared-




and, finally


A chill ran up my spine. Oh My God…Another Stanley Kubrick movie, TWELVE YEARS after “Full Metal Jacket” in 1987! Forever my personal favorite director, I NEVER expected to see another film by him ever again, and here it was…

I’m not making any comparisons here between Stanley Kubrick and ATCQ other than to say they both occupy large places in my heart, and to say these unexpected final works had a similar shocking effect on me. What would they add to the canon they’ve already created? What new would we learn? For me, Tribe had more “Jazz” going on than any other group I’d heard that wasn’t an actual “Jazz Group,” even though Q-Tip, himself, played this down after people started calling them “Hip-Hop Jazz.” It’s in there. Yes, they had a lot of a lot of things going on, it was the way their lyrics flowed like a solo, with the same freedom, the same unexpected, thrilling turns, the interplay, and, Q-Tip’s voice has a “Jazz” edge to it. I hear bits of singers like Eddie Jefferson,  and even Billie Holiday in Q-Tip’s style. Beyond this, in terms of production, lyrical content and their approach, Tribe stood apart and alone, as far as I was concerned. While they addressed serious topics, like date rape, drug dealing on “Everything Is Fair,” and even the music biz tell-all, “Show Business,” on the sublime “The Low End Theory,” nothing interrupts their flow, and the music overcomes all. If there was an overriding “message” I took from A Tribe Called Quest? That was it.

From “Low End Theory” on, I followed each one up with seeing them live. I even drove to Asbury Park, NJ to see them in a small bar. There were so many people there, people were standing on the seats of the booths that ran along the wall. I was among the row of people standing on the narrow curved shoulder of those booths, with my head inches from the ceiling. I also saw them on New Year’s Eve at the Palladium, with Leaders of the New School and DeLa Soul. The amazing thing about that gig for me was that Tribe performed with a live band! I had always dreamed of hearing Tribe with a live band of improvisors.

“My pops used to say it reminded him of be-bop.”

Yeah. That’s it. That’s what I mean.

“I said, well daddy don’t you know that things go in cycles”1


Seeing their name on a new album, again? It’s on 5 previous albums that are seminal to quite a few people’s lives. Each one was an event, a cause for marathon listenings and discussions, about the lyrics, the style, the tracks, the cover…all of it.

Here it is- “We got it from Here…Thank You for Your service.” Available direct.

And now, EIGHTEEN YEARS after ‘The Love Movement” came out in 1998 (which isn’t considered their best album in anyone’s estimation that I know of), that same “Eyes Wide Shut” feeling returned. I put it on, shut my wide eyes and listened….

First up? “The Space Program.” It starts with a sample from a pretty obscure “blaxploitation” film called “Willie Dynamite,” from 1974, that says-

“I’mma deal with a bigger insult,man
It’s comin’ down hard
We’ve got to get our sh*t together”

Hmmm….Auspiciously setting the stage right away. This sure isn’t “The Love Movement.” Then, Q-Tip AND Phife take over-

“It’s time to go left and not right
Gotta get it together forever
Gotta get it together for brother
Gotta get it together for sisters”*

I was in shock. I didn’t realize that Phife had lived to work on this. It was downright eerie hearing him, especially singing that verse, and then solo, with the line

“Gotta get it together for dead niggas…”*


Yeah. But now they’re talking about ‘forever.” As in “Gotta get it together forever.” Has anyone in any form of “popular music” said that since Bob Marley’s “Redemption Song“? That’s pretty serious. Between “The Space Program,” and especially on the following, “We The People,” I’ve never heard Q-Tip sound more serious. But wait. This is just getting started. After verses by Q-Tip & Jarobi, here’s the chorus, with Q-Tip rapping the lines not in parenthesis, which are sung by a chorus-

“(Move on to the stars)
There ain’t a space program for niggas
Yeah, you stuck here, nigga
(Move on to the stars)
There ain’t a space program for niggas
Yeah, you stuck here, nigga
(Move on to the stars)
There ain’t a space program for niggas
Yeah, you stuck here, nigga
(Move on to the stars)
There ain’t a space program for niggas
Yeah, you stuck, stuck, stuck
(Move on to the stars)”*

As I said, Tribe hasn’t been heard from since 1989, though Q-Tip has on his excellent solo albums (“The Renaissance” is especially highly recommended.), as has Phife on his (and word came down this week that his second solo album will be released posthumously!). But someone who has been heard from during their absence was the great Gil Scott-Heron, who died on May 28, 2011, and who some call a founding father of rap. He released the amazing “I’m New Here” in 2010, which was remixed by Jamie xx as “We’re New Here” and the posthumous “Nothing New,” in 2014. But, back in 1970, Gil Scott released a record called “Small Talk at 125th and Lenox,” that included the track, “Whitey On The Moon.” This was during the Apollo moon landings that began in July, 1969. Here are it’s lyrics-

“A rat done bit my sister Nell.
(with Whitey on the moon)
Her face and arms began to swell.
(and Whitey’s on the moon)
I can’t pay no doctor bill.
(but Whitey’s on the moon)
Ten years from now I’ll be payin’ still.
(with Whitey on the moon)
The man jus’ upped my rent las’ night.
(’cause Whitey’s on the moon)
No hot water, no toilets, no lights.
(but Whitey’s on the moon)
I wonder why he’s uppi’ me?
(’cause Whitey’s on the moon?)
I was already payin’ ‘im fifty a week.
(with Whitey on the moon)
Taxes takin’ my whole damn check,
Junkies makin’ me a nervous wreck,
The price of food is goin’ up,
An’ as if all that shit wasn’t enough”

Lyrics by Gil Scott-Heron and Published by Carlin America Inc.

It’s hard for me, anyway, not to think that Q-Tip and Tribe have heard it2, but they’ve taken the possible influence of Gil Scott’s classic into a galaxy far away. With all the talk by Elon Musk, and others, about going to Mars, Tribe have a point. A cynic would respond that those who don’t have the money to fund their trip to space will get there the same way those who didn’t in the past did- by taking the jobs those with the money don’t want to do. Still? It’s a song I can hear becoming an anthem years down the road. Along with “Whitey On The Moon,” it’s the second blues song of the space age (“Space Oddity,” “Rocket Man,” or “Subterranean Homesick Alien” notwithstanding.).

It’s also quite a departure for Tribe. They’ve never made a “statement” as blatant as this.

And? It isn’t the last one here.

The song ends with another movie sample, this one from “Willy Wonka,” featuring the voice of the late Gene Wilder saying-

“A small step for mankind
But a giant step for us
Oompa, loompa, doopa dee doo
I’ve got another puzzle for you.”*

The “A small step…” line is of course the first line uttered by Neil Armstrong on the moon, and as for Oompa, loompa, Urban Dictionary’s #10 definition of this references Donald Trump, who has also been referred to by this name by Jimmy Kimmel, Stephen Colbert & SNL…This goes right into the second track, “We the people…,” which brings the emphasis back to earth, and right up to the moment.

“We don’t believe you ‘cause we the people
Are still here in the rear, ayo, we don’t need you.”*

And it gets more intense from there, culminating in a chorus that led the Village Voice in their cover article on Tribe to call this the “Soundtrack for the Trump-ocalypse.”

Village Voice, November 22, 2016 cover. Q-Tip, Busta Rhymes, Consequence, and Jarobi clockwise from upper left



Here’s their official music video for it, which is sitting right at 2 million views as I write this-

Along the way, right in the middle of it, don’t miss this instant classic verse from Phife, that contains respect for women that Hip Hop rarely gets accused of showing-

“”Dreaming of a world that’s equal for women with no division
Boy, I tell you that’s vision
Like Tony Romo when he hitting Witten
The Tribe be the best in they division
Shaheed Muhammad cut it with precision
Who can come back years later, still hit the shot?”*

 It’s obvious, at least to me, that Tribe weren’t happy with the way “The Love Movement” stood as their final work. Phife is quoted on wikipedia as saying, circa 2007, about a possible Tribe reumion-
“Man, we was only 18–19 when we first got started. [When] We broke up we were still like 28. Now we are 35–36. It’d be real different being in the studio. It would be real interesting to see where Q-Tip is. It would all be on a much higher level. But we are all into such different stuff from way back then.”

Different in almost every way it is. Whereas previously they left grand political and cultural statements to Public Enemy (“Fight The Power,” etc),  and others. Not here. They’re saying it all for the record, on a record that is going to stand alongside their other albums and show anyone who listens what they were really all about.


Then again, there could be something else at work here. It could be “maturity,” that being 18 years older brings, as Phife said. It could be that it is, indeed, “comin’ down hard” now, perhaps as hard as it ever has. Or, it could be the influence of that other “D” word.

No. Not him.


The loss of, and respect for Phife is all over this record. On genius, Jarobi White was quoted as saying of him- “Doing this album killed him. And he was very happy to go out like that.”

What more could possibly be said?

“Lost Somebody” is one attempt to put some of it into words. Jarobi in Verse 2-

“Never thought that I would be ever writing this song.
Hold friends tight, never know when those people are gone.”*

Before the chorus comes in-

“Have you ever loved somebody?
Way befoe you got to dream?
No more crying, he’s in sunshine
He’s alright now, see his wings”*

Respect, and love, for Phife is constant and endlessly a part of this record, even when his voice isn’t heard. I’m not going to do a track by track of the whole album. We’d be here a very long time. Check it out for yourself. I will say that other highlights for me include guest spots by Andre 3000 on “Kids…,” a no pulled punches, straight up dispelling of the the imagined hip hop (or “star’s”) life, which includes the already famous line, “Kids, don’t you know how all this sh*t is fantasy?”*) is just amazing on a track that is already garnered significant buzz. Elton John, a sample of who’s “Benny & The Jets” forms the basis for “Solid Wall of Sound,” a unique, sonic marvel, which also includes Jack White’s guitar, before Elton winds it up with a new verse written for this record, and Abbey Smith on the addiction ode “Melatonin.” Like Tribe at it’s best, these tracks get under your skin and stay there.

It’s under my skin. That play count, on the right, is mounting a month in.

There are riches galore. It’s always an unexpected joy to hear Phife here, especially when paired with Q-Tip, his childhood friend, as it is to hear Busta Rhymes, who Tribe made famous. Another surprise- Q-Tip’s playing (on keyboards, bass, and/or drums!)  and fresh production carry the day throughout, pushing the production envelope the way classic Tribe did, which, as Questlove once said, we expect from Tribe.

Finally, there’s the title. “We got it from Here…Thank You 4 Your service,” which Phife, apparently, came up with. The band says they don’t know what he meant by it. The best guess I’ve heard so far(*) is that it’s a dedication to President Obama. Then again? The album’s release date, November 11 is, also, Veteran’s Day! Then, again? That’s one of the things I’ve missed so much these past EIGHTEEN years. Discussing every detail of this record and hearing all the different interpretations there are about it.

PostScript- On Saturday, November 19th, Phife was honored with having the intersection of Linden Blvd and 192 Street in Queens, NY named in his honor, which you can watch here.. R.I.P., Phife. Linden Boulevard, which Tribe immortalized, may never be better represent, represent-ed.

Thank YOU, A Tribe Called Quest. For YOUR Service.

*-All Lyrics, and starred insights are from “We got it from Here…Thank You 4 Your service” by A Tribe Called Quest are quoted from, with nary a publishing credit anywhere to be found.

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  1. Both quotes from “Excursions” by Ali Shaheed Jones-Muhammad, Malik Izaak Taylor, Kamaal Ibn John Fareed of A Tribe Called Quest,  Lyrics Published by Universal Music Publishing Group.
  2. Check out Q-Tip’s excellent vinyl collection here. I’ll bet $1. “Small Talk” is in it.

About Banner #4…

Banner #4

which finds the Nighthawk Downtown outside of Deitch Projects, along the cobblestones of 18 Wooster Street, currently the home of Ai Weiwei’s “Laundromat,” which can be glimpsed through the larger window. I’ve been busy making the rounds of the no less than FOUR Ai Weiwei shows currently up. All 4 shows close on December 23.


In the meantime, here’s a Post from early on that reminisces about my visits to Ai’s last big NYC Show, 2014’s “Ai Weiwei: According To What?” at the Brooklyn Museum.

(More soon.)


NoteWorthy Shows- November, 2016

Things are reaching a fever pitch in the Galleries as the year end approaches, with nary a Black Friday Gallery sale in sight, allowing me to sleep in this year. Still, there was plenty to see and be Thankful for, along with the usual smattering of turkeys, but let’s get right to dessert, shall we? As in October, here’s my list, in no particular order, of what I found NoteWorthy in November. Once again, each one of these deserves a longer, in depth piece that I’m not going to have time to do, but I would be remiss in not mentioning them at all. November, also, marked the end of the world as we know it, so…

The world looks different…Brian Dettmer’s “Western Civilizations 3,” 2016. A “Book Sculpture.” More below.

“Faberge from the Matilda Geddings Gray Foundation Collection” @ The Met- Will the artist in modern history who is a greater craftsman than Carl Faberge please stand up and make yourself known to me? Thank you. While I’m waiting on that, this is the first show of the work of Faberge in New York since 2004. As small as one of the details on his timeless (and priceless) masterpieces, this show in a hallway at The Met is easy to miss (countless thousands do just that as they wait in line for the elevator to the roof, right in front of this very show). Ms Gray began collecting Faberge in 1933, when prices for his work were cheaper than they will ever be again. Money aside, Faberge combines the equally rare gifts of ingenuity, vision, craftsmanship and delight in works that are a century old but have lost none of their grace, beauty or charm. Scheduled to end on November 27, this show has been extended until 2021, giving you plenty of time to see it.

“Imperial Lillies of the Fields Basket,” 1896, Yellow & green gold, silver, nephrite, pearl, rose-cut diamond. This is considered THE most important Faberge piece in the USA. It was presented to the wife of Czar Nicholas at her visit to the Pan-Russian Exposition in 1896. This is only 7 1/2  x 8 1/2 inches!

“Imperial Napoleonic Egg,” 1912, gold, enamel, rose-cut diamond, platinum, ivory, gouache, velvet, silk. One of the infamous “Faberge Eggs,” this was presented by the Czar to his wife for Easter, 1912. Designed to commemorate the 100th Anniv of victory over Napoleon. This is 4 5/8 inches tall! The inside is solid gold, and holds…

a six-panel screen depicting paintings of six regiments she was an honorary colonel in.

Description in next photo. Click any photo in this Blog to see it larger.

“Imperial Caucasus Egg,” for Easter, 1893. This is 3 1/2 inches high!

Easy to miss, this is the whole show!

“Joan Mitchell: Drawing Into Painting” @ Cheim Reade- Yet another good sized show of an Abstract Expressionist, “second generation” this time, and the most renowned female (Lee Krasner may be gaining on her) AbEx painter, right down the street from the blockbuster “Mark Rothko: Dark Passage” Show, it makes the perfect before or after bookend to it. I owned a Joan Mitchell print until a few years ago, so I lived with the energy and lyricism her work is known for. Looking around, her work is in most major museums, though it’s been 12 years since an American museum gave her a show. So, it’s been left to Cheim & Read to fill the gaps, and they’ve mounted Joan Mitchell shows every two years, or so, going back to the late 1990’s. This one does make for fascinating pairing with the Rothko show- they couldn’t be more different, while sharing what the scholars call Abstract Expressionism, I’ve heard some of the Artists, including Philip Guston, say they prefer the term “New York School.”

“UNTITLED,” 1958, oil on canvas

“LA GRANDE VALLEE XVI POUR IVA,” 1983, oil on canvas

“UNTITLED,” 1982. oil on canvas

“Man Ray: Continued and Noticed” @ Francis Naumann- It’s been too long between Man Ray shows. Readers already know my fondness for Man Ray. Francis Naumann Gallery opened 15 years ago with a Man Ray show, so they revisited him for this anniversary show and they did it in style. Man Ray was so prolific, and so prolifically diverse he can be hard to “sum up” in a gallery show, but this one was an out and out winner, a must see, especially for anyone who thinks of Ray as “only” a ground breaking photographer. While featuring a wonderful selection of his photos, portraits and “Ray-o-grams,” it also included his drawing, painting, sculpture, writing, and even no less than 2 Ray designed chess sets.

“Paletteable,” 1969

The great Man (Ray). Self-Portrait, 1948. A card under speaks of his concerns in his early work- “1) a defiance of artistic convention replaced by steadfast commitment to absolute freedom in the arts.” That says it all.

…and seen again. “Autoportrait,” 1917/70, Screen print on plexiglass. Really? Hmmm…

…and again. “Self Portrait,” 1914

Yes, that’s one of the chess sets Man Ray designed to the left of the chair.

“Lampshade,” center, surrounded by an astounding range of creativity.

“Philip Guston: Laughter in the Dark, Drawings from 1971  & 1975” @ Hauser & Wirth- There was no more auspiciously timed show than this one which not only brings us the 73 drawings Philip Guston selected for his “Poor Richard” series but 100 additional drawings that didn’t make the cut and 3 wonderful paintings that are related or have relevance to them. Opening exactly 4 months after Hauser’s last Guston show, it would be very very hard to find work more different than those in seen in “Philip Guston Painter, 1957-67,” which I wrote about here, perhaps the “darkest” of his career, in many ways. Though the show’s title refers to the presence of “laughter” here, make no mistake it is more than tinged with darkness, especially because viewing them now, we know how things turned out for Nixon. These were dark times for the country, and many of these drawings were Guston’s “at the moment” reaction to unfolding events. Even before Watergate, the Nixon Presidency was not without a sizable opposition, for more reasons than the seemingly endless war in Vietnam. Everything about Nixon rubbed many people the wrong way, and provided a brilliant Artist ample fodder for “political satire” of the highest order. Most interestingly, for me, these are works in which Guston turns his focus outwards for, perhaps, the only time in his post 1940’s career. “Poor Richard” was published in 2001 and is still in print. You can see it here.

The 73 drawings that Guston selected for “Poor Richard” are shown, here (and below), together.

Title Page. Guston Depicts Nixon with VP Spiro Agnew (triangular skull), Attorney General John Mitchell (with his pipe) and Advisor Henry Kissenger (as glasses) as the cast of characters

Guston’s series begins with young Richard Nixon.

“Jeff Elrod: This Brutal World” @ Luhring Augustine- Chelsea & Brooklyn Galleries. It pains me not to write a longer piece on this. Jeff Elrod has been at the cusp of reinventing painting by combining digital drawing and computers with the end result of that stage outputted to canvas.where it may, or may not be combined with analog, old fashioned painting (at least those on display here). Dealing with blurriness from my recent eye treatment, my initial reaction was, “Hmmmm…If I close my right eye, my good eye, this is how the world looks to me these days.” But, I was drawn back repeatedly, even compelled to make the (unheard of for me) trip to Brooklyn to see the Bushwick segment of this show. In both locations, the effect was the same- I couldn’t get them out of my mind. They’re like something you see when you’re not really looking, or when you’re not fully awake after dreaming, or about to fall asleep…My initial reaction was “This looks easy to do on a computer. Take a photo, blur the heck out of part of it in Photoshop. Add a layer of a frenzied drawing and output to canvas. Then, I remember people say the same thing about Pollock and Rothko, yet no one else has done them. Some works remind me of passages of Monet, some of Yves Tanguay. But not really. They weren’t created like those were and so they don’t look like anything else. Mr. Elrod’s work commands some fancy prices. Ah well…They’re much too big for my place, anyways. If there’s a “cutting edge” in painting in 2016, Jeff Elrod’s work is the closest I’ve seen to being on it. I’m very much looking forward to seeing where this is going.

“Auto-Focus,” 2016 UV Ink on Canvas 9064 inches. Mystifyingly alluring.

“Rubber-Miro,” 2015 Acrylic and UV Ink on canvas. His uniquely shaped canvases give the work a different feel from most square/rectangular paintings.

“Rake-Adaptable,” 2016 UV Ink on FIscher canvas. The ghost of Robert Motherwell? “Haunting” is a word his work brings to my mind most often.

“Under The Skin,” 2016 UV Ink on canvas, 108 x 84 inches.

“Plume,” 2016 as seen in Bushwick, Brooklyn. 16 1/4 feet long by 9 1/2 feet tall.

After countless visits, I began to “see” “Jeff Elrods” everywhere I went. Like here-

Life Mirrors Art.

Honorable Mention- “Brian Dettmer: Dodo Data Dada” @ P.P.O.W. Mr. Dettmer creates “Book Sculptures,” something new to me. As far as I can tell, he takes a scalpel to a book, or books, and carves away all but what he wants to remain. I’ve never seen anything quite like it.

“Funk and Wag,” 2016. As in, the whole encyclopedia.

“Ew Ass,” 2016

PostScript.- And meanwhile, over at Gagosian, Richard Serra’s MASSIVE “Every Which Way,” 2015, all 16 slabs of it was coming down, making way for the next show there…

Richard Serra, “Every Which Way,” 2015 @ Gagosian

*-Soundtrack for this Post is “It’s The End Of The World (As We Know It)” by Michael Stipe, Mike Mills, Peter Buck and Bill Berry of R.E.M. and published by Warner/Chappell Music, Inc and Universal Music Publishing Group, from their 1987 album “Document.”

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Six Years Ago, Today…

this amazing photo was taken by Oli Scarff of Getty Images during the protest in London’s Parliament Square on December 9, 2010. (Mouse over it to read the caption)

Ever since I discovered it while researching my Post on The Smiths & Johnny Marr, I haven’t been able to get it out of my mind. I think it’s the most powerful music-related image I’ve seen so far this young century. And yes, that Ellen Wood is wearing a Smiths shirt in it, puts it over the top for me.  So, today, in honor of Ms. Wood, I’d like to send “Hand In Glove” from “Hatful of Hollow,” who’s cover image is on her shirt, out to her-

“Hand in glove
The sun shines out of our behinds
No, it’s not like any other love
This one is different, because it’s us

Hand in glove
We can go wherever we please
And everything depends upon
How near you stand to me

And if the people stare, then the people stare
Oh, I really don’t know and I really don’t care

Kiss my shades, oh

Hand in glove
The good people laugh
Yes, we may be hidden by rags
But we’ve something they’ll never have

Hand in glove
The sun shines out of our behinds
Yes, we may be hidden by rags
But we’ve something they’ll never have

And if the people stare, then the people stare
Oh, I really don’t know and I really don’t care

Kiss my shades, oh

So, hand in glove I stake my claim, I’ll fight
To the last breath

If they dare touch a hair on your head, I’ll fight
To the last breath

For the good life is out there somewhere
So stay on my arm, you little charmer

But I know my luck too well
Yes, I know my luck too well
And I’ll probably never see you again
I’ll probably never see you again
I’ll probably never see you again
Oh, oh, oh, oh
Oh, oh, oh, oh
Oh, oh, oh, oh”*

Ellen Wood was one among thousands of students protesting government proposals to let universities triple tuition fees that day. I apologize to her for taking this image a bit out of context to focus on what she’s wearing. In the only interview I’ve found with her to date, from 2011, she says-

“I feel the country is spiralling backwards into hopelessness, etc, etc. I am just like millions of other people who love The Smiths. ”

The resulting photo might not have been enough to get Morrissey & Marr to reunite The Smiths, but it gives me a lot of hope for the world, a lot of hope that the power of Art & Music to make a meaningful impact on people’s lives is still with us.

Today, it’s 6th anniversary, strikes me as a good day to remember that, especially at a time when hope seems to be in short supply.

(You can see more of Mr. Scarff’s amazing photos taken that day, here.)

*-Soundtrack for this Post is “Hand In Glove,” by Morrissey & Johnny Marr from “Hatful of Hollow,” published by Warner/Chappel Music, Inc., Universal Music Publishing Group.

Please send comments, thoughts, feedback or propositions to denizen at
Click the white box on the upper right, for the archives, to search, or to subscribe.
This Post was created by Kenn Sava for