Chelsea Galleries, December 2013

My visits to New York almost always include an afternoon wandering the galleries in the Chelsea neighborhood. And I was able to get back again this year and see how the neighborhood had rebounded from Sandy last year. The area was hit hard with flooding, and last November many galleries were closed, while others were physically open as crews removed drywall and ran industrial fans. There was little outward evidence of the damage this year, save for a musty aroma in a couple of galleries. Thus, the focus was on the art itself.

The major event in the neighborhood appeared to be Yayoi Kusama’s solo exhibition at David Zwirner. The large exhibition including both paintings by Kusama as well as several installations. A large video installation Manhattan Suicide Addict featured the artist with bright red hair and outfit greeting visitors in front of changing psychedelic patterns. Nearby was a visually captivating immersive installation Love Is Calling featuring light, sound, sculpture and mirrors. The experience within the space was disorienting, but not at all disturbing with the large softly curving forms and cool colors.


Because of the limited space inside, access to the installation was limited. However, there was no line for Love Is Calling when I visited, while the wait for Infinity Mirrored Room – The Souls of Millions of Light Years Away, 2013 was several hours long. There was no wait at all to see Kusama’s paintings, which while equally loud, had more of a cartoonish or folk-art quality to them compared to the overt technological nature of the installations.


A surprise discovery was Piece of Silence, an exhibition of new drawings, paintings and sculptures by Sandra Cinto at Tanya Bonakdar Gallery. Among the major themes in her show was music, and indeed the entire lower gallery featured a series of elaborately illustrated cellos and other musical instruments mounted onto walls covered in musical staff systems. The illustrations featured elaborate naturalistic landscapes and water, themes that were also used into Cinto’s other sections of the exhibition. As the gallery was not too crowded, it was possible to linger in the stark gallery and take in the “silence.”


We then go from something unexpected to something completely as expected. There wasn’t much surprise in Richard Serra’s monumental sculptures at Gagosian Gallery’s two Chelsea locations, but they are nonetheless favorites of mine for the scale, metal texture and industrial quality. (I have heard is work derided as macho in the past, but that is a topic for another day.) At the 21st Street location, there was a single installation made from huge undulating sheets of rusting metal. One could walk through and explore the interior spaces, which ranged from round chambers to narrow passageways.


The pieces at the 24th Street, by contrast, were very linear in nature. I did particularly like this set of rectangular slabs.


Michel de Broin’s sculptures at bitforms featured industrial elements, but on a human scale and constructed from existing utilitarian (or formerly utilitarian) objects. Tires, utility boxes, broken light bulbs, are all fair game in de Broin’s work, which is arranged quite minimally and efficiently around the gallery’s space. There is also a playful quality to these pieces.


Found machinery and industrial objects are also the essential elements of Hidden Tracks, a solo exhibition by Reinhard Mucha at Luhring Augustine. The large pieces in the exhibition included working elements such as model railroads and old TV screens playing videos of similar industrial apocrypha.


In reflection, the industrial and the technological dominated the art that I focused on during this particular tour. But that is not surprising. It also was a major part of Michael Light’s photography exhibition at Danziger Gallery. The show focused on human technology set against the natural landscapes of the western United States, as seen from the air. That included several images of large freeway interchanges, including some classics from California and Arizona that we have included in our “Fun with Highways” series here at CatSynth.


As always, my Chelsea gallery walk ended with a visit to The Red Cat for a Manhattan and some samples from their menu. This time, that included a season soup with sausage confit that was highly recommended by my server and definitely worth enjoying slowly between sips of the cocktail and reflecting the days activities.

Fun with Highways: the Ed Koch Queensboro Bridge

Today, we visit the Ed Koch Queensboro Bridge to mark the passing today of former New York Mayor Ed Koch. The bridge, which carries New York State Route 25 from Queens to its terminus in Manhattan at 2nd Avenue, is known locally at the “59th Street Bridge.” It’s actually over 100 years old, having opened in 1909.

[By Lasse Fuss (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0], via Wikimedia Commons]

The Queens side connects to a tangled nexus of ramps that are mixed up with elevated subway structures. And as these structures are all aging, they become interesting photographic subjects. The bridge was named in honor of the former mayor in 2010.

Here is cute video that has been circulating today, in which Mayor Koch welcomes passersby (including the current mayor) to “my bridge”. (You need only watch the segment until about 2:00)

It’s very typical of his style, being a larger-than-life character but also a bit self-deprecating. It is quintessentially “New York”. From the New York Times obituary:

…out among the people or facing a news media circus in the Blue Room at City Hall, he was a feisty, slippery egoist who could not be pinned down by questioners and who could outtalk anybody in the authentic voice of New York: as opinionated as a Flatbush cabby, as loud as the scrums on 42nd Street, as pugnacious as a West Side reform Democrat mother.

I did have the opportunity to meet him twice on visits back from Yale to New York City, as part of the Yale Political Union. Although my colleagues seemed to treat him rather coldly, I was quite happy for the experience.

Ambient-Chaos at Spectrum (NYC): Groupthink, Amar Chaudhary, LathanFlinAli, Charity Chan

Today we look back at the November 15 Ambient-Chaos night at Spectrum in New York. Spectrum is a new loft space dedicated to experimental music, and I was happy to have the opportunity to both hear new music and perform there.

The performance opened with LathanFlinAli, a trio consisting of Lathan Hardy on saxophone, Sean Ali on bass and Flin van Hemmen on drums.

Their music was an intense free-jazz style that moved between individual hits, bends and other sounds to more idiomatic and rhythmic sections. Every so often the intensity would swell to a loud hit or brief run on all three instruments.

The trio was followed by Groupthink an electronic duo featuring Darren Bergstein and Edward Yuhas. While the first performance was all about percussive hits and rhythms, this set was the complete opposite with ambient drones and thick electronic textures.

Throughout the evening, large programmable lights were pulsating, casting different color patterns on the wall and onto the stage. It probably worked best with Groupthink’s music.

It was then time to take the stage. I brought a relatively compact instrumental rig with a laptop, iPad, a garrahand (a metal drum from Argentina), a Luna NT analog synthesizer and a DSI Evolver.

The garrahand was the centerpiece of the set, both as solo tuned percussion and as a source for laptop-based processing. The texture of the overall performance was quite varied, ranging from analog noise to more melodic phrases on the percussion instruments. You can see a brief excerpt of this set in this video:

Amar Chaudhary live set at Spectrum, New York City, November 14, 2012 from CatSynth on Vimeo.

The final set featured Charity Chan on piano and Lukas Ligeti on drums. From the start, the pair’s sound was loud, aggressive and highly percussive. Chan definitely put the piano through a workout with her intense playing both on the keyboard and on the strings inside the instrument:

Ligeti was equally intense on drums, moving between loud hits and resonances.

The motion required for this music made the pair fun to watch as well as listen to.

Overall, it was a fun night of music and great way to start things out in New York. I am grateful to Robert Pepper (PAS) and Glenn Cornett

for hosting me at Spectrum, and hope to play there again.

A Perfectly Clear Day

[By David Jones [CC-BY-2.0], via Wikimedia Commons]

Earlier this year, 1WTC (on the left of the photo above) officially became the tallest building in New York City. It was officially topped off in August at 104 stories. Even last year, the under-construction building dominated the lower Manhattan skyline, with both its reflective windows and bright construction lighting.

I also had the opportunity to visit the new 9-11 memorial that opened last year.

The healing of the city includes modern design and massive scale, and attention to the human level with open spaces and green elements. I am looking forward to seeing how things have progressed when I visit again later this year.