Thursday, March 7, 2013


We had been watching news of the approaching storm with some alarm--the word "blizzard" is much bandied about on the local television news--especially in view of the fact that our Thursday travel plan was to take us from New York's JFK airport to Fort Worth, Texas, with a change at Dulles airport in Washington DC, now already snowed in.  Hearing reports of flight cancellations and long delays, and threats of more to come at JFK, that plan seemed fraught with potential difficulties--not to mention the possibility that we might not even reach Fort Worth in time for my scheduled "One Hour/One Painting" session for the National Art Education Association at the Kimbell Museum.  I had originally planned to attend the NAEA National Conference with the prospect of being offered a "Super Session," where I'd have the opportunity to share with a good number of people my ideas about the need for artist-teachers to persist in their creative work, not only for the sake of their own inner life but equally importantly for what they have to offer to their students.

Now, with the small "One Hour/One Painting" workshop the only purpose of this long and arduous journey, I had serious second thoughts about undertaking it; and after agonizing for a while, came to the reluctant decision that it would be far wiser to cancel for this year and look forward to another opportunity in the future.  So much of the morning was spent contacting my friends at the NAEA--I was truly sorry to be disappointing them--changing the travel itinerary with the airline, and making arrangements for two more nights in New York.  None of which proved too easy, and involved much working through online menus and delayed responses.  But by morning's end, the task was done and I felt at once relieved and much disappointed to have let some good people down.

Still, onward and upward--in this case via Yellow Cab to the Armory show down at Piers 52 and 54, where we arrived an hour later than planned and having missed the scheduled press conference.  Still, my press pass assured us both access before the huge crowds descended, and we spent a good two hours wandering the aisles.  Trouble with these big art fairs is that, with what must be hundreds of thousands of art works on display, they end up canceling each out.  You don't go expecting to see "art", you go expecting to see product, indulge in commerce, and network with associates.  For Ellie and myself, the highlights were the few moments of personal connection--with Cheryl Haines from San Francisco, who shows our old friend Patsy Krebs; and with Ron Feldman, whose booth was "best in show" so far as we were concerned, devoted to the subtle and engaging work of the late Terry Fox, an artist better known in Europe than the U.S., an important heir to John Cage and the Fluxus group.

A wonderful conversation with Ron--of the kind that is rare in the context of the art fair, not long, but deep, urgent, and personal.   We also met up with our Laguna Beach friends, Eileen and Roger, whose son Andrew was the artist responsible for another standout piece--one that wittily engaged the environment of the art fair and the thousands of art enthusiasts who thronged its aisles.  Andrew's piece was a simple urinal...

Andrew Ohanesian, "Urinal"
... wildly out of place, but serenely present in the mob scene.  Okay, yes, R. Mutt, Duchamp, ready-mades, but with a difference.  This was set up as a working urinal; approach it close enough, as though to pee, and the thing would flush as you walk away, offering a surprise to anyone interested enough to take an other than casual look.  Women, it seemed, especially found it fascinating, presumably because they don't often have the opportunity to be close and personal with a urinal.  With all those thousands of artworks sitting passively on the walls or the floors of hundreds of booths, it was refreshing to come upon something provocative, disconcerting, awaiting participation and promoting conversation, laughter, and perhaps a little discomfort.  I was hoping to see someone back into it, as people do, by accident, when distracted by social interaction at an art show, and to be surprised by a cold shower to the rear end.  Didn't happen.  But it could have.  Congratulations to Andrew for a piece provocative enough to make an appearance on the front page of "; An Armory Show Special Edition"--the art fair's newspaper--alongside with a featured piece on Warhol and another on Larry Gagosian.

To anyone who thinks it odd to find so modest, almost anonymous a piece singled out for attention in this report, let me just say that little else in the entire show spoke with this much originality and verve.  It played with convention and art history, yes, but it substantially altered and challenged  the convention--and in a thoroughly amusing and thought-provoking way.  I wish there had been more such challenges to report upon.  Perhaps there were.  If so, I missed them.  But that was the "Contemporary" wing of the Armory show.  Ellie and I went on to the "Modern" wing and found there much to like, many old friends, the artists we "grew up with."  We wondered if we were simply victims of the generation gap...

The wait for a taxi outside the exhibition halls, in the already cold winds arriving in the forefront of the coming storm--that was another story.  Hundreds in line.  Few cabs arriving, and too many of those that did taken by a single occupant.  The crowd grew restless, talkative.  By the time we reached the front of the line--it must have been close to an hour--we were all old chums, bidding each other congratulations and farewell.  Back in our warm little apartment on the Upper West Side, we relaxed for a while watching news of the worsening weather, and wrapped up warm to venture out for dinner.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

planes, trains and automobiles.