Entering a studio whose walls are filled with Norman Seeff’s black and white photography feels a touch voyeuristic. Once you get over the quality of the print work, the exquisite lighting, the brilliant contrast and, most notably, the iconic subjects, one realizes what Seeff is really capturing is intimate moments. We’ve all seen countless images of Ray Charles, Sly Stone, Patti Smith, Steve Martin – and the list goes on. But what sets Seeff’s work apart from other photographers capturing living legends is the sheer authenticity of expression he manages to tease out of each one of his subjects, no matter how famous, jaded, or elusive they may be.
When Seeff moved from Johannesburg, where he practiced as a doctor in a local hospital, to New York City in the 1960s, among the fascinating characters he met – Smith, Robert Mapplethorpe, Andy Warhol – was legendary graphic designer Bob Cato. Cato exposed Seeff to the realm of rock photography. When Seeff moved to Los Angeles in the 1970s to become creative director of United Artist Records, his stunning work received endless accolades and even a handful of Grammy nods.
“I discovered early in my career that if the experience was authentic, the images that came out would be authentic,” Seeff explains. “The core secret of my process is to focus on being emotionally authentic and present in the moment… to allow the outcome to unfold spontaneously.” Regarding Seeff’s body of work, this emotional authenticity takes many forms; strength, humor, thoughtfulness, melancholy. The range of genuine emotion present in a studio of Seeff’s prints is miraculous. In honor of his first solo exhibition at the Morrison Hotel Gallery in Soho, Seeff has generously shared the stories between three of his spectacular photographs.
“In the early, trial and error days, when I thought I had to use tactics to get the artist to let go, I ended up having some rather uncomfortable experiences. I remember standing 6 feet away from Frank Zappa and asking, “How far are you willing to go?” he looked at me with a hardly hidden sneer and said “anywhere you want to go”. So we hit him in the face with a pie—this was clearly not the way to go—we ended up getting cream in his ear and he was rather tweaked. But being Frank Zappa had committed to life as an adventure he quickly let it go and we ended up working together frequently after that first misstep.”
“My experience of the Ramones was that they were not particularly interested in conversation focusing on creativity— but they had something visually intriguing about them. It wasn’t that they were fashionistas of the time, but they had a style that totally fascinated me. I found myself, after taking some full body shots, being totally captured by their torn jeans and sneakers. In some strange way they were high fashion. It was so distinctive of The Ramones at the time that in fact you didn’t need to see their faces to know that it was The Ramones. I personally love the whole series of shots from the waist down.”
Robert Mapplethorpe and Patti Smith
“In the early days, when I had just arrived in New York , I realized very quickly that in order to survive as an artist I had to discover my own unique voice. I had started, metaphorically and literally, walking the streets and finding interesting people to shoot. I believe I must’ve met Robert and Patti at Max’s Kansas City Bar downtown. Max’s was a nexus to hang out at the time. When I met them I was intrigued, they looked so hip, but I had no idea who they were. They agreed to come up to my place—on 72nd and Amsterdam— for a shoot.
At one point we were hanging out in the apartment kitchen and I was touched by the depth of the love between them, it was visible. This was one of my early shoots where I was just beginning to understand that capturing the authentic moment was, in fact, the essence of what was to become my vision as a photographer.
Robert told me that he was an airbrush artist at the time and asked if he could airbrush over one of my photographs and I agreed. He came back two weeks later and showed me his work… I was amazed. His work was truly brilliant graphically. He gave me a wonderful print, I still have it to this day, I really connected with both of them. Patti later introduced me to Sam Shepard who was living at the Chelsea Hotel and I ultimately ended up relocating and living and working out of the Chelsea for my remaining years in NYC.”
Photographer Kelsey Bennett and conceptual artist B. Thom Stevenson recently came together for a collaborative body of work entitled BOREGASM at Fig 19 Gallery in Manhattan’s Lower East Side. The two first teamed up as art directors for the psychedelic music video “Schemers.” With BOREGASM, they’ve created colorful and mind-bending collages using 35 mm photos taken by Bennett, which were then layered with mixed media from Stevenson. Here they are on their creative partnership, their influences, and the true meaning of a boregasm.
Can you walk me through the process of how you guys started working together? What do you think it is about this collaboration that works so well?
Kelsey Bennett: So, basically, we’ve worked together before. We met two years ago. What makes it work is more about our process. [We] have similar work ethics.
B. Thom Stevenson: We both look for other challenges outside our comfort zone. We’re always looking to do something different and new that we haven’t done before. I have trouble continuing to do the same thing over and over again.
KB: Which is great because everything moves so fast with the Internet. I feel like you have to be on your toes when creating. You can only push something as far as you can. For me, I try to push things as much as possible to try and get as much exposure as possible, but you never feel like you’ve done enough.
What’s your process for working together like?
BTS: I think working together we’ve learned about our process.
KB: Yeah. It’s nothing we’ve ever sat down and talked about. Like, ‘Oh, how do our styles make sense together?’ We’ve just done it and it’s worked out, so we keep doing it. I feel like both of us draw from this childhood aesthetic. There’s this resurgence of kids from the 90s. I’m so happy because there was a time where I was like, “Shit. I’m so stuck in the nineties.” But then it came back, and I’m like, “Yes!” There’s something very nostalgic about our art because we’re holding on this Never Never Land, this never grow up mentality. I’m so happy to be a part of that because that’s what art is. It keeps you young. It keeps you alive.
So, how did this project begin?
BTS: Well, like we said, we do love working together. I came to Kelsey and was like, ‘Let’s do a show together.’ We didn’t really have an idea and I personally like to use something that already has a life as a basis for what I do. I use a lot of found objects and things like that. Kelsey had been doing at the same time — completely unrelated — these visual mashups.
KB: Usually what I do is straight-forward portraits. Working on Brian with this project, I was really able to segway back into fine art. I was taking a break from doing the straight up portraits and taking a lot of 35 mm snapshots. There was something missing for me, so I started making these collages in Photoshop of two photos combined. When Brian came to me, I sent him the photo collages and we came up with the idea to do screen printing.
BTS: It’s such a liberating process to use someone else’s photograph. It was this push and pull. I’m not going to cover the full canvas with my stuff because it’s this collaborative effort. This definitely opened up my eyes to a different way of doing my art.
KB: And when I gave over my shots to Brian, there was something liberating and freeing about being like, ‘Just do what you’re going to do.’ I feel like both of us, with how we do our work, promotion, surrounding it, how its handled, we’re so meticulous. When I gave it over, I said to myself, ‘Just give it.’ It’s a great working relationship. I’ve never done something like this before, but it’s the best possible thing. You’re taking what you’ve done, giving it over to someone, and making it better.
BTS: Once I got the images, there was a lot of pressure on me. I shoot from the hip when I paint. I try to be expressive.
KB: And it’s always experimental.
Let’s talk a bit about the name Boregasm. What is a boregasm?
BTS: Boredom is a form of depression. Boregasm is about being bored with the monotony of every day life and the desire to make it more interesting, and to stack on your own ideals to the world around you like. Like when you see a shadow that looks like a funny face and it actually makes you laugh a little bit. Those type of things are what a boregasm is. Just being excited about this thing that isn’t actually there, but you see because you were bored.
KB: The reason why you get bored isn’t because you’re not thriving on what the world has to offer. It’s because you feel stuck and your brain gives you this alternate world if you’re a creative person. Being a creative person feels like a privilege that you get to go to this alternate space and it saves you from boredom. A boregasm is this explosive mental thing where you’re inspired from boredom.
BTS: We created this thing together. It was a sybiodic creation. It was like our art cells divided, and came together and created this other entity. I think that’s what boregasm is. It’s this build up, build up, build up to your head trying to put these ideas into a concrete thing. It’s being bored with — well, not the world because that sounds negative — but being used to it. Like, it’s become normal, and creating something abnormal that’s also inspiring for other people, as well.
KB: It’s like the development of a brain, too. Your brain thinks differently than how you’re being graded in school. It’s not a matter of “Can these pieces fit?” It’s, “Put these pieces together in a way that you think looks cool.” And that’s what we’re doing.
BTS: When I was a kid, I had a lot of problems with patterns. They were trying to teach be ‘red, green, red, green, red, green,’ but I would just stack all these different colors together, and I didn’t understand. Patterns of every day life…we’re fully capable of doing it, but Kelsey and I like to add a little bit something more on to it.
What do you have planned for the future, both separately and together?
KB: I’ve had three solo shows in New York and now I’m having my first show in L.A (taking place at the Darkroom Gallery until June 1). I’ve always loved L.A. and I just decided, I’m going to go out to L.A., I’m going to try and establish connections out there. I was husting and trying to set up meetings, and I was saying with my best friend from childhood’s aunt and she said she knew the curator of the Darkroom Gallery. So, she emails him, and I was only going to be in L.A. for one more day. I came by the gallery, showed them everything, and he was like, ‘I love this. Let’s do a show.’ It’s my first show in L.A. How John, the curator, was like, ‘I want this to be a mini retrospective of your work and also your introduction to L.A.”
I’m working on another series called HAGS, which I photographed Brian and his brother for. HAGS being “Have A Great Summer.” In high school I never felt like I related to the majority of people, so I’m basically rounding up my dream high school. In the next year, my goal is to photograph as many people that I’m like, ‘I wish you were in high school with me.’ In the L.A. show, I’m showing four of those portraits.
We’ve talked about showing BOREGASM somewhere else, maybe expanding it. Maybe adding t-shirts, prints. Maybe showing it different parts of the country, or out of the country.
BTS: We’re definitely interested in showing it. We have more work that we didn’t put in the show that we’d like to show, too. Some of this stuff needs to be seen by more people.
Can you speak a bit about your influences?
KB: We’ve never talked about influences.
BTS: I think her influences are completely different than mine, but there are a lot of parallels, a lot of crossovers. I was influenced by the format because it almost feels like a flat screen TV. That’s why I used the static and the repetition of patters. You don’t see static on television anymore. But I think my inspiration were her photographers.
KB: It was cool thinking about “Oh, Brian might like this or that.” I feel like it was…it’s hard talking about what I was influenced by because it was so from the hip. I just wanted to create because I wanted to create. The photos I used are from all different places. From the east, from the west, form the south. Everywehre. There’s no one theme. The theme is me. What fascinates me. Everything is from a short period of time, but I can combine a picture that’s from Mississippi with L.A., but they can make sense together because they’re me. It’s all these different layers of memories.
If you haven’t yet checked out The Ardorous, then check out The Ardorous. It’s a website curated by Rookie-affiliated photographer Petra Collins, who, from her homebase in Toronto has managed to gather a huge coterie of talented female artists from all over the place, all onto one very simple and very enjoyable website. To give you taste of The Ardorous’ willowy sensibility, Collins hooked us up with a shoot she did of Ardorous artist Alice Lancaster hanging out at home in New York, wearing the first collection from designer Julia Baylis, also of The Ardorous. So yeah, The Ardorous is doing it.
Lithe limbs twined amidst field growth, hair and rope bondage, aesthetized assholes, edible genitals. Ren Hang’s photographs of nude youth may remind you of the work of Robert Mapplethorpe, Ryan McGinley, Nan Goldin, Terry Richardson, Nobuyoshi Araki, and/or Juergen Teller. His intrigue isn’t formal though, it’s contextual. Ren Hang was born in a Northeastern province of China in 1987. A quarter-century young, he is representing a side—backsides, undersides—of China rarely before seen. Hang’s images demonstrate how youth across cultures are interested in the same. Exhibiting a penis and jam sandwich or boy love means more in contemporary China, though, and “deliberately provocative” Hang is out to challenge his country’s conservatism. The work is controversial at home but still shown; so far, Rang’s had several solo shows in China. He has also published a book titled Republic and appeared in several international group shows, including ones in Italy, France, Russia, Israel and Sweden. I chatted with Ren via e-mail this past week. Although most of our correspondence was lost in translation, we managed to settle on a few details.
Where did you grow up? Where do you live now?
I was born in Changchun City, Jilin Province, China. Now living in Beijing.
Who are your subjects?
My models are my friends. They are those who are closest to me, they trust me, and so they’re natural in front of me.
Do you take self-portraits?
Your work is widely circulated online. Where and how do you best like your work viewed?
I hope for my photos to take any form that people can see. I hope that everyone can see my photos, and all face up to their nudity. Nudity is not a shame.
Thirty teamsters in jeans line the entrance to Frieze. I’m passing them in a yellow car, so I know, right now, which side I am seen to be on. The workers are protesting a perceived discrimination, by the organizers of this second now-annual art fair, against their unions. I am going to report on a pastime for millionaires.
From the FDR, an enormous red balloon dog is instantly recognizable as the handiwork, minus the “hand” and arguably also the “work,” of Jeff Koons. Art makes history. I shiver to think this will be ours. If Koons is the most successful artist since Warhol, and if what we think of Warhol is also and forever what we think of the ‘60s, what of now? Of now, then, the question isn’t what is art, or why it’s art, but who gets to make it.
One answer is that I would like work to be made by those who cannot afford to have others do the handi part for them, by artists closer to union workers, or Cooper’s Union-ers fighting for free tuition in the future, than to Wall Street-era CEOs or their brats.
Another answer, one attempted by a distinct minority of the representatives at this year’s fair, is that art should be made for those who cannot afford to buy it.
Art that happens outside the white-walled containers of museums, galleries, and fairs is not new, of course; over the past three decades, social practice art has found itself on a continuum with social media and “Internet art,” and all of it is partly reaction against the hyper-materiality and crudely implied materialism of contemporary, pleasingly “conceptual,” loft-intended paintings and sculptures that blew up the New York scene in (loosely) the ’80s, and is bigger than ever now (Koons, Damien Hirst, just metonyms for scale). Still, it is easier to store an object than an experience. No matter how many power naps Tilda Swinton takes in the MoMa, it is still the museum’s permanent collection—a collection mostly of objects—that tells you what the culture wants to preserve.
Even Marina Abramovic, who once told me that she does not believe in owning objects, especially if those objects are called “art,” is preserving her “immaterial art” by building what appears to be a very material museum on the Hudson River. “It’s not about you; it’s about others,” she says in a video posted to her Facebook page last month. The museum, it seems fair to note, will be called the Marina Abramovic Institute. It is a museum meant to make her métier art.
Meaning: What we call art, and not just “guys doing stuff,” is work that requires both medium and mediation, both content and context. Artists like to say that art is defined by intent, but intent is something taught to you in college. The difference between a balloon dog and a Koons is scale, yes, but also place: street fair versus the Palace of Versailles.
The difference between what a social worker does and what the legendary social practice artist Suzanne Lacy does, when she combines performance art with studies on rape, or with self-defense classes against women, is also place: The homes of these women versus the steps of Los Angeles City Hall.
There is an extra difference when, as a socially conscious if not socially practicing artist, you make art for those who can afford it, but of those who cannot. This is the art likeliest to feel exploitative, like one side Othering the other. It’s also that which is mediated by curators and dealers and editors at the highest strata of taste and class, and so, if history shows, will remain. Picasso wasn’t the only guy to paint Guernica; he was the only Picasso. If there were no Picasso, would there still be a Guernica, or a Guernica at all?
There was, for example, no Braddock, Pennsylvania in my world until the still-underrated photographer LaToya Ruby Frazier’s A Haunted Capital opened at the Brooklyn Museum last month. Had a totally unmediated artist posted the same images to Flickr, almost nobody else would see them, either, unless Buzzfeed were to do an investigative listicle of 117 Places So Poor You Wouldn’t Believe.
Likewise, I’ve looked at Jenny Holzer’s Lustmord (1993), telling the story of a Yugoslavian genocidal rape from three perspectives, in three jarring mediums, over and over again, but I had not heard of Lacy’s 1977 Los Angeles City Hall piece until I researched her pre-Frieze. This may have to do with merit, Holzer being something of a genius, but it has also to do with mediation. Does the mediation justify the means? And then, to what end? If Lustmord is bought and displayed by a museum, it makes history for women we might not have remembered. It might also make me feel like Holzer stole. Unlike Frazier, she is not making this work of victims from her own family, place, or class. On the other hand, she is practically a genius, with not only the art-world power but also the pure ability to make a work that transcends—if transcendence is possible—all three.
“It’s not only the raw experience or the raw emotion of the political event that matters,” says Mary Sabatino of Galerie Lelong. “It has to be mediated into something that transcends the topic, because the topic will end. Art that transcends versus art that is topical is also the difference between great artists and good artists.”
This year, Sabatino has dedicated her Frieze booth to some greater works of “activist art,” a term that fails to differentiate between art that contains action (like Kryzstof Wodiczko’s literally moving “Homeless Vehicle,” 1989) and art that represents it (like Yoko Ono’s paintings about fracking, which you can buy if you want to do literally fuck-all about fracking while supporting a rich artist’s ability to continue making you feel like you care).
Representation, I tell her on the phone, can be so porously delineated from exploitation.
Sabatino seems audibly to shrug. “Exploitation is an easy way to distance ourselves from the feelings engendered by the work,” she says. “To put it on the artist rather than yourself. Besides, exploitation implies money that often isn’t there. Socially conscious work is not commercially successful—there’s an audience for it, but I wouldn’t say there’s a market, save for a few clients who share certain democratic values.”
And so, Sabatino says she’s had to take risks on “artists who speak about important issues of our time, whether it is violence in Guantanamo or against women here.” Most of these she’s worked with for decades, and some (Nancy Spero; my world-favourite, Ana Mendieta) are dead. Given generational bias, I expect her to say that young contemporary artists are less political, more cynical, than they were in the first heyday of say relational aesthetics. She does not.
Neither does Lacy, who teaches at Otis College of Art in Design and California, and who has been practicing what she’s come to term “new genre public art” for four decades. This term is evolved from “social practice;” it feels exacter than “activist.” It implies, she says, “a dialectic between politics and art,” the way relational aesthetics zig-zag between art, life, and life as the medium for art.
“Social practice and public-space art has been steadily growing over the past 10 years,” says Lacy, when I suggest that this might “just” be cyclical, “and it does go with the return of relational aesthetics to some degree, but I don’t think it is a trend. I think more and more young artists are genuinely interested in making art that connects to a community.”
My friend Molly Crabapple, 29, is very much a community (i.e., Occupy) artist, and it’s not coincidence that her work falls totally outside the contemporary sphere as defined by fairs and by magazines like Frieze. Molly grew up working-class and stayed that way, learning to paint by doing murals for nightclubs in high-heeled Doc Martens, or as performance at a “terribly fancy” Hollywood party, where she was forbidden from speaking to the guests.
“The thing that angers me,” Molly tells me over gchat, “is the educational barrier set up to entry into the fine art world. Saying that you need a Yale MFA is just saying you need 80K to be an artist.”
Soon, if the students do not have their way, it will mean the same to say you need a Cooper Union degree. Then there will be no free art schools in New York, yet New York will remain the capital of our art world, the place where creation meets and is mediated by capital. Where—as the artist Richard Wentworth pointed out in a talk held at a Burberry store, which by now doesn’t even seem weird—going to an ostensibly open-to-all gallery is actually a rite and a privilege, requiring education (he did not say educational barrier; I am saying educational barrier). Where Jeff Koons is on the cover of New York Magazine, the headline already declaring this his age. And where, next to New York, there’s TIME, and that cover story calls us, the “millennials,” once again a generation “lazy, entitled, narcissistic, and still living with [our] parents.”
Yes, our parents, who are the same age as the allegedly age-defining Koons. Koons, who sells overgrown toys made by wage labourers for 1.5 times the cost of a year at art school, who before that sold paintings of himself having sex with a porn star, and who once called his human infant son his greatest “sculpture.”
And whose infamous stupid balloon dog, the world’s largest self-portrait, is the most publicly visible part of this whole fair.
When I reach the actual green grounds of Frieze, I reluctantly, ineluctably, approach the thing. Then I see it. A real, red, dog-shaped 80-foot-high balloon, not the shiny intractability of a Koons. The publicist, laughing, tells me it’s by Los Angeles artist Paul McCarthy. I laugh too. It’s funny: McCarthy’s replica returns, with maximum irony, the form to its function, deflating—if we’re lucky—the entire mute conceit.
But from public space, all you can see is a Koons, a balloon dog. You can’t see the vastly smaller, sadder balloon rat, held up in protest by the teamsters. It’s almost as good a joke, if not good art, but anyway it does not matter, because it is on the other side of the gated entrance, and therefore, is not art at all.
Nobuyoshi Araki is a Japanese art photographer known to many on Tumblr as the tag tied to pictures of languid and rope bound Japanese women. Araki also shoots cities (Tokyo, mostly) and flora, but in the Arakiverse, flowers are never just flowers, nor are cracks in the pavement, or bananas, obviously. His lens, he famously said, “has a permanent erection.” Fully clothed, Araki women are always still in a state of undress. Completely naked—suspended “M ji kaikyaku tsuri shibari” (hanging letter M, open leg binding) or “sakasa ebi shibari” (reverse shrimp binding)—they wear only their humanity, with asanawa rope. Araki calls his process, “making love, naked love.” Gravity is essential. As is grace.
Nobuyoshi Araki is important—press releases will say “Japan’s greatest living photographer”—though rarely exhibited in America’s #prudestablishments. Notorious but underrepresented, reblogged and so auratic, he is why I came, for the first time, all the way to Jersey City. I came to see the largest and most comprehensive showing of Araki’s work ever held in the United States of America, which opened early this month at Mana Contemporary, an intriguing and odd new art center at the end of the PATH.
The show features more than 100 works from one distinguished private collection, including a wall of Araki’s books (he’s published more than 450), a partition of positives (reverse negatives), and literal piles of polaroids. Around a bend, the documentary Arikamentari plays. With no subtitles, the film imparts a sense of the animation of the artist but offers little more context than the rest of the white cube show. The only writing on the wall: “To observe life as well as death embraced in life, or life embraced in death. That is the act of photography.”
Foregoing textual anchorage, the experience of seeing Araki at Mana is not much different than seeing his images reproduced online. The models look great printed lifesize, and there’s something exciting about looking through a positive, as he might, deciding what’s worth blowing up, but no secret meaning was revealed by a screenless viewing. That’s not a putdown of the show, exactly, it’s more to say that the Araki vision translates across platforms. Whether we are in a new gallery in an old industrial part of Jersey or scrolling online, the same questions arise: What freedoms lie in restraint? If these women could speak, what would they say? Is Araki the Terry Richardson of Japan; his trashy exploitation lost in translation and turned into art overseas? Or is he progressive like Mapplethorpe? Trying like Schiele? How wide is his lens? How thick is his—?
The questions came to me, but all Arakinquiry seemed indulgent and banal after I travelled to MECA, the Middle East Center for the Arts, on the third floor of Mana. There they are showing, in collaboration with the Umm El-Fahem Art Gallery in Israel, a collection of video art by six Palestinian women who live and work in Israel, namely Nasrin Abu Baker, Iman Abu Hamid, Fatima Abu Romi, Raida Adon, Anisa Ashkar, and Manal Mahamid. The videos range from a few to nearly thirty minutes, and, while Araki got a gloss of a walkthrough, at MECA, I sat and watched it all.
I did not understand much of what I was watching. Confronted with an alluring unfamiliar, I grasped, as one does, for things I knew. Raida Adon’s The Body Recalled (2012) is the first, the longest, and most prominent video; it’s what beckons you in. In it, I recognized a ceremony—a beautiful woman with a braid like Rapunzel and kohl black eyes starts out in some homosocial cabal. She, our heroine, is also pictured alone: sitting on a surreally high chair, looking like Alice after “DRINK ME”; drowning in a clear tub of water, face painted white, like a Japanese horror film Ophelia, or like Snow White in her glass casket. Cut through scenes in a desert, our lead chops off her iconic braid and hangs it on a tree decorated with similar abandoned braids. In the end, she trades her female cohort in for a man. She hops into this man’s arms, falls into him, succumbs, is carried away. I get something: man, woman, community, matrimony, hair is a symbolic object. But that’s a sketchy interpretation at best.
After seeing the show, I met Raida Adon in Mana’s onsite restaurant. Admitting to my ignorance, the only question I had for her was the most basic: what is it about? A translator sat between us as she explained:
The video explores the relationship between a man and a woman on their wedding day, incorporating elements of both Arab and Jewish culture. The fascination with hair stems from the practice among Arab and Jewish women of cutting off their hair following their wedding. The loss of one’s hair mirrors a loss of power. The coffin-like bath of water reflects a sense of being suffocated by marriage. The end, when the protagonist is picked up by the man, can be seen two ways: as a fairy tale, with the husband carrying the wife away, but it was also inspired by image of an animal being sacrificed and carried away by its owner.
This kept happening: I could “get” some of what I was looking at at MECA but its socio-political context was mostly lost on me. I initially understood the show’s title—“Voices from the Interior”—as referring to the domestic sphere of women in and outside of the Arab world. A majority of the videos take place in the domestic spaces, with recurring images of marriage ceremonies, laundry, and other household chores. My interpretation was not wrong, but it was lacking. I missed the other interior: the interiority of being a Palestinian in Israel.
“This community is known by a variety of terms: Arab-Israeli, Palestinian-Israeli,” Tyler Waywell, a director at MECA patiently explained to me, “One term that is not used in English but is common in Arabic is ‘Palestinians min al-dakhil,’ which literally translates to ‘Palestinians from the interior.’” He continued on:
As a group, they are looked at as somewhat foreign both within Israeli society and the Arab world. As ethnic and religious minorities in a Jewish state, many Israeli Jews see them as something of a “fifth column,” foreign and potentially disloyal to the state. However, cut off by Palestinians in the West Bank, Gaza, and the diaspora, this group is often also looked at suspiciously by other Arabs, who see them as somehow corrupted by their Israeli citizenship, as well as their knowledge of Hebrew and Israeli culture.
“Sorry for all the historical/political background,” he apologized, unnecessarily.
As a reader, I want to learn something from a review. As a writer, I want to be expertly educated on my subject. Thus the seeking out Araki; I can write about Araki. I can’t write much about the work in “Voices from the Interior”, yet. But I felt compelled to air it asap (even while airing my ignorance), because, as a critic, I want to encourage readers to experience things I think are worth experiencing, and MECA right now is that. In a city as filthy with art as New York, it’s still rare to see something you haven’t seen before. Exhausted online, the tortured nudity of Araki’s photographs no longer provoke, but an empty dress floating in an empty lot, as in Raida Adon’s short video “Fasatine” (2012)—that commands you to know more.
Nobuyoshi Araki and Voice from the Interior: Palestinian Women Artists will be on view at Mana Contemporary through August 16, 2013.
In the fair whose name says nothing, there was definitely a lot to absorb. When the New Art Dealer Alliance decided to sit this year’s New York edition in Basketball City, eyebrows raised. And indeed, it was surreal to walk through a maze of over 70 galleries from as far away as Tallinn, while passing by still visible scoreboards and hoops. Nevertheless, this year’s NADA Art Fair was a solid presentation. And with works ranging from a multi-colored computer screensaver to an installation involving performers wandering the aisles in metallic silver zentai, it was not hard to escape the incongruity of art collectors at a public recreation facility.
One of the main trends was that painting is back (again). But while NIGHT Gallery presented pretty and mundane figurative works on canvas, others displayed painting that incorporated new and dynamic elements. Daniel Faria Gallery presented a hauntingly curious collection of lips painted onto photographs of sunsets. Brennan & Griffin’s booth featured two color-field-esque paintings that employed bright neon light tubes to bring color off the canvas. Conversely, LOYAL Gallery’s paintings that utilized digital projections of geometric shapes heightened the illusion of flatness.
Bold presentations were noted throughout the fair. The School of Art Institute of Chicago featured a fascinating array of functioning/non-functioning design art objects; of particular interest was the six mice carcasses that had been fashioned into a cube. The artist team of Merkx & Gwynne was literally dramatic – creating a full set that featured trompe l’oeil artworks, a 15 foot high medieval tower, period costumes, and a mountable fake horse—they planned to film a reenactment of King Arthur for the duration of the fair.
In all, it was obvious that NADA was not Frieze, which this year was a good thing. While Frieze brought semblances of in-the-know art culture to collectors through food (Roberta’s, Marlow and Sons, Mission Chinese), NADA brought actual avant-garde. While both fairs prominently featured waterfront views, NADA’s location across from the art havens of Greenpoint, Williamsburg, and Bushwick was a subtle indication of the type of works featured. Depth, presence, daring, and innovation could be seen everywhere.
Did you know that design encompasses beautiful jewelry and taxidermy encased in lucite and really handsome guys doing manual labour and models wearing seven inch heels and free champagne??? Well it does! Or it at least it did yesterday at the launch of the Collective Design Fair at Pier 57 (which is open to the public today through to the 11th). Here is some photographic evidence.
The Tappan Collective artist Tyler Healy wears many hats: artist, curator, surfer, and for our little Q & A, versatile humorist. His work mirrors the latter with a simple style and a warm but brash commentary. Read on for more on the Parson-educated New Yorker’s unique inspirations and predelictions, in URL form.
Tell us a little bit about your upcoming show.
May 10 2013 http://edvarie.com/
When do you make your best work?
Probably in… America? http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/
You seem to curate quite a bit, how does that affect your work?
Sometimes it gets messy!?! http://25.media.tumblr.com/
Did you have breakfast today?
Yeah I had it in Paris, Vegas actually! http://www.
What is your favorite color?
Favorite color? This reminds me of a short story by Carrie Bradshaw…
What is your favorite instrument?
What subject do you seem to be most drawn to?
See previous answer.
What is your least favorite sound?
Predz much sumz me ^. http://www.youtube.com/watch?
Who is your favorite artist?
Lloyd: What do you think the chances are of a guy like you and a girl like me… ending up together?
Mary: Well, Lloyd, that’s difficult to say. I mean, we don’t really…
Lloyd: Hit me with it! Just give it to me straight! I came a long way just to see you, Mary. The least you can do is level with me. What are my chances?
Mary: Not good.
Lloyd: You mean, not good like one out of a hundred?
Mary: I’d say more like one out of a million.
Lloyd: So you’re telling me there’s a chance…
Why do you make art?
Lloyd: What the hell are we doing here, Harry? We gotta get out of this town!
Harry: Oh yeah, and go where? Where are we gonna go?
Lloyd: I’ll tell you where. Someplace warm. A place where the beer flows like wine. Where beautiful women instinctively flock like the salmon of Capistrano. I’m talking about a little place called Aspen.
Harry: Oh, I don’t know, Lloyd. The French are assholes.
What is your favorite ice cream flavor?
What is the one thing you wouldn’t eat?
Where do you pull inspiration from?
Mostly here https://www.google.com/
What is your biggest demon?
These next two questions were tough ones, but…
What is your happy place?
What gets you out of bed in the morning?
Even if I knew that tomorrow the world would go to pieces, I would still plant my apple tree. http://en.wikipedia.org/
What puts you to sleep at night?
More like who!
Who is your hero?
I would just sing the entire song but my breath has already been taken. #JenniferLoveHewitt http://www.youtube.com/watch?
What would you draw a lover?
My Back! http://www.hulu.com/watch/
Whats your ideal life at 60?
Where is your ideal life?
Peace, health and happiness for all.
What do you most admire in a man?
What do you most admire in a woman?
Did you see that skit on SNL? No, no the other one.
How much do you love Tappan?
Oh my God! http://www.youtube.com/
Why do you use film?
Since Mad Men’s inception, “What would Don Draper do?” has been a real time question on the show and in real life. A recent rendezvous at the new Conrad New York in Battery Park City gave us the answer to “WWDDD” if asked to build a thoroughly satisfying New York hotel. Conrad New York, named for Connie Hilton from history and season three of Mad Men, is the first Big Apple outpost of Hilton hotel’s luxury hotel division. Upon inspection, the bricktop newcomer seems touched with virile, dead on Draper insights.
On the look: I keep going to places and ending up somewhere I’ve already been. It should be modern, a stand out. Inside, Conrad’s unique atrium rises 15 stories high, with one end dominated by Sol LeWitt’s 13 story, Loopy Doopy (Blue Purple) and a headspace woven throughout by Monica Ponce De Leon’s cable string installation “Veils.”
On amenities: Technology is a glittering lure. Use it. The hotel’s exclusive digital service, Conrad Concierge, integrates with the hotel’s management system offering customization of bath amenities, a preferred pillow from the pillow menu, and room service.
On culinary offerings: Do you know what happiness is? It’s freedom from fear. And the hotel has nixed fear of a mediocre meal thanks to a partnership with Danny Meyer’s Union Square Events company of Gramery Tavern and The Modern, and Blue Smoke fame. And the clincher? A new rooftop bar, the Loopy Doopy, because it’s New York, don’t be stupid.