Archive for the ‘Lopsided Observations’ Category

Happening Again

Thursday, August 9th, 2018

Black and white photo of  György Ligeti 'Poème Symphonique' performance at Albright Knox

This black and white photo in a display case was the first thing that caught our attention at the “Giant Steps: Artists and the 1960″ show at Albright Knox. A recording of the metronome piece was playing overhead and a February 1965 letter from John Cage, addressed to Albright Knox, was sitting next to the photo. We wrongly assumed the photo and letter went together. The metronome piece, ‘Poème Symphonique,’ was performed by György Liget at the gallery and John Cage was here for a performance and lecture the same year. Buffalo was and is a happening town. Well, it was really happening when the Pan American Expo was herein 1901 and with a resurgence underway it is happening again.

The show here was was called, “Giant Steps: Artists and and it features major works by some of the leading artists of the period, Bridget Riley, Frank Stella, and Andy Warhol, and it reconsiders those who played an underrecognized, but vital, role in furthering the visual avant-garde in the United States and beyond. The permanent collection here is outstanding. Seymour Knox was buying the the collection, mostly modern art, as the artists were making it. This show digs deep into their collection and is well worth a ride along the lake to civilization.

Mini Forever Wild

Tuesday, July 31st, 2018

Oatka Creek falls at night in Leroy, New York

Leroy, New York is only forty five minutes away but it feels like another world. Like so many small towns it has seen better days. The Jello Museum is still here. Donald Woodward, the son of the original owner, bought Amelia Earhart’s airplane, the “Friendship”, in 1928, and Amelia Earhart drove here to visit her airplane. The airport is being revived. And the Creekside Tavern, built in 1820 on the banks of Oatka Creek, has been completely redone by Billy Farmer. He has bands out back on the weekends and we’ve driven out here twice to hear the Debbie Kendick’s project. I recommend the band for sure and I’d take route along the river. We took 490 the second time and it is deadly how boring that stretch can be. Maybe if you were shopping for an RV it wouldn’t be so bad.

Our neighbor thinned out some pachesandra and offered it to us. We decided to plant it along our driveway. That project took up the better part of day, digging little holes and winding up the roots to poke the plants in. To do something like this now you have wear your tick armour, socks, pants and long sleeve hoodies soaked in Permethrin. While I was suited up picked a handful of blackberries from the vines growing in mini forever wild area.


Saturday, July 21st, 2018

Gideon Cobb Day 2018 in Brighton New York

William Keeler, Librarian & Archivist at the Rochester Historical Society, gave the featured presentation at the annual Gideon Cobb Day Celebration in Brighton. His talk, “Rochesterville on the Rise,” started with the Native American trading post near Indian Landing a couple hundred years ago. The British controlled the waters of Lake Ontario before the War of 1812. A reenactor can be seen in the photo above along with John Page and Brighton’s Town Supervisor William W. Moehle.

Tryon, where the bike park is now, was where all the action was, a boomtown on the move until the sandbar at the mouth of Irondequoit Bay filled in, cutting off access to the port of Tryon. Carthage, on the other side of the Genesee River, the next biggest nearby settlement collapsed when influenza swept through town. Rochesterville, just south of the High Falls, was nowhere as big as Geneva, Bath and Canandaigua. Gideon Cobb was one of its first inhabitants. He ran a brickyard where Cobbs Hill is today and my father restored Cobb’s folk hero status.

Early Gideon Cobb days were celebrated at Mario’s where the new Whole Foods is going in. Ray Tierney, former Brighton councilman and Historic Brighton board member, has organized the last two and they now feature an award presentation, the “Leo Dodd Heritage Presentation Award.” Last year’s went to Sandra Frankel and this year it went to John Page of Bero Architects. I’m happy Historic Brighton has carried on but I couldn’t help but feel the void left in the organization. They need someone with the desire to dig through the past, willing enough to attend the meetings, lobby the politicians to preserve the remnants, someone who likes taking pictures and illustrating a story and someone who likes to share what they have found. They need someone as enthusiastic as my father was.

Personal Effects - Boom Boom Town/Violince
Personal Effects – Boom Boom Town/Violince

Personal Effects – “Boom Boom Town/Violince” from “Personal Effects – A Collection”

Rewritten In Translation

Thursday, July 19th, 2018

Wards of Time: Photographs of Antiquities by Larry Merrill

We had tickets to the MAG opening on Saturday night. We talked about going that afternoon and when the time came we completely spaced it out. So we tried backtracking and went over there yesterday. We started with Bill Viola’s video installation, a piece with four monitors, one at each quarter hour devoted to one of the four elements. Called “Martyrs,” Viola says: “The Greek word for martyr originally meant ‘witness.’” (where have I heard that word before?) In today’s world, the mass media turns us all into witnesses to the suffering of others. They also exemplify the human capacity to bear pain, hardship, and even death in order to remain faithful to their values, beliefs, and principles.” It is quite stunning if just a bit too precious.

The summer MAG show features three local artists, a substitution for the old Finger Lakes or Biennial shows. The Nancy Jurs exhibit is fun. The video was unnecessary but the dryer lint piece really drew us in. We took a break for lunch at the Brown Hound. I liked that place better when they had art from the MAG’s collection on the wall instead of all that dog stuff. I don’t find the cheap dog images all that appetizing but the Bistro Salad with Tofu was really nice. After lunch we spent some time with “The Surreal Visions of Josephine Tota.” Her work is small and it would have worked better if someone hadn’t put it in all those loud clunky frames. It was really hard to see the paintings. The white wall tags and signage didn’t help either. The woman has an interesting back story but let us see her work. Her paintings look better online. Larry Merrill’s “Wards of Time: Photographs of Antiquities” could never be as good as the real antiquities but they looked great mounted on the brown walls of the Lockhart Gallery. This poem on the wall in Merrill’s show really struck me. But how does a translator get something this old to rhyme in translation without just rewriting it?

Age is the heaviest burden man can bear,
Compound of disappointment, pain and care;
For when the mind’s experience comes at length,
It comes to mourn the body’s loss of strength.
Resign’d to ignorance all our better days,
Knowledge just ripens when the man decays;
One ray of light the closing eye receives,
And wisdom only takes what folly leaves.
– Pherecrates, about 430 BCE
Richard Cumberland, translation

What Is The Server Saying?

Tuesday, July 17th, 2018

1966 Cadillac convertible in driveway up near the lake

I will talk about politics here just enough to say that following it is really eating into my day. My comfortable middle class life is being impacted by just trying to stay abreast. And imagining the damage being done to the less fortunate is completely draining. It seems you soil yourself by just bringing the divisiveness up. Ignoring it all is certainly an option, an irresponsible option, so we’re stuck. Let’s change the subject.

What is the best looking car on the road today? They pretty much all look alike. We were having dinner with my parents, near what turned out to be the end of their lives, and I asked my father if he thought things were getting better or worse. My father was progressive, an optimist and forward thinking, an early adapter and enthusiast of new technology. I was certain he would say things are getting better but his answer wandered into what I would characterize as a longing for the time when the parish priest knew what you were up to, what kind of trouble you might be getting into. There was accountability. Things were not allowed to run amok.

At my age I want to believe that things are getting better but Im worried. Maybe this is what the trumpster has tapped into with his “Make America Great Again” slogan. Maybe this is why so many bands are content to play roots music – comfort food. Cars were pretty cool in the sixties but nostalgia is killing us.

The Man

Sunday, July 8th, 2018

Garage sale Christ purchased for fifty cents.

Somebody stole our neighbor’s Buddha statue. A hollow black plastic thing that sat about twelve inches tall on an old stump in their yard. Talk about bad karma.

I grew up with Warner Sallman’s 1940 picture of Christ, one of 500 million reproductions of the image from the Chicago Offset Printing Company, so this garage sale Christ with short hair and mousse really struck me. We were out walking and stopped at an estate sale, one that had been going on for a couple days so everything was half price. This picture was hanging on the wall and it had a one dollar price tag on it. Small print at the bottom read “Christian Education Press 1955″ and it was signed by Barosin. I looked it up and found the image was painted by famed Holocaust Survivor Jacob Barosin. I plan to give this to a friend.


Monday, June 4th, 2018

Sax Player entertaining bus passengers in Midtown Manhattan

The F Train wasn’t running this weekend so we caught the Q at Beverley and just stopped at DeKalb, our last stop before going under the river. Wearing shorts and a dirty white sweatshirt, stinking to high heaven and speaking loudly, like he was giving orders and clearly didn’t even know how to go about soliciting our sympathy. “Please help me out. I’m trying to put some shoes on my feet.”

Looking down I saw that his feet were swollen and I tried to picture him walking the City streets in bare feet. People on the train did their best to ignore him but a couple of teenage boys were laughing as he moved on to the the next car. A few minutes later he came back through our car singing, “I have decided to follow Jesus. No turning back.” Would a dollar have helped this guy out? What would Christ have done? We got off at 42nd Street and coming out of the next car was that same guy with his shoes in his hand.

Théâtres de Mémoire

Sunday, June 3rd, 2018

Calder mobile at Hauser Wirth in Chelsea

Our list of shows in Chelsea was shorter than ever. Just one must see, Marlene Dumas’s “Myths & Mortals” at David Zwirner on 20th, so we started there. Luscious, large, thinly painted oils, mostly nudes in gorgeous colors and small watery watercolors, mostly black and white, swiftly executed and expressive, work created for a recent Dutch translation of William Shakespeare’s “Venus & Adonis.”

Hauser Wirth is always good so we headed there next. They have galleries all over the world and their 22nd Street spot is especially comfortable with its café, bookstore and bathroom. They were showing the collection of Sylvia Perlstein, a Max’s Kansas City denizen. The Calder, above, is from that show.

From here we just wandered, staying between 9th and 10th of course, and stumbled into shows featuring Jean Dubuffet’s (Basquiat’s father) “Théâtres de Mémoire,” Al Held, whose heroic, thickly painted abstracts from the fifties look fresh today, Jenny Saville’s new paintings that show the work, the scrubbing out, the reworking, the buttery finish to the strokes and Damien Hirst’s spot paintings, three huge rooms of them.

Coincidentally, the last two shows we saw we’re by a wife and her husband. Both are the parents of the actress and director, Lena Dunham. Laurie Simmons from Cindy Sherman’s Picture Generation is showing her dummies and picture thought bubble photos at Mary Boone and her husband, Carroll Dunham, is showing his “vulgar beyond belief” (Los Angeles Times) male wrestler paintings at Gladstone Gallery. It was a perfect afternoon.

More Beer

Thursday, May 31st, 2018

Mural painter working front of Rochester Beer Garden

Aren’t there already too many local beer joints? Too many beers on tap, too many choices everywhere you go? Do we have to overdo a good thing before moving on? I like a good beer but I fall apart after one. I can’t see hanging out at the Beer Garden but I might stop in for a pint.

The outside of the place made me think of my neighbor, friend and horseshoe partner. He drives one those VW vans, a Westie, and he’s a beer enthusiast. He’s been on a bit of a losing streak this season and he’s been bugging me to raise one of the stakes. As if the height of one of the stakes would play to his disadvantage only.

The stake is driven in so deep I need mechanical help to get it up so I put a request in to our neighbor, Jared. He’s been preoccupied with his grandson but he stopped by this morning with his tractor and pulled the stake up with a chain. Sure enough, Rick beat me two – zip in the first two of our usual best of three games.


Sunday, May 13th, 2018

Kurt Ketchum show at Axom Gallery

Axom’s parking lot was full on Saturday, not with cars parked for the gallery but with vendors selling locally handmade goods. It was a Second Saturday and Rick and Robin Muto let them use the lot each month for the event. We had seen them the night before at an art opening on the ninth floor of the Bank of America building. Rick and Robin had taken one of the artists in that show under their wing years ago. Dan Armbruster from Joywave was up there too. I told him how much we liked his band. Rick told us he wasn’t able to make the opening of my father’s show because he had an opening at his own gallery, Axom, a show that features new work by Kurt Ketchum. We made a point to stop up there the next day and we really enjoyed the show. Kurt puts his own stamp on everything he touches. He brings a new kind of order to objects by interacting with them.

We met my aunt and uncle up at the Geisel Gallery. They live in Niagara Falls and were former traveling partners with my parents. They came into town to see the Leo Dodd show there. My cousin was driving and she called to say they were at Main and Clinton and they couldn’t find the building. My cousin refuses to get a smart phone so it was verbal instructions that were going land this ship. They were only two blocks away but Clinton is one way, the wrong way. And they we pointed west on Main so we had to turn them around. Stone Street, their first left would take them right to the entrance but you can’t turn onto it from Main. We had look for South Avenue and told them to turn left. South Ave. is labeled “”Saint Paul” when goes north and that’s all they saws they called back form Washington Street! They were on the other side of the river. A half hour later they came up Court Street where the Dachshund Parade was happening in Washington Square Park. They unwound in the elevator and they loved the show.

My mother has been gone a year but we still get some mail for her, things like “Better Homes & Gardens.” I took a look at this one on Mother’s Day and found some cool stuff, a simple recipe for grilling Kale, Radicchio and Bok Choy along with high heat, non-stick steel grill fry pan with holes in it for the small stuff. And a feature on house numbers in various colors, fonts and materials. The aluminum Neutra numbers would look good on our house.

Niño De Atocha

Tuesday, April 3rd, 2018

Pamplona overlook at the edge of town

Holy cards, the traditional European, beautifully printed, paper ones are getting harder and harder to come by. I’ve had some since childhood and I’ve added to my collection with every trip to Spain but I only bought one in Madrid this time. It was a small plastic coated one dedicated to the Niño de Atocha, another representation of the Christ child but one the street and train station in Madrid was named after. When we got back to our hotel I looked the image up and found it is distinctly characterized by the basket, staff and drinking gourd he carries and the cape cape he wears that is affixed with a scallop shell, the symbol of the pilgrimage to Saint James.

I gave the card to my cousin, Maureen, when we met up with her today in Saint Jean Pied Del Port. The remains of St. James are said to be in Santiago de Compostello, the city in northwestern Spain that is named after him. Our hiking clothes are laid out and the alarm is set. We start our walk to there tomorrow.


Friday, February 23rd, 2018

David Cay Johnston at Barnes & Nobel in Pittsford, NY

David Kay Johnston has the goods on Trump and he shared some of the teasers from his new Simon & Schuster book, “It’s Worse Than You Think,” with the crowd last night at Barnes & Nobel. The chairs were full and people were standing around the periphery and ten deep outside the doors. We sat on the floor a few feet from the author.

The takeaway: It is “our government” not “the government.” Get informed, help people register to vote, drive people to the polls. Trump belongs behind bars but then what?. Think about how destructive a less-than-inept politician with Trump’s agenda could be. And his final word of advice to the mostly gray haired crowd. “The next time you come to see me bring a younger person.”

Find My Phone

Wednesday, February 14th, 2018

Bay bridge in February, Rochester, New York

Today is Valentines Day and Ash Wednesday. It was too warm to ski so we plotted a ten mile walking loop that took us up to Starbucks first. Peggi spotted a dirty cell phone in the snow off to the side of the road. It had a pink cover on it with a heart decal on the back. I cleaned it off in the snow and we carried it up to Starbucks. It rang twice and buzzed a couple of times but I couldn’t unlock the screen. I pictured someone in front of monitor tracking us with a ‘find my phone” feature. I carried it up to Starbucks and asked the cashier if they had a lost and found or something. She said her manager would take care of it.

The parking lot at Conduent, the company Xerox recently spun off, was full when we walked by. The old Wilmorite mall has been vacant for ten years and now its packed with collection agents rounding up money owed to NYS by people who blew off the tolls on the old Tappan Zee now Mario Cuomo Bridge. Meanwhile the rest of Xerox is preparing to do business as Fuji.

The sign out in front of the Seventh Day Adventist Church on East Ridge Road read, “Give thanks in all circumstances for this is the will of God.” We headed down the hill to the bay. Someone tore down the old Newport House and is putting up a half assed condominium complex. The bay was still mostly frozen. Wegmans was packed with guys buying red flowers.

After our walk we had dinner at Lanai, Casey’s new place on Alexander Street. We had the Valentine’s Day special for two which came with a glass of champagne. The Bok Choy and shrimp were out off this world. Can’t wait to get back and dive into their menu of Polynesian delights.

100 Mile Club

Thursday, February 1st, 2018

Downtown Rochester from Ford Street Bridge

We read that you should have 100 miles on your shoes before taking a long walk. They are apparently optimally broken in at that point but still in good enough shape for El Camino. We put nine on today walking over to Atlas Eats for lunch. I was craving their Kimchee and Tofu bowl. We are very near the hundred mile mark now. I’m hoping the snow, forecast for tomorrow, will put us back in our ski boots.

Son Of Paleface

Wednesday, January 31st, 2018

Skiing around Eastman Lake in Rochester, New York

We were so happy to have snow again yesterday. We expected to see more people skiing in the park but we only crossed paths with one other guy, someone we have seen more than any other person over the past few years. We had never talked to him before. He would usually zoom by so fast he didn’t even say hello. He always seems like he’s working hard, head down, determined. I have him pegged as vet. He reminds us of our old mailman who had some residual issues from his service but I could be all wrong. Today we talked.

“Why weren’t the trails groomed?” He speculated that the park people don’t want the snowmobile chewing up the golf course. And he thought the skate skiers, the ones that require the groomed trails, were skiing elsewhere because when there is only a few inches the paved golf cart paths get bared and they chew up people’s skis. We talked about the weather. We heard it was getting warm again. He thought it was going to continue to stay cold. And then he offered an odd theory. The weather forecasts, he thought, were deliberately on the high side. He thought lawyers were involved. I laughed and said that sounds like a conspiracy theory. It seems to me that business interests were more likely to pump up forecasts for money-making reasons. He looked down at his FitBit, pushed a button, and took off.

We had dinner with some neighbors last night, one of them, Steve, the deer hunter who we last ran into when he had a deer on the back of his truck. He was taking it to someone who would process the meat and mount the rack as a trophy. He told us his taxidermist told him that the buck was the oldest deer he had ever processed. At least ten years old. He could tell that by examining the jaw. Steve’s house is surrounded by woods and he has names for the deer he sees most often. He thought that he had shot the son of one he called “Paleface” but he now thinks he killed Paleface himself.

Palme d’Or

Friday, January 26th, 2018

Squirrel statue with reflector

We are experiencing a serious lack of snow so we’ve taken to the city streets where the animals are altogether different from the woods.

Elisabeth Moss is in everything. We’ve been chipping away at “The Top of the Lake” and loving it. And she co-stars in the “The Square” which won the Palme d’Or at Cannes last year and came to the little for one night only, a fundraiser for Rochester Contemporary. The place was packed so we sat in the second row off to the side and my neck is still sore. The movie, a send up of the art world and life in general since the art world is really only a microcosm of the big picture. And it was a big picture, too long by half an hour at least. I think everyone can guess what a gallery or museum director has to juggle, wooing wealthy patrons while trying to remain cutting edge, but this movie was full of surprises.

Pushing It

Thursday, January 18th, 2018

Possible 6x6 submissions for 2018

I used to toss stuff off for RoCo’s 6×6 show. Not really sure why. I think the limit was ten pieces in the old days, still twenty bucks a piece and 100 per cent of the proceeds go to RoCo. Maybe those factors had something to do with my attitude. I would do quick, sketch-like paintings and one year I think I put ink jet prints of paintings in the show.

I rethought my strategy a while back and put an effort into creating something I would like to take home with me, these colored blocks of wood. Two pieces of Adirondack sawmill, rough cut pine, glued together and painted with oils. All four sold and the variations I did on them the last two years sold as well. So this I considered going even more minimal, four blocks with the same two colors but each looks different based on the the allocation of of the two colors to either the small or bigger section and then the orientation.

Would I want to take one of these home with me? I have to say he warm grey that I used does not look as chocolate-like in my photo. And I don’t like the shine that the camera picked up. My experiment, pushing it with these serious constraints and waiting to see if they are still marketable, may only be interesting to me. Is that enough?


Friday, January 5th, 2018

Snow covered flower pot in front yard

“Is Donald Trump a conceptual artist?” What a joy it was to read this article in the art section of this morning’s paper. Yes, there is a curved line between Malevich, Dada, abstract expressionism, minimalists like Ellsworth Kelly, Carmen Herrera, Robert Smithson, Donald Judd and the current occupant. Between art and absurdity.

The US government solicited eight prototypes which were built at a cost of $3.3 million in federal funds and unveiled last October along the United States border near San Diego. The eight companies who responded are each hoping to be the winning contractor when Trump builds his great wall. I cut out the pictures of the prototypes when the Times published them in early November. The pieces reminded me of the objects in my ongoing 6×6 project.

The cheekily named MAGA organization has started a brilliant campaign to designate the prototype display area as a national monument. Each of the eight wall sections were designed to United States Customs and Border Protection specifications, built to withstand a 30-minute assault from sledgehammers to acetylene torches, and to be difficult to scale or tunnel beneath. When viewed up close the walls have the undeniable majesty of minimalist sculpture.

Yes, I signed the MAGA petition and I encourage you to do so as well.

Super Bad

Monday, January 1st, 2018

Looking across Eastman Lake out to Lake Ontario Winter

You know it is going to be a good party, and by extension a good year, when someone clears off the coffee table in the living room so people can take turns dancing on it. James Brown got the party started and his “Super Bad” drove it over the top. The band, with Bootsy Collins on bass and his brother Catfish on guitar, is just incredible. They wind it so tight, keeping you in crazy suspense until they reach the bridge, and then the sax solo, where James asks Robert McCollough to “Blow me some Trane” goes over the top. Prince ruled for a few songs, Grace Jones’ “I’m Not Perfect” was a knock out. I couldn’t find our seven inch of “Love To Love You” so I played part of the album version. And with the 45s all in a big pile we finished the night with the Stooges, “1969.”

There were more people skiing and snowshoeing in the park today than we have ever seen. Could be a combination of perfect conditions and a national holiday but I’d like to think more people are throwing off the digital shackles and getting out there.

Out Of It

Friday, December 29th, 2017

Frozen Eastman Lake in December

We stood on this point on the edge of Eastman Lake trying to decide if the ice was frozen solid enough for us to ski across. We discussed what it would be like to fall in the water in 15 degree weather and then decided to stay on the path that runs along the shore.

The B section of our local paper keeps getting smaller even though it comes stock from USA Today. Just a few months ago it was reduced to six pages, one spread and an insert. Then it was knocked down to just the spread with entertainment gossip on the back page. And then that last page went all ads. I cut out Mesfin Fekadu’s “Top Ten Albums of 2017” from that section just to see what I’m missing. I hate feeling like the world is passing me by.

I had never heard of SZA but her “Ctrl” album was at number one. It’s easy going with a tasteful headphone ready mix. Lots of space and odd instrumentation. Very listenable, like something you’d hear in the Apple Store. Kendrick Lamar’s, “DAMN,” is Hollywood enough to include U2 but the tracks barely get off the ground. Daniel Caesar’s, “Freudian,” at number three, is way laid back R&B, almost detached make-out music.

Funny Mesfin Fekadu put Jay-Z’s, “4:44” at number 4. It really drew me in with its catchy lyrics, rhythms and samples. I’d put this one at number one. Taylor Swift sounds like she is completely lost on “reputation.” The generic big production swallows up her simple charm. I put Sam Smith’s, “The Thrill of It All,” on while we ate dinner and that was just about right. Soft, gospel tinged dinner music.

Number seven, St. Vincent’s, “MASSEDUCTION” isn’t as exotic as Bjork. I thought I was gonna like her but “Sugarboy” sounds like Donna Summer’s “I Feel Love” on the wrong speed. Miguel’s, War & Leisure is old school R&B and various songs didn’t so much remind me of Smokey, the Chi-Lites, Funkadelic and Prince but made me want to hear them instead. “H.E.R.,” by Gabi Wilson under her stage name H.E.R., is more late night, make out chill stuff. And the number ten pick is Haim, “Something to Tell You,“ Three sisters who play pop songs like a lame eighties band.

I’m glad I liked Jay Z. I don’t feel so out of it.