Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Crossed Out Brooklyn, My Heels are killing me and one great artist

Crossing Brooklyn: Art from Bushwick, Bed-Stuy and Beyond is a minor exhibition on a monumental scale. This is the kind of show that means well, but who cares about good intentions when most of the work shown by some 35 artists, (mostly young and unknown) is dull, and derivative, and looking like an average grad school end of semester show or a grab bag of things that can be seen and not noted in the Chelsea galleries any day of the week.
               Art history begins and stands still around 2010 in this exhibition and what the curators of this swamp of nothingness are pushing on us is the notion that artists today are mostly interested in political actions and art making that involves the interaction between the artist and his immediate environments, neighborhoods or mini societies. This is of course rubbish and one gets the idea also from the curators that no one in Brooklyn is painting or making objects any longer.
              This is what I call a walking nap show, (the recent Christopher Williams yawn at the Moma is another example). You walk and nap at the same time, waking up to take in the surrounding environment like the floors, walls and light fixtures instead of the work exhibited.  I noticed that everything looked snazzy and fabricated, how did these poor struggling young things manage to produce such smooth and perfect works. Of course I then realized that the show must have had corporate backers and foundations putting out the big bucks so that these clunkers could be expertly fabricated. And sure enough in the BKM handout folder there is the list of these big money backers.
             There is nothing wrong with this kind of support, most museum exhibitions need these backers, but the outcome in Brooklyn leaves much to be desired, and only proves that money alone can’t make wonderful exhibitions or compelling art. So what we have here is a perfectly made ice box attached to a tricycle that mimics the rougher and less attractive real life moveable stands that sell those wonderful cups of shaved ice covered with syrups in poor and Latino neighborhoods around the city. This little number has small video screens with sound imbedded in the cart along with the necessary bottles of colored syrups to pour over the shaved ices. The artist intends to go about town selling his shaved ices and recording the reactions of people, some videos are already running. There is also a pretty fabricated pigeon coop with real live homing pigeons, as if New Yorkers don’t have enough of these awful birds in our lives we now get to view them in a museum. Unclean unclean.
           There are lots of videos (naturally), survey pages about what it’s like living in Brooklyn pinned to a wall, ordinary large color photographs, 365 small paintings (the only paintings in the show) of clouds that look like photographs, handmade dresses with painted and drawn images of President Obama on them, (actually I liked these) and much more, way too much more. If this is the best that the curators could come up with then maybe this kind of show should cease to be.

I wear my high heels at night.

I tried to view the show “Killer Heels: The Art of The High-Heeled Shoe”, but after a few minutes in this very darkly lit and cramped show, which was actually about the size of a shoe box I gave up and left. Packed from what I could make out with mostly women dying for these historical, hysterical and contemporary shoes.  I got bumped and knocked into like a steel ball in a pinball machine with me ricocheting into shadowy perfumed figures too many times, and before my claustrophobia started to kick in and before I started to scream I fled. To bad because from the little I did manage to see over bodies much taller than myself it looked quite good but as I once said my days of going into small dark rooms came to an end in 1981. I should have taken my own advice.

           The third and final show I saw was the marvelous and moving “Judith Scott-Bound and Unbound” and where the shoe show was packed I was pretty much the only viewer in the gallery where these large wrapped sculptures are now residing until March. I knew about Ms. Scott for some time and had glimpses of her art and life, which was sad and daunting.
            Born with Down syndrome, deaf and mute and considered at the time to be profoundly “retarded” and without much hope. She was separated from her beloved “normal” twin sister and placed in an institution for the “mentally retarded” in 1950. All hope for her was gone and she fell into nearly complete despair, unreachable and unteachable.
           The story was terrible until her twin sister took control of her and moved them to California in 1985 and in 1987 enrolled her in the Creative Art Center where after a few months her life changed when she became intrigued and attracted to fiber art, and started to make these remarkable sculptures out of discarded materials especially colored yarns.    
                 No one knows what she was thinking when she was making these pieces, but happily for 17 years she produced this amazing and beautiful body of work before passing in 2005 at the age of 61. I spent quite a bit of time with these pieces marveling at the richness and beauty of them, at once odd and obsessive but also very sophisticated and refined. These are pieces that any artist can and should relish and embrace. I loved this show and it more than made up for any disappointments I had at the museum.


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