Archive for the ‘Lopsided Observations’ Category

It’s Not Unusual

Wednesday, December 6th, 2017

Milkweed seeds exploding on Hoffman Road

We have forsythia bushes out front and in the back. Both are are blossoming. And our red maple still has its leaves. Cold weather is on the way but the bits of color we have are hanging on. Reminds me of that Vanilla Fudge cover of a Supremes song. I saw them do that song in the Indiana University Fieldhouse. My college career was short but memorable.

Wall Going Up

Saturday, December 2nd, 2017

Matthias Neumann "Double Bench"  outside at Rochester Contemporary

Is it enough that the artist finds something interesting? I found myself pondering that question last night while talking to New York based artist, Matthias Neumann, at the opening reception for his “Double Bench.” We told him we stopped to study his sculpture on the way in and there was a woman sitting on it. He offered that he was interested in the juncture between non-objective and functional object. And he pointed out that he did call it a bench.

I was really struck by how beautiful the wood looked. His piece is made entirely of untreated 2x4s, held together with wood screws that are for the most part not visible. I roughed houses for a few years and built walls with 2x4s. We’d build them on the deck of the house. Plates, studs, corners and cripplers all built out of 2x4s. If it was an exterior wall we would sheet it, cut out the openings and then someone would yell, “Wall going up and we’d all help hoist it.” They were clearly walls, functional but beautiful.

Double Bench is part of an ongoing series of sculptural interventions that have been installed in public spaces throughout the US. It will on display all winter outside Rochester Contemporary.

Bon Voyage

Wednesday, November 29th, 2017

Jim Shaw Hair Couple Chelsea

Years ago our friend, Kim, sent us a copy of Jim Shaw’s “Thrift Store Paintings,” a book of exactly that, his favorite hand picked purchases. At the time I didn’t realize that he was also an artist who did his own work. The two are not so unrelated. We fell in love with the book and I think we may have bought a copy or two as gifts.

Around that time we were having dinner with the Gardner’s, some friends of Peggi’s parents. I remember a couple of things about that dinner. They were big on some sort of cut of beef and they broiled a whole tray of the stuff. It was inedible. In the living room they had Jim Shaw’s book on the coffee table. They were surprised that we liked it and told us that Shaw was her maiden name and Jim was her nephew.

Margaret Explosion plays the Little Theater Café tonight, last gig there this year. 7-9pm. Hope you can stop out.

Margaret Explosion - Voyage

Margaret Explosion – Voyage

Deviating From The Norm

Monday, November 20th, 2017

Exterminating Angel poster in front of the Metropolitan Opera

The Metropolitan opera is about seven stories tall. The chandeliers are hoisted to the ceiling as the opera begins. And for The Exterminating Angel they were raised and lowered twice so the opening scene could play out two times like it does in Luis Buñuel’s movie. The theatrical production only deepened the surreal undertones. The cameras were rolling too as this Saturday afternoon production was being broadcast live in movie theaters across the country.

The lavish setting heightened the effectiveness of the minimal production. A large sculptural arch served as the abstract barrier that the guests could not penetrate. It spun slowly while the production unfolded and was dramatically lit in each scene.

The host of the bourgeois dinner party sings, “I’m delighted to see the spirit of improvisation” when it becomes clear his guests are not going to leave. And one of his guests sings “I adore anything that deviates from the norm.” The operatic voices only made the words from the film more absurd. I think Buñuel would have loved this over the top interpretation.


Monday, November 13th, 2017

Bleu Cease, Rochester Contemporary’s director, characterized my obsession, what I call my “Models from Crime Page” series, as a “long running meditation on the mugshot.” I like that and I realized how accurate this description is when Peggi and I were making this video of the video. I created a slideshow of my source material, mugshots that I scanned from the Crimestoppers page of our local paper and exported the slideshow as a movie. I put the video on a dvd and RoCo played it continuously in the round video presentation room during the show.

Wikipedia says “the term meditation refers to a broad variety of practices that includes techniques designed to promote relaxation, build internal energy or life force and develop compassion, love, patience, generosity, and forgiveness. A particularly ambitious form of meditation aims at effortlessly sustained single-pointed concentration meant to enable its practitioner to enjoy an indestructible sense of well-being while engaging in any life activity.”

Is Bowling A Sport?

Friday, November 3rd, 2017

Fallen birch tree with wire, Rochester, New York

We spotted a buck out back and he saw us but it was only a glance. “Oh them.” We like to think they know us enough to realize we don’t present any danger. He was following his nose, inhaling through his nostrils as he swept the ground. We had just seen a doe come through, alone, which is not so unusual this time of year, and this guy was tracking her scent, retracing her steps exactly. He was headed across the road where the guy who lives there could be waiting with his bow.

Deer, in the number we have here, are a nuisance so I can’t get too upset about this ritual. We were talking to Steve, a neighbor, friend and outdoor enthusiast, about the bow hunting thing. I asked him if it was really a sport to wait for a deer to walk across your property and then let him have it? He felt that it was and told us he can only shoot an arrow accurately about fifty feet (or was it yards?). He pointed to a tree down the road. “Some guys can shoot twice that distance.”

I would guess it feels more like a sport when the weather is cold and the deer are actively running around, chasing the opposite sex. Steve knows we’re not hunters and wouldn’t eat deer meat but we collect sheds if we see them in the woods. He says we are “non-judgmental” and he doesn’t mind answering our silly questions. I remember a conversation with him about some gay deer sex he had witnessed. He likes to talk.

My Family?

Tuesday, October 17th, 2017

Pick-up truck with bumper stickers near Park

We occasionally see this pick-up sitting near the entrance to the park. He is probably out there walking a dog, we’ve never seen anyone getting in or out of the truck. Don’t know if anyone has seen “The Meyerowitz Stories” yet but there is a hilarious scene in there where the brothers, Ben Stiller and Adam Sandler, try to beat the shit out of a car with sticks and stones. It is not that easy. Anyway, I thought of that scene when I saw this truck.

Elizabeth Marvel plays their sister, Jean. Her character works at Xerox and lives in Rochester. Dean & Britta do some of the music. Dean’s sister lives in Rochester.

Death to the Inner Loop

Sunday, October 15th, 2017

Cat equipment on top of a pile in the middle of the old Inner Loop in Rochester, New York

I am still struck by this sight. What was once a wild idea, the movement took hold at the highest levels of city government and they filled half of the damn thing in. The moat that once surrounded the city suffocated the city. Just an idea and now a reality. “Death to the Inner Loop.” If only we could undo all the other urban renewal projects.

Points Of Departure

Thursday, September 14th, 2017

Tate Shaw's InkJet watercolors at Mercer Gallery Rochester New York

Colleen Buzzard, the thinking man’s artist, along with Karen Sardisco, has brought together twenty or so artists who explore the idea of mapping as thinking. The show, at MCC’s Mercer Gallery and six satellite locations, turns out to be whole lot of fun. We started with a three page handout that associated 61 artworks with the artists. There are some familiar names like Ann Havens, Scott McCarney and Jim Mott but many from other cities. A postcard for the show listed the six satellite locations but you might need a map to find them. Three are on the UR campus, one is at RIT, one at VSW and one opens sat RoCo in the Lab Space on October 6.

Ryan Boatright, from Paris France, deconstructed a failed email attachment and translated it into a score for music. The binhex code is printed on a stack of pages on the gallery floor and the music is looped on an iPod. Tate Shaw’s watercolors above, photos printed on watercolor paper and reworked with water, were stacked in an especially inviting way but accompanied by two little notes that read “Please do not touch.” By clicking on the photo you can see six beautiful works that we were allowed to look at. It’s a wildly interesting show including even a circuit board negative for an old MXR effects box.

There is a four foot high pile of US Geological Survey maps at the door of the gallery and we were invited to take a map home with us. Mine shows Santa Margarita Lake in California.


Friday, September 1st, 2017

Milkweed caterpillar at pool

Our hike took us along the beach this afternoon and we were surprised to see the water level was still so high. Our garden and horseshoe pits are dry.

We ran into Hal, our jazz fest buddy, at the entrance to the park. He told us he had been geocaching and he had located three today. He wants to have a hundred by year’s end. Hal was wearing a Chelsea FC hat and he told us he has been following the Flash in their new North Carolina home. We asked if he was going to watch tonight’s US men’s World Cup qualification but he said he doesn’t have cable.

Hal likes to change topics so we talked about upcoming arboretum tours, Bop Shop shows and the Toronto Film Fest. He told us he was the first speaker at the City Hall hearing on the theater proposal for Parcel 5. He thinks the idea that the theater will bring business downtown is a sham. I don’t like that park idea either. I say sell the property to the highest bidder without incentives or tax breaks.

Talking ‘Bout My Generation

Saturday, July 22nd, 2017

Green chairs and small wood tables at Mass MoCA

I should not be depressed at a birthday party. The room was crowded, a band playing and many people got up to perform. Some solo and at times there were six guitars on the stage. So what is my problem?

Let’s say you are in a position to go out to see a band. Maybe you would like to hear something creative, exciting, maybe something with an edge. What qualities do you look for? Maybe throw the dice and catch something wildly unexpected. If there was a room full of people and they were all around my age there would be a lot of water under the bridge. Just think where we came from with Motown and garage rock and straight up pop. Hendrix and psychedelia and jazz pushing frontiers. Punk offering a major correction. EDM for crying out loud.

Let’s say you play an instrument. What qualities would you be thinking about adding to this lexicon? Would you go out of your way to do a mediocre version of some roots, Americana thing?

Don’t Explain Yourself

Wednesday, June 21st, 2017


We must be drawn to Monroe County. Peggi and I met while going to school in Bloomington, Indiana in Monroe County. We moved, Peggi to and me ‘back” to, Rochester in Monroe County. And we just finished slowing our way through Netflix’s “Bloodline,” the dysfunctional family drama set in the Keys, Monroe County, Florida.

Bloodline got in trouble early on. They killed off the best character, Ben Mendelsohn’s Danny, and the others had to fill the void. They couldn’t so Danny kept reappearing. Kyle Chandler as John Rayburn does the nightmare deed, killing his brother Danny, and his guilt drives the rest of the show. You’d think heavyweights like Sam Shepard and Sissy Spacek would have been given more to work with as the family matriarchs but Shepard dies early and Spacek never feels present. The second most dysfunctional sibling, Kevin, played by Norbert Leo Butz, almost gave Danny a run for his money but the writing completely fell apart.Jamie McShane and Chloë Sevigny, as Eric and Chelsea O’Bannon, were both great as support, so good they outshone the leftover leads. And latecomers like Beau Bridges and John Leguizamo helped bring some new life into the show but the whole thing crash landed when characters started explaining themselves and even each other.


Sunday, June 18th, 2017

Garth Fagan reading poetry in front of Sol Lewitt prints at R1 Studio in Rochester, New York

“Poetry is an embarrassing affair. It is born too near the functions we call intimate.” That line is from Czeslaw Milosz‘s “Road-side Dog.” Milosz’s writing is not precious enough to be called poetry. It lies somewhere between poetry and prose. It is economical. He is not afraid to be simple or advance dumb ideas. And yet he effortlessly uncovers essential truths. His writing shares the properties of minimal art but it is also emotional.

Louise thought I would like his writing and I do. I was planning on returning her book when we met at a poetry reading on Friday night so I re-read most of it while we sat by the pool. It was too nice an evening to go in, that and she suspected the event, the last of a series of tie-ins with the Minimal Mostly show at R1, this one chosen poetry read by local luminaries, might just be “intolerable.” We were there for a half hour or so and it was delightful. But not even close to Milosz.

In a Landscape
In a landscape that is nearly totally urban, just by the freeway, a pond rushes, a wild duck, small trees. Those who pass on the road feel at that sight a kind of relief, though they would not be able to name it.
Czeslaw Milosz

Minimalism Is In The Air

Monday, June 5th, 2017

Daily Mirror headline for Tate purchase of Carl Andre piece from Minimal Mostly lecture slideshow at Memorial Art Gallery in Rochester, New York

Cathleen Chaffee, Senior Curator at Albright Knox Art Gallery, gave a lecture at the Memorial Art Gallery on Sunday afternoon on the topic of minimal art. Although the minimal aesthetic is easily applied to most art-making she concentrated on 1960 to the present, artists like Robert Ryman, Sol Lewitt, Agnes Martin and Dan Flavin. But she started back in the 1800s with a French woman who did illustrations of an all white painting, an all green painting and an all black painting. That joke about a blank canvas being a painting of a polar bear in a snowstorm has been around awhile.

1914 was to be a pivotal year with Marcel DuChamp the master, Kazimir Malevich making some of their strongest work. Ad Reinhardt and Rauschenberg did solid color paintings in the fifties as they fought their way out of Ab Ex. And John Cage’s silent “4:33″ piece was a response to that. Art does not exist in a vacuum.

This lecture was in conjunction with Deborah Ronnen’s sensational “Minimal Mostly” show at R1 Studios on University Avenue. Her show features some of these same artists along with Ellsworth Kelly, Annie and Josef Albert, Carmen Herrera and Frank Stella. The pop-up show is up til the end of June so do yourself a favor and find some time to visit it.

Small Dreams

Monday, May 22nd, 2017

Looking east from the northern end of the High Line in Manhattan

Duane was up before us this morning and had already left the apartment. I sat down to read one of his art books and he walked in with fresh bagels. We gabbed for another couple of hours and headed off on the F train.

From the train I could barely read the yellow sign pinned to the IDT Energy building in Newark. The tall building, right next to, has very few windows and the top ten floors are covered with a huge American flag. Curious as to whether the yellow sign was also making a political statement I looked for a picture of it online. I found one. The sign reads, “America is too great for small dreams – Ronald Reagan.” What kind of bullshit is that?

We picked up our car at brother’s place and hit the road for Homer. The coffee shop there is half way and an oasis. We drove up the eastern shore of Skaneateles Lake and had a fish fry at Doug’s. As we crossed over a bridge near Montezuma’s Wildlife Refuge there was a large turtle in the middle of the road. We straddled it with our tires and and Peggi suggested going back. There were more cars behind us and we didn’t but I hope she/he made it.

How High Is The Water Mama?

Sunday, April 30th, 2017

Trailer Park in high water along Route 18

It poured this morning, a couple of times. And there was another article in the paper about the unusually high lake levels. Everyone is talking about whether the new regulation, that limits the amount the levels can be adjusted, is to blame or whether it is just part of natural cycle. Right now the wetlands surrounding Lake Ontario are being renewed with the ebb and flow of high water but property owners are grumbling. I have to side with the the wetlands on this one.

The town has passed out 6,000 sand bags for nearby residents. Its gonna take a lot more than that to save the beach. At moment it is gone. We walked along Durand Beach this afternoon, along the sidewalk that is. The sandy beach is entirely under water. Now if you were living in a houseboat you would simply have to re-tie the knots on the lines to your moors.

One Of Seven

Saturday, April 29th, 2017

Horseshoe Falls and sky from Niagara Falls, New York

Our friends, Matthew and Louise, went up to Niagara Falls recently for a night and we copied their plan. A “Wonder of the World” in our own backyard, we hadn’t been there in years. I guess you could get there in an hour and a half but we took the scenic route along the old Erie Canal towns.

We stayed in an old Art Deco hotel on the American side. The bartender there told us the building was revamped by Carl Paladino. I said, “Take Out The Trash Carl Paladino?” Either the bartender didn’t remember Carl’s run for governor or he didn’t think it was funny because he didn’t even smile. As I watched him I got worried he might be Paladino’s nephew or something.

At some point the government gave a Native American tribe six blocks in the middle of the city of Niagara Falls. They owed them the whole town, at least, but what you have now is a convention center, empty most of the time, a hideously tall hotel with a screaming LED billboard, “THE TEMPTATIONS with THE FOUR TOPS,” and a casino. We walked through the casino. Peggi got depressed in there. I was blown away by it all. Smoking is still acceptable and it goes perfectly with the low-life, Black Jack, Backgammon and whatever you call those things that used to be slot machines. Surrounding theses builds are blocks of parking lots. The city is stuck between decay and mis-managed renewal.

The magnificent falls are on the American side but the best singular views of the falls are from the Canadian side. We walked through Customs and into Canada seven or so miles along the shore of the river and back. The Canadian parks are manicured but they’re surrounded by honky tonk. There are Hard Rock Cafés on both sides of the border. I prefer the funkiness of the struggling American side and the casual park on this side, Goat Island, is sensational. Sensational because the views, as you walk around its perimeter, are astoundingly beautiful.

Planet B

Sunday, April 23rd, 2017

Junk in Manhattan store window

It is a wonder that Central Park is not a bigger attraction in the city. It is an oasis. A cliche, I know, but a hundred yards in and you’re somewhere else. We walked through the park on our way up to the Metropolitan and stopped to watch the tiny sailboats navigate the pond. On the way back down we watched a wedding photographer take shots of the bride standing on a big rock. And a little further down we stopped by the zoo and to watch the seals play in their aquarium. All very dreamy and a welcome cleansing of the big city palette.

Times Square is a big attraction, a big hideous attraction. We walked through it on our way to Port Authority this morning and ran into the “March for Science” coming down Broadway. The crowd of protesters, more like an orderly cross section of everyday people, were able to bring the LED, chain restaurant, nightmare down to human scale. It was magical.

Ideal Couple

Monday, April 17th, 2017

Dina Goldstein "In The Dollhouse" at Rochester Contemporary

I always found my sister’s Barbie dolls a little creepy. Far from cuddly. like my teddy bear, they were hard and pointy and a little too grown up and serious looking.

In the Dollhouse,” by Dina Goldstein, currently on view at Rochester Contemporary, pretty much confirms my early impressions but her photo creations are thoroughly engaging as an indictment of the ideal couple. Goldstein “plays Barbie,” as my sister used to call it, with real people and she airbrushes on the obvivious doll features, the ones that allow the dolls to turn their heads 180 degrees. Goldstein says “In The Dollhouse” “offers a profound commentary on the transient nature of beauty, the difficulty of marriage and the importance of authenticity.”


Saturday, April 8th, 2017

Boarded up building on Clinton Avenue in northeast Rochester, New York

I know ruin porn is a thing and all. My wife is from Detroit and we chose to live in another city that could be described as long past its prime. I don’t agree with that description, I’m just saying who’ve been enjoying this stuff for a long time. I took this shot out the car window yesterday afternoon on Clinton Avenue somewhere near Norton where the old Red Wing Stadium was located.