With a shared eye for the unusual and spectacular, Kelsey Bennett and Heather Morgan dive deeply to unearth the pearls of the city. As though escorting you on a road trip to discover the oddities of our metropolis, Bennett and Morgan shine light on artists, musicians, and events which need to be seen.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Best Holiday Party of the Season!!!! Lite Brite Neon

We have not yet seen winter's first calendar day, months of darkness and cold stretch out before us with slushy streets and wind howling in the skyscraper canyons. At the Lite Brite Neon party, courtesy of the Brooklyn Guild and Textile Arts Center, the gaieties of the season were on full display. Several artists chiseled ice sculpture out front, a finely detailed owl and a working guitar with strings laid over frets of ice.

Inside, light, precious light. Lite Brite Neon installed neon lights of snowflakes in white and pale blue, and mistletoe. The neon cast a warm, ballroom glow over the wooden floors. Cupcake girls drifted through the crowd with trays of mini cakes in eggnog icing. The bar served a fragrant rum and pomegranate punch.

Then, a chorus swelled in song- the Brooklyn Ladies Choir. No strident glee club, their voices united in soft, clear loveliness. Drifting in their siren hymn, wondering at the impossible beauty of it, I felt this moment of divinity that is a woman's power. They soared through Dear Yoko, S.O.S., and A Place in the Sun.

It is enough to make us stop complaining about winter. Perhaps even for a whole week.

(Above: Ice guitar! complete with string and pick-ups. With the absence of the warm wooden body of a guitar, the sound was in fact icy cold -- like the high pitched sound of a holiday angel!)

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Small Faces in Chelsea

On Saturday we strolled Chelsea, the one blessedly Santa-free location in Manhattan on the day of Santacon. On our way to see the Anselm Kiefer show at Gagosian, we ran into the "small faces" guy, Felix Morelo. Felix lives somewhere in that no man's land of East Willamsburg/Bushwick where one us keeps a painting studio. We first made his acquaintance at the Chinese takeout on Bushwick Avenue. A few weeks later the sidewalk in front of the studio had a block's length of small faces, drawn in chalk, greeting me by name.

Felix Morelo- artist, local eccentric, and drawer of small faces. And there he was in Chelsea on Saturday. He drew a line of small faces from 20th to 30th street along 10th Avenue, dragging himself on a milk crate as he drew his way down the street, cold hands covered in chalk. Each face is different, there are distinct characters in the rudimentary chalk visages. Some of them give a talk balloon shout-out to the passers-by who stop and talk to Felix while he works. "Hello, Thinley!", "Hello Heather!", they exclaim. The people we encountered passing the spontaneous exhibit all seemed to smile and wonder at the breadth of the display.

Cary Kwok's Obsession (Curated by Prabal Gurung)

Somewhere between ejaculation and elegance we find "Obsession". Who would have thought Audrey Hepburn's angelic face could so appropriately be paired with a semen splattered scrotum? The consistency in Kwok's style is what allows for such a union.

Attention to detail is a definitive quality of his work. When you go to the exhibit at The Flag Art Foundation look closely at the art and you will see how Kwok has beautifully and meticulously incorporated his signature into each piece of work...

Sunday, December 5, 2010

The Factory @Party XPO

The DIY venue, Party XPO, still carries the eyeball scarring party store sign on the marquee, making it was easy to find amid the dark underbelly of the J train. Last night's organizers pulled out all the stops for a recreation of Warhol's Factory- the walls painted silver and black, giant mylar balloons flying overhead, seats for Beautiful People to lounge, a couple of sequined go-go girls, jerky in that 60's way. A giant, mad fish with glowing eye stared unblinking at us behind a staging area for the bands, who were all playing the Velvet Underground. The guests crowded in and completed the scene- the room was filled with bouffants and beatniks, metallic frocks and much eyeliner.

The Factory house band was played by Twin Guns, Madame Robot and the Lust Brigade, LoveStruck and Daddy Longlegs. The highlight for us was Twin Guns, we can't get enough of their 'verb drenched guitar. The Guns struck the perfect pose, deadpan and dark as the Undergound in their sunglasses and leather. They played some of our favorites, All Tomorrow's Parties and Here She Comes Now, with their trademark bad-assedness.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

From Sunset Park (Reading by Paul Auster) to Sunset Park

Hosted by Park Slope's Community Bookstore and held at a Community Cultural Center -- a place with no stage; therefor, no stage lights and alas you can see every face in the audience. Minus the baby strollers the room is filled with other Park Slope stereotypes -- a whole lot of couples (young and old), academic, and the arts and crafts enthusiasts.

While waiting for Auster to arrive, I notice a woman knitting up near the front. The mention of her is not an attempt to set the scene, it is to say that I DON'T CARE WHAT YOUR HAND CRAFTED HOLIDAY SCARF LOOKS LIKE, LADY! Especially when you continuously drop your knitting needles on the ground while Paul Auster is reading from his latest novel, Sunset Park.

The novel follows a set of characters who are all linked by one man, Miles Heller. Set at the beginning of the economic collapse of 2008, the mood is both contemporary and ghostly. Like a string of coincidences Auster's novels move quickly. His characters who often seem tumbled about by chance, usually end up at a standstill with a great choice to be made, a refreshing change of the novel's fast pace. One of my favorite excerpts Auster reads:

The human body is strange and flawles and unpredictable. The human body has many secrets, and it does not divulge them to anyone, except those who have learned to wait...The human body lives in the mind of one who possesses a human body, and to live inside the human body possessed of the mind that perceives another human body is to live in a world of others.

After the reading I headed over to Sunset Park to meet my sister and friends at a Days Inn where they were filming a short. Auster writes:

"It was a rougher neighborhood, she said, but it wasn't far from where he was living now, and rents were a half or a third of the rents in Park Slope"

...so we figured this would be a cost affordable neighborhood to shoot in. I will update you more on this at a later date. But for now, here are some photos from on the set!

Line Up: Rigging Knots & Glimpses of a Master Class

(Above: Philip Petit in front of his drawings. When I asked him who's idea it was to skew the frame he responded, "Mine, of course!")

The Opening at Clic bookstore and gallery, was a dry one, so the spectators did not have the usual white wine glow, but as if watching the high wire act at a circus their gazes did marvel. On one side of the room we saw Victoria Dearing's black and white prints of Philippe Petit during his master class (taken August of 2010 in Williamsburg) and on the other side of the room was a series of Drawings by Petit of his rigging knots.

Petit, who is known for his high-wire walk between the Twin Towers, did b-line around the room in a kind of shuffle which made you imagine lines below his feet. What immediately struck me about his drawings was the significance of the subject. Daring and confident as he may be, a poorly rigged knot would result in Mr. Petit's downfall. So, with delicate detail and pressure on the tip of the pencil the drawings depict a symbol of survival.

As if watching her subject from a nearby building, Dearing's photographs are soft and unimposing.

The Show will be on view at Clic bookstore and gallery until January 16th.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Soul Survivors

The line trailed down the block for Lee Fields and the Expressions and Charles Bradley and the Menahan Street Band. It took a long time for the crowd to be admitted, but the mood was jubilant for a night of Daptone soul. Charles Bradley, Brooklyn's own "Black Velvet", opened the show with his heartbreaking wail and sultry dance moves. His anguish and redemptive love elicited the stamps and shrieks of an adoring crowd. Bradley performed songs from his upcoming album, "No Time for Dreaming," but his impassioned expressions seemed extemporaneous, conjured just for us in the moment.

Bradley brought such tender meaning to Neil Young's Heart of Gold

I want to live, I want to give. I've been a miner for a heart of gold.

Lee Fields followed immediately with a captivating performance. The highlight of his set was when he came a bit unhinged at screaming end of "Love Comes and Goes".

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Cast Your Votes!

Who wins?...

The Wiccan teenager (circa 1996) or

Rhoda from "The Bad Seed" all grown up?

These photos were taken at The Flag Art Foundation (545 W. 25th Street) an exhibition space for contemporary art. The above installation by Damián Ortega is entitled Controller of the Universe. Each object hangs still in space and every sharp tip, blade, or hatchet face away from the participant. Oddly enough, while standing within an orb of deadly weapons I felt safe and focused.

"The dynamic spherical formation of outward facing blades and points evoke connections between power and violence..."

Also on view at The Flag Art Foundation is, Obsession (New Drawings and a Historical Survey) by artist Cary Kwok -- stay tuned for our account.

Monday, November 15, 2010

OCD: The Art of Obsession

Astral Massachusetts, Jesse McCloskey

"Cut and paste, cut and paste, that's all I do all day," muses artist Jesse McCloskey. Then there was Olek, who sits and watches movies while crocheting her pieces for countless hours at a time, a bottle within reach, maybe some snacks and cigarettes. Finally we heard from Florent Morellet, famed not only for his meatpacking district restaurant of a bygone time, but also for his meticulous map renderings. Were we in the dayroom of a madhouse? On the anxiety couch? No! We attended a Dialogue in the Visual Arts Program sponsored by BMCC Tribeca Performing Arts Center and moderated by gallerist, Christopher Henry.

Empty Lichen, Florent Morellet

Intensity, earnestness have seemingly gone out of style in the age of "idea" art and the coronation of irony and cynicism. But not for these three. It was refreshing to hear artists speak passionately of their unshakeable belief in systems that are eccentric and obsessive. Florent, who has been creating amazingly detailed maps of great cities of his imagination by hand for thirty years, had the audience rapt with a story of a great failure of city planning in the time of aristotle.

Obsession makes for charming discourse. But best of all, is that such work in which skilled hands are evident, speaks for itself.

Above, detail of Olek's work

On the Lam: The Photography of Kelsey Bennett

Pearl Diving Ladies and Gawker Artists (above photo by Kyle Dean Reinford) celebrate Kelsey's opening with decadent head pieces in front of the large flat screen TV's in the Gawker offices. These screens usually stream stats and news, but on this evening they feature Ms. Bennett's Cases series on a slide show surrounded by five other images which narrate a frantic and youthful adventure on the road.

The figures in Bennett's photographs appear suspended in a moment of apprehension and excitement, as though at the very tippy top of the first great hill on a roller coaster, poised to drop or careen through space.

On the Lam represents selected work from two of Bennet's photo series, Cases and Runaway. The people and objects depicted in these deeply personal works capture a sense of escape, the cinematic and gritty allure of life on the road, emblematic of the passage from youth to adulthood.

(Above: Suitcase installation featured at the opening, photo by Kyle Dean Reinford)

These images beamed brightly from large screens on the main wall of Gawker HQ in Nolita, where the smart crowd was dotted with many of the cast of Miss Bennet's glamorous world, enlivening a rainy night with red sequins and champagne fringe, the artist topping her gown with a leopard gladiator helmet. In the presence of Bennet and her work, at a party no less, one feels the excitement of the journey.

Check out GAWKER'S coverage of the show!

Monday, November 1, 2010

...If 300,000 people are willing to rally at the National Mall for a vague purpose than 300,000 people should be willing to rally for a purpose.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Swans Song

This is not your mom's no-wave. The seminal New York underground band, Swans, brought their muscular rage back to the stage this fall, playing at the Brooklyn Masonic Temple and the Bowery Ballroom. Michael Gira and company took to their instruments while the viking drummer, Thor, hammered a staccato rhythym for 20 minutes. The assembled musicians looked like a gang of murderers straight out of Blue Velvet, all lean and grey and grizzled, eyeing the crowd with intensity. Michael Gira's inspired fury continues to inspire:

Swans are our favorites. We first dropped our jaw at a Swans show when they performed "Failure" at the Paradise Rock Club in Boston in 1991. The brutality of that statement was pushed further when followed by Jarboe's screeching turn onstage. This time there was no Jarboe, but it was nice of them to resurrect Klaus Kinski to play percussion.

If you have nothing to do for the next fifteen minutes, let this freak baby fly (lovely long intro video below). And then put on a copy of Soundtracks for the Blind. Or put your ear out with a tuning fork. Whichever.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Rufur Premiere@Zebulon

You can tell by her riveting expression in the promo still for Rufur, that something wicked this way comes. Actress Remy Bennett appeared at the premiere of the short film in which she stars, a convincing black eye painted on her face in sparkly purple shadow. Filmmaker Emilie Richard-Froozan addresses the packed bar energetically, like a Fonda in her kickass vintage fur vest. (Below: Bennett and Froozan dancing to Dirty Fences)

Rufur is preceded by a short film whose deadpan humor increases the expectation that something bad is about to happen. The 8 minute short had its genesis in a dream by the director and mirrors the mind's strange way of weaving narratives out of seemingly disparate elements. As if David Lynch and Robert Altman threw a party, luminous women in ballgowns bare their teeth in laughter to a soundtrack of chattering teenagers, overheard dialogue. The girls are present at the opening and giggle wildly in self-recognition, in amazing imitation of the film. There is a young girl's birthday party, a gift of a rat, a violent rape, murder? (does the caged animal escape?) and bursts of punk rock by Dirty Fences. Throughout, the presence of the wide-eyed Bennett, who says little but conveys the varieties of the film's passion, terror and despair with unforgettable expressions. End scene.

Dirty Fences take the stage and as if the dream is yet ongoing, we are abruptly dancing to a catchy riot of punk music. We shimmy and jump in our wicked heels. And the night is still young. Rufur leaves us wanting more.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Das Rheingold at the Met

Much has been written, and much said about Wagner's Ring Cycle, lauded by many as mankind's greatest single work of art. Whoa. We had the chance to see for ourselves on the night of the second performance of Das Rheingold at the Metropolitan Opera.

We ascended the grand stair like oscar winners, to take our seats just moments before the chandeliers rose and the Rheinmaidens floated up before us, backlit by an ocean of blue to the opening strains. The Ring Cycle is famed for presenting a peculiar challenge. Though its themes are central to our existence, our humanity, the images are epic and fantastical. How to bring such grandness to the theater space? Director Robert Lepage created a set comprised of 24 aluminum planks covered in fiberglass. These run on a hydraulic system to reconfigure into myriad shapes for each scene- forming caves, mountains and finally, Valhalla itself. The mesmerizing contraption, comparable to a modern art sculpture or installation piece, acted as a surface for projections which were not pre-recorded, but triggered live by the music and the singing. The final, sublime image we are left with is the Gods' ascent into Valhalla, as the stone surface transforms into the heavens.

We are out of our depth to describe the god-sized music of Wagner's masterpiece, here so beautifully and intimately conducted by Met Director, James Levine. Or the stunning performances of the all star cast, who brought out the gravity of this cautionary tale, and also its power and beauty.

The next installment, Die Walküre, premieres April 22, 2010.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

New Photography 2010 Opening at MOMA

Life affords few greater pleasures than being free to wander the galleries of a museum, a glass of wine in hand, conversation bursting in the air all around like tiny bubbles. Well, it is too good to be true, you can't actually drink in the galleries. So we began our evening at the New Photography exhibition at the bar, like civilized people. It was a lively scene for people watching while scarfing white wine and plantains. On to the show!

The New Photography exhibit featured the work of four artists—Roe Ethridge, Elad Lassry, Alex Prager, and Amanda Ross-Ho. Alex Prager's work was the real highlight. Her photos share some sensual qualities with Cindy Sherman- thick, shiny synthetic bouffants, a smart cinematic vintage aspect, and an undeniable modern appeal. Her short film, "Despair", of a woman with impossibly red lips, dashing through a window was a retro, pulp confection. Her inviting, filmic tableaux had the effect of elevating the viewer. The artist herself flitted through the crowd, a blonde stunner with a big 'do and a little black dress. (Below: Prager on the left, on the wall: Prager's Susie and Friends)

Coming out of the exhibit you find yourself in the next room in which "Pictures by Women: A History of Modern Photography" is on view. The flow from Prager's work to Nan Goldin, Dorothea Lang, Diane Arbus, and Cindy Sherman et al. is appropriate and illuminating. The transition implies Alex Prager as the next generation to follow these great photographers. How splendid to spend moments in the world generated by their perspectives, and for Ms. Prager, what a swell party it is.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Uranian Phalanstery

It is not often you see art for which age has done so much. Entering the Uranian Phalanstery and First New York Gnostic Lyceum Temple, an art collective on East 4th and Avenue D, we see not just the work of its creators, but the effects of time. The art on display includes found treasure (mummified cat anyone?), sculptural assemblages, paintings and all manner of strange objects. These bear the signs of the half century that artists Richard Oviet Tyler and Dorothea Tyler inhabited the house. Folded and frayed, figures made creepily mute by the wearing off of their faces. Everywhere the eye rests are ornate carvings and figures in the spirit of the "temple".

These works are housed within walls that have never been repainted, the floors layered in musty and faded oriental carpeting. There is an tantalizing hint of madness here in the cracked gazes and yellowed paper, flaking ceilings and gorgeous parlor furniture. But proprietress Dorothea is lucid as a dream talking of the wonders of collecting and making art independent of the desire for fame and the white walls of the gallery. She is sweetly grand, dangling a sparkling champagne flute in the dim light of the Temple where she is holding court at her going away party for artists, curious visitors and neighborhood misfits, as she has done since 1957. The value of the property, a tax lien she cannot afford, means Dorothea has to move on and take her work way uptown, tragically leaving much of its ambience, a lifetime's worth, behind in in the walls and creaky stairwell.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Hilary Harkness at New York Academy of Art

Hilary Harkness is an accomplished figure painter on many levels. She shows at Mary Boone and gets good press for her beautiful and complex narratives of women cavorting in intricate, precisely drawn architectural constructions. Perhaps her best known of these depicts sailorettes in detailed vignettes in the hold of monstrous warships from the second world war. She is also notorious for a painting she made while getting her masters at Yale, depicting a certain Professor in flagrante delicto with a bull (at Yale, this story is passed down like the hunt for Skull-n-Bones). Harkness was last night's lecturer in the New York Academy of Art visiting artist program.

She discussed the world of detail in her work, the bull and whether or not one can be a feminist and still paint hot ladies. (Answer: yes, of course.) Details on upcoming lecturers at NYAA here.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Backstage With Prabal Gurung

Prabal Gurung's collection for Spring of 2011 is exciting and otherworldly yet sophisticated and down to earth. One spectator described the show as having "a sci-fi landscape with hues of sand and the sea".

The gradual building of energy and excitement in the hours leading up to the show was something we all felt backstage.

The process of getting ready for the catwalk is precise with a focused frenzy. Once the models start donning garments, the atmosphere takes on new life, in stunning hues.

A material which looks like scales of a fantastic mythological character glistens with a subtle iridescence, a sheer black strap of a gown is delicately sewn onto a body, and...

the girls line up in a color pallet ranging from neutral cremes to those you may see on a tropical fish daring and elegant.

Check out the show! -- http://www.prabalgurung.com/home.php