art

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Henry Chalfant’s Golden Age ‘Graf Writers’ Speak

Henry Chalfant, "Mad PJ" 1980 (Image courtesy of Eric Firestone Gallery)

Henry Chalfant, “Mad PJ” 1980 (Image courtesy of Eric Firestone Gallery)

Long before Gordon Gekko’s bimbo cousin was inaugurated in January (no doubt aided by doing the best impression of Ronald Reagan he could muster), trend pieces had picked up a scent that hinted which way the wind was blowing. It had notes of burnt hair and overcooked mini vegetables on the nose, followed by white wine spritzer, and finished with a robust whiff of Misty Slim Lights and the lingering, chemically after-stank of cheap knockoff perfumes like “If you like Giorgio you’ll love PRIMO!” Then, the elections made it official: the ’80s are back, baby.

It might have smelled delicious, but the Decade of Greed wasn’t exactly a superbly excellent time for everyone involved. But for all the negi vibes–magnified in New York City by an extreme wealth gap– the ’80s produced some truly inspiring art, and the best of it came from a thriving, vibrant underground. During this time, graffiti reached its “golden age,” as a recent photography exhibition, Henry Chalfant: 1980, reminded us, and it wasn’t long before graf became a worldwide cultural phenomenon.

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Bejeweled Opera, Empowering Blurred Lines, and More Performance Picks

WEDNESDAY

(image courtesy of Hallie Haas)

(image courtesy of Hallie Haas)

Masterpiece Classic: Women in Art
Wednesday, February 8 at UCB Chelsea, 8 pm: $7

It is generally agreed upon that art is Good. However, the art world is where things get a little more polarized. This new character-based show by comedian and actress Hallie Haas takes on the type of people who consider themselves high and mighty creators, the type of people who take themselves reeeeeeally seriously. The premise is that Laura Linney, of course, has gathered together seven of the most sophisticated and acclaimed women artists for an evening that feels a lot like a certain public access television show. Only probably a lot weirder. Especially considering Haas will be playing every character. This spoof on PBS classics feels especially timely, considering I just got an email asking me to sign an online petition so that Donald Trump doesn’t get rid of PBS Kids. Please, think of the children. And the art.

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Art This Week: Colorful Constructions, Lovin’ on Planned Parenthood, and More

Denise Treizman, Gripped, 2016. Glazed ceramic, PVC pipe scrap, ink, spray paint, resin, pom-pom and bungee cord, 7 x 4 x 2 inches (image via SOHO20 Gallery)

Denise Treizman, Gripped, 2016. Glazed ceramic, PVC pipe scrap, ink, spray paint, resin, pom-pom and bungee cord, 7 x 4 x 2 inches (image via SOHO20 Gallery)

Part Is No Object
Opening Friday February 10 at SOHO20 Gallery, 6 pm to 9 pm. On view through March 12. 

Denise Treizman’s colorful sculptural creations are refreshingly playful, uplifting and childlike. This solo show of her work is opening in SOHO20 Gallery’s modest +/- Project Space, a space highlighting “ephemeral” or site-specific work. For Treizman, site-specific is everywhere, as her “constructions” are made of essentially anything that crosses her path, from pom-pom puffballs to PVC pipe. She collects these “fragments,” whether they be bits and pieces found on the side of the road or broken remains of a studio project, and then puts the mismatched pieces together to create something entirely new. There will be two other openings this weekend at SOHO20 Gallery, one of paintings by Nana Olivas and one showcasing work by the gallery’s three 2016 Residency Lab artists.

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In Williamsburg, a New Zine Destination Snuggles Up With a Comics Store

(Flyer via Quimby's /Facebook)

(Flyer via Quimby’s /Facebook)

When Quimby’s opened up a few weeks back just off the Metropolitan stop, Williamsburg gained another hip little bookstore in an area where it sometimes feels like culture is on the way out. Thankfully, Quimby’s is the real deal, even if it’s a revival of a Chicago institution first opened by Steven Svymbersky in the ’90s.

But wait a minute, isn’t there already a specialty book store on the block? Yeah, there most definitely is: Desert Island, probably the best comic bookstore in the city, and maybe one of the most glorious shops dedicated solely to graphic novels and arty comics.

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Openings: Black Lives Matter Show, Art for the Apocalypse, Refugee Reflections

(flyer via The Living Gallery / Facebook)

(flyer via The Living Gallery / Facebook)

Black Lives Matter Art Show
Opening Tuesday January 31 at The Living Gallery, 12 pm – 10 pm. Reception and performances 7 pm to 10 pm. One day only.

This pop-up art show, on view for one day only, features the work of Carla Cubit, who has created art in conjunction with Black Lives Matter in the form of posters, mixed media assemblages, and photos of BLM protests in the NYC area. The daylong event will also feature musical performances, a jam session, a speaker from “mobile social justice museum” The Museum of Impact, and an artist talk.

Throughout the day, a variety of BLM necklaces, magnets, pins, and other creations will be on sale for only $1, and The Stop Mass Incarceration Network will be offering posters for free. If you’d like to get involved on the creative side of things, there will be materials for folks to make their own posters or Black Lives Matter-inspired artwork. If you’re not artistically inclined, attendees are also encouraged to simply share their thoughts on the BLM movement.

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Art Openings: Love Positive Women, Virtual Quilts, and More

(by David Shama, via Con Artist / Facebook)

(by David Shama, via Con Artist / Facebook)

Supernatural
Opening Wednesday January 25 at Con Artist Collective, 7 pm to 11 pm. On view through January 27.

Inspired by the popularity of Netflix’s Stranger Things and other popular culture in genres that like to bring on the chills, Con Artist Collective’s Supernatural exhibition is a quick weeklong endeavor showcasing all things that go bump in the night. So, you’ll bear witness to ghosts, werewolves, demons, vampires, and other otherworldly creatures, but this won’t only be literal manifestations of the theme. Some artists will choose a more metaphorical path, rendering feelings of fear, suspense, or uncertainty through color, shape, or something else entirely. Boo! Keep Reading »

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Bromancing Assassins and the Myth of the Great Writer Genius in Holden

"Holden" by Anisa George (Flyer courtesy of George & Co.)

“Holden” by Anisa George (Flyer courtesy of George & Co.)

In a vacuum, The Catcher in the Rye is a pretty straightforward story– not a whole lot happens. But if you’re at all familiar with American culture, you’re probably well aware that it has taken on an enormously prolific life of its own. Probably you read the book for school as a teen, or even a tween if you grew up here, and you might have noticed that it has a somewhat polarizing effect. If you identified with the book’s hero, a 17-year-old kid named Holden Caulfield, anyone else who shared this affinity was an OK person too. But plenty of people just don’t get Holden’s misanthropic cynicism, and it’s weird, but there seems to be a built-in emotional trigger point here for those who do: clearly the haters must be “phonies” then, too. As time goes on, and teenage angst either subsides or turns into something else, like, playing in a black metal band or four-martini lunch hours, Holden’s frustration with the world’s many, many disappointments seems more like kid stuff. And most people realize that, OK not everyone is such a phony after all. But not everyone lets go of Holden so easily.

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Women Getting Lit, Plexiglas Playgrounds, and More Art

Kate Hush (image via Cooler Gallery)

Kate Hush (image via Cooler Gallery)

Female Behavior
Opening Tuesday January 10 at Cooler Gallery, 7 pm to 10 pm. On view through January 31. 

Firstly, let’s discuss this gallery’s name. Sure, it sounds sort of pompous, in a cooler-than-you kind of way, and maybe that’s what they think of themselves. But the origin of this gallery is actually, well, cool. It exists within a “repurposed industrial icebox” in the Brooklyn Navy Yard, so it really is a cooler gallery. Plus, it seeks to display work that involves elements of manufacturing, so it’s aware of its roots. But enough about the gallery, let’s get to the show: artist Kate Hush makes massive sculptures of neon light, and what she is particularly trying to capture in her solo show, Female Behavior, are women and their so-called “wicked ways.” She writes of light being produced when bonds are broken, such as the cutting of a diamond, so she has crafted female silhouettes to portray those who are seen as cruel and conniving simply for being “sharp” or for cutting ties with a man who will then call her crazy. May women burn bright and powerful as much as they can, especially now.

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More than 700 Artists Say They are Nasty Women, and Proud of It

(Flyer via Nasty Women/ Knockdown Center)

(Flyer via Nasty Women/ Knockdown Center)

A new art show opening this week is just the sort of hopeful omen we need really, really need right now, just one week before this horror show of an election culminates in Donald Trump’s inauguration, when he’ll make history as the Free World’s very first Twitter Troll in Chief. Nasty Women is proof that, even though we can expect many, many more deeply ignorant, casually misogynist remarks (like the one that inspired this show) to drop like so many pigeon poos from the stratospheric heights of Trump Tower, there are an even greater number of people out there who are refusing to let this stuff slide.

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The Theater That Was a ‘Weapon in the Class Struggle’

This week, we continue with our series of longer pieces unraveling the histories of storied buildings.

The Workers Laboratory Theatre, headquartered at 42 East 12th in the 1930s. (University of Wyoming American Heritage Center Archives)

The Workers Laboratory Theatre, headquartered at 42 East 12th street in the 1930s. (University of Wyoming American Heritage Center Archives)

In June 1931, with America’s working class still deep in the grip of the Great Depression, a handful of actors in New York City performed Art is a Weapon, a skit first adapted by the New York’s Workers’ Laboratory Theatre. It begins with a Capitalist, with a “silk topper and over-refined accent,” making his declaration about the limited uses of art. The workers respond by making the distinction between proletarian and bourgeois art; between art intended to amuse and enlighten the elite and art meant to liberate workers.

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RAE BK Had an Old-School Art Party With DJ Kool Herc and It Went Like This

(Courtesy of RAE BK)

(Courtesy of RAE BK)

The last time I saw a bunch of RAE BKs work all in one place was in 2015, just after the street artist and Brooklyn-native had opened his guerrilla-style solo exhibition in Chinatown. But the show wasn’t held at a gallery, instead RAE’s site-specific installation was housed inside a dingy old basement, accessible only by way of an unmarked, totally unassuming rust-red metal door adjacent to a bustling produce market. Even then, I was so jaded that I couldn’t allow myself to believe that this was a real basement with real dirt and dust everywhere. But actually it wasn’t just a fancy pop-up rental space with a stage-grit makeover, nor was it an attempt by some developer to “activate” a particular corner before the building was torn down. As RAE told me, the basement was simply on loan from a recently-retired butcher with whom he had a “tentative relationship,” and the show, called Trunk Work, was one of those rare art happenings that was both real and strange.

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