Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Cliche and it's opposite: something new

"The cliches line up outside the dust jacket an are whisked in pairs to a table down in the front ..."

Adam Gopnik in the September 28, 2009 issue of the New Yorker on Dan Brown's prose in his new novel, "The Lost Symbol".

Chicago Art Institute, or: the part where I get inspired

*This should've been posted a while ago, but I can't finish it on my supid iPhone. So here it is in part, I'll add to t while it's live.

Jen & I were in Chicago for a few days following my cousin Jesse's wedding in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan. Staying with another cousin, Ben & his wife Michelle's amazing apartment in the Lakeview section of town, a great launching pad to see the city. We walked to Wrigley last night for the Cubs game vs the Pirates and managed to get three 200-level tickets together for $30! Wrigley is a dainty little park compared to the gigantor-sized new ballparks in NYC, but it is full of character and charm, and the fans were great.

The best attraction we saw while there was without a doubt the Art Institute of Chicago: the permanent collection, the special exhibits and the new (to me) Millenium Wing were all amazing, and I was totally wowed the entire time I was there.

Special exhibit of Cy Twombley's recent work was the first thing we looked at, and it impressed. I can't say that I've seen much of his contemporary work, but I have always been a fan of his seminal works; graffito, drips, scratches, and blobs of paint composed on large white canvases that have a visceral impact on the viewer, bringing you into the physical act of creation with Twombley, and into his mind through the lexicon of marks and words he includes onthe canvases. The new works were at once more contemplative with their overall composition and Ross Bleckner-like floral visions, and perhaps more literally poetic with his use of direct quotes from Rilke and others scratched onto the canvases in large and small marks, both full legible and childishly scrambled.

Heading across the hallway was the photo and video recent aquisitions, containing a powerful set of works by the German artist, zzzTkzzz tktktktk. Passages from death row convicts' final statements were hand written onto celluloid and looped from projector to ceiling in a large triangle and projected nonsensically on adjacent walls. The statements could be read on the extended film itself or projected through on the ground by an overhead light, but not on the wall. Knowing the original authors are all dead, does this act as a further cage or are they somehow freed by this piece, and given further life in the work. (The curator's statement on the wall was dissapointing, mentioning the artist's Internet searches, etc.)

*Now it's nearly a week later, and I really should have finished writing this while it was all fresh in my mind. The Richter room was a real treat for me to take in, and it included four new untitled drawings. The drawings, according to the wall info, were started as a memorial to the 9/11 attacks, which is interesting given his usual tendency to avoid a rigid political stance. My first perusal of the drawings gave me the impression that they were studies for his abstract squeegeed paintings, but the text said that they contained their abundance of vertical marks to remind of the towers, the horizontal scratches standing in for the violence.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Before & After

The last time I was in the Windows on the World restaurant was in the summer of 2001, maybe it was August. I was there with my cousin, Jesse, who lived on Chambers & Church at the time, and a few other friends. We went because they had a swing dancing night and good strong cocktails, not to mention a killer view. This may have also been my first time up there, but I'm not so sure about that.

We arrived in our own grand fashion, the boys, Jesse, Iain, Gary, Jason, all liked to make a grand entrance and follow it up with a lot of loud chatter and iain's trademark hand-grenade laugh. Cocktails were ordered, and drank, and ordered again. At some point we all gravitated towards he north-east facing windows.

A unique quality of the room were it's floor-to-ceiling windows, which provided that unrivaled view. The windows were framed by metal stanchions which were just wide enough to allow one person to occupy it comfortably. We each took up a position in one of these slots, and I leaned forward and let m head rest against the window, arms free. A bit more of the normal back and forth, until Jason, who, at the time, was working on a series of disaster-themed glitter 'paintings' asked everyone, "Ok, how long do you guys think these towers will be standing?"

Most of us said things like, "'Til after we're all gone," or similar. One person, and it might've been Jason, said they thought they'd be down in our lifetime. Morbid, and we all harangued the pessimist.

Adding to the surreality of our night, as we were coming out of the elevator, in the open-air lobby/Path station we were passed by a fully nude homeless man, who was shouting something that cracked us all up. In retrospect it all seems like something Ingmar Bergman would put in a film as a phenomenalogical symbol.

One year later I was in Santa Barbara. I woke up on east coast time that day, and went down to the beach with another displaced new yorker, to throw the frisbee and reflect a bit. As I was walking towardz the sand, a dolphin jumped clear out of he water three times in a row. More signs

Now it's eight years since the attacks. I finishe my master's degree, came back to the east coast, got married, got a few jobs, saw many peoplecome and go, and watched this city move on and heal up, while never forgetting.

In my work, there is always a before and an after, and the after is always supposed to be better than the before. It takes hard work and frustration and sometimes a relative amount of pain to get there, bit it is finite.

Thinking back on that night at the top of the world, it seems so completely different from now.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

New Amsterdammit!

Here's a great logo for "Taste Nieuw Amsterdam"; a new twist on restaurant week here in New York City. The original painting, "The Milkmaid", by Johannes Vermeer was hanging over the kitchen sink in the house I lived in from the time I was born until I was about 8 or so, so I think it has added emotional/nostalgia power over me. Additionally, I am drawn to and love anything that plays with the classic NYC motifs, such as the greek-styled iconic blue coffee, or the water towers that sit like urban garden gnomes, or giant wooden gargoyles atop our buildings. Some of these things can be overused, or played-out, if you will, or appear downright cheesy when handled by amateurs, like the tired use of subway car numbers and letters.

(One critical comment, however: I am really not a fan of the treatment of the word, "Nieuw". Ok, you're taking the dutch spelling and still including the english spelling, but it looks terrible that way. They should have done it with sans-serif caps, or perhaps use the blue already in the design, and alternate letter color. They way it is now just doesn't look thoughtful next to the rest of the logo.)

Friday, September 4, 2009

Photos from Montauk

Some nice overlooked corners of Montauk, NY.

There is a lot of character, and a lot of texture out here at The End. Old-timers and long-timers complain about the newbies out here; Surf Lodge and their ilk. It will take a lot more than some Japanese tourists and a couple of douchey popped-collar surfers to change the character of this fishing village with a Hamptons problem.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

My first surfcasting keeper

Had to post this here, too, even after facebooking & tweeting it already. Got up at the ass-crack of dawn this morning to go surfcasting with my father-in-law on the beach by the Montauk Shores trailer park, down Ditch Plains Road. After only 5-10 casts I landed this 36", 16.5 lb striped bass! It took about five minutes to reel it in, and I was pretty excited when I hauled it out of the surf onto the beach.

Can't wait to get it cleaned and fileted, so I can make some spicy tartar, maybe crudo or ceviche, and definitely grill some as well. We'll be eating this for the next few days, along with fresh clams that Chris is going to scratch up later today.

I am officially hooked on surfcasting.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

old stuff: Cracked Out Snowmen

These were proposed illustrations for the Spin corporate holiday card a few years ago. Didn't get approved for some reason.