Collective Unconscious

This was my favorite show in a long time.  IMG_0679IMG_0682

First, laboratory glassware with the ink ghosts of crowds living in it.  A whole laboratory’s worth.  I used to teach at a school with a great old chemistry lab, and stripped and punched and crumbled as the whole building was, the wood cabinets and the glassware were all there.  What was not were the ghosts, ghosts are usually white, but these were black, the images of all sorts of things that had already happened.

IMG_0678Then tree paintings with levels living inside them, one level living horizontal, another vertical.  Right now there are tape measure sculptures on the High Line, next to trees there are tape measures, as if trees are nothing more than what they will be, lumber, paper, and I am the worst offender, as I told a student this week, “I am a writer, wasting trees is what I do,” “Ms Schurman, those downtown Brooklyn people, they’re activists, it’s so annoying, they’re always asking why I don’t recycle paper at the copy shop.”

IMG_0671Cutting boards, same as we have at home (tepid white plastic, I wish we had a wooden one but I am living communally and that is what we have), and with scratches, these, lined up, are oceanscapes, somehow, how can the ocean be cut? How can it be made of slices?  How can it appear on plastic?  The ocean isn’t cut into anything, is it, except visually?

IMG_0672A flag becoming itself through red velvet ropes that are stretched, cut people out.

I rarely like art that becomes political, apart from the sense that everything is political (it is), but Yoan Capote is Cuban.

What I know of Cuba is the (eye-roll) American fetish for cigars when overseas.  I know it twice, once through customs, and Before Night Falls, which mainly impressed me with the author’s fabulous sexual adventures.  He kept busy.

IMG_0669There is a pair of scissors that somehow became Florida.  To cut things up?  People in Florida cut.  All I know of Florida is Disney World, which is another country the same way Cuba is, maybe much the same way, that is, things are inside-out and backwards and money is different and you  must be happy with yourself, as with communism.  But seriously, I don’t know anything about Florida except Disney World and the Oceola rest stop where our car broke down once, we sat and played cards in a booth in the half of the gas station that used to be a diner but wasn’t, anymore.

IMG_0674There are doorknobs that start from one which is real, in a real door, and go up and up until they are tiny enough to swallow, with a tiny lock that isn’t a lock anymore.  Maybe that isn’t political, not that it matters.

A great show is beautifully imagined and made, and think-infested, doesn’t take itself too seriously but is dead serious in its own way.

IMG_0670What is sort of an animal’s rib cage, but is actually from a machine that has lungs, machine lungs, inside machine iron ribs.

IMG_0667Glasses that become almost another pair of glasses, whatever that might mean, to see with someone else’s glasses, someone else’s face, if you have a boyfriend, you might sometimes wear his glasses, and he, yours, for a lark, you could see a little better with his but not really much, and he could only get a headache from yours, anyone else just looks like Coke bottles up, like joke glasses, with yours, even though you paid extra for the superthin lenses.

IMG_0675Floor to ceiling head of a man, made of metal, those are hinges, the man is That Man who is everywhere, the hinges, him, the doors all around him, like he grew out of a pile of them, the doors, the doors, the hinges, from Cuba, yes.  Can you make a portrait of Fidel Castro that seems great, not shrill?  In fact it is, doors are doors, doors are lost, don’t lead to anything, used to, could lead to things, are off their hinges.IMG_0676

Images here by me.

Yoan Capote, “Collective Unconscious” at Jack Shainman Gallery on 20th Street


photo 1In the lobby, a plexiglass box with a theater light under it, petals open.  In the box, a spiderweb.  That was all.

Black curtains, two sets, to go through, a sign that said, “Exhibit continues behind curtain,” because it is unclear in these Chelsea galleries where an exhibit might continue and where it might be office space, I have made the mistake before, seen just a desk and a too-young person getting paid probably nothing to do something on a computer.

Through the curtains, two sets so sunlight and office light never come in, five more boxes.  Four are plexiglass, with spiderwebs, lights placed to tickle them just right, and one is open.  A spider is still working there.

Once upon a time I was a person who screamed and shook and took a whole day and her Majesty’s prayer book’s funeral service to pick up the bathroom rug and take it outside and just leave it there next to the house with the dead mouse in it, now I am a person who gets the dustpan, sweeps the mouse corpse in, and puts it in the trash, and sighs.

Once upon a time I trembled and held a vacuum attachment far from me to evacuate the spider in the kitchen.  I may be improved, I don’t know.

There was a group of ladies being given some sort of tour, talking about going to the new Whitney on its opening day, I had already decided I did not have the constitution to face the celebration, and would pilgrimage there another time.  Soon.

It is a funny thing to explain to my students why a character we are reading about is pushing the envelope by wearing an African print dress and a head wrap.  Here in New York City, in Chelsea, in 2015.

It is a funny thing to hear my students talk about longing for the suburbs.  It always has been.  My city kids and what they mean by “getting out,” different from what I meant.

What I hated, I think, was that in the suburbs, people acted as if life was fair, as if all the weed-free lawns and never-crime and A students were a reward for something they had done.  Well.  I did, too, until I had to stop.  Maybe I would have forever.

The tour guide lady said the spiders were still in some of the boxes.  They died for art?  Heavens.  The open one, though, that had a live spider in it.  “See her?” she said, and I stood as near the group as I could, awkward as it was, them and me and the spider guard the only ones in the dark room except that one live spider, see her?  She’s moving now.  See her?

Former student reminds me of something he said that made me laugh, a few years ago.  What I think about is how I may have failed him, them, how ever I did, surely somehow, but what he remembers is a moment of my personality and his, little moment from our being chained together for a year, the way students and teachers are, sometimes for good, sometimes for ill.

This spring, at least three of them graduating from college, and one drafted to play for our hometown pro football team.  It still amazes me, as many times as I said, “You are going to college, you will grow up,” I did not believe myself.

From Pierre, the Melville novel I am still (barely and rarely) reading, the protagonist sees a speech in Hamlet, and a passage from Dante, and is troubled: yes, life is hell, and yes, you have to do something about it.

The other pieces in the show, upstairs and in the daylight, skylight, were made of wire, helium, balloons, fishing line, rocks.  And amazed in their lightness, simple trickery of looking like floating, really looking like floating, but then, helium, fishing line, wire not cages but form for form.

photo 2

Images here by me.

For much better images, including of the spiderwebs:

Tomas Saraceno show at Tanya Bonakdar Gallery

Chelsea, 19th Street.

IMG_1822The gallery is upstairs,” she says.  It was PSAT day, thus I had a moment to flit away from school and look about.  I love the PSAT even more than I did when I took it and it led me to be offered lots of money for school which I was too young and foolish to take.

Up and around the corner of this Chelsea gallery, and it sounds like merry-go-round-broke-down is about to come off its tracks.  What?  Around another corner, and “Metal” is the piece: two guys sitting on a slightly see-sawing contraption, hitting blocks of wood.  I thought they were just making music, but they were pounding gold into a thinness to be used on sculptures for the artist in the future.

There are other people in the room: four people playing madly on various cymbals.  They stop when there’s a loud gush from a speaker, and they start setting what look like tiny pink vibrators next to or inside the cymbals, to make them play on their own.  There was a score, they were doing things I didn’t understand, but they had a plan.

The walls have words painted, including: muscles.  And some letters, epistle-type letters, in French.  I sat for a while as this madness went on, until the clangy banging was enough.  I get quite a bit of that riding the subway.

IMG_1824At Marcel Dzama’s show I didn’t love taken-apart cases of stuff so much like Marcel Duchamp’s boxes, even with little painting trading cards, one dedicated to Duchamp, with chess pieces, but they looked only pale imitations to me.  They just made me miss Duchamp, one of my loves.  I much preferred Dzama’s dioramas, which had witty paper people prancing around heavier sculpted heads.  And his wall of video, which showed a dance battle against dead chess pieces, led by zombies in black and white polka dots, which I also happened to be wearing when I watched them.  I danced a little, when the one other woman in the gallery had gone around the corner.

My last stop was Gallery Shchukin: Russian work from my favorite era, early 20th century.  Loose, humorous drawing of dogs in Constantinople (who knew they had dogs there?) a couple of Kandinsky’s pieces I liked just as well as any of his work, not too blurry or out of control as he got later, he still allowed himself some sharpness.

IMG_1836A brilliant collage piece  by Aleksei Kruchenykh with amazing water stain, dust spots, bow tie shapes and basketball hoop shapes working so well together.  1915, what a great time for art.  And the most gorgeous drawing of Paris I’ve ever seen, by Mstislav Dobuzhinsky.  Probably the red on the boats did it, not just the perfection of the scoops of boats and bridge arches and how they live together.  He’s pretty great, and more of his stuff is here.IMG_1830

Top image is also Marcel Dzama, as you may have guessed.

Marcel Duchamp on Artsy