I went to New York this last week to check out a few art shows and hang out with my new friends Kelvin and Jim and every time I leave the city to come back to where I reside I’m a little sad because I feel like I’m leaving home. I have this feeling despite the fact that my quality of life is immeasurable better then what I experienced when I did live in New York, the cost of living being so high there. Still, the fast-passed life and easy availability of culture, diversity, and entertainment make me bristle with frustration and envy every time I depart on the Transbridge back to Pennsylvania.
As I said I traveled with a couple relatively new friends with whom this trip was a sort of test to see if we could endure each other – there being no crucible like a day in New York to test the elasticity of a relationship. We had breakfast and dinner at two nice restaurants, met with an associate who I hope can aid me with making more contacts in the art world, and managed to fit in about 10 galleries and a museum. We finished the day at a gay bar ogling over scantily clad bartenders and dismissive pretentious locals, all in all, a great 12 hours in town. I always wonder what people do in the city to be able to afford living there, and am always a little disappointed in myself that I didn’t have what it took to maintain a place there. I think every ex-New Yorker feels like they were voted off the island. I go into town about 4 times a year now and I’m always amazed at how much of a rich and glitzy playground it has become and is becoming. It really feels like an amusement park ride or a carnival.
Here’s a medley of images my friend Kelvin took on our day trip.
I was talking to my buddy Tyrone about the trip last night and he asked what I thought I saw in the city that gave me a sense of the zeitgeist in the art scene there. That’s always a hard question and I’m no professional critic, but one take away I did observe was that much of the work I saw felt like puzzles or riddles to me, full of inside clever jokes with in-jokes, or very oblique statements devoid of any irony at all. It’s like a game, irreverent, playful and clever, yet these are the rules…, and watch what you say or do or be canceled. It’s hard to know where any artist fits in this kind of vigilant world where language is so primary. If fact, the primacy of a kind of spoken or written language even in images without any recognizable speech seemed to be everywhere; which is always difficult for me as a creator because I hope when I go out to see work to see the kind that speaks its own ephemeral language rather than one I recognize.
I did see a fair amount of world-building and textured painting on Wednesday, particularly at the Whitney. I think the work that impacted me the most were paintings by Franz Kline and Edward Hopper. I always liked Hopper’s dark and moody works and his muscular stiff characters. Kline too is a giant, and visiting his large canvases with those bold brush strokes makes me, I don’t know, kind of nostalgic for that era of painting. I say this with the simultaneous thought in my head that there were likely plenty of African-American artists of Kline’s era who painted similarly heroic works who are not exhibited prominently if at all at a venerable cultural institution like the Whitney.
Here are respectively Franz Kline’s Conserving Mahoning 1957, and Edward Hopper’s Early Sunday Morning, 1930.
What does it mean to feel a kindred longing for a romanticized era of painting that you as a person of color could definitely not participate fully in if you did live in that era. I’m always amazed at how my ideas about artmaking, actually the character and disposition of an artist, really is a reflection of a kind of colonized mind. Does a self-awareness of one’s perverted notions of artistic practice free oneself from making casual mistakes. I don’t know, I’m usually incredibly blase in how I behave as a creative, I simply obey an urge to create and then carry on.
When leaving New York on the bus I always look back at the city when the bus leaves the Lincoln Tunnel and have my sad little sigh. Over the past few years, that view has been interrupted by ferocious high rise developments on the Jersey side of the tunnel and the formidable Hudson Yards on the other side dominating the westside skyline in Manhattan. There’s a type of appropriateness in this obscuring for me. It’s as if the buildings are saying, “this is not for you…, go grow where you’re planted”. I’d like to think the stalwart implicit message embedded in these monumental buildings might mitigate that departure-sadness a little, the city is so ridiculous economically to survive in; nevertheless, I long for the next time I can go back, navigate the subways with my eyes closed, walk all day until my feet bleed and not notice they hurt until the end of the day, and just watch all the people beautiful and otherwise, all hustling.
I really love and am deeply creeped out and suspicious of how good my Pandora is at predicting songs I like. It’s a little big brother(y), and I guess we give them this power by what we thumbs up, but it still makes me feel like its all part of Skynet’s plan to take over the human race. With that said I am still on my French or otherwise European jazzy-pop-electronic-music thing. Here’s “Paradoxale” by Monade, and “A Simple Formality” by Komeda.
I finally got my materials for my Mercury painting and the final two Sea of Japan pieces. Also last week I worked out the first eight pieces of the 12 Gnostic Confessions series. I think I will get around to getting the lumber for the series next week provided I can get rides to the Home Depot organized – always a challenge when you like to paint large. Next week I think I’ll blog about what transpires in the studio and I’m thinking about doing a blog on First Friday and resurrect that blogging section. Well see how it goes, I’m supposed to go to a party that day too so there might actually be something interesting to blog about by the end of that day, Anyway until then do be well.