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Art This Week: Uncanny Glitches and Duchamp’s Commodification

Lina Puerta, Crop Laborer (pink and gold), 2018

Present Bodies: Papermaking at Dieu Donné
Opening Wednesday, December 4 at BRIC, 7 pm. On view through February 2.

Though it’s not quite as big a part of our lives as it used to be, paper is still ubiquitous. It creates our books, our restaurant menus, our never-ending piles of junk mail, and of course, our art. Starting Wednesday, our humble paper will get the star treatment at an exhibit at BRIC, showcasing artists who not only make art on paper but make the very paper displaying their art. The show features eight artists who participated in a recent residency at hand papermaking organization Dieu Donné. They all use their craft to explore marginalized bodies, taking both their identities and the medium their art exists on into their own hands.

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New Book Reveals Downtown Ghost Signs Hiding in Plain Sight

(From The New York Public Library)

Over the years, B+B contributor Frank Mastropolo has brought us a series on Lower Manhattan’s ghost signs; painted on walls or erected in metal or neon, ghost signs are relics of businesses that vanished long ago.

Schiffer Publishing has just released Mastropolo’s new book, “Ghost Signs: Clues to Downtown New York’s Past.” With photos of more than 100 signs, the book reveals the stories behind the old ads.

Click through the slideshow to see ten additional ghost signs recently spotted.

R&L Restaurant, 69 Gansevoort Street

R&L Lunch opened in 1938, serving the butchers and longshoremen in the Meatpacking District. In 1955, the eatery was renamed R&L Restaurant. Florent opened in the space in 1985 at a time, the New York Times noted, that the neighborhood hosted “a brand of debauchery that had little in common with the sleek corporate offerings that define the neighborhood today.” Florent closed in 2008 and later R&L became a retail space.

Waverly Smoke Shop, 29 Waverly Place

The Waverly Smoke Shop, across the street from New York University, opened in the 1940s and for decades sold cigarettes, candy, newspapers and NYU gear. Shop owners Mel and Jerry Goldstein were perplexed, the New York Daily News reported in 1991, when they were deluged with requests for NYU tank tops. Fans were trying to emulate Ellen Barkin, who wore the shirt in a scene from the film Switch. When Oren’s Daily Roast closed this year, the smoke shop’s sign was revealed.

Ramon, 201 West Eleventh Street

Ramon Hair Design was a Greenwich Village salon in the 1980s. When Two Boots West Village closed for renovations in 2019, workers removed its signage to reveal Ramon’s ghost sign.

S. Klein, 68 Clinton Street

The flagship of the S. Klein department store chain was open on Union Square from about 1912–1975. S. Klein was founded in 1905 and had other stores in New York and New Jersey. This ghost sign, embedded in the floor at the entrance of the Pig & Khao restaurant, may be the last evidence of the stores in Manhattan.

S. Cort Wines & Lager Beer, 317 East Fifth Street

The retail space down a few steps in the East Village was a bar and grill from at least the 1940s until the 1980s. S. Cort Wines & Lager Beer is apparently a much older tenant, though little is remembered about it. Its ghost sign was revealed during renovations in 2019.

Foot Gear Plus, 131 First Avenue

Foot Gear Plus opened in the East Village in 1980. Owner Tony Scifo told EV Grieve why he decided to close in 2019. “After several years of peaks and valleys in business there were just too many valleys . . . We offered great merchandise and great service — no gimmicks. But we just can’t compete with online.”

Foot Gear’s original sign was revealed by workers in 2019 as the site was being cleared.

Nathaniel Fisher & Co., 146 Duane Street

In the 1880s Duane Street and West Broadway was a neighborhood of shoe manufacturers and dealers. One of the most enduring was Nathaniel Fisher, a manufacturer and importer of shoes and boots. Its founder moved here in the late 1800s and remained at the address until 1953.

Craig’s Shoes, 114 Chambers Street

Craig’s Shoes in Tribeca opened in 1949. Before it closed in 2006, the New York Times noted some of its famous customers. “Senator Charles E. Schumer has picked up Rockport Dressports for $100. And the actor Robert De Niro once sent an autographed picture after an assistant bought shoes for him there.” Renovations in 2019 revealed Craig’s ghost sign.

The Yipster Times, 9 Bleecker Street

The Yipster Times was the house organ of the Yippies, Abbie Hoffman and Jerry Rubin’s anti-war protest group. Founded by Dana Beal in 1972, the newspaper was published sporadically from 1972 to 1979, when its name was changed to Overthrow. Its small staff wrote and edited the paper in a three-story building that served as newsroom, office, dormitory and meeting hall for East Village activists.

Whalebone, 161 Duane Street

While this Whalebone ghost sign in Tribeca has been repainted, it is authentic. The Tribeca Citizen explains that in the second half of the 20th century, the bones of whales were used in corsets, hoop skirts and buggy whips. George Messmann opened the Pacific Whale Company here in 1890. He later told a reporter, “I had that sign painted large and white because I learned as a mere lad that advertising pays.”

As the whale population was decimated and fashions changed, the whale bone industry collapsed. Messmann closed his store in 1920.

Photos by Frank Mastropolo unless noted.

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‘It Was the Place to Be’: 20 Years of Pete’s Candy Store

Norah Jones with Puss ‘n Boots (Photo: John Muggenborg)

Pete’s Candy Store opened in Williamsburg on December 1st, 1999. It’s almost unbelievable that it would still be open, 20 years later, considering the trajectory of the neighborhood over the ensuing era. Pete’s stage has welcomed a laundry list of now-famous musicians and writers, while becoming home base for a rotating yet loyal pastiche of social cliques. More →

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What to Do On Thanksgiving If Turkey Ain’t Gonna Cut It

Puff, Pass and Paint

If gorging on turkey, stuffing and canned cranberry sauce doesn’t sound like a good time and you wouldn’t be caught dead at the Macy’s parade, you might be anti-Thanksgiving. Luckily, there are plenty of things to do in the city that don’t involve gluttonous food consumption or having awkward conversations with distant relatives. If you’re stuck in the city for the fourth Thursday of the month, here are some alternative events to check out.  More →

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Teen Songstress Chloe Grace Baker’s Interactive Music Video Has a Hidden Message About Social Media

(Photo: Gianennio Salucci)

If you text teen pop star Chloe Grace Baker, a.k.a Baker Grace, you’ll probably wait for a reply for three to five business days. The 19-year-old songstress isn’t a fan of technology, or the way social media is being relied on in this digital age. Instead of fawning over Instagram likes and Facebook friends, Baker is using her music to flip the script on how social media is used.  More →

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A New Breed of Climbing Dirtbag Has Parked in NYC

Nathan Staiger in his Mercedes Sprinter. (Photo: Kai Burkhardt)

Parked under a bridge in Queens is a white Mercedes Sprinter van. On the outside it looks like any other car; maybe you notice the solar panels on top, or the windows blocked with insulation. But on the inside is Nathan Staiger’s entire life. Staiger, 30, goes to school, rock climbs and sleeps in his van. Some may think he’s homeless, climbers may think he’s awesome, but Staiger and a small community of other vandwellers in the city are carrying a torch that has a deep history in climbing and other outdoor sports.  More →

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Art This Week: Avant-Garde Retrospective and Mall Memories

Phill Niblock
China 88 Slide 94
1988
Courtesy of Phill Niblock and Fridman Gallery.

Working Photos
Opening Monday, November 25 at Fridman Gallery, 6 pm to 8 pm. On view through January 5.

Phill Niblock has been creating art for over fifty years, which is longer than the majority of people reading this have presumably been alive. This dedication to creation has manifested in the form of minimalist audio compositions, photographs, and film. He has collaborated with the likes of Sun Ra and shown work anywhere from the Tate Modern to DIY space Silent Barn. Now, he’ll be showing a wide variety of this multifaceted body of work at Fridman Gallery, in an exhibition that will be accompanied by a performance and screening series taking place both at the gallery and at Niblock’s longtime loft space on Centre Street.

(image via Front Room Gallery / Facebook)

Mallrat to Snapchat: the End of the Third Place
Opening Friday, November 29 at Front Room Gallery, 7 pm to 9 pm. On view through January 12.

One of the most popular places to shop during the holidays is a mall, or at least it used to be. Now, these hubs for teen socializing, family activities, and hurried gift-searching are becoming a thing of the past, replaced by online stores and shifting shopping tendencies. Photographer Phil Buehler seeks to illuminate this cultural shift in his solo exhibition Mallrat to Snapchat, using a New Jersey mall that closed earlier this year as his main case study. The show will appropriately open on Black Friday, and features photographs of the mall in various stages of existence as well as paraphernalia like vinyl albums from 1973, the year the mall opened.

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What to Eat at the Market Line, Now Open at Essex Crossing

(Photo credit: QuallsBenson)

The long-awaited Market Line has officially opened, adding 31 new vendors to Essex Market for a total of 71. With new booths from LES legends like Nom Wah, The Pickle Guys and Essex Pearl, this is now the largest market in New York, on par with enormous ones around the world. What’s more, about 50 percent of the vendors come from the Lower East Side, and only two are from outside New York. There aren’t any chains, and just under 80 percent of the stores are immigrant-, woman- or minority-owned businesses.  More →

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Chelsea Market Bags a New Zero-Waste Shop: Package Free

If you’re starting to panic about how many plastic straws you’re using on a daily basis to fuel that iced-coffee addiction, you’ll no longer have to trek all the way to Brooklyn for eco-friendly reusables. Starting this week, Williamsburg’s Package Free shop is taking Manhattan from trashy to tasteful with a Chelsea Market outpost.

Package Free Shop Chelsea Market is 300 square feet of goods that are good for the earth. The design of the store is in line with Package Free’s zero-waste model, too—all of the shelving and modular, reusable furniture was handmade by Josh Colon using sustainable wood.

“We designed everything for what happens in the future,” said Package Free CEO Lauren Singer. “So if we wanted to move locations everything is totally reusable or it could go in someone’s house.”

Other touches in the store include a locally-made arrangement of wheat and decorative items from Singer’s own home. “I wanted to make this store really cozy and really homey, and mix old and new to make it warm and have a bit of a more vintage feel,” said Singer.

The new location’s opening comes shortly after Package Free announced that a $4.5 million investment would allow it to scale its operations. The store wasn’t funded by the venture capital, though, speaking to Singer’s sustainability-focused financial model and the rise in demand for sustainable products.

“Even if we hadn’t taken on venture capital, we would have been able to support it with cash flow,” she said. “I’m very much still flexing my muscles of bootstrapping and only spending money I absolutely have to spend.”

Package Free came to be through Lauren Singer’s personal blog, Trash is for Tossers, where she shares tips for the eco-conscious consumer. Singer opened a pop-up shop on Grand Street in Williamsburg in 2017, which is now the site of Package Free’s flagship store. With the help of online marketing, Package Free has grown from a little-known startup to a major player in the zero-waste movement.

The eco brand prides itself on waste diversion across both the store locations and the e-commerce site. Package Free says it has diverted over 75 million units of trash (including plastic bags, water bottles, straws, coffee cups and disposable razors) since its 2017 launch by making its plastic-free products more accessible.

The sustainability movement is flourishing in the city. Brooklyn-based Precycle and The Wally Shop have continued to scale up their offerings of local, package and plastic-free grocery items, while clothing retailers Zero Waste Daniel and Everlane are bringing radical transparency and waste reduction to the fashion industry.

The Chelsea Market location is another way for Package Free to expand its mission of making sustainable products more accessible in New York. Singer said that she hopes more people will visit the store since the new location is off the L, A, C and E trains as well as the highway. She also wants to educate tourists visiting Chelsea Market about the zero-waste movement.

“Around six million people walk through Chelsea Market every year,” said Singer. “So being able to let that many people know that you can reduce your waste and have a more positive environmental impact is a huge opportunity to align with our mission and help make the world less trashy.”

Package Free Shop Chelsea Market is located at 75 9th Avenue and is open Monday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. and Sundays 10 a.m. to 8 p.m.