Friday, March 28, 2008

Our Trip To New York

Last week all the MFA students traveled to New York to visit the Whitney Biennial and some galleries. I (Eric Steen) think I can speak for all of us when I say that we really had a blast and that the experience was enlightening in more ways than one. For me, the visit demystified what I thought was some supernatural and unreachable New Yorkness. I've read parts of William De Kooning's biography, and he felt small behind the shadow the French Surrealists. But then the war started and the French artists travelled to New York. All of a sudden de Kooning realized that these artists were human just as he was, and maybe in some ways he felt more empowered by his own work - that maybe he too had something to offer. Being in New York made me realize that our group has a lot to offer.

Here's Varinthorn...up to no good.

I would like to mention a couple galleries that I thought had some interesting things happening. On the 5th floor of the New Museum was a space called the "museum as hub." The New Museum has teamed up with four other museums around the globe and are launching various projects about their neighborhoods. It doesn't seem like these museums are collaborating in any sense other than briefly talking together and coming up with a theme. They are calling each other partners. There was a drawing on a wall on the 5th floor that diagrammed an artists neighborhood project. There were arrows pointing to how one person or event led to the next event - some of the events included dinners or community education. This was a simple way to document an extensive project visually for an art space. I know that there are all sorts of artists and collectives working on projects similar to this and I think it's a great thing that museums are attempting to take on these projects. The New Museum made these projects seem very official, like an artwork on a white wall, but I really can't find too much information on their website that pinpoints exactly what the "museum as hub" project is - they sort of beat around the bush with it. I understand that the name implies that the museum will serve as, well, a hub for launching neighborhood based projects, but I don't know how well this is communicated on the website. I think it's a cool start though.

Another great start is the Environmental Performance Actions (EPA) at Exit Art. The EPA was their first attempt at a new program they are calling Social-Environmental Aesthetics (SEA). This show consisted mainly of formal displays of artist projects that have used the social realm to address environmental concerns. Future Farmers and Amnity Works were a part of the show, as were about 30 other groups or artists. When viewing the show, you would look at a picture and then read the text which described in some detail an artist project. For example Rapid Response posted signs, guerilla style, that read "Global Warming" at Exxon gas stations. You would read about the project and look at the image or two posted on the wall. There was really a nice conglomeration of projects and being that this is the first time Exit Art has done this, and that I think I heard them say SEA will permanently take their underground gallery space, I really look forward to seeing what comes next. As an artist, ideally it would be great if the space could be used for more of a hands on learning, some sort of didactic showcase...
Here's the Exit Art people talking with us:

Some other major highlights and unforgettable moments of the trip include:
- Being on Neighborhood Public Radio (NPR) at the Whitney Biennial for about an hour. We got to talk about our art projects and our MFA program on air.

Here's a snippet of Cyrus and Sandy on air. This really does no justice for our show though:

- Listening to Matthew Higgs from White Columns talk about his hope for a social revolution in the arts. He believes that if every nonprofit supported another nonprofit the entire system for the arts would be revolutionized. From what I had seen, White Columns seems to be taking steps in a great direction - and interestingly enough their budget has doubled since he's started working there three years ago. Some other galleries that we visited felt like they too needed a jumpstart to get back on track. There was a real freshness and energy here.

-Katy overheard the people at the Sculpture Center say "oh look, they're all sitting down, that's so West Coast" when we were all sitting on the floor listening to the curator talk. Then, the other person at the counter said, "Maybe they'll all sing Koombaya." Some of us thought that was funny.

-The Coco Fusco performance at the Whitney was quite a treat. Fusco critiqued the use of female sexuality as an art of interrogation and "tactical creativity."

-There was a nice place around the corner from our hotel, I think they call it Honey Space. It has been converted into an art gallery but it apparently is just some building with unfinished construction. So the gallery is always open, it has no door and people could probably steal the artwork really easily. Posie's band played a show there during their last night. I guess it's closing. Here's some images of the place and a table that was in an upstairs gallery/studio:

Other pictures around the city:
This guy sells Obama tees:

A fun but expensive bar: the Trailer Park

Graffiti Wall

A shop in Chinatown

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