Monday, December 14, 2009

Helen Levitt's luck, by James Agee

New YorkHelenLevitt1942
"New York, c. 1942," Helen Levitt, All rights reserved

"Many people, even some good photographers, talk of the "luck" of photography, as if that were a disparagement. And it is true that luck is constantly at work. It is one of the cardinal creative forces in the universe, one which a photographer has unique equipment for collaborating with. And a photographer often shoots around a subject, especially one that is highly mobile and in continuous and swift development which seems to me as much his natural business as it is for a poet who is really in the grip of his poem to alter and re-alter the words in his line. It is true that most artists, though they know their own talent and its gifts as luck, work as well as they can against luck, and that in most good works of art, as in little else in creation, luck is either locked out or locked in and semi-domesticated, or put to wholly constructive work; but it is peculiarly a part of the good photographer's adventure to know where luck is most likely to lie in the stream, to hook it, and to bring it in without unfair play and without too much subduing it."

From James Agee's forward to Helen Levitt's "Ways of Seeing"

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Faces: Green-Wood Cemetery

"Suffering angel", Green-wood," Tim Connor, All rights reserved

"Blinded by the light", Green-wood," Tim Connor, All rights reserved

This time of year most of the leaves are down & the light in Green-Wood Cemetery is hard & clear. After 2 pm it slants steeply like end of day. I went there because I was tired of the street's endless clamor. I wanted to take pictures quietly.

Green-wood is a technical photographer's dream -- chunks, slabs, orbs, obelisks, & crosses of stone laid into high rolling ground complemented by the ragged (or strictly controlled) beauties of nature. There are also human figures carved from stone perched above hundreds of graves -- grieving, consoling or just bearing dignified witness. Today I began to photograph the faces of these sentinels. Except for me & the inching shadows, nothing else moved.

Other cemetery pix by me

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Locked away from the light

By Tim Connor, All rights reserved


Babysitter fail, originally uploaded by Nad.

The guy who did this is roasting in hell, of course. But even Jesus thinks it's funny.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Alex Webb & Rebecca Norris Webb: 'A Violet Isle'

"Rooster," Rebecca Norris Webb, All rights reserved

Today I only have time to post a few words .

Just wanted to note that photographers Alex Webb and his wife, Rebecca Norris Webb, have collaborated on a new book and show, "Violet Isle: A Portrait of Cuba." The show opened last night but will continue through January 2nd at Ricco Maresca, 529 West 20th St., 3rd floor, New York City 10011; 212-627-4819; There will be a gallery talk & book signing tomorrow, Saturday, November 7 from 4-6 pm.

If you don't know Alex's astonishing work, check out this slide show of his long-term project "Crossing," shot along the border between Mexico & the U.S.

For a glimpse of the couple's collaborative Cuba work, go here.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Douglas Gayeton's "Slow: Life in a Tuscan Town"

Douglas Gayeton, All rights reserved

We celebrate iconic photographs that seem to encapsulate an event or era, but in fact they almost never do. Dorothea Lange's wonderful portrait of a migrant mother & two daughters from the Depression, for example, was true to the moment in which it was made; but the passage of time has turned it into a kind of history-lite icon for modern viewers. Lange's picture is only one facet of a complex reality, and most of us know it; but her unforgettable image becomes a compact takeaway version of the Depression that's hard to resist. We allow this perfectly defined moment -- worried mother, unhappy kids -- to stand in for the whole.

In the same way, pictures of our ancestors in the family album-- posed unsmiling in their Sunday best against studio backdrops or the old homestead -- misleadingly suggest lives devoid of laughter or passion. Do we really believe that everyone born before cheap, universal photography became available was frozen & grim ? Probably not, if we think about it. Yet we tend to accept these likenesses as true representations of their world.

Douglas Gayeton confronts this problem in his series, "Slow: Life in a Tuscan Town," showcased in an exhibition, reception & book signing this Monday (Nov. 2) at Clic Gallery, 255 Centre St. (corner of Broome). How can a single unchanging image on paper represent ceaseless changes over time? How, especially, can moment-freezing photographic "glimpses" convey Gayeton's subject --"slow life..." the myriad, small-scale, subtle changes & behaviors that add up to life in a traditional rural Italian village? The way of life Gayeton seeks to record follows unchanging cycles, yet is endlessly improvisatory. It is hundreds, maybe thousands of years old -- and may disappear within the decade. How can Gayeton make us see this as a potential tragedy & not as just another earthy/exotic variant of the "family of man?"

Douglas Gayeton, All rights reserved

Gayeton is hardly the first to try to use, & at the same time, springboard from, the literal realism of the still photograph. From its invention, photographers felt limited by the medium & sought to expand the form . Pictures sought to conquer time with lantern slides & zoetropes -- which ultimately became film. Magazines -- most notably Life -- combined carefully edited & captioned pictures with journalistic text to create seamless narratives that had a beginning, middle and end. Going in the other direction in their paintings, Picasso, Braque & the Cubists broke narratives into multiple viewpoints, perspectives & sizes -- exactly like the output of a typical day with a camera.

Today, artists like Duane Michaels, Paul Graham (who I wrote about here) and dozens of others continue to use unphotoshopped images to tell -- & subvert -- stories.

chance-meeting duane michals
"Chance encounter," Duane Michaels, All rights reserved

Gayeton's solution is what he (ambitiously) calls "flat film." The technique -- which often combines key images over time from a variety of viewpoints with text that records its own layers of space & sequence -- is charmingly explained in this video. For the critic it remains only to judge whether the method is successful.

I'd say it is, but with reservations. This show should be seen for its intimate pleasures as well as its satisfying scope. Gayeton has broken down the wall of strangeness that usually rises between photographer and subject and placed us, the viewer, directly into a world we would otherwise never enter. At the same time he has managed a much larger view & made it clear that we lose this world at our peril.

My reservations: It may be good marketing to link Gayeton's work with the Slow Food movement (the book's introduction is by Alice Waters); but the association may also misrepresent the work. Anti-standardization or not, slow fooders necessarily deal in propaganda, &, to be effective, propaganda must always deal in cliches or near-cliches. Thus we have a rich sepia tone on every image in this series -- as though their elegiac, past-in-present quality might be missed. Similarly, Gayeton's written commentary on the photos -- a witty English-Italian mix of quotes, nicknames, birth dates, overheard anecdotes, recipes, directions to out-of-frame sites of local interest & so on -- is rendered in schoolboy cursive, every letter meticulously & slowly made. Is this really necessary?

Douglas Gayeton, All rights reserved

Similarly, I can't avoid recording my frustration with the amount of text covering some of these photographs. Witty or not, the writing sometimes blocks the information, not to mention the beauty, one can get from the pictures alone. Gayeton's pictures are stunning in their own right. To me at least, they are as moving a testament to the vanishing way of life he loves as anything he or anyone could write. Couldn't some part of the text, I kept wondering, have gone elsewhere?

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

A walk in Jersey

""Change," Tim Connor, All rights reserved

"Backyard gate," Tim Connor, All rights reserved

"Black Lincoln," Tim Connor, All rights reserved

These are not the kind of pictures people make a big deal over, but sometimes I like that.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

"Hour of the Wolf"

Remember Bergman movies? I saw nearly every one he made -- up to the year 1969 -- at my college film society. Like some French films, Bergman's sometimes relied on lots of heavy talk. If you didn't know Swedish, this could become boring, even silly -- actors moving their lips, making strange, incomprehensible sounds. But some of the images (by the great Sven Nykvist) are stamped on my brain. As is, for some reason, the tagline for American distribution of the film: "Vargtimmen: The Hour of the Wolf-- the hour between night and dawn. It is the hour when most people die. It is the hour when the sleepless are haunted by their deepest fear, when ghosts and demons are most powerful. It is the hour when most babies are born"

In 1968, when "Hour..." came out, Bergman was still shockingly transgressive to an American. The nudity in his films was matter of fact when U.S. films -- if they included it -- couldn't resist making it a big deal. What's more, the naked bodies were often frankly sexual, filmed directly without fancy cutting or swirling music -- as though sex was like any other act portrayed in the narrative. There was a similar frankness about subject matter -- adultery, war, illness, violence, madness, death -- as though these, too, were not -- as U.S. movies would have it -- exceptional, but, sufficient triggered, simply the way things are.

Ironically, what strikes me about the clip above is, not its transgressiveness, but the powerful theatricality of its transgressiveness.

Thanks to The Ingoing, where I stumbled across this clip.
Summary & information about Hour of the Wolf.
More about Ingmar Bergman.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Every little bit helps

"Love in the afternoon," Tim Connor, All rights reserved

This picture won 1st prize in a contest at my work place. The category was cityscape.

This picture came in third in another category -- portrait.

"Park," Tim Connor, All rights reserved

It's been a long time since I posted. I will try to do more.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

"I'm tired of so much control"

"Faithless to trees," Traci Matlock and Ashley Maclean, All rights reserved

Why Traci Matlock has stopped shooting digital

"...shooting digitally gave me too many options to redo the shot, gave me too many opportunities to try again for a second shot, to make the fifth shot better, to make it perfect by ten if ten is what it took.

... But I'm tired of so much control. I want to fuck up and not be able to do anything about it. Because I will either get tired of not making better decisions (in the frame, in the exposure, in the content, whatever) or I will be satisfied with whatever image rears its head and begin looking for something new in what I left for myself. "

From The Ingoing , an artistically honest & erotically edgy blog by Traci Matlock & Ashley Maclean.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Schjeldahl on Monet: A literary colorama

I read Peter Schjeldahl for his deep knowledge of art & because he dismisses theory out of hand unless it can back itself up. He's there for the art, not the cleverness of critics. It's a minor paradox, perhaps, that someone so besotted with visual glories finds words a sufficient medium to lavish his love. But what words! If he were a painter, I'd say he combines technique, experience & firm intentions with a faith that, through improvisation, inspiration must be sought.

Here's Schjeldahl on Claude Monet's gigantic triptych of water lilies, recently reinstalled in its own room at MOMA.

"Water Lilies," Claude Monet

"Get as close as you like to the nubbly surfaces of the triptych, with its candid brushstrokes that skitter and clot; your gaze will stay drenched in an aqueous sublime. Pinkish summer clouds aren’t so much reflected as drowned in turquoise, violet, and mud-green depths. Monet knew palpably, at each point, what all his colors were up to. Everything answers, resoundingly, to everything else. The tone of the next biggest, single-panel panorama is a soprano, silvery shimmer, suggesting water less than polychrome steam. Smaller canvases include 'The Japanese Footbridge'—with its startling reds—and a moist fury of flowering agapanthus. Last one in’s a rotten egg."

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Rita Harowitz: Discovering the other

"My brother's son," Rita Harowitz, aka SeenyaRita, All rights reserved

There is no other time in human life as delicately suspended between two worlds as adolescence. Psychologists call it a liminal state -- outside the margins of child- & adulthood, slipping back & forth across the thresholds of both. It is an unbearably awkward time. And sometimes impossibly beautiful.

Look at this remarkable picture by my friend Rita Harowitz. You are pierced by the specificity of the boy, yet he seems somehow unearthly. His eyes shine with real affection, real intelligence, yet Rita's colorist skill & use of shallow focus make him seem to float in a glowing world without distinct boundaries.

Looking, I thought of mythic beings who have, in every culture, existed similarly between worlds.

When I was a teenager, I was fascinated by Irish folklore, particularly by the Sidhe (pronounced Shee), the people of faerie, who live in a kind of parallel universe with humans & sometimes emerge from portals in the landscape, called raths, to feast & battle with other Sidhe hosts. Occasionally too, the Sidhe have dealings with humans -- they bestow gifts & boons, also punish real or perceived insults. Both male & female faeries seduce & sometimes marry humans who take their fancy. Sometimes too, the Sidhe steal away human children, often replacing them with their own faerie children to be raised in human homes (see W.B. Yeats's "The Stolen Child.") The Sidhe, according to the stories, are tall and beautiful, a dream of nobility. They speak in silvery voices, a sound like music. They are like humans in many ways, but they never age & they never die. In Ireland they are referred to as "the gentry" and "the good people" -- though this is always a combination of true admiration and a sly propitiation of their potential wrath.

Detail from "Riders of the Sidhe," John Duncan, 19th c. Scottish artist

From An Encyclopedia of Shamanism, I found this: "In Celtic faerie lore there is a recurring theme that the beings of the Otherworld need human contact. For reasons that are not necessarily clear, the Sidhe actively seek to share their wisdom, power & secrets with humans. To this end faeries enter ordinary reality to be with humans and cause humans to enter into the Sidhe, into their realm. It is as if it is necessary for the survival of both species that we communicate & help each other."

I make no comparison of course between the actual boy pictured above & the Sidhe. Just that, for me, Rita's picture stirred a connection in my mind. Her artistry framed a moment that, for me, partakes of the same dream that created those Celtic legends.

Today's myths, it seems, are mostly freelance & transitory. Never without irony. Yet it is artists, as always, who reveal them.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

More Vesuvio

Anthony Dapolito, Vesuvio Bakery
"Anthony Dapolito, Vesuvio Bakery," John Rae, All rights reserved

Photographer John Rae sent over this photo of Vesuvio Bakery in its heyday (date uncertain -- probably about 10 years ago). It was shot with a Speed Graphic. Oh that gorgeous bread!

See my recent posts picturing Vesuvio here & here.

Stay tuned for a post soon on John's amazing photographic year.

On a trawler off Point Judith, RI





Photos by Tim Connor, All rights reserved

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Coming soon...

Vesuvios (Birdbath?)
"Vesuvio/Birdbath (2009)," Tim Connor, All rights reserved

This morning I published the post below. Then I went into the city and ended up on Prince St. having a coffee & reading my New Yorker. Looking up, I noticed Vesuvio across the street -- the same store front (as photographed by Jim & Karla Murray) I had used 2 hours before to illustrate my post! No, this was not necessarily a Twilight Zone moment, but in a city as big as ours... c'mon. It may bear mentioning, BTW, that, being from Brooklyn, I had no idea where Vesuvio was located (I would have guessed, vaguely, the East Village). Of course I had to rephotograph it.

Approaching with my camera, I realized that -- as though to specifically bear out the Murray's contention that we live in "... a city with an unmercifully fast pace and seemingly insatiable need for change" -- Vesuvio had closed. The paint was faded & chipped, the front door had been tagged, & a sign on the window told passersby that a new tenant, "Birdbath / a neighborhood green bakery" would move in soon.

I googled and here's the latest story I could find. Perhaps not so bad -- this time.

Jim & Karla Murray's "Store Front..." show extended at Clic Gallery

"Vesuvio's Bakery," James & Karla Murray, All rights reserved

Jim & Karla Murray's "Store Front: The Disappearing Face of New York" show has been extended to September 27th at Clic Gallery at 255 Centre Street in Manhattan. I love the careful, almost formal treatment the Murray's give to these colorful neighborhood outposts -- crisp, straightforward, squared-up, unfussy. The light is chosen & handled for maximum information. Each store front is just what it is. But take a good look! What they are is pretty wonderful...

The Murrays approach these pictures in the tradition of Eugene Atget and Walker Evans, two photographers also moved by the half-improvisatory accretion of visual elements that go into the street face of "mom & pop" businesses. Evans especially was fascinated by signage & the arrangement of goods to be looked at by passersby; he called it "the pitch direct" & photographed it throughout his career. (I wrote about Atget, Evans & signage here).

The Murrays add glorious color to this venerable lineage. They also make a point of adding social & political concerns. These are not just photographs. "The stores have the city’s history etched in their facades. They tirelessly serve their community, sustaining a neighborhood’s diverse nature and ethnic background, in a city with an unmercifully fast pace and seemingly insatiable need for change. Each is as unique as the customers they serve and have at their heart, owners who share a commitment to provide a unique service and in turn cement a neighborhood’s foundation," they write. And, in fact, many of the store fronts the Murrays photographed are already gone, replaced by chains stores bearing the same logo, color scheme & promotional advertising as every other clone of their worldwide corporate brand.

See more Jim & Karla Murry pictures on Flickr & at their website. Their book is available here.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Monday, August 10, 2009


"Summer, 2009," Tim Connor, All rights reserved

"Out my back window (summer)," Tim Connor, All rights reserved

Monday, August 3, 2009

Alec Soth's "Black Line of Woods"

ManonRoad_Alec Soth
Two photos from "Black Line of Woods" exhibit, Alec Soth, All rights reserved

When I first started this blog, Alec Soth had a blog too. I fact, it was the go-to photography blog on the net, the one everybody said you had to read. So I read it -- somewhat sporadically but always with pleasure. It was well-informed, open-minded, generous, often funny -- & every Thursday, or maybe it was Friday, the blog abandoned photography & published a poem.

On his blog Soth himself had plenty to say, most of it very smart, but what impressed me most was his ability to pose questions & guide discussions in useful directions. There is some MC in Soth for sure -- enough ego to lead & even show off a little, but also enough modesty to let others shine. There's probably a lot of teacher in there too. Doing the blog, he was aware of his drawing power as a rising young shooter, recently elected to Magnum, & seemed to enjoy the expansive new possibilities of the internet. He & others would write about Martin Parr or Stephen Shore or the critic Peter Schjeldahl, & hours or days later, lo & behold, responses would appear from the men themselves. Some of these exchanges led to fruitful, long-term discussions. Soth never seemed the least bit stressed by all this maestro-to-maestro dialog.

Then one day he suddenly abandoned his successful, influential blog. I didn't catch the last few posts, but I gather he was simply getting sick of it. He wanted to get back to making photographs.

I thought of all this while reading the recent NY Times profile of Soth, "Trolling for Strangers to Befriend," on the occasion of his new photo exhibit at the High Museum of Art in Atlanta. The exhibit is called "Black line of woods," from a phrase by Flannery O'Connor. O'Connor " talking about where culture ends. I wanted this work to be about the longing to escape,” Soth explains. His new pictures explore "the idea of retreating from the world..." by focusing on hermits, survivalists, monks & hard travelers.

"Monk in the woods," Alec Soth, All rights reserved

In the Times article Soth talks about being terribly shy as a young art student. But he admired the work of Diane Arbus & knew he wanted to make similarly direct portraits -- so taught himself to approach strangers & start conversations. His work since has largely been about telling the stories of those who can't make the transition from shyness to speech the way he did. The awkward & the odd; the diffident & the taciturn; those who slip away. The stranger disarmed of fear. It occurs to me that making photographs of such people is the exact opposite of "retreating from the world."

Anyway, I hope Soth returns to blogging some day. His gift is for pictures yes, but also for pictures defined & informed by words. Here, according to the Times, are some words he taped to his steering wheel to remind him what to watch for as he drove. "beards, birdwatchers, mushroom hunters, men’s retreats, after the rain, figures from behind, suitcases, tall people (especially skinny), targets, tents, treehouses and tree lines."

Maybe not a poem yet, but a good start...

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Mark Cohen: Approaching the fear

"Jump rope," Mark Cohen, All rights reserved

For years I've carried around a couple of black & white images by Mark Cohen in my head. One is the girl jumping rope (above) & then there's this one. Both pictures, which use Cohen's signature technique -- wide-angle close-ups, flash, radical cropping -- have always intrigued me; but in all those years I never came across more than a few others -- all B & W -- & the only thing I ever heard about Cohen himself was that he shoots exclusively in Wilkes-Barre, PA, a down-on-its-luck former coal town.

So one late afternoon last week I skipped out from work & walked over to Hasted Hunt gallery to see True Color, a collection of Cohen's color work from the 70s . It's a show of modestly sized dye-transfer prints -- grimey, edge-of-grotesque people shots. But I'm not attempting a review here. Without question, the pictures work. They're riveting. What I want to talk about is how Cohen digs them out of ordinary life -- in effect creates a new way of seeing -- by an unusual way of shooting. Mostly, Cohen's method is surprise (another word for it might be ambush). Of course surprise is a strategy used by a lots of street shooters, but this is different. I've never seen anyone shoot strangers the way Cohen does in this video.

There's something animal-like about Cohen's way of shooting. Like an animal -- or perhaps a snake -- on the hunt he moves through the crowd restlessly, before locking his attention on his "prey," (not necessarily a person or group; it could be legs, a torso, a piece of clothing, a hairdo). His approach is fast, fluid & silent. His "strike" -- typically a single photo from inches away accompanied by a small hand-held flash, -- is shockingly invasive. Nevertheless, its swiftness, the way Cohen instantly unlocks his attention afterwards & floats away, apparently indifferent, reassures the startled subject. Did it really happen? Was that guy just crazy? Well, he's gone now, thank god. Some of his subjects appear not to have noticed at all.

"Smoker" (rephotographed by this blogger with altered crop from Mark Cohen gallery print)

I have never known a photographer this willing to risk humiliation or even violence in pursuit of an intuitive attraction that in all probability won't become a good picture (maybe Magnum photographer Bruce Gilden comes close).

It's interesting that Cohen has lived in Wilkes-Barre his entire life, & perhaps even more interesting that his career there has been as a professional photographer. This is a guy who shoots sunny, flattering pictures all day, apparently, and then in his free time turns his hunt-&-snatch style to many of the same people & places -- this time unglossed. It's as though a Jekyl & Hyde personality is playing out in middle America. According to Cohen himself, shooting this way in his home town hasn't been easy.

“I’d shoot and walk away quick - I’d never talk to the people. To people who were watching what I was doing it looked like inappropriate behaviour,” he says...“The antagonism got worse as time went by. It looked like I was up to some suspicious activity - they’d say, why are you taking pictures? People would call the police - if that happened I could give an explanation. But people who didn’t call the police were worse. Because I had no explanation or credentials, people would demand an explanation and ask me why I was taking a picture of their house, their yard, their wife.”

“Sometimes people would take my licence plate number and find out where I lived,” says Cohen. “People like William Klein who worked in big crowds in New York were relatively anonymous, but in small towns like Wilkes Barre, taking pictures looks suspicious to some people - especially since 9/11.”

"Girls with bicycles," Mark Cohen, All rights reserved

Not surprisingly, the pigeonhole that curators & critics have reserved for Cohen doesn't quite fit for all his work. A cursory look at the online collection of his pictures at George Eastman House reveals a number that are more Dr. Jekyl than Mr. Hyde. For the record, Cohen likes gardens, porches and backyards in bloom, & his joy in color is persistent, almost palpable (working seriously in color in the 70s makes him a pioneer of that media) . On occasion his pictures might even be described as lyrical (see above).

Yet, at least in his personal work, the Hyde aspect does seem ascendant. Cohen continues to shoot in Wilkes-Barre -- utterly familiar & resolutely unpicturesque -- perhaps as a way to encourage this. He doesn't completely understand why he takes the pictures he takes, but he understands as well as anyone. “They are a long series of pictures that are very unconsciously driven. They are more psychological than anything else,” he says. “They are also autobiographical in some ways. My work is about fear and approaching this fear and a lot of it may be to do with my own way of thinking. Maybe that’s why some of the pictures work. There’s something I do that I don’t even understand now - that’s why they have this mystery.”

(All quotes above from the blog, Colin Pantall's Writing.)

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

End of tunnel nears for subway art

Touch-up for yellow stockings
"Vandalism or 'intervention' " (from Tim Connor's MTA Arts for Transit lightbox exhibit, Atlantic Ave-Pacific St subway station, Brooklyn), Photo by Lester Burg, All rights reserved

To me most graffiti seems simple-minded. And pretty much all tagging, especially tagging over other people's work, just seems ugly, a form of macho competition -- like dogs trying to piss higher up on the lamppost than the ones who pissed before. On the other hand, the little red flowers that recently appeared on the yellow stockings in my lightbox picture (above) at least have some wit. When I 1st saw them, they made me smile.

"Looking at 'The Gnome's Garden'," Photo by Ranjit Bhatnagar, All rights reserved

"Viewing lightboxes," Photo by Ranjit Bhatnagar, All rights reserved

I have no doubt this uncharacteristically tolerant feeling is because I learned -- at the same time I learned about the "intervention" in my picture " -- that next week my subway show will finally come down. My eight 4' X 6' lightboxes have lit up one wall of the underground passage to the Q train at Atlantic-Pacific subway station for almost a year and a half (I wrote about the show's beginning here & here). The run was a full half-year longer than usual, BTW, a result of the worldwide fiscal crisis, which rattled the MTA even more than most institutions. So I know I've been lucky. They told me when my show 1st went up that an estimated 10,000 people go through that passageway every rush hour. According to my high school math, that comes to almost 9.5 million people for the 18 months!

Of course none of those people were (at least not on purpose) members of the Manhattan art establishment. Ironically, it took some MOMA marketeer's bright idea of plastering cheap, life-size copies of world-famous art all over the station to get them to cross the river. The idea was, I suppose, that the big-name lineup would bedazzle the Brooklyn masses into coming to see the "real thing" on 53rd St.

Photo from "Ballad of Sexual Dependency" by Nan Goldin, part of MOMA's exhibit at Atlantic-Pacific (note my lightboxes across the hall)

Yet the MOMA-Brooklyn show was surprisingly lacklustre. One piece each for maybe 50 artists, it felt like a sampler's pack of commodified art. Not surprisingly, MOMA's arrogance proved too tempting to resist for NY's then-notorious outlaw mash-up artist, Poster Boy, who came to the station in the dead of night to strike a blow for artistic integrity (I wrote about it here).

Above picture by Nan Goldin, as altered by Poster Boy

In fact, Poster Boy's depredations of both old & new masters were funny for about half a minute (he left my pictures alone). But, I have to say, I find the idea that outrage is all it takes to make art to be childish. And the 2nd part of the formula -- that outrage plus bravado equals fame, which is also deemed a form of art -- I find even more dispiriting. As the Poster Boy kerfuffle ran its merry course in the papers & art blogs, I noticed that no one bothered to talk about the art -- or the anti-art for that matter -- you know, those things on the wall. It was the latest news, the buzz, the snide and/or snorting commentary that captivated everyone. The art was just something to argue about.

"AFT show with passersby," Tim Connor, All rights reserved

Which brings me back to where I started. This show is about to end. In another week at most (I haven't learned exactly when), it's gone. I hope, if you're a New Yorker, or traveling to New York, you'll go & see it.

The info is here (ignore the dates).

Sunday, July 19, 2009

The street goes on...

"Footlong," Tim Connor, All rights reserved

Excess of (money) work & worries lately. I've been low on energy & just haven't wanted to post.

Monday, July 13, 2009


Pretty dim

Real Fact #786 (Snapple bottle cap)

"The brain operates on the same amount of power as a 10-watt light bulb."

Friday, July 10, 2009

Tuesday, July 7, 2009


"There's something wrong with Esther," Tim Connor, All rights reserved

From an ongoing series -- to be assembled someday.

Same view two days ago.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Show hopping: Gustave Caillebotte & James Ensor

"Gallery yoga," Tim Connor, All rights reserved

I often wait for the end of a show's run before going to see it. Unfortunately, the show at which the above picture was taken closed today. But if Gustave Caillebotte: Impressionist Paintings from Paris to the Sea , comes to your city, I'd recommend it. Caillebotte has the boldness and rebellious spirit of the impressionists but doesn't indulge, for the most part, in dancing light, bosomy serving girls in open air cafes or gardens. I had never heard of him before, but he makes me love the impressionist style all over again.

"Regattas at Villers," 1880, Gustave Caillebotte (French, 1848–1894)

I enjoy looking at paintings, maybe even more than looking at photos. I love to look at the way the paint is applied -- in
Caillebotte's case , it's considered & controlled but gives an impression of wildness. When looked at close up, his painting technique -- dabs, swathes, scratches, etc., combining & layering unlikely-seeming colors -- become, when one steps back, a convincing illusion of reality . For instance, in the Normandy seascape above, many of the distant sailing ships strung out along the horizon turn out, on close inspection, to be small, nearly shapeless blobs of paint. They could as well be houses or pieces of fruit, yet I saw them definitively as sailboats. This fascinates me. Part of the pleasure, I think, is not knowing how the magic is made. When I look at a photograph, I usually have a pretty good idea of how it was created. With painting I have no real understanding of how it's done. I can admire the work, empathize with the artist, but I can't put myself in his shoes. That frees me, unburdens my looking.

This weekend I also saw a huge & wonderful retrospective of this wildman at MOMA

skeletons James Ensor
"Skeletons trying to warm themselves," James Ensor, 1860-1949

Check out the
Peter Schjeldahl's audio slide show about Ensor. In his review in the magazine, Schjedahl says, "Ensor painted like an angel while conceiving like a devil. But it would take a susceptible soul to reward the MOMA show with Ensor’s strenuously sought response of laughter out loud." I don't agree. I laughed out loud a couple of times. Contrary to what I expected, this painter of skeletons, masks & demonic dolls was obviously having a lot of fun!