Billy Al Bengston | A Tribute to Craig Kauffman


MAY 24 THROUGH JUNE 25, 2015






South Willard Shop Exhibit

May 20th, 2015
Errors and Lies

NY Times Published: MAY 18, 2015
BY: Paul Krugman

Surprise! It turns out that there’s something to be said for having the brother of a failed president make his own run for the White House. Thanks to Jeb Bush, we may finally have the frank discussion of the Iraq invasion we should have had a decade ago.

But many influential people — not just Mr. Bush — would prefer that we not have that discussion. There’s a palpable sense right now of the political and media elite trying to draw a line under the subject. Yes, the narrative goes, we now know that invading Iraq was a terrible mistake, and it’s about time that everyone admits it. Now let’s move on.

Well, let’s not — because that’s a false narrative, and everyone who was involved in the debate over the war knows that it’s false. The Iraq war wasn’t an innocent mistake, a venture undertaken on the basis of intelligence that turned out to be wrong. America invaded Iraq because the Bush administration wanted a war. The public justifications for the invasion were nothing but pretexts, and falsified pretexts at that. We were, in a fundamental sense, lied into war.

The fraudulence of the case for war was actually obvious even at the time: the ever-shifting arguments for an unchanging goal were a dead giveaway. So were the word games — the talk about W.M.D that conflated chemical weapons (which many people did think Saddam had) with nukes, the constant insinuations that Iraq was somehow behind 9/11.

And at this point we have plenty of evidence to confirm everything the war’s opponents were saying. We now know, for example, that on 9/11 itself — literally before the dust had settled — Donald Rumsfeld, the secretary of defense, was already plotting war against a regime that had nothing to do with the terrorist attack. “Judge whether good enough [to] hit S.H. [Saddam Hussein] …sweep it all up things related and not”; so read notes taken by Mr. Rumsfeld’s aide.

This was, in short, a war the White House wanted, and all of the supposed mistakes that, as Jeb puts it, “were made” by someone unnamed actually flowed from this underlying desire. Did the intelligence agencies wrongly conclude that Iraq had chemical weapons and a nuclear program? That’s because they were under intense pressure to justify the war. Did prewar assessments vastly understate the difficulty and cost of occupation? That’s because the war party didn’t want to hear anything that might raise doubts about the rush to invade. Indeed, the Army’s chief of staff was effectively fired for questioning claims that the occupation phase would be cheap and easy.

Why did they want a war? That’s a harder question to answer. Some of the warmongers believed that deploying shock and awe in Iraq would enhance American power and influence around the world. Some saw Iraq as a sort of pilot project, preparation for a series of regime changes. And it’s hard to avoid the suspicion that there was a strong element of wagging the dog, of using military triumph to strengthen the Republican brand at home.

Whatever the precise motives, the result was a very dark chapter in American history. Once again: We were lied into war.

Now, you can understand why many political and media figures would prefer not to talk about any of this. Some of them, I suppose, may have been duped: may have fallen for the obvious lies, which doesn’t say much about their judgment. More, I suspect, were complicit: they realized that the official case for war was a pretext, but had their own reasons for wanting a war, or, alternatively, allowed themselves to be intimidated into going along. For there was a definite climate of fear among politicians and pundits in 2002 and 2003, one in which criticizing the push for war looked very much like a career killer.

On top of these personal motives, our news media in general have a hard time coping with policy dishonesty. Reporters are reluctant to call politicians on their lies, even when these involve mundane issues like budget numbers, for fear of seeming partisan. In fact, the bigger the lie, the clearer it is that major political figures are engaged in outright fraud, the more hesitant the reporting. And it doesn’t get much bigger — indeed, more or less criminal — than lying America into war.

But truth matters, and not just because those who refuse to learn from history are doomed in some general sense to repeat it. The campaign of lies that took us into Iraq was recent enough that it’s still important to hold the guilty individuals accountable. Never mind Jeb Bush’s verbal stumbles. Think, instead, about his foreign-policy team, led by people who were directly involved in concocting a false case for war.

So let’s get the Iraq story right. Yes, from a national point of view the invasion was a mistake. But (with apologies to Talleyrand) it was worse than a mistake, it was a crime.

May 18th, 2015
Arthur Ou

An Arthur Ou image of Moyra Davey, on view at Brennan & Griffin. Credit Courtesy of the artist and Brennan & Griffin

NY Times Published: MAY 14, 2015

In the preface to his “Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus,” from 1921, the philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein writes, “Perhaps this book will be understood only by someone who has himself already had the thoughts that are expressed in it — or at least similar thoughts.” The same might be said of Arthur Ou’s current exhibition, which features 14 black-and-white images of contemporary photographers reading passages from the “Tractatus.”

One reason is that the book, a landmark of 20th-century Western philosophy, proposed a picture theory of language in which statements or propositions allow us to visualize things, helping to form the basis of our reality. One could argue, however, that in our image-saturated world, pictures have actually taken over. (The Czech philosopher Vilem Flusser, another Wittgenstein fan, called this “the photographic universe” — a term borrowed by Mr. Ou for recent photography conferences at Parsons.)

Yet our notions of reality and pictures have changed radically since Wittgenstein’s time, and this is particularly true of photography after the digital revolution. The fact that Mr. Ou used an analog view camera and a darkroom to develop these photographs is significant. And the checklist tells us that Mr. Ou’s sitters — James Welling, Moyra Davey, Joachim Schmid, Anne Collier and other noted artists of the Conceptual clan — are reading specific passages from the “Tractatus,” mostly relating to images, objects, thought and the world, but also, presumably, to their own work.

Mr. Ou’s whole project is very inside-photography, perhaps too much for some viewers. But Wittgenstein also states in his preface that his book’s “purpose would be achieved if it gave pleasure to one person who read and understood it.” Mr. Ou’s exhibition succeeded for me, though claiming to fully understand its debt to Wittgenstein would be unwise.

Brennan and Griffin

May 17th, 2015

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May 16th, 2015
Fraternity of Failure

NY Times Published: MAY 15, 2015
By: Paul Krugman

Jeb Bush wants to stop talking about past controversies. And you can see why. He has a lot to stop talking about. But let’s not honor his wish. You can learn a lot by studying recent history, and you can learn even more by watching how politicians respond to that history.

The big “Let’s move on” story of the past few days involved Mr. Bush’s response when asked in an interview whether, knowing what he knows now, he would have supported the 2003 invasion of Iraq. He answered that yes, he would. No W.M.D.? No stability after all the lives and money expended? No problem.

Then he tried to walk it back. He “interpreted the question wrong,” and isn’t interested in engaging “hypotheticals.” Anyway, “going back in time” is a “disservice” to those who served in the war.

Take a moment to savor the cowardice and vileness of that last remark. And, no, that’s not hyperbole. Mr. Bush is trying to hide behind the troops, pretending that any criticism of political leaders — especially, of course, his brother, the commander in chief — is an attack on the courage and patriotism of those who paid the price for their superiors’ mistakes. That’s sinking very low, and it tells us a lot more about the candidate’s character than any number of up-close-and-personal interviews.

Wait, there’s more: Incredibly, Mr. Bush resorted to the old passive-voice dodge, admitting only that “mistakes were made.” Indeed. By whom? Well, earlier this year Mr. Bush released a list of his chief advisers on foreign policy, and it was a who’s-who of mistake-makers, people who played essential roles in the Iraq disaster and other debacles.

Seriously, consider that list, which includes such luminaries as Paul Wolfowitz, who insisted that we would be welcomed as liberators and that the war would cost almost nothing, and Michael Chertoff, who as director of the Department of Homeland Security during Hurricane Katrina was unaware of the thousands of people stranded at the New Orleans convention center without food and water.

In Bushworld, in other words, playing a central role in catastrophic policy failure doesn’t disqualify you from future influence. If anything, a record of being disastrously wrong on national security issues seems to be a required credential.

Voters, even Republican primary voters, may not share that view, and the past few days have probably taken a toll on Mr. Bush’s presidential prospects. In a way, however, that’s unfair. Iraq is a special problem for the Bush family, which has a history both of never admitting mistakes and of sticking with loyal family retainers no matter how badly they perform. But refusal to learn from experience, combined with a version of political correctness in which you’re only acceptable if you have been wrong about crucial issues, is pervasive in the modern Republican Party.

Take my usual focus, economic policy. If you look at the list of economists who appear to have significant influence on Republican leaders, including the likely presidential candidates, you find that nearly all of them agreed, back during the “Bush boom,” that there was no housing bubble and the American economic future was bright; that nearly all of them predicted that the Federal Reserve’s efforts to fight the economic crisis that developed when that nonexistent bubble popped would lead to severe inflation; and that nearly all of them predicted that Obamacare, which went fully into effect in 2014, would be a huge job-killer.

Given how badly these predictions turned out — we had the biggest housing bust in history, inflation paranoia has been wrong for six years and counting, and 2014 delivered the best job growth since 1999 — you might think that there would be some room in the G.O.P. for economists who didn’t get everything wrong. But there isn’t. Having been completely wrong about the economy, like having been completely wrong about Iraq, seems to be a required credential.

What’s going on here? My best explanation is that we’re witnessing the effects of extreme tribalism. On the modern right, everything is a political litmus test. Anyone who tried to think through the pros and cons of the Iraq war was, by definition, an enemy of President George W. Bush and probably hated America; anyone who questioned whether the Federal Reserve was really debasing the currency was surely an enemy of capitalism and freedom.

It doesn’t matter that the skeptics have been proved right. Simply raising questions about the orthodoxies of the moment leads to excommunication, from which there is no coming back. So the only “experts” left standing are those who made all the approved mistakes. It’s kind of a fraternity of failure: men and women united by a shared history of getting everything wrong, and refusing to admit it. Will they get the chance to add more chapters to their reign of error?

May 15th, 2015
Barbara Kasten

Photogenic Painting, Untitled 21, 1975, cyanotype, 30 x 40 inches.

Through August 16, 2014


May 14th, 2015
Neighbors Drought-Shame Celebrities For Lush, Green Lawns

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The green acres of Kanye West and Kin Kardashian in Calabasas. According to one official from the Las Virgenes Municipal Water District, which supplies water to many in the affluent northwest area: “70 percent of the district’s water is going to the lawn maintenance of about 100 manicured estates.”

By Danny Jensen
LAIST Published: May 11, 2015

Celebrities around Los Angeles are taking heat from their neighbors for wasting water on lush lawns in the midst of a serious drought. But chances are that drought shaming and $100 fines from the city won’t change most of their watering routines.

From almond farmers to bark beetles, there’s been a lot of drought-related finger-pointing lately. And now the neighbors of Kimye, JLo and Barbara Streisand are drought-shaming the celebrities for maintaining giant, well-watered estates in the wealthy cities in Northwest Los Angeles, including Calabasas and Hidden Hills.

While new state mandates will require that the water-happy residents will have to cut usage by 36 percent next year, comments from neighbors and aerial photos of their properties from Page Six, suggest most aren’t taking the drought too seriously. Especially considering the overusage fees for water under the new guidelines will top out at $100.

“The Kardashian flowers and hedges are right in our face. It’s disgusting. You walk by and you can smell the freshness,” one vocal Hidden Hills neighbor told Page Six. “Let them drink dust!”
The green acres of Kim and Kanye reportedly includes two vineyards, two pools and ‘sprawling outdoor space.’

A spokesperson for the two celebrities, on the other hand, counters that: “Kim takes this drought seriously and has made some amendments to the property [since buying it]. She has no problem letting her grass go brown.”

Other celebrities in the area and elsewhere in Los Angeles who are drawing the ire of there neighbors for their thirsty, lavish lawns include Jennifer Lopez, Jessica Simpson, Barbara Streisand and Hugh Hefner.

According to one official from the Las Virgenes Municipal Water District, which supplies water to many in the affluent northwest area: “70 percent of the district’s water is going to the lawn maintenance of about 100 manicured estates.”


May 11th, 2015

1995, 2014
41 5/8 X 53 1/2 INCHES

May 14 – 17, 2015

Matthew Marks at Frieze NY

May 10th, 2015
Still Tingling Spines, 50 Years Later

Phil Spector, one of the songwriters for “Be My Baby,” with the Ronettes.
Photograph by Ray Avery.

NY Times Published: AUG. 16, 2013

Brian Wilson of the Beach Boys estimates that he’s heard “Be My Baby,” by the Ronettes, more than 1,000 times. The very first listen, 50 years ago this month, still haunts him.

“I was driving and I had to pull over to the side of the road — it blew my mind,” Mr. Wilson said, repeating a story that has become something of a legend. “It was a shock.” Just 21 and already frustrated with his band’s basic surf music, he bought the single and set about deconstructing its arrangement and production.

“I started analyzing all the guitars, pianos, bass, drums and percussion,” he said by telephone. “Once I got all those learned, I knew how to produce records.”

Those records, many fans would contend, weren’t half bad, but if you ask Mr. Wilson, they still don’t stack up.

“I felt like I wanted to try to do something as good as that song and I never did,” he said. “I’ve stopped trying.” Mr. Wilson added: “It’s the greatest record ever produced. No one will ever top that one.”

The Wall of Sound, that dense and dramatic signature style of the ‘60s wonder boy Phil Spector (who wrote the song with Jeff Barry and Ellie Greenwich) can still shake you up with its plinking pianos and castanets, its echo-chambered vocals and massive drums, but it no longer shocks. Today “Be My Baby” is as ubiquitous as a pop classic gets.

The song’s true bona fides may be found in its sustained usefulness. What once astonished Mr. Wilson now produces a reaction so reliable that film and television producers deploy it as a Pavlovian trigger indicating that things are about to get exciting. It’s even been used as a cover in a TV commercial for the erectile dysfunction remedy Cialis.

Martin Scorsese used “Be My Baby” to open his 1973 film “Mean Streets.” The song’s sweetness and angst were the perfect counterpoint to his noir vision of a city of spontaneous violence and hot tempers. Charlie, Harvey Keitel’s tormented character, wakes up alone in a dark room with a crucifix on the wall, a siren blaring outside and a storm in his head. He rises, looks in the mirror and then goes back to bed. When his head hits the pillow, those drums kick in.

In 1987 “Be My Baby” made a splash in the March 31 episode of the hit comedy “Moonlighting,” when Bruce Willis and Cybill Shepherd finally answer the question of “Will they or won’t they?” They insult each other. She slaps him and says “Get out.” He grabs her arm and … those drums kick in.

“When they finally go to bed,” Mr. Barry said proudly, “they do it to ‘Be My Baby.’ ”

Yet it may be the title sequence of “Dirty Dancing,” released that August, that best reflects the song’s lasting ability to enchant a viewer. “We were on a tight budget and we never shot an opening sequence,” said the film’s producer, Linda Gottlieb. A sepia-toned “scratch tape” of clinching partners surging back and forth in eroticized slow motion was assembled and approved. “We thought, that looks pretty good,” Ms. Gottlieb recalled. “But what music can we use?”

So she and the director, Emile Ardolino, and the screenwriter, Eleanor Bergstein, sat down in front of an old Moviola editing bay and watched the scene while dipping into an assortment of around 400 available songs. “Nothing worked, but the minute we put on that boom-ba-boom,” she said — imitating the opening six-note drumbeat devised by Mr. Barry while slapping a metal filing cabinet in Mr. Spector’s office and later immortalized by Hal Blaine, a member of Mr. Spector’s Wrecking Crew of studio musicians — “we had gooseflesh. Suddenly it was magic. It said, something exciting is going to happen.”

“Be My Baby” is not cheap. “We paid more for that song than any song in the movie, and I think it lasts 45 seconds,” Ms. Gottlieb said. “My recollection is it was something like $75,000, which was beyond comprehension for a film with a total budget of $4.5 million. But it was so worth it.”

Sony ATV Music Publishing, the company that has handled copyright deals related to the song since a 2007 agreement with Mr. Spector, would not comment on current pricing.

But those who splurge for it evidently think it’s worth it. Take “Ninth Grade Man,” a 1990 episode of the TV comedy “The Wonder Years.” Fred Savage’s Kevin is tempted by an attractive new student who briefly leads him away from his true love, Winnie. When he regains his senses and meets Winnie for a soda at Woody’s pizza place, guess what’s playing on the jukebox. “When you’re 14, you can’t always put words to life,” the adult Kevin says in the show’s signature voice-over.

“Be My Baby” can even function as a sort of punch line, as when it plays over the closing credits of “Baby Mama,” the 2008 fertility-themed buddy comedy starring Tina Fey and Amy Poehler.

The song has thrived on radio for the last 50 years as well. Barbara Cane, vice president and general manager of writer-publisher relations for the songwriters’ agency BMI, estimated that it has been played in 3.9 million feature presentations on radio and television since 1963.

“When a BMI song of an average length of three minutes reaches one million performances,” she explained, “it has been broadcast at least 50,000 hours, which equals more than 5.7 years of continuous airplay.” That means it’s been played for the equivalent of 17 years back to back.

The song has been covered by everyone from John Lennon (in a Spector production) to Maroon 5. It’s been honored by the Library of Congress and inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame, and Mr. Spector, the Ronettes, Mr. Barry and Ms. Greenwich are all in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. “Be My Baby” even had a second life in the ‘80s, when its hook was incorporated into “Take Me Home Tonight,” a Top 5 duet between Eddie Money and Ronnie Spector, Mr. Spector’s ex-wife and the song’s original lead vocalist.

“It had that double chorus,” Mr. Money said. “I knew the song was going to be a smash.” The song’s popularity gave Ms. Spector, then retired, a second life as a touring and recording artist.

Paradoxically, one place you will not hear “Be My Baby,” is in “Beyond the Beehive,” Ms. Spector’s touring theatrical production of songs and stories. “I’m not allowed to sing ‘Be My Baby’ and ‘Baby I Love You’” — another Ronettes hit — “in my show because Phil said no,” Ms. Spector said in a telephone interview. “He owns the publishing.”

But she is allowed to sing the song in concert, she said, and often closes her club shows with it. (Mr. Spector is currently in prison, serving 19 years to life after his murder conviction in the 2003 death of the actress Lana Clarkson, yet his hold on the song is intact.)

Ms. Spector suggests that innocence is part of the song’s sustained power. She recounts being flown out to Los Angeles as a teenager from Spanish Harlem to record the song at Gold Star Studios. She was then known as Ronnie Bennett. She belted out her vocals in the sound booth while staring down a young but no less odd Mr. Spector.

“I was so much in love,” she said. “That energy comes back to me every time: when I’m singing ‘Be My Baby,’ I’m thinking of us in the studio.”

The soapy darkness now associated with their subsequent marriage (Ms. Spector’s 1990 memoir, also titled “Be My Baby,” recounts wild jealousy and feeling threatened by a gold coffin in the basement of a castle turned de facto prison) informs the song’s myth.

At its heart, “Be My Baby” is as much about power and control as it is about romance. Lyrically it also marks a bold moment in pop music, when a woman makes a play for a man while infantilizing him. Usually the reverse was the norm.

Mr. Barry said: “I consider myself to this day a feminist. I was picturing a shy guy. A guy who just needed a little nudge.”

The song’s protagonist sings, “For every kiss you give me, I’ll give you three.” We never find out from the lyrics whether her offer is accepted.

“I always wanted to believe when the song was over, there’s a happy ending,” Mr. Barry said. “He came around, and they hooked up.”

May 10th, 2015
matt connors

MC Poster_WEB

Opening Saturday, May 9, 6-8pm

Cherry and Martin

May 8th, 2015
erica vogt

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May 10 through June 4, 2015

Simone Subal

May 8th, 2015
ron nagle

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May 5th, 2015
Katharina Grosse


Through June 21, 2015

Johann Koenig

May 3rd, 2015

Thanks to David Leonard

May 1st, 2015
Cameron Jamie


May 1 – May 30, 2015

Barbara Gladstone

Thanks to Bruce M. Sherman

May 1st, 2015
dewey nelson

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New Silver Works and Paintings

30th Annual UCLA Pow Wow
May 2nd & 3rd, 2015
UCLA North Athletic Field

UCLA Pow Wow

April 29th, 2015
Drought Frames Economic Divide of Californians

NY Times Published: APRIL 26, 2015

COMPTON, Calif. — Alysia Thomas, a stay-at-home mother in this working-class city, tells her children to skip a bath on days when they do not play outside; that holds down the water bill. Lillian Barrera, a housekeeper who travels 25 miles to clean homes in Beverly Hills, serves dinner to her family on paper plates for much the same reason. In the fourth year of a severe drought, conservation is a fine thing, but in this Southern California community, saving water means saving money.

The challenge of California’s drought is starkly different in Cowan Heights, a lush oasis of wealth and comfort 30 miles east of here. That is where Peter L. Himber, a pediatric neurologist, has decided to stop watering the gently sloping hillside that he spent $100,000 to turn into a green California paradise, seeding it with a carpet of rich native grass and installing a sprinkler system fit for a golf course. But that is also where homeowners like John Sears, a retired food-company executive, bristle with defiance at the prospect of mandatory cuts in water use.

“This is a high fire-risk area,” Mr. Sears said. “If we cut back 35 percent and all these homes just let everything go, what’s green will turn brown. Tell me how the fire risk will increase.”

The fierce drought that is gripping the West — and the imminent prospect of rationing and steep water price increases in California — is sharpening the deep economic divide in this state, illustrating parallel worlds in which wealthy communities guzzle water as poorer neighbors conserve by necessity. The daily water consumption rate was 572.4 gallons per person in Cowan Heights from July through September 2014, the hot and dry summer months California used to calculate community-by-community water rationing orders; it was 63.6 gallons per person in Compton during that same period.

Now, California is trying to turn that dynamic on its head, forcing the state’s biggest water users, which include some of the wealthiest communities, to bear the brunt of the statewide 25 percent cut in urban water consumption ordered by Gov. Jerry Brown. Cowan Heights is facing a 36 percent cut in its water use, compared with 8 percent for Compton.

Other wealthy communities that must cut 36 percent include Beverly Hills and Hillsborough, a luxury town in Silicon Valley. Along with Compton, other less wealthy communities facing more modest cuts include Inglewood, which has been told to reduce its water consumption by 12 percent over what it was in 2013.

The looming question now, with drought regulations set to be adopted next month, is whether conservation tools being championed by this state — $10,000-a-day fines for water agencies, higher prices for bigger water users or even, in the most extreme cases, a reduction in water supplies — will be effective with wealthy homeowners. Since their lawns are more often than not tended to by gardeners, they may have little idea just how much water they use.

As it is, the legality of conservation — the practice of charging higher water rates to people who consume more for big water use — came under question when a court ruled that a tiered-pricing system used by an Orange County city ran afoul of the State Constitution and sent it back to allow the city to try to bring it into compliance.

“The wealthy use more water, electricity and natural gas than anyone else,” said Stephanie Pincetl, the director of the California Center for Sustainable Communities at the University of California, Los Angeles. “They have bigger properties. They are less price sensitive. So if you can afford it, you use it.”

“Then it becomes a moral question,” she said. “But lots of wealthy people don’t pay their own bills, so they don’t know what the water costs.”

Brown Lawns vs. Lush Ones

In Compton, where residents often pay their bills in cash or installments, lawns are brown and backyard pools are few or empty. In Cowan Heights, where residents are involved in a rancorous dispute with a water company over rate increases, water is a luxury worth paying for as homeowners shower their lush lawns and top off pools and koi ponds.

“Just because you can afford to use something doesn’t mean you should,” said Aja Brown, the mayor of Compton, as she sat in her second-floor office with windows overlooking the light-rail Blue Line tracks that cut through town. “We’re all in this together. We all have to make sure we consume less.”

Hints of class resentment can be heard on the streets of Compton.

“I have a garden — it’s dying,” said Ms. Barrera, the housekeeper, as she left the water department at Compton City Hall, where she had just paid a $253 two-month water bill. “My grass is drying. I try to save water. In Beverly Hills, they have a big garden and run laundry all the time. It doesn’t matter.”

Rod Lopez, a contractor from Compton who tends to homes here and along the wealthy Newport Beach coast, said he was startled at the different attitudes he found toward water consumption in communities just 30 miles apart.

“I work in Newport Beach: I see water running all day long,” he said. “We’ve gotten so tight over here. Everything is irrigated over there. They may get fined for it — they don’t care. They have the money to pay the fines.”

Compton and Cowan Heights, which is 10 miles from Disneyland, could hardly be more different, and it is not only a matter of water. The median household income in Compton is $42,953, and 26 percent of the population lives below the poverty line; 67 percent of the population is Hispanic. In North Tustin, the census-designated community that includes Cowan Heights, the median household income is $122,662, and less than 3 percent of the population lives below the poverty line; 84 percent of the population is white.

Since the first homes sprang up in Cowan Heights in the 1950s in what had been hilly horse pastures, water and money have made this neighborhood of doctors, lawyers and wealthy retirees bloom. Even as the drought has worsened and water rates have climbed, residents have continued consuming hundreds of gallons a day and paying — albeit with more than a little grousing — water bills that have soared to $400 or $500 a month.

Many people say they are trying to use less: They are capping their sprinkler systems, installing expensive new drip-watering systems or replacing their thirsty lawns with starkly beautiful desert landscapes. But they can also afford to buy their way out of the drought, assuming that fines will be the primary punishment for those who do not conserve, and that the water will keep flowing for those who can pay.

Some Cowan Heights residents say their neighbors have enough money not to pay heed to rising prices, and are content to let their landscapers use as much water as necessary to keep their homes in bloom. Landscapers’ trucks are parked around nearly every twisting road, tending to avocado and lemon trees, plush lawns, and riots of purple hibiscus and scarlet bougainvillea.

“They don’t even think about it,” said Gail Lord, a resident who keeps a blog cataloging the gardens around Cowan Heights.

On Deerhaven Drive, Craig Beam and his wife saw their water-scarce future after a landscaper stomped at the base of their Chinese elm and declared the roots hollow and parched. “Nobody’s going to go broke around here paying their water bills,” Mr. Beam said.

Still, in a sign that even the wealthy have their limits, the drought is exacerbating a dispute between Cowan Heights residents and their for-profit water provider, the Golden State Water Company, offering a glimpse of fights to come as local water agencies impose higher prices to meet California’s new conservation mandates. The neighborhood is bristling with lawn signs reading, “Stop the Water Ripoff!”

Calculating Costs

Residents complain their water bills have soared as Golden State Water imposed a three-tier pricing system that charges more for higher water use, the kind of conservation pricing that state water regulators are championing. The company is now seeking to add a fourth, even higher price tier. “Golden State Water’s rates reflect the true cost to operate and maintain the water system,” said Denise Kruger, a senior vice president of the company.

That has not appeased water users.

“Water is a necessity of life,” said Mr. Sears, the retired food-company executive, whose bimonthly water bills regularly run $400 or $500 but went as high as $756 last September. “It should not be sold as a commodity.”

Thirty miles away, the economy in Compton is on the upswing as this region comes out of the recession. Still, Compton Boulevard, the axis around which the 127-year-old community was settled, is filled with reminders of the poverty and crime that are still here: Check-cashing stores and bail bondsmen. Many homes have gates over their windows.

Compton has a storied history of gang wars and has produced some of the bigger names in rap music, including Kendrick Lamar and Ice Cube. The unemployment rate in Compton was 11.8 percent in February, compared with 6.7 percent statewide. (There are no comparable numbers for Cowan Heights, since it is an unincorporated region.)

This city is a neat grid of postage-stamp-size front lawns, many of them brown or choked with weeds. There are few pools or ornamental fountains in this part of the county; the fountains in front of City Hall have been turned off.

After not budging for 25 years, water prices began rising in 2005 and have increased about 93 percent since then. The city, which has 81,963 water consumers, has also set up a two-tiered system to charge heavier users more, though it remains to be seen if that and other tiered systems will be challenged in the wake of the court ruling in Orange County last week. A typical water bill here is $70 a month.

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“To me the issue is keeping down the cost,” said Ms. Thomas, 41, the stay-at-home mother. “Conservation is a cost-saving thing for me.” She leaned over the fence of her home that she shares with her husband and children, looking over her compact patch of lawn that surrounds her home and another small cottage, where her mother lives.

Chad Blais, the deputy director of public works at Compton, said people often paid their water bill in cash or pleaded for an extension. “We do have a large community that is month-to-month on their pay,” he said. “They don’t have a high water usage mainly because they can’t afford it. They’ll call and tell us they’re choosing to pay for food or medicine.”

Under Governor Brown’s 25 percent statewide reduction order, about 400 local water agencies are responsible for cuts ranging from 4 percent to 36 percent. Water companies are limiting how often people can water their yards — twice a week for Golden State customers — and barring them from washing down pavement or using drinking water to wash a car.

If water providers cannot get customers to conserve enough voluntarily, they can resort to financial penalties: Golden State said it would fine offenders in Cowan Heights and other communities it serves $500 a day.

California’s water-control board has zeroed in on Cowan Heights and its 5,399 water customers as some of the most spendthrift water users. The benchmark measurement from last summer put it high on the list of 94 water districts that must cut their water use by 36 percent under the proposed new rules.

“It is somewhat of an outlier,” Toby Moore, the chief hydrogeologist for Golden State Water, said of Cowan Heights. “There’s been a lot of investment into those properties, so water use is higher to address the landscaping of those properties.”

Some people in Cowan Heights are planning to let their lawns go brown, though more out of a spirit of conservation than economic necessity.

“We’ll replace that with rocks,” said Dr. Himber, the neurologist, as he and his landscaper walked the grounds.

Ms. Lord, the blogger, walked around her home, tucked amid flower-splashed hillsides behind a stately automated gate, and surveyed her roses with a fatalistic eye. “Doomed,” she said, nodding at the flowers, blooming wedding-white and dance-hall pink. “Doomed.”

‘A Bad Message’

About 80 percent of the water in this state is used by agriculture, so the amount of water that might be saved by cuts in wealthy and relatively sparsely populated areas will not be large.

But the disparity in behavior is a matter of concern among state water regulators, as is the worry that high prices will not have the same kind of impact on water use in, say, Cowan Heights as they might in Compton.

“That is the challenge,” said Jeffrey Kightlinger, the general manager of the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California, which provides water for about 19 million people. “We are finding it works with 90 percent of the public. You still have certain wealthy communities that won’t bother. And the price penalty doesn’t impact them. It sends a bad message.”

David L. Feldman, who studies water policy at the University of California, Irvine, said a big risk for state water regulators would be if the public concluded that water-conservation policies were “falling disproportionately on those who are less able to meet those goals.”

Ms. Barrera, the housekeeper, said she had thought she was doing her part, and she spoke of the lush gardens and sweeping pools she sees in Beverly Hills.

“I’m using a lot less,” Ms. Barrera said. At that, she glanced down at the just-paid water bill she was still holding in her hand. “But I guess it’s not enough.”

April 29th, 2015
Mark Grotjahn

Screen shot 2015-04-28 at 2.30.55 AM
Untitled, (Indian #5 Face 45.50), 2014
Oil on cardboard mounted on linen
50 3/8 x 40 1/4 inches

15 Paintings
May 1 — June 20, 2015

Blum and Poe

April 28th, 2015
Los Angeles Jazz With Kamasi Washington and Others

NY Times Published: APRIL 24, 2015

A few weeks ago, the jazz tenor saxophonist Kamasi Washington stood onstage at a club in Hermosa Beach, Calif., with his band, the Next Step, ending a version of the ballad standard “My One and Only Love” with an improvised closing tag, like a group cadenza.

But it sprung open a whole new chapter of the song. Mr. Washington’s playing spread through the group into a sustained volcanic surge, with a front line of two saxophones and trombone; Miles Mosley’s upright bass and Brandon Coleman’s keyboards run through distortion and wah-wah pedals; and two drummers, Ronald Bruner and Tony Austin, making enfolded, clattering patterns. A series of melodies and rhythms developed on the fly, with Mr. Washington building up to hoarse, Pharoah Sanders-like cries, and then the tailing off commenced Mr. Washington finished last. He closed up his solo in whispers, removed the horn from his mouth and pulled on the loose curls in his hair, smiling absent-mindedly.

The unusual circumstances — a surf-side rock club, a performance during a motley tribute concert — suggested a test case. Jazz in Los Angeles doesn’t have much cultural capital outside a small cohort, and this was not Mr. Washington’s crowd. The audience members acted indifferent at first; then they tuned in, cheering at the catharsis points, quieting at the silences.

It might have tuned in sooner if it had known it was watching the leading figure in a new Los Angeles jazz scene, who is about to release a triple-disc debut called, factually, “The Epic.” (It comes out May 5 on the label Brainfeeder.) Or that his work as a soloist and arranger helps define the sound of Kendrick Lamar’s “To Pimp a Butterfly,” one of the most important hip-hop records of the last several years. Or that this group represents a special resource of the area: it’s one of the best jazz groups I’ve heard in a long time, and has hardly performed outside of California.

As of now, if you want to see them, you have to go to Los Angeles.

There is an old story about the lack of broader recognition around Los Angeles jazz musicians, stretching back to the 1960s and before, to the time of the saxophonists Teddy Edwards and Eric Dolphy (before he moved to New York), the big-band composer Gerald Wilson, and Horace Tapscott, leader of the Pan-Afrikan Peoples Arkestra. It has to do with New York being the center of the jazz-performance business, and Los Angeles, the center of the soundtrack and television business. But it also has to do with the temper of life in Los Angeles, the possibility for working in a less-pressured and lifelong artistic community, the artist’s sense of security against New York hustle.

“You know the lackadaisical thing people talk about out here?” Mr. Washington said in a talk we had a year ago, at Mr. Mosley’s house in Marina del Rey. “When you’re focused, that lackadaisical thing turns into freedom. You can do what you want. No one’s going to put a label on you.”

A true, intuitive, cross-listening, family-like sound at this level is rare enough in jazz to be exciting; it’s the thing sought for. Most developing groups don’t perform regularly enough to achieve that coherence. The lack of demand affects supply.

But over the last few years, Mr. Washington, 34, and a dozen or so other musicians in their early 30s — most of whom come from the same general area of South Los Angeles, playing in the same school ensemble and in one another’s church bands — have figured out their solution to the problem. They formed a cooperative group called the West Coast Get Down, and created residencies for themselves over the past four years, first in the Leimert Park neighborhood and later in Hollywood spots including the Piano Bar, where they tend to play twice a week. The coherence of the band, all those coordinated surges, sounds emphatic in a cultural scene that otherwise can feel transient.

“Los Angeles is a large city, sprawled out, and we’re all in our cars,” Mr. Mosley said. “The likelihood of you stumbling across a scene is unlikely, which is why we’ve done so well in our residencies. You go there, and it doesn’t feel like the L.A. you’ve signed up to experience.”

In late 2011, they pooled their resources for a gargantuan recording session at a bare-bones studio in Echo Park: For about a month, 10 players made seven albums with sub-groupings of various sizes, each one featuring a different leader. (Mr. Austin, the drummer, doubled as the engineer.) They were forgoing other work, too: Most of them make livings as sidemen. Mr. Washington plays with Chaka Khan, Mr. Coleman with Rachelle Ferrell and Babyface, and so forth. The albums are just beginning to emerge, all of them different.

Mr. Washington’s is the first and the densest, about 175 minutes of music. His band amounts to two piano trios — double drummers, bassists and keyboardists — with horns in front; later he added strings and a choir. “The Epic” is full of swing and funk and long solos, ecstatic highs and drawn-out tensions, dense arrangements, a few places that come close to musical theater, and a direct line — sometimes startlingly direct — to black American church music. It is also cosmic, in both ’70s-retrograde and futuristic ways. Palms will be read to this music, miracles foretold.

Mr. Washington is a big, dreamy, rather brilliant guy from a family of six children, whose parents spent their careers in the Los Angeles public school system; his life has been rooted in local music and education. His mother, Valerie, is a science teacher; his father, Rickey, a recently retired music teacher, was in one of the first classes to graduate from Locke High School, near Watts, built in response to the riots of 1965. He was taught — as well as Rickey’s friends Patrice Rushen and Ndugu Chancler, who went on to some fame in jazz and pop — by Reggie Andrews, an important educator in the area. By the time Kamasi went to high school, Mr. Andrews was still teaching, and looking out for young players.

“In the ’80s, a lot of kids, if you were kind of bright, you got bussed to schools out of your community,” Mr. Washington said. (He attended Hamilton, in West Los Angeles.) “So you wouldn’t know the talented musicians who lived around the corner from you. Reggie used to figure out who was talented around Central L.A., and he’d pick us up after school. We’d all go to Locke.”

The “multi-school” band at Locke also contained Stephen Bruner, Ronald’s brother, now known as Thundercat, a virtuosic electric bassist known through his work with Erykah Badu and Flying Lotus (and on Mr. Lamar’s new album as well). Four of the band’s members, including Thundercat, made a record in 2004 as the Young Jazz Giants; the current West Coast Get Down is made up entirely of players from the same school band. If it seems like an abstraction that great teachers move jazz forward, this group is the proof.

Mr. Washington drifted away from jazz for a while — he lived close to Compton, and the rappers of N.W.A. were his local heroes — but at 11, a cousin played him a tape of Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers, and something connected. “It was the rhythms he played,” Mr. Washington said. “West Coast hip-hop had that heavy sense of the beat, and Art Blakey played with that, too. It sounded like something that Dre would have sampled.” A few years later, after he started playing saxophone, he connected with John Coltrane’s album “Transition,” and his hearing was changed; Coltrane, as well as Wayne Shorter and Kenny Garrett, come out most strongly in his sound.

On May 4, Mr. Washington and his band, in a typically sweeping gesture, will perform all of “The Epic” at the Regent Theater in downtown Los Angeles, the way it’s supposed to be heard, with strings and choir. There will also be a kind of story line, supplied by Mr. Washington as narrator. It turns out that Mr. Washington dreamed a narrative to the music during the long months he was working on it, and the dream determined the sequencing of the album.

“There’s a dude on top of this mountain, and he stands in front of this gate and guards it,” he explained. “There’s lots of carnage around him; he’s been defending this gate for a long time. At the bottom of the hill there’s a little bitty village, with all these people, and all they do is train to challenge this dude, so if they beat him, they get to become him.”

A bunch of things happen next, but in general the story is about real and imagined figures of authority, and special entry into special places. It is possible that there is a metaphor here about jazz, but the music tells you all you need to know.

April 28th, 2015
Anne Truitt

Installation view of Anne Truitt ’62–’63

Through June 27, 2015

Matthew Marks

April 26th, 2015
Julia Fish

JF53334Living Rooms : NorthWest — One, with lights, action
oil on canvas
32 1/2 x 33 3/4 in

Through April 25,2015

David Nolan

Thanks to MC

April 24th, 2015
Reviving Giacometti’s Legacy

Screen shot 2015-04-22 at 7.46.49 PM
Giacometti outside his atelier in Paris in 1956. Credit Pierre Vauthey/Sygma, via Corbis

APRIL 16, 2015

PARIS — For much of his life, the Swiss sculptor Alberto Giacometti (1901-1966) lived and worked out of a cramped and cluttered atelier in the 14th Arrondissement of Paris where paint-stained surfaces were covered with busts and figurines and walls were sketched and scrawled over. The artist toiled day and night in this spartan setting, pausing for meals with plaster still stuck in his hair.

That 270-square-foot studio will be recreated exactly as he left it as part of the new Institut Giacometti, a research center and exhibition space that will open to the public late next year in the same arrondissement, or district, according to Catherine Grenier, the director of the Fondation Alberto et Annette Giacometti. The space will be an outpost of the foundation, which manages most of the estate and owns the world’s largest collection of the artist’s works.

After its creation in 2003, the foundation became mired in disputes with rival bodies and Giacometti family members over the right to represent the artist and make posthumous casts of his sculptures — some of the originals have fetched more than $100 million at auction. Now Ms. Grenier, a former deputy director of the Pompidou Center, aims to open the foundation to the world and start a more peaceful chapter. “When I got here a year ago,” she said in an interview, “this foundation was not at all well known, for one essential reason: It was closed to the public. My priority is to make its activities and its extraordinary collection accessible.”

The foundation has other ambitions as well. It is publishing Giacometti’s first catalogue raisonné and lending more extensively to exhibitions around the world from its collection of about 250 sculptures, more than 90 paintings, and thousands of drawings and photographs. The largest will be a retrospective at Tate Modern in London in 2017, Ms. Grenier said. (Tate confirmed the exhibition but not the year.)

The last few decades have been tumultuous for the estate. Individuals and institutions representing it have clashed in and out of court, costing the estate money and frustrating research on the artist’s works even as their prices soared. Considered among the great sculptures of the 20th century, “Chariot” (1950) sold in November for $101 million at Sotheby’s in New York, and “Walking Man I” (1960) brought $104.3 million in 2010, then a record for any artwork sold at auction. Challenging that, Christie’s said last week that it would auction the 1947 bronze sculpture “L’Homme au Doigt (Man Pointing)” in May for an estimated $130 million.

Giacometti’s death at 64 with no will or succession plans set his widow, Annette, on a crusade to safeguard his legacy. Sabine Weiss, a photographer friend of the couple, said that when he died, his widow asked her to photograph “everything.” “I took pictures of whatever we could find, in the atelier, at the homes of Paris collectors,” Ms. Weiss said, adding that she also photographed works by Giacometti in museums and collections in Switzerland and Spain.

Annette Giacometti decided to bequeath the material she owned to a foundation for which she bought stately Left Bank headquarters near the Odéon Theater in 1986, while awaiting government authorization. “Things dragged on and on, so Annette said let’s set up an association in the meantime,” said Ms. Weiss, who was later its president but is no longer involved in its affairs. (Art foundations were harder to set up than associations, requiring approval from the Culture and Interior ministries.)

When the Fondation Giacometti was finally born in 2003 — a decade after Annette Giacometti’s death — it refused to acknowledge the association, run by Annette Giacometti’s former secretary, Mary Lisa Palmer, a Giacometti expert. The two entities operated in parallel, and wrangled in court. In 2013, the foundation’s director at the time, Véronique Wiesinger, lost a separate lawsuit she had filed to compel the other representatives of the estate — Swiss family members and the Alberto Giacometti Stiftung in Zurich — to allow her to cast new bronzes without their prior consent.

Today the foundation is changing direction, thanks to Ms. Grenier and a new president of the board, Olivier Le Grand, who was appointed in 2011. The association has been dissolved, allowing the foundation to move into its Left Bank premises, and most lawsuits (except those involving Giacometti fakes) have been abandoned.

In addition to the Tate exhibition, a show of Giacometti portraits is planned for the National Portrait Gallery in London this year. Next year, the 50th anniversary of Giacometti’s death, there are plans for a Picasso-Giacometti show at the Musée Picasso here for an exhibition at the Yuz Museum in Shanghai, founded by the billionaire collector Budi Tek, that will consist exclusively of foundation loans.

The new 3,770-square-foot institute in the 14th Arrondissement, with the artist’s studio at its heart, is the foundation’s flagship project. Giacometti moved to 46 rue Hippolyte Maindron in Paris in 1926, when he was 25. He lived there for four decades, except for the three years he spent in his native Switzerland during World War II. Peeking over the gates today, you can still see an atelier with a mezzanine and a large bay window overlooking an old courtyard.

Visitors will see (through a protective glass pane) the mythical studio as it was at the artist’s death in January 1966: a bed, surrounded by bronzes, plasters and abandoned fragments; his desk, covered with paintbrushes and dozens of little turpentine bottles; his easel and sculpture stands; and the works that death interrupted — tiny clay and plaster portraits, mainly of the Surrealist photographer Eli Lotar and of the sculptor’s brother Diego.

“We don’t have the money to open a museum,” Ms. Grenier said. “We’d like to show the public what we hold in our reserves: absolutely everything that was in the atelier at the time of Giacometti’s death.”

She said that financing the foundation was a challenge, because its undisclosed endowment is not big enough to cover costs. Philanthropists are starting to step up: Mr. Tek is backing the institute’s research program, and the French construction company Emerige is sponsoring the opening of the institute itself. Ms. Grenier is hoping to attract a strong American component, given that the Museum of Modern Art and a few collectors in New York were among Giacometti’s earliest buyers.

The foundation arranges one or two sales a year — via the Gagosian Gallery and the Galerie Kamel Mennour in Paris — of posthumous bronze casts commissioned by Annette Giacometti (with other estate representatives’ consent) to ensure the works’ longevity, Ms. Grenier said, adding that few such bronzes were left and no additional ones were planned. She said that proceeds from such sales should help pay for original works to add to the collection — like the 1929 bronze “Homme (Apollon),” purchased for around $1.19 million from Christie’s London in February. It was the first such purchase by Ms. Grenier.

The foundation’s Paris dealer, Mr. Mennour, said Ms. Grenier was highly reluctant to part with artworks and described her as “a kind of guardian of the temple.”

To avoid the mudslinging that bedeviled Giacometti’s succession, Ms. Grenier said she hoped that other artists would learn from it and do more planning. “If we want artists and their works to be preserved in perpetuity, their succession has to be organized, preferably before their death,” she said. “They are the only ones who can do it.”

April 22nd, 2015

Agnes Martin Interview (20:00 version, 1997) from Chuck Smith on Vimeo.

Thanks to Daniel Payavis

April 20th, 2015
peter saul

Screen shot 2015-04-20 at 12.00.20 PM
Art and Money, 2015, acrylic on canvas, 60 x 72 inches (152.4 x 182.9 cm)

Saturday, May 2 through June 20, 2015

David Kordansky

April 20th, 2015

First National, 1964
Steel, painted
55 × 113 × 116 15/16 inches (139.7 × 287 × 297 cm)

APRIL 17 – MAY 30, 2015


Thanks to GG and MP

April 14th, 2015
Centuries of Italian History Are Unearthed in Quest to Fix Toilet

Luciano Faggiano and his sons were digging to fix a pipe in Lecce, Italy. They found a buried world tracing back before Jesus. Credit Davide Monteleone

NY Times Published: APRIL 14, 2015

LECCE, Italy — All Luciano Faggiano wanted when he purchased the seemingly unremarkable building at 56 Via Ascanio Grandi was to open a trattoria. The only problem was the toilet.

Sewage kept backing up. So Mr. Faggiano enlisted his two older sons to help him dig a trench and investigate. He predicted the job would take about a week.

If only.

“We found underground corridors and other rooms, so we kept digging,” said Mr. Faggiano, 60.

His search for a sewage pipe, which began in 2000, became one family’s tale of obsession and discovery. He found a subterranean world tracing back before the birth of Jesus: a Messapian tomb, a Roman granary, a Franciscan chapel and even etchings from the Knights Templar. His trattoria instead became a museum, where relics still turn up today.

Italy is a slag heap of history, with empires and ancient civilizations built atop one another like layers in a cake. Farmers still unearth Etruscan pottery while plowing their fields. Excavation sites are common in ancient cities such as Rome, where protected underground relics have for years impeded plans to expand the subway system.

Situated in the heel of the Italian boot, Lecce was once a critical crossroads in the Mediterranean, coveted by invaders from Greeks to Romans to Ottomans to Normans to Lombards. For centuries, a marble column bearing a statue of Lecce’s patron saint, Orontius, dominated the city’s central piazza — until historians, in 1901, discovered a Roman amphitheater below, leading to the relocation of the column so that the amphitheater could be excavated.

“The very first layers of Lecce date to the time of Homer, or at least according to legend,” said Mario De Marco, a local historian and author, noting that invaders were enticed by the city’s strategic location and the prospects for looting. “Each one of these populations came and left a trace.”

Severo Martini, a member of the City Council, said archaeological relics turn up on a regular basis — and can present a headache for urban planning. A project to build a shopping mall had to be redesigned after the discovery of an ancient Roman temple beneath the site of a planned parking lot.

“Whenever you dig a hole,” Mr. Martini said, “centuries of history come out.”

Ask the Faggiano family. Mr. Faggiano planned to run the trattoria on the ground floor and live upstairs with his wife and youngest son. Before they started digging, Mr. Faggiano’s oldest son, Marco, was studying film in Rome. His second son, Andrea, had left home to attend college. The building was seemingly modernized, with clean white walls and a new heating system.

“I said, ‘Come, I need your help, and it will only be a week,’ ” Mr. Faggiano recalled.

But one week quickly passed, as father and sons discovered a false floor that led down to another floor of medieval stone, which led to a tomb of the Messapians, who lived in the region centuries before the birth of Jesus. Soon, the family discovered a chamber used to store grain by the ancient Romans, and the basement of a Franciscan convent where nuns had once prepared the bodies of the dead.

If this history only later became clear, what was immediately obvious was that finding the pipe would be a much bigger project than Mr. Faggiano had anticipated. He did not initially tell his wife about the extent of the work, possibly because he was tying a rope around the chest of his youngest son, Davide, then 12, and lowering him to dig in small, darkened openings.

“I made sure to tell him not to tell his mama,” he said.

His wife, Anna Maria Sanò, soon became suspicious. “We had all these dirty clothes, every day,” she said. “I didn’t understand what was going on.”

After watching the Faggiano men haul away debris in the back seat of the family car, neighbors also became suspicious and notified the authorities. Investigators arrived and shut down the excavations, warning Mr. Faggiano against operating an unapproved archaeological work site. Mr. Faggiano responded that he was just looking for a sewage pipe.

A year passed. Finally, Mr. Faggiano was allowed to resume his pursuit of the sewage pipe on condition that heritage officials observed the work. An underground treasure house emerged, as the family uncovered ancient vases, Roman devotional bottles, an ancient ring with Christian symbols, medieval artifacts, hidden frescoes and more.

“The Faggiano house has layers that are representative of almost all of the city’s history, from the Messapians to the Romans, from the medieval to the Byzantine time,” said Giovanni Giangreco, a cultural heritage official, now retired, involved in overseeing the excavation.

City officials, sensing a major find, brought in an archaeologist, even as the Faggianos were left to do the excavation work and bear the costs. Mr. Faggiano also engaged in extensive research into the eras tiered below him. The two older sons, Marco and Andrea, found their lives interrupted by their father’s quest.

“We were kind of forced to do it,” said Andrea, now 34, laughing. “I was going to university, but then I would go home to excavate. Marco as well.”

Mr. Faggiano still dreamed of a trattoria, even if the project had become his white whale. He supported his family with rent from an upstairs floor in the building and income on other properties.

“I was still digging to find my pipe,” he said. “Every day we would find new artifacts.”

Years passed. His sons managed to escape, with Andrea moving to London. City archaeologists pushed Mr. Faggiano to keep going. His own architect advised that digging deeper would help clear out sludge below the planned bathroom, should he still hope to open his trattoria. He admits he also became obsessed.

“At one point, I couldn’t take it anymore,” he recalled. “I bought cinder blocks and was going to cover it up and pretend it had never happened.

“I don’t wish it on anyone.”

Today, the building is Museum Faggiano, an independent archaeological museum authorized by the Lecce government. Spiral metal stairwells allow visitors to descend through the underground chambers, while sections of glass flooring underscore the building’s historical layers.

His docent, Rosa Anna Romano, is the widow of an amateur speleologist who helped discover the Grotto of Cervi, a cave on the coastline near Lecce that is decorated in Neolithic pictographs. While taking an outdoor bathroom break, the husband had noticed holes in the ground that led to the underground grotto.

“We were brought together by sewage systems,” Mr. Faggiano joked.

Mr. Faggiano is now satisfied with his museum, but he has not forgotten about the trattoria. A few years into his excavation, he finally found his sewage pipe. It was, indeed, broken. He has since bought another building and is again planning for a trattoria, assuming it does not need any renovations. He has no plans to lift a shovel.

“I still want it,” he said of the trattoria. “I’m very stubborn.”

April 14th, 2015
Magdalena Suarez Frimkes | New Works

Screen Shot 2015-04-11 at 5.03.10 PM
Donald Duck, 2015
ceramic and glaze
7.5 x 4.75 x 3.5 inches

April 13 through May 19, 2015

South Willard Shop Exhibit

April 11th, 2015


Brennan and Griffin

April 9th, 2015
matt connors


April 16 through May 30, 2015

Markus Luttgen

April 8th, 2015
Let Prisoners Take College Courses

NY Times Published: APRIL 4, 2015

ATTICA, N.Y. — EVER wonder what prisoners do and talk about? Well, at the Attica Correctional Facility, we’re all tucked away in cellblocks watching TV. We watch a lot — all day, all night. Then we talk about what we’re watching. Conversation tumbles through the bars, about movies, ball games and the news on CNN. I hear voices, as if in a trance, rap along to Bobby Shmurda’s new music video on BET. The lyrics — about dealing drugs, toting guns and committing murder — sound like an anthem for the lives many of us have lived.

We don’t have access to the Internet but prison officials are all for TVs in the cells. It’s called the “TV program.” When prisoners watch TV instead of going to the yard, there’s less violence. We’re entertained and confined and everyone’s happy. But the TVs could be put to better use.

What if, a few times a week, massive open online courses, or MOOCs, were streamed on the prison’s internal station, channel 3? Companies like Coursera already record university lectures — in subjects like psychology, sociology, existentialism, economics and political science — and stream them online for free. The MOOCs, which are free for the rest of the world, could help American prisoners become more educated and connected.

Education was once an integral part of prison life. In the early 1980s, there were 350 college degree programs for prisoners nationwide. It was part of the “rehabilitative era.” School buildings in prisons were like satellite campuses of colleges, and federal and state grants paid prisoners’ tuitions.

But the following years brought unemployment, crack cocaine, the Willie Horton debacle and tough-on-crime rhetoric. When the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act and other legislation quashed educational grants for prisoners in the ’90s, nobody seemed to care. Today, we live in the “retributive era.” The prison population has soared.

When the colleges left, the hope did, too, and when uneducated prisoners get out, they often come back. There are still some small college programs in prison, funded by philanthropists like Doris Buffett and George Soros who understand that education will provide us with a competitive advantage when we’re released. And the alumni of these programs rarely return to prison. In Sing Sing, for example, one forward-thinking educational program, launched in 1998, has a recidivism rate of less than 2 percent.

But too few can attend classes. At Attica, I’m one of 23 enrolled in a privately funded college program where we meet at night and study things like history, art and literature. We’ll be graduating with associate degrees this spring. But we’re the privileged 1 percent; there are 2,300 prisoners in Attica.

In February 2014, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo announced a plan to expand programs like these, by allocating $1 million of the almost $3 billion corrections budget for college courses in prison. I had hopeful conversations with other inmates who were looking forward to classes.

Continue reading the main storyContinue reading the main storyContinue reading the main story
But then, some in the public balked. I imagine this is what they thought: We obey the law, pay taxes, stuff 529 savings plans to pay our kids’ college tuitions — and now prisoners are getting a free college education?

“Hell No to Attica University,” read the petition published online later that month, by former State Senator Greg Ball, Republican of New York’s 40th Senate District. Mr. Cuomo scrapped the plan in April.

I was convicted of drug dealing and murder in 2004, and sentenced to 28 years to life. When I entered the prison system I was in my mid-20s and had a ninth-grade education. I hated myself. I hit rock bottom in 2008, in a different prison, where I was jumped by another prisoner and stabbed six times with an ice pick. My lung was punctured.

After that, I was transferred to Attica and in 2010 joined a creative-writing workshop. Though I didn’t have much of a sense of self-worth, I learned I did have some untapped talent. Discovering this has brought with it another set of challenges, though. As I’ve discovered the satisfaction of learning, I’ve realized that I deprived the man I killed of ever discovering his potential, his human essence. I grapple with this shame.

My neighbor, Roberto Rivera, also wants to change his life. He’s a thugged-out 28-year-old from the Lower East Side, serving six years, his second prison stint, for selling drugs. He hears me typing during the day on an old word processor I use, sees me heading to class at night. He asks about what I’m learning.

So I tell him about the theories and concepts — Machiavellianism, Marxism, social Darwinism — that my cranky and brilliant instructor weaves through all of his lectures. I show Roberto my writing, pass him my subscriptions, sections of this newspaper, issues of The New Yorker and The Atlantic. I try to make education and intellect look cool. It seems to work.

Roberto had his own harrowing experience in 2013 on Rikers Island, where he found himself in the middle of an hour-and-a-half-long rumble.

“It was the Dominicans against the blacks,” he told me. “I’m Puerto Rican but once someone hit me, I had to go for mine.”

In the end, Roberto’s head and face were carved up and a broken broomstick was stuck in his eye. It took more than an hour for the corrections officers to come and peel him off the floor and send him to the hospital. Today his head is covered in scars and he’s blind in that eye.

By the time a prisoner finds a seat in a college program it’s likely he’s experienced, or at least witnessed, similarly traumatic events — and has had enough.

I helped Roberto write an essay about why he should be considered for the Attica college program. He took the entrance exam, hoping to land one of the 20 open slots, but he’s competing against about 200 other prisoners. What if Roberto doesn’t make the cut? His hope may dwindle. He’ll lift weights and watch TV. He’ll grow physically and languish mentally. Then he’ll get out.

MEANWHILE, if he had the option, I’m sure he’d turn to channel 3 and watch college lectures. Then he and I, and maybe a handful of others in earshot, could have intellectual discussions through the bars.

MOOCs are no substitute for the existing college programs, and no excuse not to develop them further. (I’d love to see Mr. Cuomo’s plan gain some traction, see those programs receive more funding and be expanded.) MOOCs should be a welcome addition, a much-needed backup, for those who might not make it into regular classes.

A majority of us will leave prison one day. I’ll go back to Brooklyn. We’ll find neighborhoods transformed — a new class of professionals and hipsters strolling the streets and supermarket aisles. I wonder if they’ll bristle when they hear us talk and learn about where we’ve been. We need to be prepared to return to the outside world and stay there. But have hope for us when we’re inside, too. We need opportunities to educate ourselves. My mother used to tell me something that obviously took me a long time to figure out: “How you think is how you act.”

April 8th, 2015
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