Winterlude: Homage To “The Gates”

Note- This Post is also be my “NoteWorthy Art Shows, February, 2017” Post. The most “NoteWorthy” Show I saw this month just happened to be outdoors. (Yes, NoteWorth January is coming.) What follows is, also, something “different” for this site. 

This month marks the 12th Anniversary of the Art Installation “The Gates,” by the Artists Christo & Jeanne-Claude, in Central Park in February, 2005.

February 12, 2005, Opening Day of “The Gates,” Central Park, NYC

February 21, 2005

I took those two week off so I could try to see all  23 miles of it. It culminated with my being very fortunate to stumble upon the Artists, on a hilltop, on the very last night of it as they watched it’s final sunset, together. I wondered what they were thinking watching the climax of the gigantic project they had begun in 1979. For me, it was an unforgettable moment capping a once in a lifetime experience.

“Time, time, time
See what’s become of me…”*

The High Line, February, 2017. Click to enlarge any photo on this site.

Walking around a different NYC Park, The High Line, this February, twelve years later, often with no one else in sight, I couldn’t help remember what Christo & Jeanne-Claude said about why they chose February to hold “The Gates.” They mentioned that “their free hanging saffron colored fabric panels seemed like a golden river appearing through the bare branches of the trees.”

“Look around
Leaves are brown
And the sky
Is a Hazy Shade of Winter”*

The photos I present here are meant to be taken individually, as what they are- isolated scenes from a large landscape, and so as individual works themselves (please click on the image to see it full size), and also to be taken as a group that tries to give a sense of the larger experience. They were all taken in February, 2017.

 

 

 

 

“Look around
Grass is high
Fields are ripe
It’s the springtime of my life”*

While there was no saffron to be seen, there was, indeed, “a golden river,” a natural one, utterly magnificent to be seen. It was as if nature, herself, was remembering…

 

 

 

 

 

The High Line is, of course, one of NYC’s newer Parks, and, a public work of Art in itself- Even in the dead of winter. Frankly? I can’t recall ever seeing it as beautiful.

“Seasons change with their scenery
Weaving time in a tapestry
Won’t you stop and remember me?”*

 

 

 

Since nature seemed to be doing it without prompting, I have no choice but to take the hint and dedicate this Post to Christo, and the memory of the late Jeanne Claude, both of whom I had the honor to meet once, before “The Gates,” as my way of saying “Thank you,” for them, and the 25 years of effort & dedication it took to get “The Gates” to happen.

After all, Art doesn’t just happen. Unless, it does.

*-The Soundtrack for this Post is “Hazy Shade of Winter,” by Paul Simon and recorded by Simon & Garfunkel on “Bookends.” Lyrics published by Universal Music Publishing Group.

Please send comments, thoughts, feedback or propositions to denizen at nighthawknyc.com.
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This Post was created by Kenn Sava for www.nighthawknyc.com

NYC Art Shows 2016- Sheena Wagstaff Rules The Waves

This year past, Manhattan Art was largely dominated by two themes. There was a seemingly continual string of shows by many of the bigger names in Abstract Expressionism (i.e. AbEx), one after the other, and I wrote about every one of them, beginning with Jackson Pollock @MoMA, Lee Krasner, Philip Guston (two- here and here), Richard Pousette-Dart, Joan Mitchell and Mark Rothko, along with a few excellent satellite compilation shows, each in a different venue, which, apparently is continuing into 2017 with Jackson Pollock set to open at the Guggenheim, completing the circle, for now. It was also a year of Women Artists getting important shows. Patti Smith, Nasreen Mohamedi, Diane Arbus, Cindy Sherman, Marilyn Minter1, June Leaf, Carmen Herrera, Nan Goldin, Mary Bauermeister, Carrie Mae Weems, Latoya Ruby Frazier, Krasner and Mitchell were only some of the highlights. Still? Artists weren’t the only women making a big impact on the NYC Art Scene in 2016. In fact, for my money, the biggest impact of all was made by another woman, The Met’s Chairwoman of Modern & Contemporary (M&C) Art, Sheena Wagstaff.

As far as I’m concerned, no other single person had the impact on NYC Art, all year long, that Ms. Wagstaff and her department did.

Sheena Wagstaff was named Chairwoman of TM’s M&C Department on January 20, 2012. Four years later, her 2016 began with putting finishing touches on TM’s new “branch Museum,” The Met Breuer (TMB), the first “branch” The Met has opened since The Cloisters in 1926! No pressure there. As it was about to open, ostensibly as the showcase for The Met’s “new” M&C Art iniatative, The Times’ Roberta Smith put the situation perfectly into perspective, speaking about the task Ms. Wagstaff faced/faces-

“But the Met is huge and old, with a history of treating contemporary art as an afterthought. Getting it to change is like turning around an ocean liner.” Roberta Smith, NYT, March 3, 2016.

It sailed into it’s mid- March opening with 2 shows- “Unifnished: Thoughts Left Visible,” a veritable Museum in itself covering 2 full floors (the third and fourth), and, easy to overlook, tucked away on the second floor, “Nasreen Mohamedi,” the first American Retrospective of the Indian woman artist who passed away in 1990, aged 53. Wait…Who? Yeah. Me, too.

Met Breuer, Opening Lineup, March 8, 2016. 11 months on? The 5th Floor is now gallery space, the 1st Floor Gallery is now the Gift Shop. Those 2 shows? They live on, indelibly. Notice that for all of Art History that’s represented in “Unfinished,” the signature image chosen is by Alice Neel, a woman, of “James Hunter Black Draftee”

Vijay Iyer (piano, left) performs with his trio. Met Breuer, Member’s Opening Day, March 8, 2016.

The first members of the public get to see “Unfinished” on March 8, 2016. That tiny drawing on the far opposite wall is by Michelangelo.

After over 15 visits later, to my eyes, “Nasreen Mohamedi” was nothing less than 1) an epiphany. Here was an Artist who was a Major figure in Art in the 20th Century who’s name exists in not one Art History survey that I know of.

I now haunt these galleries, in my memory.

2) Therefore, it was easily one of the best shows of the year, and 3) the more I think about it, for many reasons, it was one of the best shows I’ve seen in years.

Most Memorable Art Work of the Year. Nasreen Mohamedi “Untitled,” circa 1970. When I first saw it, I thought it was a piece of fabric. Nope. This is a DRAWING.

Detail (about 10″ x 6″). Two amazing things about this- 1- The superhuman focus & manual skill on display. 2- The disease that would kill her would take these incomparable motor skills first, and shortly.

The subtlety, uniqueness and micro/macro impact of Nasreen Mohamedi’s drawings is seemingly without precedent. They speak to the “grand design” of the universe, while also giving the feeling that they are somehow familiar, though they are not.

 

Some call this work “The Seven Planes of Existence.” All her works were left untitled and undated, only 5 here were signed. Many were given to friends as gifts. She created most while dealing with an illness that would kill her family members, then rob her of her skills, and eventually kill her, as well.

Also an accomplished photographer, I find her photos every bit as wondrous as her work in other mediums. Each “Untitled,” ca. 1970

Closeup of the photo on the right. What exactly are we looking at?

I spent an hour sitting right next to Sheena Wagstaff at a “Nasreen Mohamedi Symposium,” at The Met 5th Avenue in June. After it was over, I had the chance to speak to her. All I could say to her was “Thank you,” for Nasreen Mohamedi, which gave me the chance to discover her. Then, I told her she had made “the perfect choice” to begin M&C Art at TMB.

Sheena Wagstaff, right, Met curator Brinda Kumar, center, and an Artist who’s name I didn’t get, left, at the Nasreen Mohamedi Symposium, June 3 at The Met. Ms. Wagstaff then sat down immediately to my right.

Six month later, I stand by those words.

Think about how much guts it took to make that call. How daring it was. TMB famously costs The Met 15 million dollars a year to operate. The Met, reportedly, ran a deficiet in 2016, costing jobs.  To say “a lot” was, and is, riding on the success of TMB would be an understatement. Not to mention TM’s world leading prestige. “Nasreen Mohamedi” was followed by “diane arbus: in the beginning.” Perhaps it would have been “safer” to have run Diane Arbus first. Maybe. Probably. I’m glad it was Sheena Wagstaff’s call (along with the rest of TM’s powers that be), and they chose Nasreen Mohamedi.

A page from one of her diaries. She blotted out much of what she had written. I wonder why. They left these patterns, reminiscent of her drawings.

The show was, apparently, a labor of love for Ms. Wagstaff. Hidden away in the very last gallery, in an iPad on the tables where visitors could peruse the now out of print and rare catalog, were some of the few extant photos from Ms. Mohamedi’s life. One of the last photos was a photo of Nasreen Mohamedi’s unmarked grave. I marvelled that someone had found it and photographed it. I looked for the credit to see who the photographer was. Sheena Wagstaff.

“Nasreen Mohamedi” was more than a terrific show. It was a statement. What was as easy to miss as the show itself was, as visitors made a bee line to see the copious treasures upstairs, it was more. It was the “answer” to the question about where Ms. Wagstaff was likely to steer The Met’s “new M&C initiative” going forward. As such, it was a shot over the bow of the future.

The future of M&C Art at The Met, and The Met Breuer, appears to be international, and inclusive. I expect more of the unexpected, more of the unknown and under-known. Bring it on. MoMA is running on all cylinders, putting on shows that are spectacular. It’s good for them, the Whitney, The Guggenhim, et al, to have some competition in M&C Art from The Met, and for us.

While “Nasreen Mohamedi” was blowing my mind on the 2nd floor, upstairs on 3 & 4, “Unfinished” was blowing everyone’s who saw it. Right off the elevator on 3, you make a right and in a small gallery you’re confronted by Leonardo da Vinci AND Michelangelo (all too rarely seen together in this hemisphere), AND Jan Van Eyck, and a few other works I can’t even remember because my mind was already overloaded. Oh yeah, some guy named Durer did one. This was TM “showing off,” as I read Ms. Wagstaff say in an interview. Boy, did they. The rest of the show had a roster that would make 90% of all other whole Museums in the USA jealous.

For a New York Minute, Michelangelo, left, and two Leonardos were on display in “Unfinished,” as the show opened. The triumvirate was soon broken up, no doubt due to the fragility of the works.

So? Ok. This was a “fail safe” show. Ms. Wagstaff was by no means finished.

Rembrandt & Velazquez- the two greatest Painters who ever lived, according to many, very rarely seen side by side.

After Nasreen closed, “diane arbus: in the beginning” came in on 2, with an installation unique in art & photography shows in my experience. Every piece got it’s own wall. Yup. You read that right. Over 100 pieces. Over 100 walls. Amazing. No beginning. No ending. The point being that it was all her beginning.

A rare shot of Tatsuo Miyajima’s “Arrow of Time,” on view in TMB’s first floor gallery. The only show to take place there before it became the gift shop.

After “Unfinished,” the year at TMB ended with another blockbuster success- “Kerry James Marshall: Mastry.” This is the kind of show that makes you wonder WHY it took so long for Mr. Marshall to be so recognized. He’s been creating at a very high level for a long time. It was only 3 years ago that he was showing at the always excellent Jack Shainman Gallery in Chelsea. But? Not everyone was sleeping on KJM. Walking through this show it’s a sad feeling for a New Yorker to read the tags and see great work after great work that belongs to Chicago or Los Angeles. Not even MoMA has stepped up to a large degree with Kerry James Marshall. TM FINALLY got a major work of his last year.

The beginning of “Kerry James Marshall: Mastry.” In many ways, this was the show of the year.

Now? It’s probably too late.

This, unfortunately, highlights one area where much work remains to be done. The Met’s collection is sorely lacking the work of M&C Masters. As I recently pointed out, as far as I know, they own no work by Ai Weiwei. no work by Nasreen Mohamedi, and only one work (albeit a very, very good one) by Kerry James Marshall (and this was only acquired in 2015), to name but 3 cases. Frankly? I find this shameful. TM recently elected three new trustees, two of which are M&C specialists, so hope springs eternal for a little more wind to be added to those sails.

New York had until January 29 to enjoy seeing a lot of KJM in one place. (My piece is coming soon.) Now? It’s going to be a long wait. Los Angeles? You get your chance beginning March 12.

So? By my scorecard, that’s 4 shows in 9 months that will be remembered and talked about for a very long time, including no less than TWO that were major breakthroughs for the Artists- Nasreen Mohamedi and Kerry James Marshall2, putting both in the pantheon of the Artists who belong in our greatest Museums.

But? Ms. Wagstaff, who struck me as having so much energy, downtown NYC could have used her during the Hurricane Sandy Blackout, still wasn’t finished. Over at 1000 Fifth Avenue…(remember The Met’s Main Building?), she and her staff have also rehung TM’s M&C Galleries there, and done an amazing job.

While at sea, mind the lighthouse! Edward Hopper’s iconic “The Lighthouse at Two Lights,” 1929, receives pride of place in TM’s newly rehung M&C Galleries. Which reminds me- Sheena Wagstaff edited the Tate’s 2004 Edward Hopper Show catalog.

Works have come out of storage that haven’t been seen there in…?, and some, thankfully, have gone there in their stead. The arrangements are new, too. Themes take the place of chronological arrangements in many rooms, while the AbEx Galleries still remain largely together, but subtly ammended. We get to see, what I consider to be, a major work by Philip Guston that I never knew TM owned! Other works are given new prominence, notably Edward Hopper’s famous “The Lighthouse at Two Lights,” and Richard Pousette- Dart’s “Symphony No. 1- The Transcendental,” (photo, here, further down the page.)

In this one gallery, I was shocked to discover works by Pousette-Dart (“Path of the Hero,” 1950, right) and Philip Guston (left, and below) that I didn’t even know The Met owned because they haven’t shown them!

Philip Guston, “Performers,” 1947. WHERE has this been? With one foot in his past, and one in his future, for my money, this is one of the most important periods of Guston’s career, and very few works from it exist, after he destroyed most. A major Guston.

The result is a veritable breath, no, wind of fresh air throughout. More wind for the sails of that S.S. Met Roberta Smith wrote about.

Sheena Wagstaff had a great year, in my book. Here’s to her. May the wind be at her back. That sound you heard in January was my giving a major sigh of relief at the news that we didn’t lose her when the Tate Museums chose a new Director (Ms. Wagstaff was Chief Curator at Tate Modern before she joined The Met).

P H E W…

Elsewhere, in the big City…

Other Museums and Galleries, of course, put on shows that linger in the memory, and I would be remiss in not including them. In addition to Nasreen Mohamedi’s, another Retrospective tried to make the case for it’s Artist’s place in the canon on 20th Century Art History, and wildly succeeded, in my opinion- “Bruce Conner: It’s All True” @ MoMA  Though he spent some time early in his career in NYC3, he, and his work, were rarely seen here after, and as a result, seeing this broad & in-depth look at his accomplishment over a mind-bending number of mediums was nothing less than a bombshell in it’s impact on myself, and I suspect many other New Yorkers. The depth, the staggering detail in the work (most famously in his films, but we see here it was carried over in most of his other work in other genres.), the mediums he probably invented, (like the music video), techniques he created or mastered, and on and on. This show was a capstone on a great year for shows at MoMA. “Picasso Sculpture,” “Edgar Degas: A Strange New Beauty,” were must see/won’t soon forget in their own right. Bravo, MoMA. Now? About that building and the new one on the way…

Picasso, “Owl,” seen in “Picasso Sculpture.” One sure way to make this list? Include an Owl in your show. ; – )

In the galleries, what lingers with me were Ai Weiwei’s return to NYC at long last with 4 concurrent shows, “Mark Rothko: Dark Passage,” “Patti Smith: 18 Stations,“Philip Guston: Laughter in the Dark,” “Stuart Davis: In Full Swing,” at the Whitney, and “William Eggleston: The Democratic Forest” (mostly for the chance to study his work at length, which only made me want to look again). And, I always enjoy the chance to be captivated by someone I previously didn’t know, like the amazing Sydney Cash at Heller Gallery, or the up and coming Robert Currie at Bryce Walkowitz- both of who share a fascinating ability to make you see things that aren’t really there.

Sydney Cash’s “Split Selfie,” 2016, oversees two of his other works that no photo can “capture,” at Heller Gallery. See them better here. When you watch, remember all that’s happening is the viewer moves slightly side to side.

And finally, personally, the chance to meet Patti Smith and Sheena Wagstaff, or run into Chuck Close, were things that remain rich, as much for the opportunity to speak with them as for what I learned from each encounter.

All of these experiences reminds me that in the final analysis? Art is personal. For every one of us.

*-Soundtrack for this Post is “Andy Warhol” by David Bowie (who we lost this year, and who is Ms. Wagstaff’s fellow countryman, and an Art collector), from his classic album “Hunky Dory.”

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

  1. in 3 shows- 2 in Manhattan, 1 at the Brooklyn Museum, as part of their “Reimagining Feminism” Series
  2. It must be noted that “KJM: Mastry” is a show organized by The Museum of Contemporary Art, L.A. the Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago, and The Met.
  3. when legend has it he was denied entrance to MoMA for the opening of a show that included one of his works.

Cancer Saved My Life

I grew up in a pre-determined life.

An empty lot? No, this is the box I grew up in. Click any image for full size.

I existed to follow in my father’s footsteps. The problem was that I had absolutely no inclination, or desire to do so.  Right through high school graduation there was never one iota of thought or discussion given to thinking “he might want his own life” by my family. After I escaped, by going on the road with a band, my family actively worked against my efforts trying to force me to come back to their plan. I disowned them in 2005. Lots of lonely holiday seasons have followed. By then, the die had been cast. I wound up knee deep in a career I never wanted to be in just to survive.

I know how he feels.

Finally, I dug myself out and got back to having a career in music, which went very well, until I got fed up with the record business (back when there was a record business), but that’s a story unto itself. Then, in 2007, I was diagnosed with cancer. I got the news, the results of my biopsy done the previous week, over the phone while I was sitting in my office.

“How was your weekend?,” the doctor asked quite casually. “Good,” I said. “That’s the good news. The bad news is that you have cancer,” were his exact words.

Time stopped. The clock read a little after noon as I recall.

I could see the blurred shapes of my coworkers walking in front of the glass walls of my office who’s door was closed, but, after those words, that room symbolized how I felt. It felt like I was in this box surrounded by immediate circumstances- this diagnosis and my job. It felt like a room I’d never been in before. The world was going on outside of it, beyond the glass walls. I could see out the window across the hallway and see sunlight coming down the narrow street, shining on the windows on the other side, a few hundred feet distant.

I was in a different world now.

Life was closing in on me, putting me in a box. No stranger to spending a lot of time alone, I was now in a  world inside myself, more fully than I had ever been before.

After giving me my diagnosis on the phone, he said you really should come in to talk. “Yeah. I guess so,” I remembered saying. I was barely listening at this point. Disbelief is the first thing that hits you.

A few days later I went to meet with him, he sat down, and said to me “I had to show your slides to my colleagues. We’ve never this before.”

Huh?

What could possibly be worse? To get a diagnosis with cancer, THEN the doctor tells you “we’ve never seen this before.”

!?

Apparently all 15 of my biopsy cores came back with cancer. I asked “Are you sure those are my slides?” He said yes, and I don’t remember anything of the meeting after that. It was like a window shade rolled down over my mind after that, like it had been glazed over. I walked out of the hospital, in a daze and crossed insanely busy Park Avenue (which runs both ways) a few hundred feet north of 14th Street in the middle of the day without even looking to see if traffic was coming! Somehow I made it across to Union Square. To this day I have no idea how I got there. I walked back to work at 2 PM. My boss, Rob, who would become a good friend, and the only one I had told at work, came in and sat in my office, he looked at me and asked me if I was OK. I don’t remember responding, just sitting there in that space deep inside of myself still in shock.

Cancer? And? It’s bad?

I’ve never really been sick a day in my life. I’ve never had surgery. I’ve never spent the night in a hospital. There was no cancer in my family. I broke a bone in my hand once, I messed up my knee a little bit, I destroyed the hearing in my left ear playing in the band, and I destroyed my feet wearing rock ‘n’ roll shoes onstage made by the guys who made Kiss’ famous boots. That’s been the extent of my health issues in my life. To be diagnosed with cancer, and have to work your way through the biology, the medicine, the treatment options, the incredibly incomprehensible technology, and try to figure out, alone, what is the best treatment for you, is the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do.

Shock was the first stage for me, and it was quite a while before I got over it. Looking back now, it was years before I got over the shock that yes, I have cancer. Growing up, cancer was a death sentence. One thing I learned that even then, in 2007, most people I eventually told, treated me like I was going to die.

I was alone as I’ve ever been. Why is there even a light on?

Given all my responsibility at work, I didn’t say a word to anyone else there about any of this. A few days later my boss, Rob, came in and announced he was leaving. ! What? Are you serious? He got a better offer. The owner of the company, who still didn’t know, wound up giving me his job. He was the CFO of the 3 corporations with offices in 3 states! He was making $150,000 more than I was making. I was the Controller, but I wasn’t a CPA, which he was. And? I didn’t get a raise.

I had to deal with researching treatment options, not to mention the strain of being newly diagnosed with cancer, while learning his job, at the end of the year with a financial closing period looming for three corporations. I don’t know how I got through all of that. I had two full-time jobs.

Well? At least I didn’t have to worry about “celebrating” the holidays!

I did my due diligence, learned as much as I could, got four opinions, and then decided on the treatment. And then? Every cancer patient’s worst nightmare happened. I picked the WRONG treatment. I chose to have hormone therapy followed by two types of radiation treatment. That’s 3 treatments. Why? Because I just didn’t want to have surgery. People die during surgery.

So, at peace with my choice, that I had avoided surgery, I went back to the hospital to begin my treatment. The doctor who had diagnosed me sat nearby holding the needle with the hormones in it about 2 inches from my left arm. He said, “You know you’re not going to have any libido for twice as long as you’re going to be on this, right?” The treatment was scheduled to take 2 years. So? That was four years. “Um, what? No. I didn’t know that.” I had asked the question during the original meeting, but didn’t ask the right follow up question. Uggh!

I stopped him. He, basically, saved my life right there.

I went home devastated. After all of this, all of these opinions, all of this research I had made a mistake!

The writing on the wall SCREAMING at me. These letter are about as big as the mistake I made.

This treatment plan was chosen for the WRONG reason- basically, for my comfort. Since it wasn’t surgery, it was in my comfort zone. Ok. So? Now what, Kenn? The cancer is still here.

I had no choice but to start over. Square one.

Going to back to the beginning, I had to face that the most basic fact was the one I wasn’t focused on COMPLETELY. And that is-

Cancer was trying to kill me. This was WAR.

I then asked myself a hard, fundamental and essential question- What do you want to accomplish through treatment? There was only one answer. Get ALL the cancer out of my body as quickly as possible, via the means with the longest track record of proven results. By that I mean long term survival rates free of cancer.

A woman reached out to me online to tell me about her husband’s story. He had been treated and it hadn’t gone well. He had bad side effects after, and both of their lives were now negatively impacted, every day, by them. Then, she said, “If I had to do it over again, I’d insist he go to Dr. Samadi.” Who? He’s a surgeon. Since my treatment choice had turned out to be WRONG, I decided to consider surgery even though, yes, “people die during surgery.”

Umm..? People die from cancer, too, Kenn! MANY more people.

You want your best chance of getting cancer out of your body and possibly beating this horrible disease? Surgery was my best choice. (Mine. Every diagnosis is different. I am not a doctor and I am certainly not giving medical advice here. What worked for me may not for someone else. There are side effects from any treatment, and they are just one factor that needs to be carefully considered.) I was still young enough that if surgery didn’t work I could have radiation treatment(s) after. In my case, I couldn’t do it the other way around. I posted on a cancer support website asking who other patients thought was the best surgeon in NYC. About 20 people responded in 24 hours. Dr. Samadi got 3 votes. No one else got more than 1. The next day Dr. Samadi, himself, contacted me through the website.

“Hello. With your diagnosis, I can treat you and your prognosis will be excellent.”

Huh? What “good” doctor is on the internet looking for patients?

I didn’t respond. My bias against using the internet for this returned. What was I thinking looking for a cancer doctor ONLINE? The road to help, and an answer, felt endless…cold, lonely. It was November, outside and the dead of winter in my soul.

Life lies dormant on The HighLine in February. The path stretches far out ahead into the cold night…

About this time my friend, Fluffy, told me to try Columbia Presbyterian. President Clinton had been treated there. So? Being as Dr. Samadi was there, and with these other recommendations, I decided to call his office.

No one returned my call. ?

I decided to finally write back to him and tell him I tried. He said, “I’m leaving on a trip tomorrow at 1:30pm. Just come to my office and I will get you in.” Without an appointment? Again, irregular. But? Ok. I did. He did. Opinion #5.

I was impressed with every thing about him. He told me he could give me a triple golden outcome (i.e. be free of cancer with no serious side effects). An expert in the (then) new robotic surgery, he also had had state of the art training, and experience, in the two other, time tested types of surgery. Should the robot somehow fail, he could switch to one of them without missing a beat and complete the operation. No other doctor I knew of in NYC could do that. He had treated many patients successfully (I would speak to some). He seemed to have every base covered. The robotic surgery seemed to promise minimal incisions leading to a quicker recovery. I left feeling I didn’t want anyone else to touch me. I realized later that that feeling of ultimate confidence is something you MUST have in a doctor you choose to treat you! I decided then and there to make an appointment to have Dr. Samadi operate on me. I had done a 360 on surgery. Let’s go! It was the third week of November. The earliest appointment was in March!

What? Let me get this straight-

He’s booked FOUR MONTHS in advance AND still took time to offer his help (to me) online? Wow. Now? I was in awe. It felt like a hand had come out of the sky and plucked me out of the worst nightmare of my life. “Just get on the schedule and I will move you up,” he said, as my condition required quicker treatment.

He operated on me on February 7, 2007. 10 years ago today.

4 hours later, my eyes partially opened. The bottom half of my closed eyes revealed light. I slowly opened them more. There were trees, branches and sunlight. Where was I? It was early February. This wasn’t winter. This was spring. Around this narrow opening of light, it was all darkness. Just a narrow rectangle of light in the lower center.  It didn’t look like the famous “tunnel” near death experience survivors speak about. But, there was a center section of light surrounded by blackness.

Passing this doorway this week uncannily reminded me of “waking up” that day.

I laid there for over an hour and a half before anyone came over. I was in the recovery room. At least that’s where I was told I was. The light was from an open window about 100 feet across from me. I wasn’t sure I was alive.

To this day? Part of me feels like I died on that operating table on February 7, 2007.

In many ways, my life did end that day. As I realized that, I started thinking of my “new life” as having begun that day, too.

So, today? I’m 10 years old.

The part of my life that DID die from cancer? Ok…

I had no wife, no girlfriend, no family, no kids, no one I could see on a daily basis, there was almost no love in my life. Most of my friends took off after I got sick. The girl I had been seeing did me three days before my surgery, then I didn’t hear from her for four months. Until she sent me a card. A card? You live two blocks away from me. You’re the closest person I know in the whole world to where I live. I’m getting through my recovery alone, in a 4th floor walkup, with no one to help me. And, you send me a card?

She wasn’t the only one.

My “best friend” of seven years pulled up shop in New York and decided to move home to Indianapolis, Indiana. She went to see a friend of mine at a bar the night of my surgery when I was lying unconscious in the hospital. She told him she was leaving in the morning. He asked her, “Are you going to say goodbye to Kenn?” She said “Yes.” She never did. She left town and never even said goodbye to me. I was hoping and expecting she would help me over the next couple of weeks.

One of the first things cancer taught me was it made me realize that the two or three friends I had left were my real Friends (cap, mine, as I am wont to do in this Blog). Forget the online nonsense of what people call “friends.” How dare they use that word! I KNOW what a “friend” is. I learned the hard way. When push comes to shove, When the sh*t hits the fan, and all bets are off, like the soldiers talk about “in their foxholes,” you’re lucky if you have two or three people by your side. That was the first major lesson I learned then, and one reason I have nothing to do with so-called social media. It’s a total waste of time. All you’re doing is giving your personal information away FOR FREE to big corporations to use to sell stuff to you, or for other purposes that no one knows. If someone walked up to you on the street and said, “Hi. Tell me this, this, this, this, and this about yourself,” you’d think they were nuts, dangerous or criminals. Yet? Online, in front of the entire world, billions of people do it every minute of every day, without wondering about it. This is something I will never understand.

The doctor who diagnosed me told me I had a 20% chance of making it through year 1 after treatment without needing additional treatment. Today, I celebrate TEN YEARS without addtional treatment!

But? Early on? I was sure I was a goner. That 20% quickly flipped in focus to 80% against.

I decided to sell everything I owned and make preparations for “the end.” I lived like I was going to die. My assistant at work forced me out of my job while I was laid up in bed, so I left my job of 10 years, and the career I never wanted, to focus on my recovery. After I did, I took stock of my life.

Almost everyone was gone. My career was gone. My former boss, now friend, Rob used to ask me, “What are you doing in this job? You’re a creative guy.” It hit me pretty hard. I didn’t have an answer for him, until life handed me the answer. My cancer was gone (at least until my next test). What am I going to do now?

I decided to take care of myself. Complete my recovery, and live being myself- 24/7. Crazy, right? Who does that? 10 years later, I haven’t looked back. (Yet.) It’s pretty scary, though. I can’t say I don’t worry about the future. Then again? Who doesn’t?

Yes. There’s someone in that box, outside a “Home Parts” place.

So? Yes, a fair amount of the life I knew did die on February 7, 2007.

The second big thing cancer taught me was what REALLY MATTERS in life.

Are you ready?

I realized that ALL that matters in life is Loving and being Loved.

Read that again. I’ll wait.

That’s all. Period. End of sentence. Goodnight! Get home safely.

But, having no love in my life? Being a “get it done” kind of guy. I decided I could “get it done” and find love. I spent most of the next 5 years looking for love- E V E R Y W H E R E. What I re-learned was that “finding love” is impossible. Love isn’t something you can “find.” It just happens. Or? It just doesn’t happen.

 

I had an unforgettable moment on that corner, before things blew up horribly.

Of course, I didn’t find it. I thought I found it once, but it blew up, horribly, in my face and I came as close as I ever have to doing harm to myself. Yes, to actually doing away with myself. Cancer hadn’t killed me yet, but “love”/the loss of said “love” almost did. But? I survived that, too.

Finally? I decided to love myself. It was all I had left.

“The words of the prophet are written on the subway wall,” Paul Simon once sang. Or? A block away.

Besides? If you don’t love yourself, who will?

Beyond this, being thankful & grateful is absolutely essential. Of course I’ve been very lucky, and have so very much to be thankful for. I have been trying to practice mindful giving thanks from moment to moment. Having cancer, also, puts you in touch with the cancer community. I heard a lot of stories. Many terrible. Many inspiring. It’s miraculous, to me, that anyone survives cancer, given how it was when I was growing up. I’ve watched some dear people die from it. I’ve talked to quite a few people who didn’t have good outcomes- either from complications from their treatment, or from cancer returning and spreading. The cancer community is, also a wonder. Survivors like the author Musa Mayer, (who is “also” the great Philip Guston‘s daughter) have forged new paths in cancer advocacy and given hope and support to countless others in ways that didn’t exist when I was diagnosed.

I was privileged to be in the presence of Musa Mayer a few weeks ago as she spoke about her father’s work in the Nixon Drawings show @ Hauser & Wirth.

Beyond them, to say I’m grateful to the doctors who treated me and saved me 10 years ago is a huge understatement. Recently, I had the honor to meet another one who’s on the front lines right now, Dr. Melissa Pilewskie at Sloan Kettering Memorial Cancer Center. Listening to her, I couldn’t help but marvel at her inner strength, and those of my doctors. She told me that as a surgeon she has treated 2,000 patients in 5 years. That’s 400 a year. There’s only 365 days in a year! Ok, Dr. Pilewskie is obviously a world-class doctor, with an extraordinarily rare skill set. I couldn’t help but wonder…where does this young lady get the inner strength to deal with cancer patients all day every day? Let alone to deal with them so well. It was a humbling experience that reminded me of the debt I owe the doctors who treated me. On my 10 year anniversary, it was also an insight into how far cancer treatment has come in my lifetime, and continues to progress, and a reminder of how many very special people are in there fighting tooth and nail to treat, beat, and even cure cancer. This isn’t a “job” to them. It’s their mission.

THANK YOU! And, bless you all.

If you get diagnosed with cancer (PLEASE, no!), you now have a great chance of being treated, and then get to go on with your life. My advice to you is- Get the best doctor your insurance will cover and get treated. Go for your follow up tests, religiously. For everyone else who doesn’t have cancer? Catching cancer early really is your best chance to beat it. Don’t miss those checkups! That’s how mine was discovered.

The big reveal from my experience with cancer is that cancer wound up forcing me to have the life I always wanted to have.

Finally.

No one lives forever. I was living my life like I was going to live to be 200, and everything I REALLY wanted to do, I would get to one day. Well? One day is N O W. That’s why I have this blog. That’s why I spend my life going to see Art 6 days a week, taking photos and listening to music. I can’t wait for “one day” anymore. Damn the expense (which goes up every minute)! Damn the later impact on my life (he says now)!

Life on the edge.  Yes, someone is sleeping in the doorway of this gallery. Maybe they’re trying to be first in line.

If I don’t do this NOW? WHEN am I going to do it? I don’t know if any of this would’ve happened if I didn’t get cancer.

After I started to recover, I had some of those plastic bracelets made for my last Blog before this one. I was writing about my daily experiences with cancer, in an effort to give others who were newly diagnosed some information through sharing my experiences, because at the time no one else was doing it. On them, I had three phrases engraved. One was

Get tested

The second was

Get treated

And finally-

LIVE YOUR LIFE!

They were there as a reminder to myself, a mantra, as much as what I’d learned.

Close, and seeing this this week was a coincidence, and a reminder.

Early on my friend and cancer survivor, Stephanie 2, told me that cancer “would change my life in ways I could not imagine.” She was right. My experience with cancer challenged me in more ways than any other. In the end? It challenged me to face myself. To love myself and to be myself, fully, no matter what.

I’m not grateful for cancer. I HATE cancer. It’s taken the lives of friends, acquaintances, and many I’ve admired from afar. It’s cost me parts of my body I didn’t really want to lose.

In the end, I’m more grateful for life (than what it cost me to have it). For the chance to change the course of my life, and finally live the life I always wanted to have.

Ok, so cancer didn’t really “save my life.” Doctors Chuey, Dinlenc and Samadi did. I used cancer as a wake up call to save myself after they did.

So?

Life, in February. The High Line, February, 2017.

I hope you’ll join me in celebrating my 10th Birthday.

If I’m actually still alive.

———-

With my undying thanks to those who saved me-

-Dr. David Samadi

-Dr. Caner Dinlenc

-Dr. John Chuey

-Helen Petrocelli, RN

-The staff of Columbia Presbyterian Hospital

To those who stood by me-

-Fluffy

-Rob

And, with my thanks, and admiration to fellow cancer survivors, patients, and a professional-

-Stephanie 2

-Dave (R.I.P)

-kitty

-Mrs. kitty

-Mrs. Fluffy

-Musa Mayer

-Sv

And,

-Dr. Melissa Pilewskie

I took all the photos appearing in this Post over the first six days of February, 2017, except the photo of Musa Mayer, on January 10, 2017.

*- The Soundtrack for this Post is “Accept Yourself,” by The Smiths (who you can watch perform it in 1983!, below), written by Morrissey & Johnny Marr. Morrissey was 23, or 24 when he wrote this. Astounding. It’s Lyrics, published by Warner/Chappell Music and Universal Music Publishing, just fit-

“Every day you must say
So, how do I feel about my life?
Anything is hard to find
When you will not open your eyes
When will you accept yourself?
I am sick and I am dull
And I am plain
How dearly I’d love to get carried away
Oh, but dreams have a knack of just not coming true
And time is against me now…oh
Oh, who and what to blame?
Oh, anything is hard to find
When you will not open your eyes
When will you accept yourself, for heaven’s sake?
Anything is hard to find
When you will not open your eyes
Every day you must say
Oh, how do I feel about the past?
Others conquered love – but I ran
I sat in my room and I drew up a plan
Oh, but plans can fall through (as so often they do)
And time is against me now…

And there’s no-one left to blame
Oh, tell me when will you…
When will you accept your life?
(The one that you hate)
For anything is hard to find
When you will not open your eyes
Every day you must say
Oh, how do I feel about my shoes?
They make me awkward and plain
How dearly I would love to kick with the fray…
But I once had a dream (and it never came true)
And time is against me now…
Time is against me now…
And there’s no one but yourself to blame
Oh, anything is hard to find
When you will not open your eyes
Anything is hard to find; for heaven’s sake !
Anything is hard to find
When you will not open your eyes
When will you accept yourself ?
When?
When?
When?
When?”*

Please send comments, thoughts, feedback or propositions to denizen at nighthawknyc.com.
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This Post was created by Kenn Sava for www.nighthawknyc.com

Noteworthy Shows, December, 2016 (Updated)

“William Eggleston- The Democratic Forest” @ David Zwirner. It’s impossible for us to “see” Eggleston’s work now the way the way it was seen in 1976 when it was presented in the first major Museum one-man show of color photography ever at MoMA in the 69 images shown in “Photographs by William Eggleston” (which you can relive, here, in glorious black & white). In that “black & white world,’ it was received as “shocking,” and widely panned (famously by The Times). If anything, today, there are “too many cameras and not enough food,” as Sting sang, and too many pictures in the world, so, perhaps I shouldn’t be surprised to read a number of comments on Eggleston’s books, shows and works where commenters say they don’t see what’s special about it, or, that, as has often been said about Jackson Pollock, they could do it. Hmmm…Many, many have tried, and are still trying. What’s lost in translation in seeing Eggleston in 2016 is how many photographers have “gone to school” on his work, over the past 40 years, learned from it, and yes, copied it 1, so that much of what he is famous for is now omnipresent. Yet, it’s barely 40 years since his breakthrough at MoMA.

Depth of Field. “Untitled,” 1983-86, as each work here is so named and dated. Leica can’t buy advertising like this, and the rest of what is on the walls of this show. Note the endless mirror Self Portraits, that mimic all the bottles, jars and cans.

Countless professionals and amateurs shoot “the everyday,” the seemingly mundane now. Who’s to say what’s good, what’s bad, and what’s “Art?”

The road less traveled…It doesn’t exist in Manhattan.

As always? Time will. In the meantime, what about the work of Wililam Eggleston in 2016?

On the left, a classic shot of the so-called “mundane.” On the right, possibly a color Homage to Robert Frank’s “The Americans,” an early influence.

Now 77, “the father of color photography,” as he is called2, has been making photographs since his college days, closing in on 60 years ago. That’s enough passage of time for some things to be known. For one thing, his work still seems to be gaining in popularity. For another, it still garners a lot of respect from both his fellow Photographers, and Museums, judging how widely they hold and show his work. “William Eggleston Portraits” at the National Portrait Gallery, London this fall, drew raves. Millions of dollars are being spent on his work at auction. He, and his Eggleston Artistic Trust3, left the Gagosian Gallery this past June and signed with the equally prestigeious David Zwirner Gallery for representation, (this being their first show), and this century has already seen a steady stream of stunning books and huge box sets by Steidl, which have the look and feel of monuments, that sell out and some then command a thousand dollars a copy, and more, on the aftermarket.

Famous for his very vivid colors, I found the shot on the left, with it’s pastel colors, equally effective.

In October, The New York Times featured him as one of their six “Greats,” along with superstar (my term) Artist, Kerry James Marshall, and Michelle Obama. William Eggleston is big time. Ok. So, back at David Zwirner on West 20th Street, how’s the show?

The shot on the left (who’s  location is unknown to me) makes me yearn to see shots of his taken in NYC.

30-odd years after these works were created they retain a surprising freshness and resonance that’s not easy to explain. I’m not sure it’s entirely the famous(ly) bright colors that are solely responsible for this, either. They’re undoubtedly a hook, but there’s far more going on, and there are works that don’t feature “knock your eyeballs out” colors that are equally compelling. Following in the tradition of Cartier-Bresson and Robert Frank, he has taken their ideas someplace else. Someplace subtle, or very subtle, mundane, often easily overlooked. A place decidedly “American” (in these works), that American viewers instinctively recognize, and one that must look like Mars to the foreign eye. Heck, in a few more years, it’s going to look like Mars to ANY eyes. Yes, so many others have tread this ground since Eggleston’s work became widely seen. They shoot similar subjects, using the same camera. But, in the hands of a visionary master of the medium, the results are truly unique. Seeing 40 works together reinforces all of this, and reveals intimacies about his approach and style. Seen in isolation this sense is harder to glean. His work has a feeling of spontaneity that is, also, often copied, perhaps, increasingly. Watching him at work in documentaries, we see this spontaneity is not contrived. Frankly? I marvel at it. What is going on in his mind as he approaches his spot? As he composes and frames? Untold millions walk around with cameras, raise them and take a photo. None are these. How is this possible? Also an Artist (his book “Paris” featured his Art alongside his photos), as well as a musician, it should be no surprise that he has one hell of an eye for composition (which can be seen in even his earliest black and white work), and which I feel is under-appreciated given how rarely I hear anyone mention it. It may be as big a part of his impact as color. His is, also, a painter’s eye, which also sets him apart as a photographer. Perhaps it is this that gives him his eye for the “secret life” of what most overlook in the world. All of these things work together to make a composition of random “things” a personal statement, even without people present in most of his photographs, and they seemingly come together in the instant the exposure takes. With a master technician of photography who’s also an Artist behind the shutter, I think his results are going to intrigue viewers for a very long time no matter how many try to copy and imitate him.

A wall of the smaller, 20 3/4 x 28 3/4 inch, prints for comparison. The work in the center is also in the Whitney, though smaller.

Eggleston said he has over a million and a half images in his archives. They ALL can’t be classics, can they? According to the Press Release, the show includes 40 works, “the majority of which have not been exhibited previously.” The “Democratic” in the show’s title speaks to the camera’s ability to “render equally what is in front of the lens.” What is rendered in these 40 works includes very few people (Only one, seen in the first photo, top, is centered around a person besides the photographer, who appears in two others by my count). Each work here bears the same title and dating- “Untitled,” 1983-86. Very democratic, indeed. Not mentioned is that these works are recent prints in a larger size, somewhat controversially, (about 65 x 45 inches, though a few are 20 x 28) Digital Pigment Prints, instead of the  Dye Transfer Prints that Eggleston is renowned for, which his works in the collections of MoMA, The Met, and many other places are. For me, the larger size (the original sizes were of the order of 16 x 20 inches), seem to reach for a “painterly” impression. This struck me as soon as I walked in, not surprising, perhaps, since I have looked at mostly painting in my life. Some succeeded larger, some didn’t. Interestingly, I found images I’ve long struggled with to be among those I am still struggling with larger.

One I’ve struggled with.

This one continues to haunt me with it’s unique blend of a photograph that “borrows” much from painting, then takes it somewhere else.

Another thing that most impresses me…no…blows my mind, is that Eggleston does it taking only a single shot. While he would, no doubt, prefer his work remind me more often of Degas (who, among many other things, was a photographer, as well as a master print maker and immortal Painter), I found myself thinking of him as being somewhere between Edward Hopper/Charles Sheeler and Ed Ruscha/Richard Estes. To study the individual photos in this show closer, check out the exhibition’s catalog. I’ve mostly opted to show the very interesting combinations in which they were hung, which I assume Mr. Eggleston, himself (who was in NYC around the opening, making rare appearances at The Strand and at Aperture), was involved with, since those won’t be widely documented.)

“Well I hope you’re happy with what you’ve made
(Puzzling evidence)
In the land of the free and the home of the brave
(Puzzling evidence)”*

William Eggleston’s worldwide reputation as an important American Artist of our times increases seemingly daily. While his Artistic Trust, which his sons are involved in, seems to have it’s own ideas about the future of his work, it seems assured that his work is going to be seen far and wide for a very long time. With that 1.5 million photos he guesstimated are in his archives, he must have taken some in NYC, as he memorably did of Paris, right? Maybe those will be in a future show called “The Democratic City.”

“Francis Picabia” @ MoMA- (Note- March 3, 2017. I went back to see this show, again, before it ends March 19, and so I update my Post on it, in hopes of doing it more justice.) Picabia first got me into Abstract Art as a teenager with this work-

Let’s Get Lost. Picabia’s masterpiece “I See Again in Memory My Dear Udnie,” 1914. Worth the price of admission by itself.

I bought the postcard of it, which I still have. It sucked me into it- almost literally, it’s grip on my mind, and my eyes, was so intense. It’s a work that looks like you could walk inside and climb around in and explore it’s unprecedented landscape. But, it was it’s title that hooked me…”I See Again in Memory My Dear Udnie.” When I finally climbed back out of it and got around to pondering the name of the work…Well? I’m still pondering it. Most of the other Abstractionists (Pollock, Rothko, Duchamp, even Kandinsky) didn’t usually title their works. This proved a vital “way in” for me. From this, and Picabia’s other works of this period, I discovered Pollock, Kandinsky, Miro, then the Surrealists, Dada, and the Abstract Expressionists. Seeing it, again, in this very well done retrospective brought all of that back to me. I was, initially, startled because I’d forgotten how large it is- over 8 feet high by 6 and a half feet wide. Talk about making a statement. It’s presence, and impact, is still every bit as strong. For me, at least, it’s a central work in his oeuvre. His early abstractions are, still, breathtaking, unique and just gorgeous.

Front row seat to genius. “Ecclesiastic,” left and “Udnie, Young American Girl,” both 1913, right. The now immortal “Udnie” was a dancer named Stacia Napierkowska, who’s on-ship performances Picabia was taken with on his voyage to NYC for the famous 1913 Armory show, a triumph for him. Meanwhile Stacia/”Udnie” was arrested by the NYPD for “indecent” performances. (Here in the NY Times.).

While Cubism was all the rage at the time (c.1914), I think it’s a shame that other Artists didn’t follow Picablia down this road. Then again? Where else was there left to take it? Perhaps this is why, Picabia, himself, turned his back on this style and adapted others. The man is one of the ultimate chameleons of his time.

It’s not “Cubism,” or “Futurism,” or “Geometric Abstraction.” So? What do you call “The Spring,” 1912? How about beautiful?

This is a long overdue show, and a big one. It surprised me with Picabia’s endless evolution throughout his career, much of which, post-1925 seems to be a bit in the shadows compared to his early, seemingly endless inventions.

Down in front. “The Animal Trainer,” 1923, (inscribed “1937”). Fear not- I’ve been assured by MoMA that no Owls were harmed in the making of this Retrospective. Actually? I’m not sure just who is being trained in this work.

It points out that there remains much to see and study in the long career of this defiantly original, prolific and continually surprising individualist. I found myself a bit lost by what came after 1925, but he called me back with his somewhat surprising evolutions during WW2.

Moving on. “The Lovers (After The Rain),” 1925. Picabia painted over an earlier, abstract work in creating this. I’d love to see an x-ray and see what he chose to paint over.

Good luck trying to stick Francis Picabia in a style hole. He didn’t stand still, as we see here in “The Wandering Jew,” interestingly, from 1941. A period that features quite a few nudes.

In the end, Picabia is, like “I See Again in Memory…” one of those Artists who’s work demands, and rewards, repeated viewing. His formidable technique, and endlessly creative & inventive mind gave us an Artist who wasn’t content to stay with one style for very long. When you have that kind of talent? Why would you want to? He was, as he famously said, “a monster.” A monster talent.

“Portrait of the Artist,” 1934, a collaboration with Bruno Eggert. A bit of Christian Schad, perhaps? Schad was 40 in 1934, though pretty obscure.

“Paths To The Absolute: Kandinsky, Malevich, Mondrian, Newman, Pollock, Rothko and Still” @ Di Donna Galleries- A small wonder. All of those big names in one gallery show. Beautifully hung, in fascinating combinations that created wonderful inner dialogues, and one that offered a nice different perspective on Rothko from that going on in the “big” show, concurrently, at Pace, Chelsea. A show I almost missed and long will be grateful I did not.

Pollock and Malevich. I don’t believe I’ve ever see them together! Why not?

Franz Kline, Malevich, Barnett Newman and Mondrian. And, that bench!

As good as that show was, one Artist was not included…

“Richard Pousette-Dart: The Centennial” @Pace Gallery, East 57th Street, and “Altered States: The Etchings of Richard Pousette-Dart” @Del Deo & Barzune. This past June 8th would have been the 100th Birthday of Richard Pousette-Dart (RP-D for short), who died in 1992 at 76. An Artist who, I feel, has not yet been fully appreciated. June 8, 2016 would slip quietly by, but it turned out his 100th had not been forgotten. Pace Gallery 57th Street, opened a Centennial Show on September 6, (with RP-D’s wife and well known son, the musician, Jon Pousette-Dart in attendance). A symposium was held at the Whitney a few weeks later, a restored public work was unveiled downtown, and a revelatory show of his etchings at Del Deo & Barzune in the Flatiron District opened on October 6.

RP-D: The Centennial @ Pace, Uptown

Phew…My fears he’d be forgotten were assuaged. RP-D has become something of a “cause” for me. The more I see of his work, the more I’m baffled that he’s not (often) spoken of with his long time compatriots Jackson Pollock, Mark Rothko, Willem de Kooning, et al. I just don’t get it. For my money (and I have none personally invested), he’s every bit as good, and important, as any of them.

Altered States: The Etchings of RP-D @ Del Deo & Barzune

The show at Pace Uptown was nicely concise, giving a taste of the range of his stylistic development, which, for me, were a feast for the eyes. There is something wonderful about his work that allows it to work just as well in a small space (as the etchings prove), or in a large gallery at The Met’s newly rehung M&C Galleries. It’s so easy to get endlessly lost in either close study of his work, or at a distance. His compositions are among the most complex of the AbEx Artists, and his attention to detail borders on the staggering. You wonder how he ever finished one work, let alone as many as he did.

“White Silence,” 1974, 14 feet long, above. Hurry up and grab a seat before I sit there until they close.

Detail. “…it’s full of stars.”

Astoundingly, RP-D was, also, one of Ai Weiwei’s teachers at The Art Student’s League (on West 57th Street, down the street from where Pace is now) from 1983-86. I have yet to hear, or read, him (AWW) speak about the experience.

Installation view- Pace Gallery

Visiting the wonderful satellite show, with the prefect name, “Altered States: The Etchings of Richard Pousette-Dart” at Del De & Barzune in the Flatiron, the impression (sorry) is amended (as it always seems to be when one sees a work by RP-D he previously hadn’t seen), enhanced and refined. Here, his attention to detail is in just as full effect, and the results are even more (and even more sadly) unknown. The work on view is uniformly marvelous. They give the same effect as his larger painted masterpieces- ponder them from afar, or get lost in them up close. These are works you will look at for an entire lifetime and still see something new in them.  Long live Richard Pousette-Dart.

Just in time for RP-D, 100- “Symphony No. 1, The Transcendental,” 1942-42, now on view in the newly rehung Modern Galleries at The Met, 5th Avenue.

And, finally…a show I planned to write more about but haven’t, and just can’t let get away- “Rembrandt’s First Masterpiece” @ The Morgan Library. Worth the price of admission to see the figure of Judas in the 1629 painting, “Judas Returning the Thirty Pieces of Silver,” The Master did at age 23(!), the work that sealed his status as a “Master,” and which I haven’t as yet found an antecedent for in the prior history of Painting4

While you were waiting for a slight opening in the throng surrounding it, you were blessed with the rest of this one, large, room being chocked full of some of the greatest impressions of Rembrandt’s prints to be seen in this hemisphere.!

 

One half of the show.

I could think of worse ways of spending my time “waiting.” Like doing anything else, short of making love. So overwhelming were they that you were 3/4 of the way home before you realized you saw “only” one painting.

Murderer’s Row. If I could only have one work of Art for the rest of time? I’d take a Rembrandt painted “Self-Portrait.” So, I was floored to walk into this show and see no less than FIVE Rembrandt “Self Portrait” etchings.

And then? The seas parted and lo and behold? THERE IS WAS! QUICK! SHOOT!!!

“Judas Returning The 30 Pieces of Silver,” Rembrandt, 1629. Private collection. (i.e. Someone has this hanging on their wall. I felt a twinge typing that.)

Where was I? Oh yeah…”only” one painting here…That was immediately followed by the realization that with Rembrandt? The medium is not the message- The message is the message. it matters not which medium he chooses to work in. He created timeless Art in many mediums, Painting, drawing and prints, here. From what is called his “First Masterpiece,” (I didn’t say that)5, he lets it be known that he is someone that is, and will be, unprecedented in Art History, and earned the admiration of the diplomat, poet and great Art connoisseur Constantijn Huygens, who’s original diary, containing Huygens’ now immortal words about Rembrandt and “Judas,” which put the young Artist on the map, is here as well. Remarkable! Of “Judas,” Huygens writes in THIS very book(!)-

The Legend of Rembrandt begins here.

his Autobiography, written between 1629-31-

“Compare this with all Italy, indeed, with everything beautiful and admirable that has been preserved from the earliest antiquity. The singular gesture of the despairing Judas-leaving aside the many fascinating figures in this one painting-that one furious Judas, howling, praying for mercy, but devoid of hope, all traces of hope erased from his countenance, his appearance frightening, his hair torn, his garment rent, his limbs twisted, his hands clenched bloodlessly tight, fallen prostrate on his knees on a blind impulse, his whole body contorted in wretched hideousness. Such I place against all the elegance that has been produced throughout the ages.”

One of the most auspicious, calling cards in Art History…even 388 years later.

This “such” retains every bit of it’s power to awe onlookers nearly 400 years later as it did Mr. Huygens shortly after he created it, to the extent that it’s possible to see so much of what’s come after in this one figure, right up to Lucian Freud and Francis Bacon.

I give this show my award for the exhibition that went the furthest beyond above and beyond delivering on the advertised expectations. Any show that elicits an “Oh My God,” from it’s doorway as I first entered and it dawned on me what awaited and how undersold this show was has to be, at least, NoteWorthy, and at most, unforgettable.

As the new year begins? To any show with designs on winning that award this year, I say  “Bring It On!”

*- Soundtrack for this Post is “Puzzling Evidence” by David Byrne and recorded by Talking Heads on “True Stories,” which was accompanied by a movie and a book of the same name. The book contained photographs by William Eggleston, among others.

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This Post was created by Kenn Sava for www.nighthawknyc.com

  1. Continuing the continuum. Eggleston learned from Cartier-Bresson and Robert Frank, among others.
  2. because of the MoMA show, but let’s not forget the many other great photographers who also shot at least some color before it was accepted, like Robert Capa, Saul Leiter, Fred Herzog, et al.
  3. holders of all of his copyrights, including the works shown here
  4. “Agony” seems to be something avoided in Painting. To this time, Christ on the Cross was depicted “transcending” the physical agony, and Paintings of the so-called “Agony In The Garden,” invariably show Christ lost in meditation, prayer and deep, though possibly, pained, thought. If you know of an ancestor or influencer, please let me know.
  5. His early work is pretty darn stellar in my book. I’ve long had a love of this one in Boston, from 1628, one year before “Judas”, that is only 9 inches by 12 inches. Don’t be fooled by it’s apparently “simplicity.” Much is going on.