November 26th, 2014
Everything in our town is split down the middle by the north/south extension of Goodman Street, Kings Highway. I love that name now but it used to bug me when I was going to Kearney. Even though the high school was at the start of Kings Highway I preferred to call it Goodman. We were called the Bishop Kearney Kings and I figured they named the street after that dump. I couldn’t wait to get out of there and after two years my parents finally gave in.
Kings Highway may have been a highway when kings ruled but it is not what we we know as a highway today. When it crosses Titus, right where this picture was taken, the road becomes a miniature, two lane, Blue Ridge Parkway as it winds its way northward to the lake. There are very few houses, the road washes out frequently and it is surrounded by undeveloped parts of Durand Eastman Park. The view in fact is regal.
We have always had two libraries in this town but they plan to close both when this new library building, at Titus and Kings Highway, is complete. I’m holding my breath that the art section will be better than the one we have up by Wegmans.
November 25th, 2014
My parents weren’t home so my sister brought her grandchild over here and let her loose. I was working on some paintings so she wound up down in the studio with me. I managed to carry on but at least half, no, more that half of my time was spent as assistant to her. More paper, fresh water, bigger brush. “i’m done with this one,” she would say and I’d drop what I was doing and attend to her needs. I really got a sense of what it would be like to be an artist’s assistant. They want to keep the juices flowing and stay productive and all of the mucky muck is handled by the assistant. My work was secondary. The world is demanding dinosaurs for their refrigerators.
Margaret Explosion has a very special show lined up for tomorrow. It’s a vegetarian, as in no vocals, Thanksgiving eve performance of all new material. Here’s one from last week.
Margaret Explosion – Pinball
November 24th, 2014
It doesn’t seem fair but most of our leaves blew across the street onto our neighbor’s lawn. The weather was way warm today, near seventy, and we had some high winds which will surely bring in some colder weather. It took down the rest of the leaves so we got out there and raked the remainder, the last batch for the year, and then chopped them up with our mower.
November 22nd, 2014
Duane asked me if I was going to write about this and I didn’t answer. I figured I would but I kind of thought I would have been fully recovered by now.
It was dark, exactly a week ago about this time of day and we were headed out of Chelsea and back to Brooklyn. We were crossing 8th Avenue and I was talking to Peggi. I had my hands in my pocket because it was cold and I was looking for the subway stop on the other corner when my right foot tripped over a curb, part of the meridian in the middle of the road. I went down quick. I think I broke my fall with my knee and my elbow but mostly it was a body slam to the concrete. It knocked the wind out me and I found myself gasping for breath for the duration of the next light. I shook it off and finished crossing the street but felt weak so we went in the coffee shop on the corner. I sat at a stool but felt like I was going to faint. Instead of doing that I laid down on the floor of the coffee shop.
Peggi went for water and I guess the workers called an ambulance. By the time they showed up I was fine. They checked my blood pressure, cracked a few jokes and I had to sign something that said I refused treatment. I guess i had a premonition that something like this would happen. The day before I was reminding Peggi how my Aunt Isabel fell in the city when she was down for my brother’s wedding. They got married in a restaurant on Morningside Heights at the top of a building on Columbia’s campus. She was probably about the same I am now.
I still can’t roll over in bed, or laugh without shooting pain but it could have been a lot worse. I might need a helmet or something. Duane took this shot earlier in the day on his phone.
November 21st, 2014
“What was your favorite childhood food?” We were helping my father transfer funds from one account to another today when we stumbled over this question today. This is where we’ve come to, an international banking conglomerate asking us what our favorite childhood food was. We got the question wrong. Twice. We had one guess left and we would be locked out. Locked out from our god damn money because we couldn’t remember if it was “peanut butter,” “peanut butter and jam” or maybe “peanut butter & jam.”
I was thinking of the time I took too much LSD. I was nineteen and we had hiked halfway across town to someone’s house where we thought we could get some downers but he wasn’t home and things were getting really strange, strange, that is, in the few moments where I was lucid enough to realize how strange things were. My friend wanted to get to the roof of the campus library where he thought he would meet god and I wanted no part of that so I convinced Steve Hoy to take me to the health center where I came to in an an elevator with a nurse asking me, “What is your name? What is your name?” I had no idea.
Both situations were satisfactorily resolved.
November 19th, 2014
Maybe we should stay right here for a while. There is snow to the south of us, a ton of snow to the west in Buffalo (even talk of canceling Sunday’s Bills/Jets game) and apparently snow to the east. Matthew and Louise, on their way to Vermont, turned around in Watertown yesterday and came back.
I took the photo above a few minutes ago. We usually take the path that runs into the woods behind the willow tree but the sun felt especially good today so stayed on the fairway. There wasn’t soul out, just the way we like it.
November 18th, 2014
If Picasso is a monster of art Matisse is the master. Like anyone, Matisse made mistakes. He worked on life size models of his wall mural for the Barnes Museum for years before discovering he had the wrong dimensions. But unlike most people he learned from his mistakes and he got better and better up to the end. “Jazz,” the greatest illustrated book of all time, is aptly titled even though most of the pages depict circus scenes. It is the visual equivalent of jazz.
The flatly painted, cut paper that Matisse worked with during the last decade of his life is impossibly vibrant and three dimensional when cut by the master. The scale, the visible cuts and layering, the tactileness of the cut-outs needs to be seen in person. You most go now to MoMa.
MoMa’s “Matisse:The Cut-Outs” recreated the swimming pool from the walls of Matisse’s dining room. The “Blue Nudes,” which masterfully depict human form in 2D, are are my pick for best room in the show but I made that choice before we experienced the last two rooms where each wall had a knockout large scale piece. The Parakeet and the Mermaid, The Sheaf, Acanthuses and the Snail are all mind blowing. And then we walked bcak through the show in reverse chronological order and determined the Jazz book from the beginning of the show was our favorite. It is all killer. No filler.
November 17th, 2014
We came to New York for two reasons. “Matisse: The Cut Outs” and “Egon Scheile: Portraits.” Sunday was reserved for Egon who died at 28 of the Spanish Flu but left a rich body of work. I love the German Expressionists and Egon Scheile is my favorite.
The four rooms on the third floor of the Neue Gallery were full of his portraits, sometimes three high, a layout that borrows from design principles popular in Austria during the early twentieth century. You could just stand in one place and take in an eyeful of the most expressive, gorgeous depictions of of the human body imaginable.
No photos were allowed but I was able to snag this one of a copy of Egon’s death mask which was in the small room with his prison drawings. He was in prison on pornography charges and while there he titled his pictures provacatively like this one. “Art Cannot Be Modern; Art is Primordially Eternal” 1912.
November 16th, 2014
We took the train back to Chelsea on Saturday with no real agenda other than seeing the rest of the Picasso show at Pace and gorging on more art. We fortified ourselves at a cafe on the corner of 23rd and Ninth and walked a block west where we ran into Boo Poulin from Rochester. She said this meeting was inevitable. It was also fortuitous because she recommended a few shows that were just spectacular.
The David Zwirner gallery on 20th, with its wood grain, concrete walls and gorgeous wood doors, was featuring Richard Serra’s “Vertical and Hoizontal Reversals,” minimal, thickly applied, black and creamy white paintings of black on white and white on black rectangles. Purely seductive and meditative.
And a bit further down the same street, as impossible as it sounds, another gigantic Picasso show, this time at Gagosian. The hallucinatory, 30 collotypes with Andre Villers from 1962, 15 studies for the 1957 Unesco mural and at least a hundred powerful paintings. “Boom, boom, boom. Like being pistol whipped,” is how Duane described the show. Picasso is so good you just want to see him show off.
Francesco Clemente created two tents with painted canvas in the front room of Rochester’s Mary Boone Gallery and beautiful small watercolors in the back room. He then hired a miniature painter to paint the backgrounds. Rochester’s Nathan Lyons has a great show of new work at Bruce Silverstein on 24th.
We did ourselves in at the second Picasso show in the Pace Gallery. I should say Picasso did us in. The guy is a monster. We stopped in Chinatown at a Lo Mein noodle shop called New Wong Rest. Inc. and had three dinners and tea for a total of $19.
November 15th, 2014
Even though we had stayed up way too late two nights in a row with Pete and Shelley we arrived at Penn Station ready to roll on Friday afternoon. It was a beautiful day for train travel and we had seats on the Hudson side. Travel by train is so civilized, you feel well rested rather than exhausted we you arrive.
We walked downtown into Chelsea and headed west on 26th Street where we spotted a gallery with a Sigmar Polke show or drawings and photos and just a little further down a great show of Robert Motherwell works on paper. Across the street we spotted a really garish painting of dancers holding hands in a circle ala Matisse. I said something like “That’s probably not worth crossing the street for” but we did. It was a David Hockney show of recent paintings. Really quite wonderful. I loved his portraits.
Same block of the same street, a killer Picasso show at Pace, “Picasso & Jacqueline.” An artist and his model painting from the Albright Know was here. This stuff is way too meaty for the contemporary, free galleries in Chelsea. We couldn’t do the show justice before having to leave for dinner.
I had tried finding a Spanish restaurant to make reservations at while we were still in Rochester. We wanted to hook up with Duane when he finished work and both places I picked were booked so I let OpenTable suggest a place, “Txikito,” a Basque restaurant with pinxtos (small portions). What a crazy language. How would a guy from Rochester pronounce the name of the joint?
We started with a bottle of Marques de Vitoria Rioja and in succession split Pimientos de Padron, olives, Endives with walnuts and blue cheese, Cod Pil Pil, cheese and porcini mushrooms, and Pulpo con limon y paprika.
November 15th, 2014
The bottom right portion of this painting came back after being scrubbed out and over painted in white. I was unhappy with the way I had painted the neck in the first place and then unhappy with the buildup left under the white when I painted it out. So I’m circling the wagons. Fred Lipp says I “paint the neck like I don’t care about it.” Unless I can rise to this challenge this basketball player looks better without it. So I just took it out again.
The kids’ show, up now at the Creative Workshop, has a series of still life’s by students of Johnny Lee Smith that really pack a wallop. They are joy to look at. Kids are guided by their innate sense. A good teacher keeps the focus where it belongs.
Pear by James P, a student in Johnny Lee Smith’s “drawing Better” class
November 14th, 2014
Shelley picked our walking route and the Aboretum in Durand was the destination. The walk took a bit longer than usual because she kept stopping to inspect fallen leaves or in some cases pluck a carefully chosen leaf from a low branch. She was looking for still life models for the beautiful watercolors she does of leaf clusters. They are a hot item in the Adirondack galleries.
We finally got our killing frost. We got our Aloe plant indoors in the nick of time but the annuals out front took a hit. There are snowflakes in the air. I’m always doubtful that the seasons will really change but they always do.
November 14th, 2014
Silk screening is a very tactile experience. You can follow the directions and watch YouTube videos but when the ink hits the screen and precious paper is slid under it, the way you handle the squeegee determines whether you got clearly shaped letter forms or nasty blobs.
We kept our front door ajar while we knocked out one hundred cardboard cd covers. We were expecting Pete and Shelley but they never showed. We came up with all sorts of reasons why they might be late but none were convincing. We were pulling the last prints when Shelley came down the stairs. They had been sitting in the car for two hours while we were cranking the tunes. Patsy Cline was playing when they walked in.
Dave Anderson had the first of the “Disappear” CDs ready for us so we swung by Saxon Recording on our way downtown. He was working on some tracks with Ed Downey and Chris Reeg when I walked in. We popped one in the car player and were on the second track when we pulled up to the Little for the Margaret Explosion gig. Here’s a track with Pete from his last visit.
Margaret Explosion – Happy Mobiling
November 12th, 2014
When my father downsized I grabbed his old silkscreen frames. We had taken an adult ed class together maybe thirty years ago at Boces in Fairport and we learned the basics. The chemicals were nasty at the time, oil based ink and some wicked solvent to wash the screen with. We did stencil like stuff and split fountain fills but we didn’t do any photo silkscreen.
Peggi bought a Speedball Diazo photo silkscreen kit at Rochester Art Supply with the intention of printing the covers of the new Margaret Explosion cd ourselves. We watched a bunch of YouTube videos and came up with this graphic. We ran a transparency print of it at Staples and converted our basement bathroom into a darkroom. We coated the screen, let it dry and exposed the shit out of it with a 500 watt photo food bulb. We think we overexposed the first try because the letters got clogged and wouldn’t let ink pass.
I bought a 250 watt bulb at Rowe Photo and we gave it another try. We got the little red safe light and the photo flood light all tanged up in the dark and broke our red bulb but we washed the screen out after a ten minute exposure and the screen seems to have taken the image.
Funny thing about the title song. It never made it on the cd. It actually wasn’t even recorded until the the cd tunes had been picked but was always the working title. And now we have the title song but it’s not on the album.
Margaret Explosion – Disappear
November 10th, 2014
Somewhere I picked up a 1957 yearbook for Mynderse Academy, a small private school in Seneca Falls. The cover of the Myndersian looked like a Sun Ra album. The page devoted to the basketball team only showed six players. One sub. The head on the page read, “Team Faced Tough Competition.” I painted the six guys about twenty years ago. They were my first oil paintings.
I decided to revisit them and stated with charcoal on canvas. I kinda like the drawing and and I’m pausing to figure out why it is I want to paint them.
November 9th, 2014
We have so many trees on our property we hardly ever have to mow. And what little lawn we have is mostly in the shade of those trees. We wait for the leaves to get about five inches deep and then we blow off the roof, the sidewalk, driveway and street and then I break out the mower. The vent on the side of the mower, where grass normally shoots out, is closed and if I walk at just the right speed I chew up the leaves leaving a fine powder in my wake. I’ve done this three times this year and really enjoy it for some odd reason. Maybe it just the sensation of wearing my Home Depot earmuffs.
November 7th, 2014
The Question Bridge show at Rochester Contemporary is very good, not so much as an art show but as a real dialog on important stuff that just doesn’t get talked about. The dvd presentation of black men asking and answering questions about race is very thought provoking. They stay on topic and it gets real and deep. It would be more artful if it didn’t feel like a side show in the dark with seats. Couldn’t they figure out a way to project those talking heads on the white walls of the gallery instead of that scrim?
Tonight’s related presentation with dance company director Garth Fagan, artist and teacher Luvon Sheppard and Carvin Eison, the director of RCTV, was intended to work the local connection to this topic but they mostly avoided the direct talk about race. It was interesting to here them talk about being creative, that is always an interesting conversation, but their talk was not as insightful as the presentation.
The highlight of the night for me was when Garth Fagan said the the difference between painting and directing dancers is a painting doesn’t talk back. Luvon told the Lion King choreographer he was wrong. His paintings do talk back.
Heather Erwin was closing up shop by the time we got over to the Hungerford Building. Brittany Williams, who shared the “Hair Don’t Lie” show with Heather, was on the way out the door but we did get to chat with Heather and talk about her painting of Brittany.
November 6th, 2014
One of the last pieces of life’s puzzle is a prepaid funeral arrangement. If we had any sense we would be shopping for ourselves but we were helping my parents choose between two nearby places that we chose from a list that came from a friend of my father’s. One was moderately priced and one was considerably cheaper.
My parents have chosen a green burial with a shroud and no embalmment, a “direct burial” in funeral home jargon, basically pick up, preparation and delivery to the cemetery, but one place was about twice the cost of the other. So we read a lot into the transaction in these short meetings.
Both salesmen were late. We were late for both appointments as well but the salesmen were later. I don’t hold that against them. One was slick and well spoken. One was a kid who my father said looked like he just washed his hands and sat down. The slicker one slipped when he said they would probably just wrap the bodies in a sheet unless we provided our own shrowd. And the kid didn’t do himself any favors when he got off on a logistical tangent about how they dig graves when you’re buried next to someone else. “They dig slowly with the back hoe and if they hit the top of a casket they move over a bit.” I’m sure we were all picturing a shovel going through whichever corpse went in the ground first.
I’d go with the kid but my dad will call the shots. After the meetings we headed down to to Nick’s where my mother, Peggi and I all ordered the “Italian Special.”
November 5th, 2014
Margaret Explosion gigs can sometimes be strange. The band itself is strange. We have no songs or setlist. We will the moment into the form of a song. We go where the music takes us and we trust that. The tune below, our last song in the second set of last week’s performance at the Little Theater, is dedicated to Sam Lowery who passed away a few days before the gig (I wrote about Sam, aka I.D., a few days back).
There was a pretty good crowd last week, we made the bonus, but when we we finished the song there was no applause. Even our clunkers get a polite applause. I like to think the song was moving enough to have silenced the chatter for a moment. A success. A tribute to Sam Lowery.
Margaret Explosion – Rapper’s Funeral
November 4th, 2014
Voting day provides an opportunity to to walk through the woods into Matthew and Louise’s neighborhood and then across Sea Breeze Way and down Point Pleasant Street to the firehouse where where fill in the little circles. Someday we’re going to rent the funky little bar that is on the other side of the room divider in the hall We’ll have a party, maybe get Margaret Explosion to play and then spin some soul, blues and country records.
Hard to believe the size of the paper ballot in New York. And filling in little circles like we did in grade school on tests. At least we don’t have to show picture IDs yet. Instead of a massive amount of voter fraud we have a massive amount voter indifference. After all the mudslinging I imagine the typical voter feels like this little dog.