Full Tilt E.Vil. Nostalgia

September 14, 2007


Don’t miss The New York Times article about the best nabe in the world (still!), the East Village. The article mentions that Abbie Hoffman started the yippie movement in a basement apartment he lived in at 30 St. Marks Pl. I happen to live in one of two basement apartments that still exist at 30 St. Marks. The video (which is also excellent, don’t miss it) indicates that the “basement apartment” is now the Japanese restaurant Go, but I wonder if that’s correct, given that the restaurant is on the ground floor and there are still two basement apartments in the back. Does anyone know for sure which space Abbie Hoffman actually lived in? (I took the above photo in front of the store Trash and Vaudeville several years ago, which is the space where Yoko Ono and other artists held “happenings.”)

There is also a downloadable audio walking tour. Click here for that.

Howl Festival

September 8, 2007

Tompkin Square Park is alive with the Howl Festival. I happened to catch The Little Death NYC featuring Moby this afternoon. The whole park was rocking. Along the outside fence are murals by local artists. Here is one of the more compelling juxtapositions (click to enlarge):


For a short slideshow of last year’s Howl parade down St. Mark’s Pl. at the end of the festival, click here and scroll down to the sixth item.

Steel This Tree

April 24, 2007


The New York City Park’s Dept. recently completed a two year study to determine the cost v. benefit of urban trees ($5.60 for every dollar spent). So what is the calculus for steel trees? The sculptor Roxy Paine has three steel treestree1.jpg being erected in Madison Square Park. Not much carbon dioxide being removed from the air, but they’re lovely to look at — and that cost benefit-analysis is even more difficult to calculate (click to enlarge photos).

Light Criticism

January 26, 2007


What is this? Check it out, the Anti-Advertising Agency via LVHRD.

(Location) x 3

January 10, 2007

picture-3.pngPolis readers know I eagerly await the New Museum of Contemporary Art on the Bowery. In the meantime, the museum is sponsoring a series of lectures in the neighborhood. Tonight’s panel discussion, “Location Location Location,” sounds like it’s about real estate, but thankfully it’s not. The role of regional culture in a global world, and whether provincialism is as bad as it sounds, will be discussed by Saskia Bos, the dean of the School of Art at Cooper Union; the architect Teddy Cruz; the artist and MacArthur Fellow Julie Mehretu; and Nicolai Ouroussoff, architecture critic of The New York Times (6:30 p.m., Cooper Union, Seventh Street at Third Avenue, East Village, (212) 219-1222; $6).

Photo by Nicole Bengiveno for the The New York Times: The artist Julie Mehretu in front of her “Rise of the New Suprematists” at the Project in Harlem in 2001.

The Ice Storm: 1909

December 4, 2006

underbridge.gifUnderbridge Pictures, a gallery in DUMBO that focuses on architectural photography, recently had a show of Dutch farm houses and agricultural architecture taken in Brooklyn by long-forgotten New York photographer, Clinton Irving Jones (click here for a previous Polis post). As a follow up, Underbridge is now exhibiting photos that Irving Jones took in Prospect Park after an ice storm in 1909. He used a 4×5 camera loaded with glass plate negatives, even though rollunderbridge1.gif film cameras were readily available. Thanks to David Sokosh, owner of Underbridge, the photographer is enjoying a renaissance of sorts since his negatives were discovered near Syracuse and were sold at auction. The buyer put them on eBay, where Sokosh purchased the collection. For more info about the opening reception on Thursday and the show, click here.


December 1, 2006


No sooner had MoMA opened what was thought to be the final wing of its ten year expansion — the learning center, an eight-story building that anchors the eastern end of the sculpture garden — that MoMA director Glenn D. Lowry tantalized reporters with more building news. Apparently, the museum might get fatter by 17,000 square feet on the western side of its building (where people cue up for Free Fridays). According to Bloomberg News, the assembled land was supposed to be held for future needs, but with land prices skyrocketing, the right time might be sooner rather than later. Mr. Lowry “stressed that no decision had been made to go forward, the museum could add income-producing commercial or residential space above more galleries, totaling as much as 210,000 square feet.”

Photo by Fred R. Conrad for the Times.

The Sublet Experiment

November 30, 2006


Here’s a totally cool concept: A play that moves from apartment to apartment, neighborhood to neighborhood (thanks to Craigslist) rather than being staged in a traditional theater. The Sublet Experiment is described thusly: “A serial sublettor, a reality show reject and the worst bank robbers in history collide. It is a comic thriller about love, identity and identity theft as two young people try to find themselves but end up finding each other.” The play started in Washington Heights on Nov. 13, and moves to the West Village tonight (which is sold out), before moving on to Chelsea and Astoria. You can get on their email list to be alerted for new neighborhood shows.

The playwright, Ethan Youngerman, told Gothamist: “New Yorkers are so obsessed with real estate because where you live has a huge effect on how you live.”

The Un-Wedding Cake Design

November 8, 2006

new-museum.jpgI don’t think I’ve ever been as genuinely excited about — and even felt a certain ownership of — a new building the way I am anticipating the New Museum of Contemporary Art on the Bowery, which is about to top out and is projected to be finished in late 2007. Maybe it’s because the building will be within walking distance of my apartment. Maybe it’s because, unlike MoMA or the Whitney, the New Museum is truly contemporary and not suffering from an identity crisis. Maybe it’s because it is the first new museum building to be erected downtown in 100 years (designed by Japan-based firm SANAA). Or maybe it’s all of the above. All I know is, when I first visited the museum’s current space in Chelsea, I felt a visceral kinship with the art and the mission, and in the not too distant future, it will become my neighborhood playground. So with that love letter, below is a great photo of SANAA architect Kazuyo Sejima by Annie Leibovitz for Vogue (via Curbed). She’s holding a model of the building in her palm of her hand (I can relate to that feeling).


Of the building’s design, Sejima had this to say: “A stack of boxes is exactly what it is, or rather a series of pearly-gray volumes piled with artful carelessness, each off-center to the one below. Being both blocky and stepped, they intentionally echo the profile of classic Manhattan towers …” Brilliant! A contemporary take on the old-fashioned New York wedding cake building.

Meanwhile, to build support in the neighborhood, The New Museum is sponsoring a lecture series with Cooper Union entitled Hot Button. For info on that, click here.

It’s A Good Day When…

October 29, 2006

picasso.jpgIt’s a good day when two of New York’s greatest treasures can be combined into one outing. A little background on one of these great treasures: The Teak Fellowship is a program that helps economically disadvantaged but intellectually talented New York City students gain access to and succeed at top public and private schools. In the tradition of New York volunteerism, part of the fellowship is matching these gifted kids with “mentors” in the New York community. It is in this capacity that I am privileged to be getting to know Eva, whose parents are from Bangladesh although she has grown up in Sunnyside, Queens. As for one of New York’s other great treasures, on Saturday we went to see, “Picasso and American Art,” at the Whitney. Not only is the show brilliant (even if the point is hardly revolutionary: Picasso influenced American art), but seeing these works again with the clarity of Eva’s fresh eyes was a delight.

Pictured: Roy Lichtenstein’s Femme au Chapeau (1962), at the Whitney.

Whitney at the High Line?

October 25, 2006

The fairytale story of the High Line seems to have a pea under the mattress. The High Line — a rusty elevated railroad that was in danger of being torn down is being transformed into a public greenway supported by the likes of Ed Norton and Hillary Clinton — is losing its anchor cultural institution, The Dia Art Foundation, which was supposed open a gallery space at the entrance at 820 Washington St. at Gansevoort. Is this the start of an unraveling of plans at the High Line? Hardly. The real princess is the Whitney Museum of American Art, according to the Times, which is rumored to be stepping in to save the day. Apparently the museum was already rethinking its expansion plans on the Upper East Side and was looking for satellite space instead, “where the Whitney could have larger-scale spaces for cutting-edge artworks as well as attract the young, hip audience who frequents the art and nightclub scene.” The young and hip are sure to come out in droves to the High Line, a project near and dear to so many hearts for making urban planning sexy.

For a story about the High Line I wrote for Planning Magazine (keeping in mind this is Planning Magazine, so don’t hold the stilted language against me), click here (pdf).

Breathtaking Inanity: Subway “Bombs” as Art

October 14, 2006

This is just a jaw-dropper: For a sculpture class, two students at Pratt Institute planted suspcious packages in several subway stations and trains for a site-specific installation assignment. According to the Times article:

Reached by telephone last evening, Ms. Davis said she was sorry for what had happened. “The intention of the piece was not to create fear or anything like that,” she said. …

Mr. Barrett, who would not comment on his case, wavered between ebullience and gloom, breaking into an impromptu tap dance one moment, falling into a moody silence in the next.

Now they’re charged with five felonies and facing up to 7 years in jail. Lots of time to do site-specific installations at the big house.

Photo Double Feature

September 24, 2006

flood03.jpgThe occasion of Katrina’s one year anniversary has naturally precipitated a lot of documentary activity, from Spike Lee’s HBO special “When the Levees Broke,” to architectural photographer Robert Polidori’s show at The Met, which I went to see recently (as well as Ecotopia at the International Center for Photography, which I’ll get to in a minute). As I stood there gazing at the large format photographs taken on four separate trips to New Orleans over the past year, it occurred to me how wide the gap has become between the time-space it takes to document and transmit these disasters all over the world (and even turn them into works of art), and the reality of actually recovering from these disasters. The former happens instantaneously, and the latter seems to take ever longer as the disaster recedes in the distance. There’s something a little disorienting about gazing at these tragically beautiful photos as if the event were something that happened long ago (a Times review of the show refers to New Orleans as “the modern Pompeii”). I understand the need to document and exhibit, but it seems to have the perverse effect of absolving us from having to face, in real time, the human suffering that is ongoing.

Oddly enough, the show at ICP, Ecotopia, did not have the effect of removing one from disaster, but transporting the observer closer to it. Perhaps that is because New Orleans hits so close to home, or perhaps because Polidori’s photos are almost like still lifes without a human or animal in site, while most of the picture-1.pngimages in Ecotopia include something that at least has the potential for movement. Even Mitch Epstein’s photo of the aftermath of Katrina in Biloxi shows the Gulf alive and well in the background. Many of the other images, from the tragic to the whimsical, succeed because there is humanity. Patrick Brown’s slideshow documents the poaching and trafficking of endangered species throughout Asiapicture-2.png while Harri Kallio recreated life-like dodo birds (which have been extinct since the late 1600s) and installed them in their native habitat on the Island of Mauritius in the Indian Ocean and photographed them. It’s a brilliant construct, not to mention a lot of work! The entire show is quite a comment on our anxiety about the world and its very survival, and the impact that’s having on art and culture. Definitely a must see. (Click to enlarge the images.)

BTW: Check out Xlist (Now Playing…) for short reviews of things seen, heard, read and experienced.

Sky Mirror Sucks

September 23, 2006

skymirror1.JPGBefore the Sky Mirror was even installed at Rockefeller Center, I wrote a post (click here) guessing that it would not compare well to The Bean in Chicago’s Millennium Park even though it’s by the same sculptor, Anish Kapoor. Alas, how right I turned out to be! It’s not at all interactive like the The Bean is; it’s not nearly as photographable, and you can’t really get near it. It’s a bigger disappointment than I imagined. Granted, it was a cloudy day, but really it’s just a big shiny satellite dish. The only good thing about the Sky Mirror is that it’s a temporary installation. Otherwise, it would be quite embarrassing to have such an inferior work of public art compared to Chicago.

Original Copy

September 17, 2006

Amy Arbus, daughter of famed photographer Diane, has a collection of photos she took for the Village Voice compiled in a new book On the Street, 1980-1990. One of the least interesting on its merits is still a sentimental favorite: a shot of Madonna on St. Marks Pl. in 1983, shortly before she became hugely famous (it looks to me like the shot is facing west between 1st and 2nd Aves.). Twenty-five of Arbus’s photos are on display at the Cohen Amador Gallery, reaffirming the relationship bewteen NYC street photography and fashion as artistic self-expression. For an audio slideshow on the Times website, click here, narrated by a photo editor who quotes Oscar Wilde: “It is only shallow people who do not judge by appearances.”

To view my St. Marks photo essay, click here (first one).

Annals of Self-Invention [NYT]