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.
November 3rd, 2014
For years I would enter Joe McPhee’s name in one one of those questionnaires that they used to pass out at Jazz Fest. “Who would you like to see at the Jazz Fest?” He only lives in Poughkeepsie for Christ’s sake. I’d put Ornette Coleman’s name in there too but I never expected that to happen. Joe McPhee is too good for Jazz Fest.
Joe brought his “Trio X” to the Bop Shop on Sunday night and we had front row seats. Jay Rosen is often described as a drummer’s drummer and there is good reason for that. I loved watching him play but mostly I loved how he supported and propelled the songs. Bass player, Dominic Duval, was home sick but his son held down the post in fine fashion. His bowed duet with Joe was especially beautiful.
Joe did a solo sax gig a while back in the Village Gate where he did a version of “God Bless The Child” that just blew us away. Joe’s stuff is full of soul and blues and there is a direct link to the Negro spirtuals. He plays music that can change the world. His last tune last night, a song he wrote years ago as a tribute to Ornette, was dedicated to his ailing bass player and to the ailing Ornette. Joe played a white plastic sax on the song.
After the show Peggi told him how much she like the Ornette piece and he said, “We wouldn’t be able to do his stuff if it wasn’t for Ornette.”
November 2nd, 2014
Very entertaining article in our paper this morning about what Americans think of the not-so-new pope. The hierarchy thinks he’s too liberal and a good chunk of the congregation thinks he’s too conservative. The archbishop of Philadelphia says the Catholic Church is “ship without a rudder.” No kidding. He says “Pope Francis has produced confusion,” adding “confusion is of the devil.”
I’m trying to imagine a black and white world without any god given confusion where everyone had the Midas Touch and there was no doubt?
November 1st, 2014
We are attending to our neighbor’s fish while they out of town. When the water temperature reaches 45 degrees the fish go into hibernation and lose their interest in food. The pond temp was right on the cusp when our neighbors left. Peggi sprinkled the food in this morning and they ignored it. It’s 38 degrees out there but we gain an hour tonight so I’m not complaining.
Gerry and Diana Brinkman were in full costume last night at Atlas Eats, Gerry as kitchen manager and Diane as maître d’. Their daughter is now the head chef and last night’s menu theme was Spain. The fixed price menu is served two times and we were there for the late shift. The tapas portion included Gerry’s “Tortilla Espagnola,” a recipe he shared with City Newspaper back when he was running the Rochester Club restaurant. Spain’s national dish, it is incredibly simple but tricky to do right. We still have that clipping and follow his recipe whenever we throw a party. Diana gave us some Smarties as a nightcap.
We finished the night up near the lake at Mastrella’s in Sea Breeze. We had not been in there since the seventies when we saw a five foot Elvis impersonator bring the house down. This bar is like a movie set. I couldn’t tell who was in costume and who wasn’t. I love not being able to make that distinction. It was a perfect Halloween.
October 31st, 2014
Old friends and a huge hip-hop contingent packed Miller Funeral Home last night for Sam Lowery‘s calling hours. We’ve known his parents since the Scorgie’s days but we weren’t familiar with Sam’s music. And we had never heard of the genre, “battling.” Peggi asked Pat, Sam’s dad, if his son played any instruments and Pat said his son would say, “Why take all that time to learn an instrument when I have all this stuff at my fingertips.” In the clips I found this morning on YouTube it didn’t look like Sam, aka I.D., even needed beats or backing tracks. He had a confident, authoritative voice, a great sense of humor, surefooted confidence and literate lyrics.
As I was looking for I.D. tracks this morning a beefed up deer sauntered across our yard. It might have been one of the two bucks we saw battling in the creek last week. They were head butting, crashing into one another with their racks, and making an awful racket. The brawl finished with one of them in the water and the other took off after a doe. It was raw and real like I.D.
“I just want my listeners to stay true
and Imma continue giving you
shit you can relate to
Thank you” – I.D.
October 30th, 2014
My mom, back home after two days in the hospital, passed the baton to my father this morning. I was up so early I met the neighbor out near the mailbox. He’s too young to have any interest in newspapers but he does have to walk the dog each morning before he leaves for work. That’s an old school activity for you. I still haven’t met this dog because every time he/she sees me he barks and the neighbors pull the dog away to discipline it.
In the pitch black of the night, at the end of our street, I met another neighbor with her two little Jack Russels. They both were wearing red, flashing LED collars. I really should get up early more often. I think I am both a morning and night person but the night wins out.
The top and bottom chambers of my dad’s heart stopped co-ordinating with one another, a condition called heartblock, and he was scheduled for a relatively simple but incredibly sophisticated fix, insertion of a chip called a pacemaker.