Friday, June 27, 2008

Aurora Robson's "Shebang"

Aurora Robson
Oil on panel
36 x 36 inches

There are at least seven strong works included in Gallery Satori's "Unreal City" exhibition (on view through July 27th). Among others, I was engaged by Jeremiah Teipen's basement smoke and light show ("Nothing, and everything"), Carlos Roque's aural-sculpture ("Sonic Architecture"), and two of Ha Rhin Kim's acrylic on mylar works, but Aurora Robson's "Shebang" resonated intensely.

Aurora Robson
Oil on panel
36 x 36 inches

The saturated color, layered surface and energetic, sensuous arabesques bring to mind the work of Brazilian painter Beatriz Milhazes, but where Milhazes is content to dwell in decoration, Robson embraces a more experiential magic, one that springs from an awareness of the ether.

Aurora Robson
"47 Society"
Oil on panel
24 x 24 inches

Hers is a physicist's sensiblity; the exuberance I felt in the presence of "Shebang" is the same I feel when I think hard on spacetime or abiogenesis.

Standing with the painting, I recalled something I'd recently read in Harper's Magazine. The following text is excerpted from "The Devil's Delusion: Atheism and Its Scientific Pretensions," by David Berlinksi.
"'Faith' it is said in Hebrews 11:1, 'is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.'...If religious belief places the human heart in the service of an unseen world, the serious sciences have since the great revolution of the seventeenth century done precisely the same thing....

The universe in its largest aspect is the expression of curved space and time. Four fundamental forces hold sway. There are black holes and various infernal singularities. Particles pop out of quantum fields. Elementary particles appear either as bosons or fermions. The fermions are divided into quarks and leptons. Quarks come in six varieties, but they are never seen, confined as they are within hadrons by a force that perversely grows weaker at short distances and stronger at distances that are long. There are six leptons in four varieties. Depending on just how things counted, matter has as its fundamental constituents twenty-four elementary particles, together with a great many fields, symmetries, strange geometrical spaces, and forces that are disconnected at one level of energy and fused at another, as well as at least a dozen different forms of energy, all of them active.

This is not an ontology that puts one in mind of a longshoreman's view of the material world. It is remarkably baroque, and it is promiscuously catholic."

Such baroque catholicism is the stuff of theoretical science, but it is also the stuff of good art.

Aurora Robson
Oil on canvas on panel
72 x 108 inches

Note: David Berlinski is a proponent of Intelligent Design. I made clear my stance on his position in an earlier post, but I see no reason to dismiss all of his ideas because we disagree with specifics.

Photo credits: Aurora Robson images ripped from her website

Monday, June 23, 2008

Letters From The Inquisition

Michael McDevitt, friend and fellow artist, recently created a second blog project, Letters From The Inquisition.

Feel Free To Wander, Michael’s extant Blogger venture, remains active, but focuses on art updates and images of works produced in Michael’s Pioneer Square, Seattle, studio.

Letters, by contrast, is chock-a-block with gems like “Adventures In Tiny Land,” a post in which Michael muses on the awesome magic of cellular engineering.

I look forward to reading many more such “letters.”

Friday, June 20, 2008

Southern Spaces

A friend of mine works as an editorial associate for the Emory University-based Southern Spaces, an interdisciplinary, online academic journal. The journal features essays, photography, short films and more, all exploring "the spaces and places of the U.S. South."

An erstwhile Southerner, I find Southern Spaces especially edifying, but most folks, no matter their provenance, will find the content of interest.

Thus far, I've contributed only two photographs to the site, one a snapshot of the marsh edging my family's Virginia home (for use in the journal's scroller credits) and another of a decaying love seat, abandoned in a seaside marsh near Bull's Landing, thirty or so miles south of Heron Hope. (A sibling photo is displayed above.) Both images capture some of the Eastern Shore's flavor.

If you want to receive e-alerts when Southern Spaces publishes new work, visit the the website and click on "E-Alerts," in the lower right.

Photo credit: Hungry Hyaena, 2005

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Fitting It All In

Feet and the Triborough Bridge; Astoria Park, Queens

I haven’t been writing enough. I have a good excuse – I’m busy in the studio, happily toiling over paintings and drawings for upcoming exhibitions in New York and Los Angeles – but the predominant cause is not so benign.

I’m preoccupied by the perception that I’ve lost some degree of control. This loss isn’t all unpleasant – in fact, I’m as content as I’ve ever been – but it makes me anxious nonetheless. I thrive on order and routine. The morning workouts and afternoon jogs, the biweekly apartment cleanings and snake feedings, the dietary restrictions and alphabetized accordion files, the monthly gallery slogs: all of these are now absent. My waist is softening, I’m not sure when I last made gallery grand rounds, and the snakes sometimes go months without a rat offering (which isn’t unhealthy, but neither is it ideal).

This has to change.

When my girlfriend asked me last week how many times I attempted to quit smoking cigarettes before I succeeded, I explained that I never really quit. Sometime in 2003, when I was twenty-five years old, I realized that I was ready to ditch the expensive, unhealthy habit. I started by limiting myself to social smoking. Gradually, I smoked less and less, until even the ceremonial appeal of smoking lost lustre. Today, I’d be surprised if I smoked ten cigarettes a year.

I need to make a similar choice with regard to my work ethic. I’m thirty years old; it’s time that I adopt an adult approach to productivity.

There must be a way to fit in the art-making, the writing, the day job, the necessary chores and the relationship without sacrificing adequate sleep. Right?

Seriously, suggestions or experiences are appreciated.

Photo credit: Hungry Hyaena, 2008

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Contradicting Einstein

Hamadryas baboon (Papio hamadryas); Prospect Park Zoo, Brooklyn

“Paradox is a characteristic of truth.”
-Wilhelm Dilthey

There is renewed interest in Albert Einstein's relationship to God. The recent debate was spurred by the public release of a letter written by the celebrity scientist on January 3, 1954. In it, Einstein states,
"The word god is for me nothing more than the expression and product of human weaknesses, the Bible a collection of honourable, but still primitive legends which are nevertheless pretty childish."

But the frizzy-haired physicist famously quipped that "science without religion is lame, religion without science is blind," and referenced God often enough to provoke hand-wringing among some of his colleagues. Furthermore, point out those that would have Einstein be devout, he also condemned the certitude of atheism.

But what's the big deal, folks? Creativity and truth-seeking thrive on contradiction and multiplicity. In any case, Einstein made himself pretty clear:
"I believe in Spinoza's God, who reveals Himself in the lawful harmony of the world, not in a God Who concerns Himself with the fate and the doings of mankind...I do not believe in a personal god and I have never denied this but have expressed it clearly. If something is in me which can be called religious then it is the unbounded admiration for the structure of the world so far as our science can reveal it."

Photo credit: Hungry Hyaena, 2008

Saturday, June 07, 2008

Flight of the Mechanical Bumble Bee

I hope that some readers can join me tonight for the opening of "Flight of the Mechanical Bumble Bee." Among the many participating artists are my friends Diane Carr, Boyce Cummings, Felix Esquivel, Amy Talluto and Jennifer Viola.

All the pertinent information is detailed below. (Please note the unusual gallery hours.)


AHL Foundation Presents
"Flight of the Mechanical Bumble Bee"
Curated by Eun Young Choi
June 4 - June 15, 2008

WCO Center
19 West 26th Street, 5th Floor
New York, NY 10001

Gallery hours: Wednesday - Friday, 12 - 6 PM

Opening reception: Saturday, June 7th, 6 - 9 PM
(Featuring a video screening by Tricia Mclaughlin, Dooeol Lee, Eliza Fernand)

Participating Artists:
Amy Talluto, Boyce Cummings, Choi Sung-Hun + Park Sun-Min, Christopher Reiger, Diane Carr, Dooeol Lee, Eliza Fernand, Eric Graham, Eunjung Hwang, Felix Esquivel, Geujin Han, Hyungsub Shin, Jaye Rhee, Jena H. Kim, Jennifer Viola, Miyeon Lee, Si Yeon Kim, SunTek Chung, Tony Luib, Tricia Mclaughlin

From the press release:
"Flight of the Mechanical Bumble Bee" is part of an annual exhibition program sponsored by the AHL Foundation. This year's exhibition is organized around works that are inspired by nature. The show brings together twenty exciting emerging artists whose works deal with the complex relationship between nature and artifice. Some view nature as an extension of the self while others take a more methodical approach to controlling nature through pseudoscientific inventions.

The exhibition explores the in-between states of abstraction and realism, fantasy and reality, chaos and beauty, the organic and the mechanical, the deliberately staged and the authentic, the genuine fake and the pseudo-natural. From dream-like scenes to the realistically staged, the show includes a wide range of media including paintings, drawings, ceramics, video, and photography.

Monday, June 02, 2008

The Jefferson

Vacant lot; East 13th Street, New York City

The recent crane collapse in New York City was national news, and it wasn't long ago that another Gotham crane catastrophe made headlines. Both accidents were the result of negligence, and both resulted in fatalities.

I'm no apologist, but given the ubiquity of cheap, new development in the city, it seems unsurprising that rushed workers and inspectors are guilty of oversight. The visibly shoddy construction of the "luxury condominiums" rising in Manhattan, Long Island City and Williamsburg is testament to the developers' prioritizing of profit over quality. I'm staggered by the asking prices for these apartments, and baffled that people are willing to pay them. But I shouldn't be; in the tri-state real estate game, location trumps all.

But then why, I wonder, has the vacant lot on East 13th Street remained unchanged for eight years? When I moved to New York in 1999, I was fascinated by the property. I learned that it was once the Jefferson Theater, a vaudeville house that played host to the Marx Brothers and Mae West, among other notables. The Jefferson was eventually - late 1930s, perhaps - turned into an RKO movie theater and, then, in the seventies and beyond, the building served a number of purposes, including a brief resurrection as a night club. (Indeed, the bricks strewn throughout the lot are the structure's remains. The theater was demolished in 1999, just before I moved to the city.)

In 2004, the lot received local media attention when a dead body was discovered nearby, folded neatly into an abandoned steamer trunk. The lot's owner, Milstein Properties, then claimed that development was slated to begin within the year. Four years later, I'm hoping that the old Jefferson won't be covered with a condominium anytime soon.

Whenever I walk by, I pause to watch European starlings scavenging among the strewn bricks, and to appreciate the relatively rustic aesthetics of the site. For me, the lot is less an eyesore than an oasis. Long live the Jefferson.

Photo credit: Hungry Hyaena, 2008