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“We’re never going home”

Women's March on Washington, January Twenty First, 2017, Washington DC — We made an unlikely trio: an artist, a banker and an architect. I knew them better by their Twitter handles than by name, having met long ago in the faceless context of Internet fandom. Bound together by a deep love for tennis and the irresistible appeal of Rafael Nadal, it wasn’t the US Open that had brought us together on this chilly morning, but the results of the US Inauguration. Gathering in the 4 AM darkness of a January morning, we proudly clutched homemade signs and posters like precious homework assignments. Sleepily joining a long bus line in our pink hats and slogan-driven T-shirts, groups of drunken youths occasionally stumbled past us, … [Read more...]

Martin Creed: The Art of Installation

The Back Door, Park Avenue Armory, June 8th-August 7th, 2016— You’re The One For Me (2012) It may be 2016 but it is still surprising to be confronted by the medium-less methodology of truly conceptual artists. Even today, as the lines between art and culture blur daily, artists who define themselves by concept rather than medium, continue to be unique. The latest installation at the Park Avenue Armory by the conceptual British artist Martin Creed (b. 1968), teases viewers with every form of art imaginable. There are videos, wandering minstrels, paintings and drawings, “sculptural interventions,” installations, balloons, metronomes, and woven textiles, making the exhibition seem like a surrealist carnival. Within this massive … [Read more...]

Rounding the Corner: Rome to Russia

The plane captain tells us before takeoff, look right, then left, at the beautiful city of New York. Total flying time to Madrid: 6 hours and 25 minutes. It could be bumpy. It's spring.  In Madrid, a woman overhears me telling a young opera singer, bound for Amsterdam on his first trip to Europe, that I’m traveling alone. Over coffee in the airport, she gives me two pieces of advice: always talk to strangers and always eat at the bar. It’s after midnight in Rome and I’m watching aging waiters close their Hosteria. They’ve left me a bottle of wine, a box of tissues, cookies, and a single chair. As one of them empties a bucket of dirty water into the planter boxes outside, he looks at me and says, “It's better this way. … [Read more...]

After A Decade

I vividly remember flying west to California for Christmas after my first semester at college, packing my cameras with the expectation of documenting all that was familiar and nostalgic. A professor of mine quenched my naive documentary excitement by informing me that it was too soon to search for sameness. He suggested instead I look for what had changed, and I discovered it wasn’t familiar buildings and storefronts that had morphed into something new, but the markers of childhood: our house, old friends, aging parents. A decade later, I find myself retracing my steps in reverse, flying from the east to the Midwest to revisit my collegiate stomping ground after a decade of absence. This time I hoped to find what, if anything, was still the … [Read more...]

The Master Framer

A Week with Wim Wenders, March 2015 —   MoMA’s recent career retrospective of Wim Wenders—the iconic, modest, humorous, down-to-earth filmmaker with an uncanny knack for bringing magic to the ordinary aspects of life—screened 20 restored films and numerous shorts in sixteen days this March. The retrospective kicked off just weeks after Wenders was given the lifetime achievement award at the 65th Berlin International Film Festival. In New York City for the screenings, speaking before and after each showing, the retrospective gave an eclectic set of followers the chance to see Wim Wenders' films in their rightful format, as well as hear from the man himself. I found myself surrounded nightly by a familiar set of faces, and … [Read more...]

Portraits of Mexico City: A Missing Identity

Growing up third or fourth generation Mexican American in Southern California is as usual an occurrence as 70-degree winters, Santa Ana winds and scorching summer fires. It’s an ethnic identity so common that it doesn’t feel like an identity at all. Spanish streets, cities and surnames are as omnipresent as we are, and yet my mixed ethnicity followed and shaped my childhood. My father’s attitude toward day laborers standing pensively on suburban street corners to his overly respectful interactions with policemen, gave me a sympathy and wariness I subconsciously internalized. Moving away—to the midwest, abroad, down south, back east—this identity faded as quickly and unexpectedly as childhood. With so much Native American mixed into my … [Read more...]

A Train From Marrakech

Morocco looked the way I’d imagined it, full of tiny twisting streets that are old, narrow and confining, and where being lost is simply a part of tourist life. Dead ends, doors that look exactly alike and giggling teenage boys lurking in shadow, watching bemused as you wander astray were daily occurrences. Summer in Marrakech is dry and cracked, and I felt sorry for the nested storks perched atop the old city walls. The souks are thronging during the day and shuttered in the afternoon, and only animals and unwise tourists are caught outside at midday. Riads, cool and quiet, are enclosed sanctuaries, more calm and beautiful than any castle I’ve ever seen. Sitting on a rooftop, surrounded by skulking cats, you are overlooking history. … [Read more...]

Notes From Paris: JR’s Au Panthéon

This summer, the Parisian street artist known semi-anonymously as JR installed his massive, black and white portraits inside the classically built Panthéon, tackling that age old divide between art and architecture. Erected in the latter half of the 18th century in the Latin Quarter of Paris, the Panthéon was intended to be a neo-classical church and ended up as a famous mausoleum. The Panthéon has an ornate, Gothic exterior embellished by Corinthian columns and beautiful stonework, and inside boasts lofty domed ceilings, religious murals and stunning marble floors. Glass windows and skylights fill the galleries with natural daylight, giving the interior the hushed feeling of a religious space. For the duration of the exterior renovations … [Read more...]

The Characters of Paris

Travel can tell you more about who you are than it might about the places you visit, and can be the best way to look for who you were. A decade after I lived in France, this felt like the perfect summer to revisit and revaluate, to dust off old memories and sentiments of a place that was once familiar and yet foreign. Who changed more, I wondered while crossing the Atlantic, myself or Paris? While I was away, I soon discovered, Paris had become warm and friendly, outgoing and uninhibited. It was more expensive than I recalled but also more beautiful, as rainy patches gave way to brilliant sunshine. Café culture was as seductive as ever, and the lifestyle, as I remembered, seemed less exhilarating but more enjoyable. The pace of life is … [Read more...]

Swoon’s Submerged Motherlands

Swoon: Submerged Motherlands, Brooklyn Museum, 2014, Installation View —   The Brooklyn-based artist Caledonia Curry is known best as the street artist named Swoon. She remains one of the very few female street artists whose style is as recognizable as a Banksy, and who has been wheatpasting her intricate portraits and paper cutouts onto Brooklyn buildings and beyond for over a decade. In the last five years, as the street art movement has gained momentum and commercial appeal in the art world, Swoon has created several site-specific, high-traffic installations. From her Swimming Cities project,handmade rafts that sailed uninvited onto the shores of the Venice Biennale in 2009, to the suspended sculptural installation … [Read more...]

The Photograph in a Post-Digital World

What Is a Photograph?, International Center of Photography (ICP), January 31–May 4, 2014 — Owen Kydd, installation view of Knife (J.G.), 2011 What Is a Photograph? is the latest exhibition to open at the International Center of Photography (ICP), and its title asks one of the most relevant questions facing not just photography but art today. Opening coincidentally after the Aperture Foundation published a new book of essays by John Berger titled Understanding a Photograph, this is the topic du jour for photography in a post digital world. Despite reviews suggesting that the ICP exhibition answers none of the questions it poses, the twenty-one artists it represents, ranging from young makers to some well-established old-timers, do … [Read more...]

Rincón, Puerto Rico (Overexposed Series), 2013

Overexposed, Rincón, Puerto Rico, 2013. Fujifilm Instax Mini … [Read more...]

Mike Kelley’s Abjection

“When I was young the art world was where you went to be a failure. It was a chosen profession, and you chose to be a failure.” – Mike Kelley, 2004 2013’s exhibition calendar for the major museums in New York City brought a seemingly unprecedented invasion of West Coast artists to our attention. The onslaught included important figureheads like Paul McCarthy, who took over the Park Avenue Armory in his Disney-inspired, pornographic video installation WS, James Turrell, who transformed the Guggenheim Museum into a sublimely colorful skyspace, Robert Irwin, who exhibited one of his classic light paintings at the Whitney and Chris Burden, whose brilliantly lunatic work was tamed and repurposed in the New Museum’s halfheartedly edgy … [Read more...]

Station to Station

Makers—In this life there are takers and there are makers. We’re here to celebrate the makers—the unsung heroes who make things with their hands — Levis Strauss Olaf Breuning, Smoke Bomb Performance, the setup and aftermath. Described as a nomadic “happening,” Station to Station, the brainchild of the L.A. based, multimedia artist Doug Aitken, is a richly compelling idea that consists of a collective of artists, musicians and performers traveling through the United States by train. In various cities across the country—Chicago, Pittsburg, Winslow, Minneapolis, New York City, Los Angeles—the group of traveling creatives disembark, team up with local artists, and together orchestrate a night of food, music, art and performance. Station to … [Read more...]

Isabella, Puerto Rico (Overexposed Sereis), 2013

Overexposed, Isabella, Puerto Rico, 2013. Fujifilm Instax Mini   … [Read more...]

Aten Reign

James Turrell's Illuminated Vision, Guggenheim NYC, June 21–September 25, 2013 — James Turrell is arguably the most sublime manipulator of light and space the contemporary art world has ever known. This is an important and impressive summer for the 70-year-old artist, as retrospectives open simultaneously in L.A., Houston and New York City. His massive installation at the Guggenheim entitled Aten Reign (2013), promises to be the east coast’s summer blockbuster. It is the artist’s first solo museum exhibition in New York since the Whitney career retropective in 1980. An artist born into a Quaker family in Pasadena, California in the 1940s, Turrell belongs to a generation of west coast artists who were fascinated with light, and who … [Read more...]

Aguadilla, Puerto Rico (Overexposed Series), 2013

Overexposed, Aguadilla, Puerto Rico, 2013. Fujifilm Instax Mini … [Read more...]

Canvas and Sash – A Meet at the Met

Impressionism, Fashion, and Modernity, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Feb 26-May 27, 2013  — At first glance Impressionism, Fashion, and Modernity, on view at the MET through May 27th, looks less interesting than it actually is. Just in case a large-scale exhibition of great Impressionist paintings doesn’t pander enough to the tastes of the general art going public, this exhibition pairs Impressionist painting with the actual gowns and accessories worn by their sitters. What could possibly be more appealing than a show that brings together the great lifestyle portraitists of the late 19th century and the bourgeoning reputation of modern Parisian fashion? While it sounds like a vacuous blockbuster, Impressionism, Fashion, and Modernity … [Read more...]

17 Days in Southeast Asia: The Roar of Saigon

I’m used to the bustling, frenetic movement of New York City. I’m familiar with all the New Yorker’s lost in their ever-shrinking, individual worlds, even while they’re surrounded by a thronging mass of people. It’s a city where personal space is malleable but somehow maintained. The breakneck pace of NYC, however, is more of a mindset than anything else. The city is only dangerous, toxic or unsustainable for people who don’t actively choose to mentally participate in the frenzied multi-tasking necessary to live here. Saigon, by contrast, audibly rumbles. Like all those earthquakes I knew well as a child growing up on the west coast, Saigon perpetually sounds like it’s on the verge of upheaval, and perhaps it is. Flying in from the coast … [Read more...]

17 Days in Southeast Asia

“So, as you are soon heading off to Southeast Asia, what are you expecting? Is making your expectations or prejudices concrete important? Are you looking for the ruptures between what you think versus what you experience? Do you look for something familiar to situate yourself? How will you make comparisons? Will you play the role of tourist or traveler? Is there a chance that you will be disappointed?” –RC-D Undergraduate professor, longtime friend and sometimes-respectable photographer, mailed the above barrage of questions to me on a handmade postcard shortly before I traveled around the world. They are good, provocative questions, but ill timed. I couldn’t fathom then how to answer, not knowing what my “expectations” let alone … [Read more...]

Conceptual Threads

ANN HAMILTON: the event of a thread, Park Avenue Armory, Dec. 5, 2012 -Jan. 6, 2013 I will always remember Ann Hamilton as the keynote speaker at my graduation many years ago. Like most professors, from the vantage point of a student, she seemed larger than life. I remember listening to her intently, waiting to be inspired, until I realized that she wasn’t talking to us but around us, and she was discussing the idea of graduation rather than our graduation. She approached her speech in the same manner that she approaches her artwork: conceptually, not personally. Though it wasn’t the inspired imparting of wisdom I’d hoped it would be, it provided useful insight into the thought process of a smart, complex and obtuse maker.   Ann … [Read more...]

The Murder of Crows

Janet Cardiff & George Bures Miller: Drifting Off — Art historians, professors, and artists alike all say that the average amount of time a person spends viewing a work of art is about 10 seconds; I’ve since learned that this is a generous estimate. While I never find art to be particularly boring, even when I don’t like it visually, I vividly remember the first time I was expected to enjoy being bored by art. It was in a color photography class, I was seventeen, and the movie up for discussion was Baraka. Made in 1992, Baraka is a beautiful, non-narrative film by Ron Fricke. It is an arty flick that tries to capture the essence of humanity in an hour and thirty-six minutes of exquisite, time-lapse filmmaking. About half way … [Read more...]

The Loupe_Oregon City

Living in the South taught me to appreciate the absurdity of our history. Everywhere you turned was the face of Lee and the figure of Stonewall. Great plantations with weepy oaks still sit majestically along the banks of the James River, looking uselessly beautiful. Idly exploring on a windy Sunday, I found a similar kind of historical humor painted across the sleepy walls of Oregon City, Oregon. The murals, depicting a nostalgic past of ingenuity and labor, contained more people than there were walking the streets of downtown. Please click to enlarge for artwork details … [Read more...]

Without Apology

Zoe Strauss: Ten Years, Philadelphia Museum of Art, January 14 - April 22, 2012 – Zoe Strauss: Ten Years, on view earlier this spring at the Philadelphia Museum of Art, is by far the most provocative show I’ve seen this year. Only 42 now, Strauss who was born and raised in Philadelphia, discovered photography when she was given a camera for her 30th birthday. Approaching picture taking with a self-taught sense of freedom, she quickly adapted the medium to her already developed conceptual ideas. Having founded the Philadelphia Public Art Project in 1995, well before she began her Ten Years project, the goal of the public art program was to give the residents of Philly access to art in their everyday lives. Expanding upon this idea of … [Read more...]

The Quiet Artwork of an Outspoken Artist

Ai Weiwei’s Sunflowers at the Mary Boone Gallery, 2012 – Last year the Chinese artist and activist Ai Weiwei captured the world’s attention when he was detained on April 3rd, and was held in a secret police detention center for the following 80 days. It was a story that brought the real world to the doorstep of the art world, and as the art world awaited news of the already internationally known artist, protests of his disappearance took place everywhere. In New York City, home to a particularly large and vocal art community, various different protests—Creative Time’s 1001 Chairs for Ai Weiwei, a staged recreation of the artist’s own installation Fairytale: 1001 Qing Dynasty Wooden Chairs for Documenta 12, or the Cuban artist Geandy … [Read more...]

Points of Departure

New Photography 2010: Roe Ethridge, Elad Lassry, Alex Prager, Amanda Ross-Ho, MoMA September 29, 2010–January 10, 2011 – A recent show at MoMA titled New Photography 2010 exemplified a growing trend in art where new artworks look old. In New Photography, four photographers work with dated imagery, a dated aesthetic, and in a referential manner, restaging Alfred Hitchcock film stills, Cindy Sherman photographs, or recycling an image of Goldie Hawn happily smiling from 1970s. Newness is the one thing the artwork conspicuously lacked. Instead of judging the artwork itself and whether we like it or not, it is infinitely more productive to consider why it is that young artists are using various techniques to draw their viewers backward in … [Read more...]