Photography - Bushwick Street Art 2013

A few years ago I started walking around Bushwick with my camera, capturing some of the pretty amazing street art that is around the area. There are spots that are covered in murals and paintings and words, entire blocks and walls that are vibrant in colour and meaning, and then spots where you will find a small piece of artwork, hidden amongst the brick walls of a house or a warehouse. I love living in Bushwick (which is probably why I haven't moved anywhere else over the past 5 years), but I haven't spent much time walking around the neighbourhood recently, and didn't even go to any of the events that were taking place during the Bushwick Collective 1 year anniversary party this past weekend. My room mate has been much better at becoming part of the community here than I have and knows everything that is going on, where the cool bars are and what restaurants are better than others. When we moved here over 5 years ago there wasn't much around except for a few bodegas, the gas station and KFC. Now there is a great selection of restaurants on Seamlessweb alone and a bunch of cool places to hang out in.

In any case, yesterday I took a visitor from Europe for a walk around the neighbourhood and was amazed by all of the new murals and artwork that exists on my street and the streets surrounding it. I noticed a lot of new pieces, but also old pieces that have been covered up by new ones. HERE is the link to the full collection of photos I took yesterday, mainly along Troutman St and Starr St. Below you will find links to different street art sets that I put together in 2011 and 2012.

For more information on The Bushwick Collective, check out their Facebook page HERE.

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Book Review: The Marriage Plot by Jeffrey Eugenides

I don't even know where to start with this. This novel has so many layers and depths. Every time you uncover another depth or peel away another layer you can't help but sit back and bask in the absolute greatness of it all. This isn't just a good book, it's an amazing piece of modern literature, a work of art. I never doubted Eugenides talent, but this is honestly him at his best (in my opinion). This may be because a lot of the story lines hit home. It wasn't just that I completely related to the characters, more that I felt that there were huge parts of me in all of them. Or maybe huge parts of them in me? Who knows. Let's start with the first paragraph...

"To start with, look at all the books. There were her Edith Wharton novels, arranged not by title but date of publication; there was the complete Modern Library set of Henry James, a gift from her father on her twenty-first birthday; there were the dog-eared paperbacks assigned in her college courses, a lot of Dickens, a dmidgen of Trollope, along with good helpings of Austen, George Eliot, and the redoutable Brontë sisters. There were a whole lot of black-and-white New Directions paperbacks, mostly poetry by people like H.D. or Denise Levertov. There were the Colette novels she read on the sly. There was the first edition of Couples, belonging to her mother, which Madeleine had surreptitiously dipped into back in sixth grade and which she was using now to provide textual support in her English honors thesis on the marriage plot. There was, in short, this mid-size but still portable library representing pretty much everything Madeleine had read in college, a collection of texts, seemingly chosen at random, whose focus slowly narrowed, like a personality test, a sophisticated one you couldn't trick by anticipating the implications of its questions and finally got so lost in that your only recourse was to answer the simple truth. And then you waited for the result, hoping for "Artistic" or "Passionate", thinking that you could live with "Sensitive", secretly fearing "Narcissistic" and "Domestic", but finally being presented with an outcome that cut both ways and made you feel different depending on the day, the hour, or the guy you happened to be dating: "Incurably Romantic."

I already identified with Madeleine from the first lines. Add some Hardy, Tolstoy, Byron, Rimbaud, Keats, de Nerval and Baudelaire in there and it could have been me. Sitting in a room surrounded by novels that depict love lost and found, heartbreak and happiness within pages and pages of beautiful words has always been my safe place - as it seems to be Madeleine's. Although I feel I am still more pulled towards the darker side, more Hardy and Tess than Austen and Emma. But anyway, am going to try to not to get sidetracked and talk about myself as usual, as I doubt Eugenides wrote this novel with me in mind...

Madeleine is writing her thesis on the marriage plot in 19th century Victorian literature (think Jane Austen's work as a prime example), and how with the changes in society (divorce etc) and marriage not being as important as it once was, the novel itself seems to have slightly lost the plot (so to say). By depicting Madeleine's real life love triangle with her manic-depressive boyfriend Leonard and her friend who happens to be madly in love with her, Mitchell Grammaticus, Eugenides reinvents the marriage plot in it's modern form and gives us a good dose of the modern mixed with the classic, with twists and turns that you cannot even expect to expect, right down to the last page.

Leonard is the one character I so wanted to despise, but just couldn't. Eugenides has a very clear view of what manic-depression does to people, and the picture he portrays of Leonard is one that way too many of us go through every day. (FYI the novel is set in the early 80's, so all of the older terms of this illness and medication are used in the novel). Some times you just want to shake Leonard and tell him to snap out of it, other times you just want him to do the right thing and disappear, leaving Madeleine to live a happier life with someone like Mitchell. Mitchell, on the other hand, is just as lost as the other two, travelling around Europe and India, searching for his spiritual self while pining after Madeleine at every waking moment. Every time you feel like you finally know one of the characters they turn round and show you another side of themselves, just like people in real life. Nothing is ever exactly how it seems and failure to communicate correctly can lead to disastrous as well as spectacular experiences. However many times you think that you know the outcome, it most often doesn't fall quite into place the way you would like it to - which is not always a bad thing. And then sometimes, once in a while, it all just works out perfectly, even if this wasn't what you thought you wanted.

I don't want to talk more about the plot of the novel, as I think everyone will have their own feelings about this, but not only is this a wonderful story, beautifully written, it's also a great psychological insight and social study on how we all react and communicate (or not) with each other on a daily basis. You can protect yourself from everything to avoid pain, but in the end there will always be some cracks in the armour. A serious must-read in my books.

Art & Poetry: Gabriel Dante Rossetti

I just spent an hour looking through 5 bookcases and hundreds of books looking for for my old collection of Rossetti's poems, a copy that I had taken from my parents collection of old and rare books years ago, but to no avail. It must be somewhere, but I absolutely hate when this happens! I was looking for one poem that referred to the moon, but I couldn't remember the exact title... In any case it must be around somewhere, and I will find it when I decide to take all of the books out, dust them and fit them back in the bookcases again, like a jigsaw puzzle. It got me thinking about how Rossetti has always been my favourite artist, because even though I love his poetry, I love his paintings even more. One of the main founders of the Pre-Raphaelite movement in the 19th century, many of his paintings depict beautiful portraits of women, with medieval and Italian Renaissance influences. The attention to detail n all his work is tremendous, and if you look closely at the faces of the women you can see that they all resemble each other, even if the hair colour or dress is different. I suppose this is because his artwork was intrinsically close to his real life relationships with his models and muses and he tended to reproduce their faces in his different paintings.

I used to have a whole collection of postcard reproductions of his work all over my bedroom walls years ago (amidst the Nirvana, Cure and Bauhaus posters), but I've lost most of them during my many moves. During my brief stay in London 7 years ago I got to see a good collection of his work at the Tate Britain (for free - only the temporary exhibitions have a fee to view) which was great. In an alternate universe where I was a millionaire and collected art, Rossettis would be what I would want to cover my house in. Or at least, own one of. Beauty, sadness, depth and other-worldy...
When I write I don't see words in my minds, but images, and I try to convey those images in words. When I take photographs I always think of words, strings of sentences, that go with the photo and convey the feelings and emotions that go through me when I capture exactly the image that I see in my mind. I think that's what I love the most about Rossetti - each piece of artwork is closely intertwined with a poem or a piece of writing. It's as if one cannot go without the other, which in my mind is an utterly true statement.

I've been feeling very whimsical all week... Maybe it's the weather...

Here is the poem I was looking for earlier:

A Match With The Moon
WEARY already, weary miles to-night
I walked for bed: and so, to get some ease,
I dogged the flying moon with similes.
And like a wisp she doubled on my sight
In ponds; and caught in tree-tops like a kite;
And in a globe of film all liquorish
Swam full-faced like a silly silver fish;—
Last like a bubble shot the welkin's height
Where my road turned, and got behind me, and sent
My wizened shadow craning round at me,

And jeered, “So, step the measure,—one two three!”
And if I faced on her, looked innocent.
But just at parting, halfway down a dell,
She kissed me for good-night. So you'll not tell.

Dante Gabriel Rossetti
Tate Britain: Website Here
Online Rossetti Archive: HERE

Art/Exhibition: Courtney Love - And She's Not Even Pretty

 Seeing as I was over in Chelsea on Monday to see the Tim Hetherington retrospective (see HERE), and I was already soaking wet from the rain that was coming at me from all directions I decided to stop by the Fred Torres Collaborations gallery to see the Courtney Love exhibition that is currently showing there. I actually walked along 29th street between Tenth and Eleventh Aves a couple of times until I figured out that the gallery was actually through a small door and upstairs, on the north side of the street. I wasn't really expecting much from the artwork, so I was at the least pleasantly surprised that I actually thought it was pretty good.

My "relationship" with Courtney Love has been up and down over the years. I absolutely adored her in the early to late 90's, and still know the lyrics to every single one of her songs. I still listen to Hole on a regular basis, I mean Live Through This got me through some pretty tough times in 1994, and I have many memories attached to certain songs. Then she completely lost it and all that adoration I had for her just turned into something similar to disappointment mixed with embarrassment. At some point I think that I still hoped she would snap out of it and become slightly human again, but I really doubt that will happen anymore. I know she's been through a lot, but so have many people, including myself, and we don't become insane madwomen who pretend to be a mix between Dickens' Miss Havisham with some kind of Yoko Ono complex (or maybe the idea that she should have been Yoko Ono - the only thing that connects them both is that they both have famous dead husbands and they are both artists). I saw Courtney play with her new version of Hole a few years back, and although it was fun to see her live, it just wasn't really that good. Maybe I just grew up and she didn't, or maybe she just doesn't have what she used to... Probably the latter ;)

Anyway, I was really just expecting a bunch of childish drawings and paintings depicting girl/women complaining about being used and abused by men and society, and really just went out of curiosity and to report back to some friends in England that I had been to see it. Some of the drawings are a little on the childish side, but this actually makes them more whimsical and dreamy. It looks likes many of them were done using mainly crayons, some watercolours and some pencil. All the drawings depict pretty girls and women in different states of undress, many with sad, sad eyes, surrounded by words that are obviously lyrics from songs that already have been released, or just words that Courtney uses as taglines or thoughts to complement her drawings.

"I knew a boy he came from the sea, He was the only boy who ever knew The Truth about me, I'm overwhelmed and undersexed, Baby what did you expect. Your whole wide world in my hands" - pure Courtney Love song lyrics.

I'm still surprised that I liked it. The drawings are pretty and somewhat dark; imperfect but thoughtful. I like being pleasantly surprised like this - it beats being disappointed.

Richard Mosse - The Congo in infra-red film

Whenever I read a press release my usual first thought is "I wish I had written that!" immediately followed by "but why are they trying to sell me something I already own/know?". You can read the exhibition press release from the Jack Shainman Gallery HERE, it's well written and explains what Richard Mosse does to obtain all of the purple and pink hues. I will just talk about what I thought of the exhibition.

I had already seen a couple of Richard Mosse's prints and was intrigued to see more. They are nothing less than striking with the juxtaposition of violence (militia, guns and army) on top of a landscape that is coloured in warm pink, purple and red. Knowing what I know about the Congo, meaning the years and years of civil war, unrest, millions of deaths, poverty, systematic sexual violence and the guerrilla warfare tactics performed on civilians by multiple militias, makes these photos even more powerful. The Congo is DANGEROUS. For everyone. It's no wonder people don't care to talk about it, let alone go there on vacation. You only really venture into the Congo if you are a journalist intent on telling the truth about what happens inside the country, you work for a non-profit, or you have a sense of adventure which borders on the edge of self-destruction (see Joseph Conrad or, more recently, Tim Butcher). But without people like Richard Mosse, who actually go to this country and document what they see, no one would really see what the country actually looks like.

Tell me... How many of you reading this know that during this last week general elections were held in the Congo? That the Congo is the world's largest producer of cobalt ore, and a large producer of copper and diamonds? That with a strategic set up of public transportation and hydro-electric power the Congo could become a wealthy and powerful nation in Africa? But that since the late 80's, war and violence have created one of the poorest and most dangerous nations in the world (the numbers of deaths associated with these wars are around the 5 million mark).

The Congo is beautiful, extreme, huge and very daunting. More than luscious rain forests, waterways, mountains, always hot and humid, and raw. There are places where nobody lives, and places where you wouldn't think anybody could survive, but they do. You just have to look at Richard Mosse's landscape photos of the mountains that go on forever, with the grazing cows - seemingly peaceful images in a land of never-ending conflict.

I think my main question revolves around whether this is art or photo-journalism? In a sense isn't photo-journalism art too? Mosse uses a specific type of infrared-sensitive, false color reversal film called Kodak Aerochrome, that used to be used by the military to detect camouflage in green landscape (hence the fact that it turns the landscape into all these different hues). I don't know if he does any further editing on the photos once they are developed (I would like to know more about that part), but the end result is deeply striking. I just hope that these photographs can be considered as both art and photo-journalism, the former because they are so GOOD, and the latter because they depict a country where violence is the main form of communication and that the rest of the world doesn't really care about. Just look at his photo of the bombed out and abandoned UN building and think about it.

Richard Mosse's exhibition, Infra, is being displayed at the Jack Shainman Gallery until December 22nd. More information here: Jack Shainman Gallery

Richard Mosse Official Website

Kodak Aerochrome (discontinued)

Mark Ryden: innocent eyes and tears of blood

I actually walked into this part of the Paul Kasmin Gallery looking for something else and came across the wonder that is Mark Ryden's artwork. It all seemed so familiar and so new at the same time, beautiful, dark drawings and paintings of doll-like children and Alice in Wonderland type-figures with a gothic twist. He paints his figures with large kewpie eyes that are both innocent and full of depth and knowledge at the same time. When surrounded by all of the different paintings on the walls you can feel all of the sad, angry, lonely and innocent faces staring out at you, asking you to look more deeply and think about what you see. This is what I felt in any case, and I'm now officially obsessed with this artist. I would like his prints to cover my walls at home, especially the ones that I have posted in this blog post.

I don't really know how to categorise Mark Ryden's work (in any case I really detest categorising anything as it is all based on personal judgement in the end), so I will just take a quotation from the Mark Ryden website biography which actually voices my own personal thoughts:
"Blending themes of pop culture with techniques reminiscent of the old masters, Mark Ryden has created a singular style that blurs the traditional boundaries between high and low art. His work first garnered attention in the 1990s when he ushered in a new genre of painting, "Pop Surrealism", dragging a host of followers in his wake. Ryden has trumped the initial surrealist strategies by choosing subject matter loaded with cultural connotation." (See the full biography HERE).

I am not going to even pretend to be an art critic. I fall in love with a piece of art very fast because it touches me, punches me in the stomach, makes me think, makes me cry and inspires me to create something that provides the same emotions in others. Art can be music, paintings, drawings, words, photography, dance... Anything that provides some form of beauty or provokes an intense reaction. In the case of Mark Ryden's work I fell in love immediately. The mix of innocence and irony, beauty and the grotesque is an amalgam of paradoxes that I always fall for, and he uses it to perfection. Now if anyone wants to buy me a large print of Rose from the Blood collection I would be overjoyed.

Mark Ryden: Editions is currently showing at the newly launched Paul Kasmin Shop until January 14th, 2012.

Mark Ryden Official Website

The “other” Nick Cave

I think you should feel blessed if you find yourself named Nick Cave. This name seems to be synonymous with wonderful artistic talent. If you don’t know already, I absolutely love, adore and admire Nick Cave (musician, novelist, poet), but today I was introduced to another artist by the name of Nick Cave thanks to my friend Jono. Nick Cave is an artist/sculptor/dancer, best known for his amazing “Soundsuits”, sculptures that are also costumes and can be worn as such.

Right now, there is a Nick Cave exhibition at the Jack Shainman Gallery in Chelsea (see link for more details on the location and to read the gallery’s press release on Nick Cave). The exhibition is called “Ever-After” and is comprised of four separate areas, as well as a video. The video contains a reel of Nick Cave and other dancers wearing other suits and dancing, at one point using pogosticks! Pretty amazing seeing as I don’t know how they could see properly as the suits camouflage the individuals completely. While the video itself is a blast of colour and movement, the rest of the exhibition provides a stark contrast.

The first part is a line of suits made entirely out of real blond human hair. The models are all positioned a little differently, and they kind of look like they are going to start moving on the spot at any given time. The whole human hair aspect is pretty amazing, because not one hair is the exact same colour, and the suits are all made up of lots and lots of slightly different shades of light blond hair. The models all have bunny ears too, and the set is called “Mating Season”, so I will leave it up to your imagination to picture the ideas behind the suits.

When you move towards the back of the gallery there are three other sets of figures. The first one is comprised of 5 or 6 figures of different shapes and sizes, all made out of thousands of white, silver and black buttons sewn onto fabric one at a time by hand. Each figure has a specific individual touch (a metal basket, red fur, wicker basket…). Although they are all separate, all of the models seem to form a unity together. The next two sets are both a set of models all linked together, with slightly different forms and positions, the first set being dark and metallic, the second being white. In the same way as the unit of individual suits, these sets are all made with thousands of buttons. I can’t believe they were all sewn on by hand, it must have taken hours and hours of work! All these buttons give the suits a metallic sheen as well as a strange fluidity, a little like liquid metal. It’s REALLY cool. I mean REALLY COOL. You actually can imagine the suits in movement… I want to wear one, hide in one, and use dance as a form of expression. Hide my face and body and express my feelings in a different way.

I don’t usually go and check out any of the art galleries in Chelsea very often, but I really should start. I really enjoyed this exhibition and I’m sure there are a bunch of other artistic gems out there that I have yet to discover for myself!

The Nick Cave exhibition finishes on October 8th.

Nick Cave site

Nick Cave Facebook