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Looking for my photography blog?

If you are looking for my photography blog (tenpairoduckies) you can find it here. My apologies; I was maintaining two blogs for a while, and this one is still associated with my email address.

Of course you’re welcome to browse through this blog, a journal from a trip to New York last fall. Lots of pictures!


11/15/2011: Montauk

Downtown Montauk, in atmospheric sepia and panoramic camera distortion

I needed a break from my frantic, activity-filled days in New York, so an overnight trip to Montauk at the east end of Long Island seemed like just the ticket. A train ticket, to be exact. So I booked a room at a B & B about a mile from downtown Montauk, on the old highway and just across the road from the dunes and the beach, hopped on the train yesterday (Monday) morning, and three hours (or a hundred miles) later there I was.

Montauk is the end of the Long Island Railroad, and as you can imagine not too many people were heading that way on a Monday in the off season. So it was a quiet train ride, once the irritating cell phone user got off at Babylon, near Fire Island. (Yes, I was on the train to Babylon. That’s sort of like being on the bus to Mycenae, except I suppose that that would be the real Mycenae. So OK, maybe not quite the same.) Glimpses of the ocean here and there as we got closer to Montauk, between shrubs and woods.

Montauk traditionally has been the tamer, more working-class resort, compared to the nearby Hamptons. Much more to my taste, thank you very much. And speaking of taste I was definitely getting hungry. Since the tourist season had just ended, the restaurant next door to the B & B had just closed for the season, and the nearest places to eat were on Main Street, about a mile away. Thankfully I’m used to walking everywhere, and a mile was just a short hike.

I ended up having lunch at Mr. John’s Pancake House, which makes what I think must be the best Reuben sandwich anywhere. Interestingly, the menu only listed a Smoked Turkey Reuben, which I ordered, only to be told that they were out of turkey and would I mind pastrami. Mind? Of course I wouldn’t mind, especially since that’s the only way to make a Reuben! But I was happy, and I even went back today for a second round.

Here’s a panoramic photo of the diner:

Mr. John’s Pancake House, home of the best Reuben ANYWHERE

The B & B, Sunrise Guesthouse, was sweet and comfortable, but the greatest thing about being up there was the beach. The Atlantic, roaring outside your bedroom window. And lapping at your feet, if you took a walk on the sandy beach, which of course I did yesterday and this morning. Here are some photos of the dunes, taken on Monday afternoon:

Dunes in the afternoon
More dunes in the afternoon

And some of the photos I took this morning.

Sky, sea, sand. And vice versa.
Surf’s up.

And to conclude, some sand art:

Sand, pebbles, wind, and sun.
Wood, fire, wind, and sand.

All right, that’s all for today! I’m back in Brooklyn now, ready to resume my frenetic schedule.

11/12/2011: Week in review

A quick list of what else I did this past week.

First, a visit to the Print Fair at the Park Avenue Armory on Sunday, with two friends visiting from New Jersey (you know who you are). Some lovely prints there, including beauties by Richard Diebenkorn. Speaking of prints, I should also mention the show at IPCNY (International Print Center New York), which includes a piece by Seattle’s own Nick Brown. Congratulations Nick!

Next on the agenda: two Kandinsky shows at the Guggenheim: Kandinsky at the Bauhaus (1922-1933) and Painting with White Border at the Guggenheim. The Painting with White Border show is a collection of studies (drawings and paintings) that Kandinsky made on his way to the final painting. Great presentation of an artist’s exploration of a composition and his struggle with it until the work assumed a form that worked for him (the white border did that).

Maurizio Cattelan: All at the Guggenheim. The artist’s entire output, hung from the Guggenheim’s dome. Apparently Cattelan is retiring from making art; what’s he going to do next?

Note to Guggenheim visitors: the espresso drinks at their café are single-shot drinks. Everywhere else in town they’re double shots. Cheapskates.

Homage to Lucian Freud at the Metropolitan (following the artist’s death in July 2011). Luscious Lucian flesh.

Sol LeWitt: Structures (link includes slide show) at City Hall Park, as part of New York City’s Art in the Parks program. Ah, to be in a city with lots of money in the bank.

Louise Nevelson Plaza in the financial district. A small forest of Nevelson sculptures, in a recently renovated outdoor plaza.

David Smith: Cubes and Anarchy at the Whitney. I was smitten by how David Smith’s sculptures became almost two-dimensional without losing their sense of volume. You can see images from the show here. Also included in the exhibition were several drawings as well as a couple of the artist’s sketchbooks. One of the sketchbooks includes a photograph of a violinist playing, well, the violin, followed by a couple of drawings by the artist where he works out the steps to transforming the image into an abstract sculpture.

Sherri Levine kind-of-retrospective at the Whitney.

(Un)Still Life at the Brooklyn Central Library. I was especially drawn to the work of Justine Reyes, whose photographs echo early still life paintings – as well as the paintings of Raphaelle Peale, the early 19th C. American still life painter.

I also took the train up to Dia:Beacon. $31 gets you a roundtrip train ticket as well as discounted admission to the site. Beautiful, 90-minute train ride along the Hudson. And an exhibition space in a former Nabisco printing plant, transformed into enormous, well-lit gallery spaces. Work by the pantheon of (mostly American) artists from the late 1950s to the present: Agnes Martin, Robert Ryman, On Kawara, John Chamberlain, Richard Serra, Louise Lawler, Joseph Beuys, Robert Smithso, Donald Judd, Blinky Palermo, Michael Heizer, Fred Sandback, Bruce Nauman, Sol LeWitt, Dan Flavin, Blinky Palermo – and a gallery of 18 Louise Bourgeois sculptures. My modernist heart was all aflutter. Exuberance, experimentation, and the desire to push the limits of materials, ideas, and content. And gorgeous installations of the work. Absolutely worth a day trip if you’re ever out this way.

And don’t forget the music while you’re here. As an alternative to Broadway musicals, which I must be the only person having zero interest in, try the concerts at the 92nd Street Y (I heard the Tokyo String Quartet in a program of Bartók, Haydn, and Schumann); the ARTEK Wednesday afternoon midtown concerts (free!), and the concerts by the Saint Andrew Music Society, on Madison Avenue a couple of blocks south of the Whitney Museum. Just the tip of the iceberg, of course – these are just the concerts I went to.

Whew. Busy week!

11/9/2011: Roberto Matta at Pace Gallery

2011 marks the centennial of the birth of Chilean surrealist painter Roberto Matta (1911-2002). Pace Gallery has mounted an exhibition of some of Matta’s work which includes paintings from the 1980s and 1990s, but also a couple of pieces from the 1970s. Matta’s work is about psychological complexity as well as the complexity of ideas, all presented with humor and visual panache; his vocabulary consists of biomorphic shapes floating in, or emerging from, a background of complex areas of color. The shapes in the foreground, as well as the colors in the background, move and lead the viewer’s eye all over the large canvases.

As surrealists often did, Matta chose titles that had the reality-twisting structure of puns and verbal humor. Take the 1975 painting below, which has the French title L’homme descend du signe (“Man comes from the sign”). That can be interpreted as a nod to semiotics, the study of symbols, reference, language, and communication, which was something of central concern to surrealists. I noticed, however, that the title has another layer: the word signe (“sign”) is also an anagram for singe (“monkey”), so with just a quick mental twist the title becomes “Man comes from the monkey”:

Roberto Matta, L’homme descend du signe, 1975

What exactly the connection is between the title and the painting is of course something left to the viewer, and can have as many interpretations as there are viewers. Formally, limbs and other biomorphic shapes interact with more mechanical, man-made forms, and the focus of the painting is the triangular tool-like shape to the right of center, which is echoed by two smaller shapes vanishing to its right. The tools are the only ones with blue surfaces, which sets them apart from the conversation on the rest of the canvas. Man as a tool-maker, set against a field of naturalistic forms: ideas arranged on a two-dimensional surface , itself a set of signs.

All that made me smile; very clever, Mr. Matta.

Here’s another painting, this one from 1999 and titled Architecture du temps (un point sait tout). The title translates as “Architecture of time (a point knows it all)”. Hmm, you say; what on earth could that mean? Well, it turns out that un point sait tout (“a point knows it all”) sounds just like the common expression un point, c’est tout, which translates roughly as “that’s it, period,” or “end of conversation.”  So the title can be about a point in time can contain all time, and so know everything; but it’s also the artist’s comment on the first part of the title, “architecture of time.” That’s all, he says, period; just look at the painting – I’m not going to tell you more about it in the title.

Roberto Matta, Architecture du temps (un point sait tout), 1999

And of course there is a very large dot (a point) in the painting towards which all the forms seem to converge, or which they all seem to emanate from). Just like time, knowledge, and so on. Nice.

One final example, titled M’onde, dated 1989. Onde in French means “wave,” so I think that this can be taken as a reference to electromagnetic (EM) waves. And of course if you remove the apostrophe the result is Monde, “world.”

Roberto Matta, M’onde, 1989

Yep, the world is nothing but electromagnetic radiation.

And puns. Who knew.

11/5/2011: Coney Island

One of the Coney Island rides, in the usual atmospheric sepia


A trip to New York and Brooklyn would not be complete without a visit to the beach and boardwalk at Coney Island. Coney Island is only about five miles from where I’m staying, and the country’s first bike path, created in 1894 by Olmsted and Co., would get me there. (Actually, what happened in 1894 was that the pedestrian path, created along Ocean Parkway in 1880, was split into two lanes, one for walkers and one for bikes; probably the result of advocacy by cyclists at the time.)

First, I have to say that riding on a bike path that had been around for over a hundred years was extremely cool. However, after a couple of blocks of experiencing history I had had it; not only is the path pretty bumpy, and pretty busy with walkers and kids in strollers, it’s also in places an annex site of Tacoma’s Museum of Glass. Of Broken Glass, to be exact. So I got onto the street that runs next to the bike path, away from the Parkway. Pretty decent pavement, mostly, but I had to stop at every cross street, of which there was one at every block (huh – interesting fact). And there were many, many blocks. You can see a graph of the effect that had on my speed on the Garmin site; scroll down under the map and you will see how it was just stop-and-go.

Then the city ended, and I was on the beach. The ramp from the road up to the boardwalk was half-covered in sand, itself an unexpected sight and one that made me smile (and made the bike cringe.) Sand! Beach! Sun! Hanging out on the beach is my idea of nothing to do, to quote Cole Porter, but this was a beach in New York City, and if you turned your back to the city you could be in Santa Monica. Or somewhere else beachy and sandy and oceany.

Here’s a view looking south from the boardwalk:
Beach at Coney Island


And a view of the boardwalk and the amusement park:

Coney Island boardwalk and amusement park


The boardwalk goes on for about a mile, and it’s wide enough to accommodate bikes and walkers, although I can imagine that in the summer it’s wall-to-wall people. People discussing everything under the sun, as it were, a lot of them in Russian, by the way; sweet. So if you’re ever in New York and have some time on your hands, take the F train to Coney Island and join them. You’ll be in a different world; New-York-By-The-Sea.

11/4/2011: “Burning, Bright: A Short History of the Light Bulb” at Pace Gallery

I popped in at several galleries in Chelsea on Friday. The most lovely in the lot was Burning, Bright: A Short History of the Light Bulb at Pace Gallery’s West 22nd Street location. In this group exhibition, organized by Pace London, the soon-to-be-retired incandescent light bulb is the subject of works by many twentieth and twenty-first century artists, among them Francis Bacon, Joseph Beuys, Jim Dine, Philip Guston, Roy Lichtenstein, Pablo Picasso, Robert Rauschenberg, and many others. You can see some of the pieces in the show here.

Thematically organized group shows are hard to pull off, since the connection between the theme and the works in the show can often be pretty elusive. In this case, though, the curator hit pay dirt: the theme of the exhibition is about as straightforward as they come, and its subject appears directly and unambiguously in each piece (although each piece is not necessarily about the light bulb).  The result is a richly textured variations-on-a-theme show, and, given the history and the impending demise of the light bulb, a tender look at the inspiration the bulb provided for so many artists, and a sweet farewell as well.

By the way, if you can’t see the pages on the Pace website (for some reason their response time is extraordinarily slow), you can read a review of the show here and here.

The show will be up until Nov. 26th.

11/4/2011 People-watching on the High Line

A short (3min) video of people coming and going up on the High Line. With Alicia De Larrocha playing Mozart (without permission).