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Gallery Hop: ‘The Somnambulists’ brings crazy art to a new level

Written by Joe Bendik on . Posted in Arts & Film, Posts


Upon entering the Bellwether Gallery, I encountered four hand painted miniature wooden theaters, Zoe Beloff’s The Somnambulists, that resembled something from the 19th century.  When I looked into the actual stage, I saw loops of footage. These images at first appeared to be almost humorous, with people displaying melodramatic behavior: one theater had an over-gesticulating man sounding a plaintive, desperate monologue; another featured a young woman freeing herself from a rope-bound chair after which she appeared on the stage exhibiting bizarre body language. It seemed funny, but something didn’t seem right. They were too real to be shrugged off as some cute, quaint display. It turns out that this is footage from the 19th century of patients going into various degrees of hysterics: all case studies filmed by doctors in Belgium, Romania and the United States. Using an updated version of an old, Victorian stage trick known as “Pepper’s Ghosts” (a hidden mirror provides the refection of the images), these figures are beyond ghostly. It’s as if they were fated to endless hysterics. What started out as light hearted was soon transformed into something much darker...

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Gallery Hop: Guitarist Nick Zinner’s Photos at Fuse

Written by Joe Bendik on . Posted in Arts & Film, Posts


It’s the dog days of summer. This is when most of the galleries close up and prepare for the fall’s splash of shows. Even finding exhibits that last through September is harder than normal. This dilemma led me to explore other neighborhoods.

There is nothing like the East Village to get me going. Sometimes, it’s such a cliché, that it’s beyond cliché. For example: Rock Star Art. A while back when I wrote about David Byrne’s “Playing the Building” installation, I found a quote where Byrne said how he avoided linking his musical career in any way to his art for years. Even though Byrne has been a visual artist since the ’70s, for the first twentysome years of his art career, he deliberately kept the two separate. He said that he wanted to avoid the “Rock Star Artist” tag; where a Rock Star dabbles in the art world and garners attention solely because of his/her popularity.

It’s hard to be fair to genuine Rock Star Art, but I’ll try to be fair to Nick Zinner and his current exhibit, It's OK, Don't Look at the Road, at Fuse Gallery since, beneath all of these snapshots, I do believe there is sincerity. Nick Zinner is, of course, the guitar player for the Yeah Yeah Yeahs. Nick does have a background in photography. He studied it at Bard College and has done national and international exhibitions and has also published three books of photos.

Nonetheless, the somewhat self congratulatory nature of his press release was a little bit of a contradiction to what was being shown...

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Gallery Hopping: Joyce Yamada and Joanne Ungar at NURTUREart

Written by Joe Bendik on . Posted in Arts & Film, Posts


Usually when someone calls a piece of art ‘trash,’ it connotes a negative impression (to say the least). This is not the case for the exhibition at NURTUREart titled, Demo Eco M.O. In this group show, the idea is to recycle elements and create new works out of them. This includes trading mediums, exchanging visual elements, sharing and making tools. Along with this, they take it a step further by using bicycles. Even the lighting of the entire exhibition was done solely by one light sculpture. There were solar panels on the roof (right next to the discarded phone books on display) that provided power to some of the sculptures.

OK, this is all good, but was any of the art good? I was actually surprised at how recycled art contained its own sense of dignity and purpose. There were waste materials hung like carcasses in a meat shop, a giant mirrored sculpture (which provided the light) and some interactive pieces as well. The visitors, fellow artists and even members of NURTURart’s Board of Trustees were encouraged to supply the elements for this. Next to this exhibit was an inventory book. We were instructed to leave something behind, and take something in it’s place.

I was particularly taken by one piece especially: “Deluge,” a collaborative installation by Joyce Yamada & Joanne Ungar (pictured).  This piece shows what might happen to the life of a Brooklyn artist after the polar ice caps have melted and much of Brooklyn is submerged under water...

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Allan D. Hasty Looks at the Branding of Drugs in ‘I Want Candy’

Written by Joe Bendik on . Posted in Arts & Film, Posts

Allan D. Hasty is considered by some to be a cultural shepherd. Subversive in the Warhol sense, Hasty has tackled issues in his works ranging from sexual exploitation to violence, power, insecurity and fear. In his latest exhibition, I Want Candy at The Proposition gallery, he takes on the theme of commercialized branding and turns it on its ear by making the connection between the drug trade and corporate marketing schemes.

Just as Madison Avenue is filled with executives in boardrooms fine-tuning the most important aspects of branding product, Hasty turns to the little plastic baggies used to distribute drugs to convey his idea of advertising...

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MF Gallery Event Proves Punk Really is Dead

Written by Joe Bendik on . Posted in Arts & Film, Posts


I recently decided to explore the Lower East Side again to see if anything was out there. It used to be this cutting-edge area, but that’s been long gone. Still, I wasn’t prepared for what I saw. I went to “Paint It” at the MF Gallery on 157 Rivington Street a couple of Saturdays ago, where over 20 artists “live-painted” the walls. This isn’t something that happens everyday, so I was naturally curious. I made the trek through the scaffold-ridden, hipster-plagued streets to the gallery. It’s located a little further east than usual, so I was hopeful that something worthwhile would be happening when I arrived.

I found multi-colored Mohawks, lots of leather and expensive punk rock clothing (those St Marks punk wannabes would have been destroyed). They must have spent some time at that store that replaced CBGB, the one that sells $500 jeans. On the positive note, I really didn’t see the typical hipsters. There was not an ironic mustache or an elongated sideburn anywhere on the block.

I was willing to give this a shot. In my youth, I lived in a “punk rock house” where I paid $80 a month for rent and shared the place with my band. We all lived over this bar in a very bad neighborhood...

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David Byrne’s ‘Playing the Building’ is Beautiful City Noise

Written by Joe Bendik on . Posted in Arts & Film, Posts


Upon entering the room, I saw a line of people waiting to play this old, hand-me-down church organ. In fact, there was nothing else in the room but that organ and a series of cables which were extended and suspended (in a painterly way) to connect to the architecture. I stood in line to play the building.

For more than three decades, David Byrne has surprised us by broadening the very definition of an artist. Whether it be groundbreaking music with the Talking Heads or solo projects, visual art, installations or, as in his latest project, combining them all by rigging up a building  for sound.

Byrne’s new installation produced by Creative Time,Playing The Building,” is located downtown in the Battery Maritime Building, which was built in 1909, closed in 1938 and hasn’t been open to the public for 50 years. It used to be the waiting room for a ferry terminal to Brooklyn, and it turns out it's a massive building with 9,000 square feet of reverberant space.

As I entered, I heard sounds that were both familiar and alien. Clanging assaults, otherworldly flute tones and a low-end rattling rumble that almost shook the building. This is city noise....

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Gallery Hop: André Butzer Shows Off Big at Metro Pictures

Written by Joe Bendik on . Posted in Arts & Film, Posts

When I walked into Metro Pictures the other day, I was struck by the enormous painting displayed in the rear gallery. The way the place is laid out, I could immediately see the back room (which is ironically called "Gallery One") upon entering. The arches between the rooms are wide, so the whole gallery is [&hellip
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Gallery Hop: A Trip to an East Village Exhibition Causes a Quick Retreat to Chelsea

Written by Joe Bendik on . Posted in Arts & Film, Posts

It’s true: Chelsea is indeed the center of the art world. So, as an experiment, I thought I’d break from the norm and go to an East Village exhibition. It used to be that the East Village was the home of cutting-edge art. Nowadays, it’s the home of ironic amateur art exhibitions complete with soft drinks. I should have known better. Just the name of the gallery itself (Giant Robot) should have been a warning. Hipsters were crowding the area, making connections and basically ignoring all of the art (while smuggling in beer) at the Tides of March: New Works by 17 Artists show. For that, I have to give them credit, but this was ridiculous. True, some people don’t really look at art when they’re in the galleries, they see it as more of a social thing, but I have never seen this behavior at such a level. 

At the Giant Robot gallery there were crude drawings with lazy and forgettable paintings.  I guess one could describe it as snarky wholesomeness. To be fair, this was a group show and some of the stuff was well done—in the “arts and crafts” sense—but everything exuded this trait and there was very little in the way of a genuine artistic aesthetic.

What happened to this city? It wasn’t always like this. Gentrification is one thing, but why bother going through the charade of creating faux bohemia?

 Now, back to Chelsea where I attended the Peter Hujar: Second Avenue opening reception at Matthew Marks Gallery.

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