Tag Archives: new york city

Executing a site-specific “intervention” in New York City

Jennifer Marman Daniel Borins Maria Kucinski Photo: Joe Leavenworth

Final adjustments to Pavilion of the Blind with Jennifer Marman and Daniel Borins. Photo: Joe Leavenworth.

I recently had the amazing opportunity to work with two very talented artists, Jennifer Marman and Daniel Borins on their debut New York exhibition, Pavilion of the Blind on view at the Tierney Gardarin Gallery through October 26th. In addition to working with the artists to prepare and install their stellar exhibition, I was tasked with executing a site-specific intervention.

Tenth Ave and 29th Street ChelseaAmongst all the development going on in West Chelsea and Hudson Yards, there are businesses that continue to operate. The gallery is one of those storefront businesses with demolition and construction affecting daily life. In talks to beautify the block and perhaps subtly notify the passersby of our existence in the outpost that is 29th Street, we decided to do an intervention on the construction hoarding.

Tenth Avenue and 29th StreetWet posters to be wheat pasted proved to be too costly. Next best option? Painting vertical stripes in the style of of Marman + Borins latest works, utilizing the color palette they have developed for the past five years. Daniel and I picked out the exact colors and finish. We thought “Daredevil” red was a suitable choice. There were five colors in total with one vertical stripe to be left blank – a commentary on the site and its existing artwork.

Nick Hugh Schmidt

Malcolm BarrettI hired two fantastic artists, Nick Hugh Schmidt and Malcolm Barrett to execute the stripes. They began at 10th Avenue between 28th and 29th Street and wrapped around the corner of 29th Street towards 11th Avenue. In a couple hours, they had made an unsightly construction site into something worth looking at, something worth noticing.

Nick Hugh Schmidt Malcolm Barret 10th Ave and 29th St

Jennifer Marman Daniel Borins 10th Ave 29th StreetAll in all, I think the piece is a stunning tribute to what a little paint and a sharp aesthetic can add to a city block.Tenth Ave 29th Street

Jennifer Marman Daniel Borins

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Morphoses: WITHIN (Labyrinth Within) at the Joyce

Morphoses: WITHIN (Labyrinth Within) by Pontus Lidberg is a dramatic dance-narrative that tells the story of interconnected lovers with film segments that intertwine with live dance to create a piece that is pure sex.

With composer David Lang, cinematographer Martin Nisser, and costume designer Karen Young, Lidberg expresses heightened emotions through high-contact partnering that is elegant yet deeply weighted. This emotional tension is carried throughout the interplay between the film and the live dancers as they mirror and respond to each other.

The set design, styling, and lighting in the film were perfection- subtle yet striking. It was as if Eve Sussman and Wim Wenders had come together to make a dance film. I loved the unerring continuity and the attention to detail throughout (including the coat racks in each scene). New York City Ballet’s Wendy Whelan is exquisite with the contemporary choreography and acting. Plus, Morphoses probably has the best looking male dancers I have ever seen.

All in all, I enjoyed this piece with its use of film integration, technical execution, and intense emotion.

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Sandy

29th Street and 10th Avenue after Sandy

A view of 29th Street from 10th Avenue on Tuesday, October 30, 2012.

What a mess. And I wasn’t even badly affected. Here is my story:

In preparation for the “Frankenstorm” as the media was calling it, I stocked up on the necessities to last me at least five days. Water, canned food, granola bars, Halloween candy, batteries, and chipotle Triscuits (because the grocery store was out of the normal kinds of food, leading me to get wheat Wonder Bread). But this preparation for the storm took place on Sunday. The most important preparation took place on Saturday, at the Cristin Tierney Gallery on West 29th Street in Chelsea, where I work.

Given the proximity to the Hudson River and the warnings about the storm surge, the art handler and I prepared the gallery based on the traditional insurance guidelines. Our insurance broker had even called to ensure that we were ready for the storm, alerting us to raise everything 6 to 8 inches off the ground. We did that. Unplugged our office area, moved things out of harm’s way, and hoped that if water did come into the gallery, the drain inside would save us – the building being an old taxi garage that has a sloping floor and drain in the front.

Then the warnings came that this storm was going to be serious. More serious. More powerful. More destructive than Irene.

Then the storm came, and as I sat on my couch, glued to the news, catching up on my reading, and praying that the tree outside wouldn’t knock into my apartment, breaking windows and taking the power lines with it, I worried about the gallery. Had we done enough?

As the reports came in from Battery Park City, Queens, the Rockaways, Staten Island, the Jersey Shore, Connecticut on the Long Island Sound, we heard nothing of Chelsea. Friends in Stuyvesant Town were under three feet of water. Then lower Manhattan lost power. Still no word about Chelsea.

Tuesday morning came and reports of utter destruction flooded the news. Lower Manhattan was badly hit. The storm surge had ravaged the city, causing transformers to explode and the subways to be inundated with salt water. I decided that I needed to get to the gallery to scope out the potential damage and thankfully, a good friend of mine, Ali Osborn, offered to give me a ride. He works at the South Street Seaport Museum, which suffered from flooding from the storm surge. The entire print shop was ravaged.

And as I was about to get into the car to drive to Manhattan, I received a call from Cristin reporting that galleries on 24th Street had been hit with four feet of water. Panic set in.

Manhattan was a ghost town. No power, no traffic lights, people not sure what they should do with themselves, people using payphones(!), it was something out of an apocalyptic movie.

The drive down 29th Street was hopeful but strange as all the metal gates were down and there were no signs of people. As we pulled up in front of the gallery, I was shocked to see our vinyl sign still attached to the front of the building. I opened up the metal gate to the gallery, trying to see through the darkness if there had been any water and as I walked inside, I was shocked again to see absolutely no traces of water. None. It was a miracle. Our office, our library, and our artwork were all safe.

After I thanked my lucky stars, I walked down to 24th Street to see how they fared. What I saw was a disaster zone. I saw people carrying 8 foot paintings sopping wet and putting them on box trucks while they tried to clear the water out of their space. I heard about multi-million dollar deals that were now off because the works had been destroyed. Unbelievable.

Then I walked home six miles through the apocalyptic downtown, over the crowded Williamsburg bridge, and through the relatively untouched but unable to actually do anything Williamsburg.

When I arrived back at my apartment, it was then that I was able to process and realize the kind of meltdown I probably would have had had our situation at the gallery been any different. The cleanup, the repairs, the insurance claims, the calls to artists about their work. Thankfully, our artists reported that none of their studios had sustained any damage from the storm. So lucky.

On Wednesday, Cristin asked that we meet at the gallery to reconvene and see if our neighbors needed anything. Melanie Baker was so kind to give me a ride into Manhattan, my other carpool buddy being Leonard Lopate. Surreal. A pit stop at Dunkin’ Donuts with power revealed that my normal guys at 25th and 9th Ave had relocated temporarily. My dependence on Dunkin’ Donuts  is somewhat embarrassing.

We inspected the gallery one more time and then decided to check on our neighbors. The taxi garage and the fish market were operating on a generator but our neighborhood deli was closed. On the chilly day, we saw the continued cleanup and restoration efforts from 27th Street’s Winkleman Gallery to 19th Street’s David Zwirner. An absolute mess. Basements flooded, exhibitions destroyed, libraries decimated, offices incapacitated. Millions of dollars worth of art, libraries, office equipment, property damage, not to mention archives that were wiped out including Printed Matter and Martha Graham farther south at WestBeth.

And so, as we checked in with our neighbors, we again realized just how lucky we were. As I walked over the Williamsburg bridge again, amidst even more people, I thought about the impact that this storm has had on the city and the art community as a whole. This city is resilient and I know it will bounce back, but in some cases the physical and economic damage is irreversible.

On Thursday, I spent the day reading about the extent of the damage in Chelsea as reported by all the major art critics (listed below). Each story heartbreaking and grounding.

On Friday, I got another ride with Melanie and Leonard. We were able to hook up to a generator to catch up, although we froze a bit in the dark gallery. I walked to the east side to catch the ferry to Williamsburg, waiting an hour before boarding the ship. Lower Manhattan was still without power when I arrived on the Brooklyn shore but I am happy to report that our power came back on Friday night, so we can now, luckily, resume business as usual starting on Monday.

I cannot reiterate enough just how lucky we were in all of this. My thoughts go out to those were not so fortunate and who have been working tirelessly throughout the week to rebuild. This has been a challenging time for everyone and everyone has their own story to share. Thanks for reading mine.

Further reading
Chelsea Galleries Hit Hard by Storm Sandy, by Brian Boucher, Art in America.
Chelsea Art Galleries Struggle to Restore and Reopen, by Roberta Smith, The New York Times.
Saltz’ Devastating Tour through Chelsea’s Ruined Art Galleries, By Jerry Saltz, New York Magazine.
After the Flood: How Will Hurricane Sandy Change New York’s Art World? By Ben Davis, Artinfo.

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Einstein on the Beach at the Brooklyn Academy of Music

Somehow I feel like I spent the past three years waiting for the opportunity to see Einstein on the Beach by Robert Wilson and Philip Glass with choreography by Lucinda Childs. That opportunity came the other night at the Brooklyn Academy of Music.

I say that I have been waiting that long because I was first introduced to Robert Wilson when I started my career working at the Watermill Center, “Bob’s” experimental theater residency program in the Hamptons.

Einstein on the Beach was a huge cultural success when it premiered in 1976 but a commercial disaster, sinking Wilson into debt and essentially running him out of New York. Since then, he has hailed critical success for his avant-garde theater and made his gradual return to New York.

Einstein on the Beach, Knee Play 1

Knee Play 1.

Einstein on the Beach is an enormous undertaking with a large cast, live, layered music, intricate dance numbers, massive mechanical sets, and a 4 hour, 15 minute running time with no intermission. Utilizing repetition, the opera is at once incredibly complex and incredibly simple.

I found myself actively – and exhaustively – looking for changes throughout the four plus hours. What I found was that at a certain moment, one must surrender to the fact that there will be no conflict, climax or resolution. The opera will merely continue at the same tempo, with the same lighting, with the same dialogue, with the same lyrics, with the same movement with only subtle changes.

Einstein on the Beach Act I, Scene 2A Trial (Bed)

Act I, Scene 2A Trial (Bed).

The lack of change, that persistence of sameness, was absolutely amazing. The talent of the performers had me in awe. They must possess such discipline and hone incredible skills of voice, acting, and movement.

My favorite example of this was in Act II, Scene 1B, “Train” when two performers sang a song of love in the form of counting the beats, “1, 2, 3, 1, 2, 3, 1, 2, 3, 1, 2, 3,” which changed rapidly to “1, 2, 3, 4, 1, 2, 3, 4, 1, 2, 3, 4, 1, 2, 3, 4″ to 5’s to 6’s and then back down without every catching a breath. Incredible.

Einstein on the Beach, Act III, Scene 3B, Field (Space Machine)

Act III, Scene 3B, Field (Space Machine).

And the Lucinda Childs choreography where the dancers chassé and leap and chaînés in spirals around each other was dizzying in a good way. How these dancers could keep track of where they were, was one thing. The other thing, was their precision and enduring rhythm even after 20 minutes of nonstop motion. Again, incredible.

Einstein on the Beach, Act IV, Scene C, Building.

Act IV, Scene C, Building.

Then of course, there were the marvelous tableaus that Wilson created with the outlandish sets, simple costumes, lots of smoke, and focused lighting plus the standard Wilsonian gestures with the hands.

The music by Philip Glass was a classical circular melody that pulsated. Driving the sameness with subtle changes throughout.

Einstein the Beach 2012. Robert Wilson, Philip Glass, Lucinda Childs. Brooklyn Academy of Music.

Philip Glass, Lucinda Childs, and Robert Wilson on stage for the curtain call.

All in all, the whole opera was totally bizarre but somehow I found myself relating to it. I was so happy to see such a seminal work, and to see it in New York.

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Knock Knock Who’s There, 911, 911 Who? at the Highline Ballroom

YOU SAID YOU’D NEVER FORGET.

Of all of the ways I could have commemorated 9/11, I saw an NYC Style Political Cabaret hosted by Thirsty Girl Productions and Julie Atlas Muz presented at the High Line Ballroom with profits benefiting the Uniformed Firefighter’s Association Widow’s and Children’s Fund.

Individually, each cabaret act had its own perspective on 9/11 and the post 9/11 world while collectively, the evening played out as a tribute and commentary.

There was a general sentiment of discontent. People were not happy with where the world was headed. As mentioned by Reverend Billy and the Church of Earthalujah, people will stop at nothing for peace. Or, as MC Justin Bond said, she was glad we that those in attendance at the Highline Ballroom was there to think about these post 9/11 issues – because someone has to.

Justin Bond Highline BallroomFor the performances without reverie, money and exorbitance were themes. Bunny Love performed to “Young Americans,” wearing a jean jumpsuit and devouring McDonald’s hamburgers before elegantly wiping her mouth with an American flag.

Bunny Love Highline BallroomDirty Martini performed as a justice to God Bless America, having difficulty keeping the scales – filled with money – level. Tigger! went as far as to say that NYC is becoming overrun with Americans.

Dirty Martini Highline BallroomBut there were moments of beauty and brilliance. The Stanley Love Performance Troupe performed to Madonna’s “This Used to be my Playground” with people dressed up as New York City icons including the Empire State Building, Chrysler Building, and Statue of Liberty. The Twin Towers danced and then said their goodbyes, embracing their fellow New Yorkers.

Stanley Love Highline BallroomJulia Atlas Muz performed a crowd-pleasing number with the accompaniment of Mr. Pussy wearing dreadlocks, singing Bob Marley’s “Redemption Song” as videos of post 9/11 politics were projected. Ridiculously brilliant.

Julie Atlas Muz Highline BallroomThe most moving, chilling, stunning piece of the night was performed by Julie Atlas Muz and Tigger! They were dressed as firefighters, motionless, almost paralyzed.

Julie Atlas Muz Tigger! Highline Ballroom They solemnly helped each other strip down, walked upstage, raised their arms above their heads, and let a white dust pour over their bodies, caking themselves in a similar fashion to those who were present at Ground Zero on that day.

Julie Atlas Muz Tigger! Highline Ballroom 911Then they embraced with urgency and Julie Atlas Muz hoisted Tigger! over her shoulder and carried him offstage.

Julie Atlas Muz Tigger! 911 embraceAll in all, the show was a great tribute and a way to collectively grieve about what happened 10 years ago and to shed light how we are still coping with it and its consequences today.

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Fort Lean at Coco 66

Williamsburg, Brooklyn 2011As I drove in a Saab convertible to Greenpoint [read hipster] to see Fort Lean at Coco66, I learned about how certain people who aren’t naturally blonde look when their hair is dyed. Even with this added preparation, I was intrigued to see a lead man sporting a bleach blonde perm and a seriously brown mustache.

That said, Fort Lean can rock.

Fort LeanThey’ve got a cool vibe with an upbeat yet soft sound that harkens somewhere between Vampire Weekend and the Strokes. I noticed the driving beats (especially on the toms), strong backing on the synths, melodic guitar partnering and a voice that complements it all.

All in all, aside from the awkward pauses between songs, I enjoyed dancing to their music and would see them again.

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Erin Kennedy Photography

It’s time to share photographs from my good friend, Erin Kennedy who took the photo that is my website’s banner (see above). That photo was taken in July of 2010 in Bushwick, Brooklyn. It is a candid shot taken with film. The uncropped photo shows a much more expansive and desolate space with the last bit of sun turning dark over the city. I think it is a gorgeous shot in its lighting, framing, and feeling – perfect for my “musings.”

Over the past few years, Erin has taken photos in a host of intimate moments that span from laying in bed to being out at social events. She has the ability to capture the light – both cool and warm – and capture pensive and mostly joyful photos of her subjects. She excels at capturing people engaged in another act.

Here are a few of her photos:

Erin Kennedy Seville, 2010

Seville, 2010

Erin Kennedy Sunday, 2010

Sunday, 2010

Erin Kennedy Katie, 2010

Katie, 2010

Erin Kennedy Burt, 2010

Burt, 2010

Erin Kennedy Broad with a mic, 2010

Broad with a mic, 2010

Erin Kennedy Eleanor, 2010

Eleanor, 2010

Erin Kennedy Harlot, 2010

Harlot, 2010

Erin Kennedy Lust, 2010

Lust, 2010

Erin Kennedy Obsession, 2010

Obsession, 2010

Erin Kennedy Corey, 2010

Corey, 2010

Erin Kennedy Sam on a chair, 2010

Sam on a chair, 2010

Erin Kennedy Stolen, 2011

Stolen, 2011

Erin Kennedy Drinking with Beebs, 2010

Drinking with Beebs, 2010

Erin Kennedy Sexx, 2011

Sexx, 2011

Erin Kennedy Love, 2010

Love, 2010

Erin Kennedy Paulina's Prey, 2011

Paulina's Prey, 2011

Erin Kennedy It's my property, 2010

It's my property, 2010

All in all, Erin’s photography is gritty and real and emotive and beautiful.

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Broad City Season 2 Finale at 92 Y Tribeca

92Y TribecaBroad City celebrated Season 2 with the screening of the finale at the 92Y Tribeca. The stars, Abbi Jacobson and Ilana Glazer hosted a spectacular evening screening episodes intermixed with live comedy and followed by an awesome dance party.

Abbi Jacobson and Ilana Glazer

Abbi Jacobson and Ilana Glazer

In the intimate setting, Abbi and Ilana shared their reservations in making this series about their exaggerated personalities which, after watching them live on stage together, were not actually much different from what you see on the show. They also spoke about the talented people who have helped them to put the series together including actors, directors, editors, musicians, and technical support and how they couldn’t thank them enough.

Kristen Schaal

Kristen Schaal wearing authentic Sally Jesse Raphael glasses

Kristen Schaal, of Simpsons fame, made an appearance on stage with her jokes about finding astonishment in real world situations including pulling out a pair of real Sally Jesse Raphael glasses that a former Production Assistant on the show gave her.

Surprise cameo in the finale!

Surprise cameo by Amy Poehler in the finale!

The premise of the finale is a chase that leads the girls through the west village in search of something unknown to the viewer till the end but the biggest surprise is Amy Poehler‘s appearance in finale (along with Kristen Schaal). Sorry if I spoiled the surprise before fans of the show could watch it online, but it is so amazing. Best part – Amy tells the girls to live their dreams.

Broad City

with Director TJ Misny

In addition to the amazing cameos, the finale was the best episode ever because of its self-referential moments and homages to great films. It was directed by TJ Misny. Ilana noted that this was a full three-day shoot where people would ask, “What is this?” and Ilana would yell back, “Broad City, BITCHES!!!”

 and the experience

And finally, we were graced by this performance with highlights including the song entitled, “Pizza Party.”

All in all, I laughed and laughed and laughed and all in awe of the amazing work by these talented women.

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Blank City at IFC

Blank City

Patti Astor

Blank City, playing at IFC, gives yet another perspective on the gritty New York art scene specifically art films of the late 1970s, early 1980s.

The film tells the story of filmmakers from the “No Wave Cinema” and “Cinema of Transgression” and how they used New York City as their backdrop to create movies on Super 8mm film. Blank City weaves together films by Jim Jarmusch, Amos Poe, James Nares, Eric Mitchell, Susan Seidelman, Beth B, Scott B, Charlie Ahearn and Nick Zedd with interviews by these filmmakers and stars/producers of the films including Lydia Lunch, Debbie Harry, Steve Buscemi, Maripol, John Lurie and Patti Astor.

It was so interesting to see the works of these filmmakers and to get their perspective on the importance of what they were doing at the time. Based on what they are doing now, it was clear that there was a natural end to the scene when people started to gain notoriety for their work and New York began to become prosperous again economically.

All in all, it was a very interesting and educational film.

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Javelin at the Tribeca Grand

Once again, I went to a rockin’ Javelin concert at the Tribeca Grand hosted by GrandLife – a free show with an open bar. I stood right up front (even ripped my tights on the edge of the stage) and this is the result…

George Langford on percussion

George Langford on percussion

Tom van Buskirk

Tom van Buskirk

Bonus, GrandLife gave out free “This is New York” CDs with music by assorted New York bands.

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